To reproduce or not to reproduce
April 1, 2011 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Should I have a kid if I don't have a burning maternal instinct?

I've never had a strong maternal instinct, and have waffled for a long time about having kids. When I see little kids, I never have the impulse to hold them or approach them; when I see kittens, on the other hand, I light up and want to take care of them and give everything to them. I've often thought that I wouldn't ever have kids, and my husband doesn't feel strongly about it either, though he has expressed a desire for children.

But, I'm getting older. Lately, I feel the maternal instinct firing up a bit more. I need to make a decision.

However, I wonder if this maternal instinct is kicking partly because I'm lonely. We've moved around a lot for my job, so I don't have many close friends around me. My family is in other states. My husband is not very social, and my job keeps me so busy that it's difficult to make friends, and many people in my field tend to move around too, so often the friends I make end up leaving.

I know it's not a good idea to have kids to cure loneliness. Of course, I have the usual fears about child-bearing, too: giving up freedom, financial pressures, etc. In essence, I can't tell if I really want a child or if there's some other void in my life that I'm trying to fill.

I'm afraid of having a child only to discover that that's not what I really wanted. I know I would still love the child and be committed to the child, but I fear resentment. I'm afraid of having a kid and realizing I really just wanted a dog. ;)

So, MeFites, I'm really looking for personal experiences that might relate to this situation. Has anyone felt pangs of regret in having a kid? Are these fears really just normal, and everything changes once the kid is born? If I've never felt that burning desire to have a kid, is that a sign that I shouldn't have one? Anyone feel burdened by the child, or regret not having kids?

Should I just get a dog and try harder to make some friends???

Thanks, MeFites.
posted by Ms. Toad to Human Relations (66 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
My mother has a burning maternal instinct and she is a shitty, shitty mother. I think if you want to have a kid you should -- you'll probably find yourself much better and more natural at than you think. Have you thought about deciding it based on a coin toss? Throw the coin up in the air, heads for kid (obviously) and tails for not. When it's in the in the air you'll find yourself rooting one way or the other. That's your answer.
posted by kate blank at 9:13 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I already feel some pangs of regret, and I'm still pregnant. You have to give up a lot for kids, and "unsure" from both of you--not worth it. Plus, if you're lonely already, you'll be missing the one thing that makes infancy bearable--social support.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:15 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have maternal instincts. I'm great with little kids. And my biological clock is ticking. I'm 31.

Having kids, for me, is the worst idea ever. Realistically, I'm not willing to give up the spontaneity and financial freedom that my husband and I have now. There'll be nieces and nephews to take to Disney World soon enough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:17 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Kidlet is two.

Having him around is so great. There, including my husband, has never been anyone as happy to see me as he is. It's amazing. And he's hysterical, which greatly adds to our quality of life. Laughing is good for you. Before kidlet, I never knew I could laugh this much.

I do, however, regret that my Masters lays in the land of the uncompleted. I want to get it done some day. But I'd still rather have kidlet than a Masters.

I am now pregnant with a second child, and will confess to posting a couple of anonymous questions in which I was absolutely freaking out. But it is all good now.

The question you should be asking yourself comes down to this:

Do I want a child?

No wrong answer to that. It may be yes, it may be no.

But for what it's worth, that you're worried about the type of mother you would be suggests to me that you'll do just fine as a mother should you decide to have a child. And if you don't, well, hey, you'll get to do all sorts of other awesome things.
posted by zizzle at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2011

My best friend didn't think she ever wanted to become a mother, and her pregnancy was an "oops" from switching birth control methods. I remember her calling me when she was about 6 months pregnant and she was really worried that she wouldn't want the kid when he arrived. I believe that changed about 0.01 seconds after she gave birth. She's an AWESOME mom. Her kid is 5 and he is the joy of her world. I can't promise you'll feel the same, but you asked for stories, so there you go.
posted by desjardins at 9:22 AM on April 1, 2011

I'm going to offer an (I guess) unpopular opinion: no.

The world is already massively overpopulated, and there is no danger of our species dying out. For every couple who has no children, there are others who have three, four, five - easily perpetuating humans for as long as we don't wipe ourselves out some other way.

If you don't feel like having children, don't. I'm 40, my partner is 36, and we chose not to have kids and otherwise to pursue our own, selfish lives. We have more money, more time and less stress. If we ever regret not having kids, we can buy something to take our minds of it, but had we had a kid, and regretted it then, it'd be three lives ruined for no reason.
posted by benzo8 at 9:24 AM on April 1, 2011 [44 favorites]

Nobody can answer this question. Having that first child is the greatest leap into the unknown most people will ever experience. There is simply no way to be ready for it. There is no checklist that will tell you it is time. If you feel it, you feel it. Logic is not really useful here.
posted by COD at 9:25 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I really don't like kids - other people's kids that is. I don't want to hold other people's babies, see other people's pictures of their kids or anything like that. But, I love my kidlings. I have four of them. They're all grown now. I love my grandchild too. I love my sister's and brothers' kidlings (who are also grown) and their kidlings' kidlings. But kids on the street, in the store, at school? I could take them or leave them.

You don't need a "strong maternal instinct" to be a good mom.
posted by patheral at 9:27 AM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I'm honestly not sure what a "maternal instinct" is. I like little kids and all, but I'm not sure how liking little kids makes one a competent parent, or even means one should have kids. Reading books and paying close attention to my pediatrician and mother and already-parent friends made me a competent parent. I don't think "what to do when your baby's running a fever" is something that can be sorted by instinct. That's something for a butt thermometer, instructions on how to use it, and the number for the pediatrician.

I honestly think not only is the fear normal, but the regret is normal whenever one makes an unchangeable life commitment. It is absolutely normal to look at the road not taken and say, "Man, I could have been bumming around Europe instead of working at this 60-hour-a-week job." "Dude, I could be dating instead of home on a Saturday night nursing my flu-ridden husband!" "I could be drinking champagne in the Albertan Rockies instead of sitting with my head in a toilet from morning sickness."

Are you a person who generally says, "That other thing might have been fun, but I'm pretty glad things turned out the way they did"? Can you appreciate the concrete rewards of the life you choose rather than the imaginary (and always much more impressive) rewards of the life you didn't choose? If so, I think you'll be fine if you have a kid. If, on the other hand, you tend to super-regret the road not taken, you may find it a difficult decision when the road is rough. (But then, you'll probably also super-regret NOT having kids sometimes.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:28 AM on April 1, 2011 [17 favorites]

Random generic kids--I could take or leave. My two amazing, talented, wonderful people--I was besotted almost immediately and fell deeper in love every day. Which isn't to say that I wasn't annoyed, pissed off and miffed at them. There were days that I would have given them both away to passing strangers.

They're grown up, out in the world and in college, and I think the world is a better place with them in it. I know my life is much richer for having raised them. I don't know if I was really such a great mother (my husband is a great father), but somehow we muddled through.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

benzo8: "we chose not to have kids and otherwise to pursue our own, selfish lives. "

Watch out for this mentality. Not having kids isn't selfish. Having kids is.

More to the point, if you're on the fence, please do not have kids. Kids that aren't really wanted become fucked-up adults.
posted by notsnot at 9:30 AM on April 1, 2011 [21 favorites]

I think you should see if you can have a couple of sessions with a counselor to try to unpick some of this stuff.

I know two people who will absolutely admit that they had kids (now in the 5-8 age range) and regret it deeply. Although they're (as far as I can tell) good parents, it seems like quite a burden to deal with every day.

I also know several of people who had kids almost by chance and love the kids but have huge, huge, painful and resentment-laden struggles with parenting--people who would (in my opinion, at least) probably be equally happy without the kids, and would have missed out on the confrontations with school, substantial expenses, struggles to get services, etc etc.

I tend to think that the default position on having kids should be "no", with some definite sense of "I want kids for sure!" involved before the process starts.

I add that getting my beloved cat, for whom I gladly clean up all kinds of substances and who wakes me up for food at awful hours, has given me some more understanding of what it is like to love a small dependent being who makes lots and lots of demands. (Not that kids are the same as cats! It's just that something which had totally baffled me before makes more sense.)
posted by Frowner at 9:31 AM on April 1, 2011 [10 favorites]

I hit post when I meant to hit preview...

Conversely, my middle kidling loves kids. B adores kids and will often offer to babysit someone's kids so that they can be around them. B loves the family kidlings. But, B doesn't want kids. B made this decision very early on and I'm fairly sure that B's mind will not change. Everyone says that B would make a great parent but B just doesn't want kids. So, having a love of kids doesn't necessarily mean that one should have kids of their very own.
posted by patheral at 9:32 AM on April 1, 2011

Watch out for this mentality. Not having kids isn't selfish. Having kids is.

Yes, firmly agree. I was being a little sarcastic, and hoped the preceeding paragraph to your quote made that clear.
posted by benzo8 at 9:32 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that this is a very personal matter and only you, and your spouse, will know if having a child is a good idea.

I think if you are mentally stable, emotionally mature, and have the ability to empathize, protect, and love, you will not regret having children once you have them. I think a stable, loving partner (to share parenting responsibilities) is also vital, others may disagree.

Parenting is difficult. Parenting can be very stressful. Most of the time it is a joy. My kids make my life so much richer. In stressful times I never regret that they were born, I regret that I can't handle my stress more effectively. I don't worry so much about my freedom (time flies and soon enough they'll be in school and it's not so difficult to get a babysitter for date nights). I worry about what kind of parent I am and if my kids are going to turn out to be decent, happy, responsible human beings. I never regret having children and I swore I would never have them as a young adult.

Another factor to consider is your childhood. Many people with unstable and unhappy childhoods do not want to repeat the process. My childhood was less than ideal. You may think you have it figured out and you won't repeat the mistakes your parents made. With all of our good intentions it is very common to repeat behaviors of your parents. I would highly recommend reading Parenting from the Inside Out by Daniel Siegel if you decide to get pregnant.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 9:36 AM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Having a child because you're lonely is a bad idea.
posted by hermitosis at 9:38 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Having kids because you think babies are cute is like getting a cat because you like kittens: a really bad idea, and likely to lead to disappointment on both sides. You do not need to like kids, as such, to raise kids, you just need to like people. Do you? If you're not so sure, get a dog instead.
posted by The Toad at 9:39 AM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Another thing to consider--how financially stable are you likely to be? Are your jobs stable? Will you be able to pay for whatever standard of living you'd like your children to have? When you have to do serious economizing, will this place stress on your partnership? (If you really want kids, of course, go right ahead--but if you're on the fence this is well worth considering)

Kids are really expensive! And if you have a child with some kind of chronic illness, even more so.

Will having kids place a strain on your partnership? Is your partner really on board with your decision? Has he considered all the things that tend to happen in the first couple years of kid-hood (ie, less sex, less time, less money, more tasks, more noise)? If your partner freaks out and leaves (three of my friends had a partner freak out and leave when the kid was small; all of them are happy, one married to someone else, but it's been a financial strain)...if your partner freaks out and leaves, will you be able to raise the kid on your own? Will your partner be able and willing to pay child support? Is your partner able realistically to assess future stressful experiences? Ie, does he jump into things while underestimating how hard they'll be? Does he tend to bail out on difficult stuff?

Some people's personalities change for the better when they have kids, absolutely. But some people who think they'll support their partner change their minds.

Of course, the answers to all these things may very well be that you have a stable career, your relationship is strong, your partner is levelheaded, etc etc.
posted by Frowner at 9:44 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree that having children is not a good idea because you're lonely. This ranks with wanting to get married because you want a diamond and get to be a princess for a day.

I will say there is nothing like kids to bring you around other adults -- with kids. With youth sports, school, and other kid activities, you will be surrounded by other adults to chat with and befriend. Almost from day one you have activities to engage in that will bring you around other parents -- Lunch with Baby, Mommy and Me, Kindermusik, preschool, sports, Scouting, etc. Again, it's not a good idea to have a kid just so you'll make friends. Nevertheless, there is plenty of opportunity to do so.
posted by Fairchild at 9:53 AM on April 1, 2011

Best answer: So far my experience of being a dad has been that it is a much more rewarding experience than I expected, but the tradeoffs are nevertheless very real. Kids aren't some pret-a-porter meat accessory, and having them means you have a whole different life. It's very rewarding! But we don't go out to nice places much these days. Having said that, as far as I can see, it is just as possible to have a full and rewarding life without kids as it is to have it with them.

People with far less resources than you have had kids and led enjoyable, rewarding lives, and people much more affluent than you have been miserable parents who gave their kids miserable lives. Likewise, people without kids sometimes go on to use the freedoms that choice provides to accomplish great things, and other people (to borrow a phrase from above that made me cringe) just buy things to distract themselves.

So, pick one and own it; whichever one you go with, strive to live that life well. Either way, there's a rewarding life to be lived there, but you'll have to work at it.
posted by mhoye at 9:58 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

My mother-in-law isn't maternal in the ways you describe, and there's even a joke in my wife's family that her dad is more maternal than her mom. (Ignore the fact that mom-in-law is knitting baby things - she's bored, she knows how to knit, and there are only so many knit items you wear at once.)

And now with our own little thing on the way, it looks like we might be mirroring their balance. I'm more likely to squee over adorable little ones and baby things. But we decided we wanted kids (or at least one, and see how that goes). We're still going through periods of thinking about the things we're giving up, and Mrs. flt isn't feeling any of that "I'm going to be a mommy!" excitement or glow, but is more annoyed at all the physical changes that no one warned her about. She has avoided baby-stuff stores, and is not really looking forward to any sort of baby shower. A few weeks back, I would have told you she'd be more likely to fawn over our cats than a new-born baby. Yet recently she has started talking about the little thing growing inside her with more happiness.

Back to your situation - start with the dog and attempts to make new friends. If that works, happy day! If that doesn't, you can give someone else the dog, and ignore your potential friends. But with a baby, it's pretty much yours for the next 18 years. If you and your husband want a kid, make sure you're really ready for whatever that might mean.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:00 AM on April 1, 2011

Best answer: Last year I was lonely and didn't have a dog. Having a baby sometimes seemed like a really good idea (even though it would have been a really bad idea). This year, I got a dog and have been making more friends. Having a baby still seems like a good idea, but it no longer feels like the solution to a problem. Also, getting a dog gave me something sweet and snuggly to nurture while I sort out the actual question of whether my husband and I should raise a child.

If you want a dog, get one (they're great!). And start looking for opportunities to meet people (obedience training with your new dog?). That's not at all to say that your feelings of wanting a baby are just misdirected loneliness, I just think that the loneliness you're experiencing might be a distraction. Alleviate the loneliness and you'll be in a better position to make a decision about a baby, and you'll have a better support network in place when you reach a decision.
posted by Meg_Murry at 10:04 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

You might want to consider reading the book: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids. The premise of the book is that we often over estimate the difficulty of raising kids (especially in the early years) and under estimate the value of having older children.

The author also cites a lot of the work in behavioral genetics to conclude that modern parents spend too much time and effort on parenting, when it does not have much of an effect on overall life outcomes. His point is that if parenting does not have much of an effect, then you should not kill yourself too much trying to be a perfect parent. Here is a review of the book from another source.
posted by bove at 10:05 AM on April 1, 2011 [7 favorites]

Something like 90% of parents regret being parents.
At some fleeting point? I'm sure that's true. I have certainly thought many times that if I had not had kids I could be wearing something much more fabulous while not wiping someone else's butt. I also don't know any parents who don't have regrets about the things that they aren't doing because they committed resources to having kids instead. Some of those regrets are serious. But some level of wistfulness is pretty different from feeling that you genuinely made the wrong decision. If you do have kids, prepare for wistfulness.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:06 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am one of those people who never wanted kids; since I was a kid, I knew I didn't want them. When I was 29 and started having the idea I wanted a baby, I was so sure it was just socialization or fear of getting older that it took me five years to decide to do it. I have 3 now, and they're really splendid little people. Still, I can understand why people regret it; it's hard even when it's going well. When a kid is going through a rough patch developmentally, it's even harder; if they have some kind of ongoing problem, it can be overwhelming. My partner and I are both glad to have kids but right now the kids are keeping us so busy that our relationship is suffering. Not that we're fighting or anything like that, but we're struggling to find enough time together; we just miss each other. We give each other a lot of longing glances over the kids' heads. I've been primarily a mom for 10 years and I'm ready to move into the stage of my life where mothering is a little less intense and I can do more, more easily, but my youngest is very high energy and demanding so I don't get to be in that next stage yet. I've never regretted having kids, but I've had more than one patch of really looking forward to an easier stage.

One thing I think about a lot is something like what Frowner said--that "no kids" should be the default, and kids should, ideally, only happen if you're feeling really sure about it. There have been many times, during rough patches, when I've thought, "Wow, how much harder would this be if I hadn't wanted been really sure I wanted these kids?"

Things don't always change after the kids come along. My mother didn't want kids, and ended up with two (birth control accidents combined with pre-Roe lack of access to abortion). I'm sure my mother loves me, though she's never said so, and she and my dad did their best. But I never have had any sense from my mother that being my parent gave her pleasure or satisfaction the way being a parent gives me satisfaction. I used to be really angry and hurt by how she treated me; now I have a lot of compassion for what she dealt with. Being a parent is hard even if you wanted it and enjoy it.

I don't know if this will help. This kind of decision is very hard to generalize about. Some people have babies for bad reasons and it turns out badly, and some people have babies for bad reasons and it turns out well. And some people don't have children and there's a tinge of regret there that they live with even though their lives are awesome. There's always fear and doubt and hope in the mix. So, good luck.
posted by not that girl at 10:07 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Something like 90% of parents regret being parents.

Really? I have yet to meet any.

Also, wanted to add one more anecdote, someone we are close to is the product of a marriage between people who did not ever want children ever. Pregnancy was an accident. They don't ever regret becoming his parents.

But they also did not have any more children.

This person is absolutely amazing in every way, and his parents are pretty awesome, too. They get along really well, and despite the usual quirkiness and weirdness that accompanies most people, he's a well-adjusted, happy person.

None of this is an argument for you to have kids or not to have kids, but this situation seems to resemble some of what you wanted to hear about --- except in this case, there was no on-the-fence. It was outright, "Don't want kids!" to, "Guess we're having a kid?" to, "Can't imagine not having had him!"

This person in our lives in now over 30 years old.
posted by zizzle at 10:08 AM on April 1, 2011

Really? I have yet to meet any.

Parents are less happy than non parents.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:10 AM on April 1, 2011 [10 favorites]

I agree that the default position on kids should be "no" unless you really want them. "Meh, why not?" isn't enough.

Couple things: there's a huge taboo against admitting you regret having kids. With the semi-anonymity of the internet you'll get a few confessions online, but very few in real life. So don't expect many people to cop to this. My own mom would have been a lot happier without kids, I'm convinced: she was always tired, overwhelmed and irritable when her kids were little and she doesn't even like children in general, but she'll staunchly claim that her kids are her greatest joy. Cognitive dissonance FTW! Basically, don't take claims like this too seriously.

The other thing is how children view their parents. Read a bunch of AskMes posted by grownup people who want help getting their parents to butt out, leave them alone, respect their boundaries, stop dumping toxic family baggage on them ... you get the idea. There's an awful lot of them. Do you want to bring someone into the world who may feel this way about you, some day? I would guess that most of these unhappy relationships sprang from parents who were a little ambivalent about the whole "joy of parenting" thing. (One reason I'm glad I don't have kids is I'm pretty sure they'd feel about me the way I feel about my mom, and I don't want anybody to resent me that furiously.) How many adult offspring are actually friends with their parents? When your cute toddler turns into a sullen teenager, would you feel rejected and lonely? When your sullen teenager turns into a snarky young adult who just wants you to butt out of their life, would you feel rejected and lonely?

It's a huge and difficult decision, but good on you for thinking about it carefully. Good luck, however you decide!
posted by Quietgal at 10:10 AM on April 1, 2011 [11 favorites]

90% of parents regretting being parents (whatever that means) is a completely different statement from parents being less happy than non-parents. For example, the 90%, and the regret.

Additionally, from your link: "The economist Andrew Oswald, who's compared tens of thousands of Britons with children to those without, is at least inclined to view his data in a more positive light: "The broad message is not that children make you less happy; it's just that children don't make you more happy."
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:12 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Offbeat Mama had a great post the other day on the topic of: Are Parents Happy? Many points worth thinking about!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If I've never felt that burning desire to have a kid, is that a sign that I shouldn't have one?

I don't think so -- I was a bit ho-hum about the idea and approached it with a "Well -- why not; I like children well enough, I guess" sort of wishy-washiness. Pregnancy was a minor irritation, not a Precious Special Joyous Etc. And then the kid was born and WHAM! It was wonderful.

I used to -- for example -- look at one-year-olds and think, 'That must be the most boring time. Big daft overgrown infants...' But at one the personality and vocabulary were busting out like crazy and my one-year-old was fascinating and we would all be gods if we continued to develop at a one-year-old's exciting pace...

Motherhood has been a tremendous relief for me as taking the focus off myself was so long overdue. It is a little jarring at times dealing with so many changes, and the finances are a bit surreal at times, but one can roll with this; last Christmas I got us very good seats for 'The Nutcracker' instead of getting the dishwasher fixed, which is something I don't think would have ever even occurred to my own parents, who would have simply been unable to afford the thought of the ballet and left it at that. But if you don't mind a little bit more time washing dishes by hand, you can still go to the ballet; you don't have to totally suburb-out your budget just because: parent. If you are short on money, who cares -- 'social capital' is much more important, much more valuable for your child.

But even if you did spend the money on the dishwasher: the whole thing is so fleeting. Kmennie Jr is 3.5 and I am alarmed at how quickly things have flown by, pained to realise how brief the need for me is. I had years before this to go and do me things and will have even more years afterwards. Parenthood is a permanent position, but actually dealing with a child is a blip, mercilessly brief.
posted by kmennie at 10:16 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Haven't read every single comment here, but will add this:

Don't ask yourself "Do I want to have a child?" Ask yourself "Do I want to be a mother?" One is about what you will get, the other is about what you are prepared to give.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [15 favorites]

When I was hit with a powerful wave of "OMG BABY NOW" hormones this year, I got 2 kittens. They are the best ever.
posted by Zophi at 10:28 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

I have (a bunch of) kids (who are all still young). I wasn't into children at all, especially babies, before I had kids. I like babies in general much more now, and will flirt with random babies. Plenty of people have great rapport with little kids but don't want kids of their own. I don't think being into kids or not is any sort of barometer here.

Having kids is a big change and it's so easy to underestimate the true impact on your life - to me not so much the freedom or the financials, but your career, your self-image, your self-esteem, your role in the world, your role in your marriage, how other people treat you. There's plenty about becoming a mother that no one tells you (and probably you can't understand completely until you experience it, unfortunately - I sure wish I knew what I was getting into ahead of time). Pregnancy is rough on most women. If you're not into the baby fluffy stuff, it's pretty annoying to have the rosy baby cutesy-wootsy glowy motherhood thing pushed at you. I didn't instantly feel bonded to my babies the moment they were born. Breastfeeding often doesn't come naturally. Having a baby/small child is isolating if you don't have a good support network - yes, you can meet other mothers with babies but you'll have to work at it. (I can't imagine having a baby to alleviate loneliness - I've been more lonely since I've had kids, not before.)

Do I regret having children? No. I wanted them, they're all wanted. Do I regret being less prepared for this? Yes. For me, babies were easier - kids are harder. (Many people have a harder time with babies, though, because they are so needy; and the sleep deprivation can be nuts.) Dealing with my own childhood issues as I raise my children is hard, very hard. I wish I had family closer by - much closer - grandparents in the same town kind of closer. Is it satisfying? I think so - but as a long term thing; I know my work is hard but I hope it will pay off in happy, well-adjusted people within a happy family, and I think that my work is a little bit of good in the world, but it's sort of something I have to remind myself over and over. Am I tired and irritable and worried and stressed? Every day. Do I want a break fairly often? Oh god yes. Is this anything like what I thought being a parent and having a family would be? Not really. It's definitely more of a grind than cozy and warm and lovey. Am I a better person for being a parent? Probably. Are there good moments? All the time. Do I love my children? Fiercely - they're awesome people. Would I presume to tell someone else they should do this too? Oh hells no.
posted by flex at 10:35 AM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

In my view, the most important thing to consider is not your own happiness, but the happiness and well-being of the child. Kids don't ask to be born.

I did not have a strong paternal instinct. I was surprised when my wife became pregnant when I was 22. I was scared to become a father. I didn't like kids and I knew that I wasn't emotionally mature enough for the job. I changed a lot the night that son #1 was born and in the days and years thereafter. I discovered that I loved my little guy and that I could be a good father. I also discovered that new babies (usually) smell good and put me in a good state of mind.

Sons #2 and #3 came later. All three boys are autistic, which complicated things a bit.

I think every parent has at least fleeting regrets. I know I have. Those fleeting regrets are dominated by the fact that I've found my purpose in life: To help these boys overcome their limitations to be the best men that they can be.

Living a child-free life would have been so much easier, but I know that I'm a better person now than I would have been without them. They give my life a richness that I never would have dreamed existed.

Please only have children if can commit yourself to being the best mother that you can be. They deserve no less.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:42 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I am you. Don't do this unless your partner is 300% A++ on board and excited to be a parent with you!

I have no maternal feelings. Just turned 40. Love animals and hallmark commercials.

My husband, OTOH, is pretty wonderful. He was the first person that ever made me feel like I could be a mother. Fast Forward a few years and I'm going into labor any day now. WE couldn't be happier.

However. Mr. Jbenben has been to every doctor's appointment with me (and I go 3x per week right now to get monitored) he has been supportive in every way, I've only had 2 hormonal flip-outs but he handled both like a champ... in short, this would not be going so well and my attitude about being a mother would not be so positive if not for the father involved.

Don't do it unless both you and your husband will be thrilled at the prospect.

I had shitty parents, myself. I know of what I speak from both sides.
posted by jbenben at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2011

Best answer: I never particularly liked babies or kids. I still don't, actually, most kids annoy the crap out of me. But I have a daughter who is the best thing ever. I love being her mother, I loved it when she was a fussy little baby who kept me up all night, I loved it when she was a hysterical wobbly toddler and when she was a crabby 4 year-old. She's 9 now and is the bee's knees.

I never thought I would have children, but then I screwed up on my bcp and got pregnant, and after some initial freaking out, I felt really happy and excited and it's all be gravy since. Well, parenthood isn't easy, but my feelings about it are. I have never once regretted having her, even when I was exhausted, or feeling crowded by her neediness, or wishing my life had more flexibility (and money), or just bewildered by how complicated it can be now, parenting a pre-teen girl. It's definitely challenged me as a person, but in some ways, that's been part of the fun, learning and growing myself as my daughter grows.
posted by upatree at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think that taking a "maybe" approach and stopping birth control and then just letting things happen (or not happen) is a valid approach to kids as long as you aren't totally opposed to the idea. Life is an experience after all and of the people I know that have kids, whether they regret it or not, they have learned a ton about being able to adjust to new situations and be less rigid in their expectations, which is a good thing. And now for some anecdotes:
My mom never really had a blaring maternal instinct and I think more or less had me because that's what married people do, and while I have a different personality and tastes than my mom, she's still a cool person to me and I respect her. She handled a lot in stride (she's always worked full time) and often says that having kids wasn't really a big deal. She just took me wherever she was going and everything worked out.
My dad was probably anti-excited about kids and reportedly when I was a baby would never change my diaper and was afraid to hold me, but my dad turned out to be the best dad in the world, better than all your dads combined and coated in gold! We have similar tastes and senses of humor, and help eachother a lot. Just last week he spent a day with me working on some home renovations. So even though I'm pretty sure he didn't consider me a person until I could talk, things turned out great.

Things aren't garunteed to work out, but that's the point. nothing in life is guaranteed, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

You don't have to have a fantastic reason for wanting to have a child. It's something that humans do for a host of wonderful and terrible reasons. So long as you are a well-adjusted person with the resources to care for a child, I say go for it. I'm pregnant with my first and the experience has been intense-- life and being alive have been heightened to a degree I never thought possible. I'm not saying it's all rainbows (hell, I don't have the kid yet so I'm not much of an authority), but it's quite the Experience so far, bonding with this new person. If you feel at all drawn to the idea, you might want to pay attention to that.
posted by cymru_j at 10:59 AM on April 1, 2011

Best answer: I'm exactly in your position. I always tell people that it's like motorcycles - I can see why people would want one, although I myself never have.

I'm 38 and have no plans to have kids, and couldn't be happier. Just as a data point, my own mother also lacked all maternal instincts, but she had a kid anyway (me) and it went... poorly.

So my advice is: get a dog. Totally. Dogs are awesome! Kittens, too.

It's okay to want a pet but not a child. Adopt an animal from a shelter, be happy, and make the world a better place.
posted by ErikaB at 11:00 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am early 40s and though I never wanted kids, I believe I will regret not experiencing the whole thing, helping a human learn and grow and experience things for the first time, like avocados and butterflies and Frog and Toad. I also think I will be missing out on a significant portion of the human experience, the child rearing thing.

But I still don't want them, because I also know if I did have a kid, there would be other regrets. Struggling with finances, not being able to do a lot of things I wanted to do, potentially crushing heartache due to illness or accident, the teen years, etc. Plus, there is no guarantee you will have a trouble-free pregnancy or birth, or that the child will be healthy.

I guess I am stating the obvious, in that there will likely be regrets either way. I know that doesn't help! It seems like you're swinging towards no, so if you don't have any astounding insight in the next few years, I'd just stick with the no, especially as others have said you don't seem to have a social support system nearby.

Seriously, dogs are super awesome.
posted by Glinn at 11:11 AM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think if you are a woman and don't have a burning desire to have kids, you shouldn't do it. (If you were a guy and you were "meh" on it and your wife was rabid for them, I would probably answer differently, you'll see why.) I say this because YOUR life will change 100%, not so much his. Almost all of the work of having a kid is going to be all on YOU to do for years. For a child that you are "meh" about? And that's not even talking about how it will affect your career and earnings for the rest of your life, physical issues, etc. I think you'd better want kids more than air if you are female and plan to birth your own, under those circumstances.

How badly does your husband want kids? Enough to leave you over? That is, unfortunately, a factor in this situation. If he really wants them, it could end the marriage if you don't really want them too. If he's passively/mildly interested in kids, maybe you have more leeway on this though.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:14 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I have never wanted kids. I love kids, I love teaching them, but I don't want any of my own. My mother thought this would change when I started teaching kids, but all that changed was that I went from not knowing how to handle them, to loving being around them.....and loving it when I go home alone. I also love geology field work - but don't want to live in the field.

My aunt (who was the same way) cautions me that there will be a time when my hormones will be in flux and I will suddenly want kids (which lead to her getting foster children) but this is just a temporary thing.

She loves her foster children, but she says in hindsight, she wouldn't have made that decision, because it meant years of denying her feelings and projecting an image in order to not screw these people up.
posted by nile_red at 11:30 AM on April 1, 2011

Best answer: I have two kids under age 3. I have no free time unless the kids are both sleeping (approx 1 hour between 6am and 8pm) or I'm paying someone upwards of $20/hour. Or, on the occasion that my husband (who works a ton right now) has a free hour or two (infrequent and unpredictable). It is extremely difficult to be a mother without signing over upwards of 80% of your mental and emotional space and 95% of your physical space. For YEARS, I tell you, YEARS.

Get a puppy already. :-)

I have always wanted kids, and despite feeling exhausted a lot, I feel "complete" in a way that I never have before, and I feel it to be a great privilege to raise human beings. Maybe it's a biological thing.

Also--if you aren't enjoying your life now, please don't expect pregnancy or infancy to make it better. Motherhood is a huge pain in the ass until the kids are well into their first year.
posted by tk at 11:38 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Don't forget the lasting physical effects--you could have an easy pregnancy and delivery. You could have 9 months of morning sickness and permanent urinary incontinence. Even "normal" pregnancy fatigue was like mono, but worse, because I was puking. Seriously, don't do it. Especially don't do it to become a better person or add to the world. There are people already here and you can develop as a person without bringing another person into it.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:43 AM on April 1, 2011

Listen to double block and bleed, and start thinking about what you could offer a child, instead of the other way around. Do you have time to spare? Can you afford it? Are you going to be a loving, positive influence? Are you prepared to always put your desires behind the needs of your child? Is your husband interested?
Parenting is hard work, and it takes over your life, especially if you want to be a good parent.
I say this as a parent of one little boy who I wanted, love fiercely, and have never regretted having for a moment - don't do it unless you really really want to. There are a lot of parents out there who seem to forget that they're raising an actual human being, and it's very sad.
posted by meringue at 12:08 PM on April 1, 2011

If you have waited too long, which differs from woman to woman but fertility declines after age 35 or so, you may not be able to have a child without a lot of medical interventions and expense, so do consider if you would want to go that route. Only you and your husband can answer the question if you really should have a child. Burning maternal instinct not needed, but commitment, yes!
posted by mermayd at 12:19 PM on April 1, 2011

I'm 23 days out from giving birth to my son and I have to say, while pregnancy made me more empathetic to women who choose to have an abortion (because pregnancy is HARD, yo), having a newborn has made me understand why some people don't want to have kids.

I have always wanted children with the passion and intensity of a thousand suns. My son is the clich├ęd greatest thing that's ever happened to me. And it's still hard. I still cry at night and plead with him about "WHY WON'T YOU SLEEEEEEEPPPPPPP?!" And, y'know, I also look into his eyes and my heart swells with joy and I miss him if I'm away from him for two hours.

No one can tell you whether or not to have kids, but also, no one can fully explain what motherhood is like until you experience it. I've worked with kids my entire adult life, but motherhood is something else entirely. I, personally, love it - but it's literally all-consuming. Everything I do for myself takes careful planning around someone else's needs - writing this comment, showering, eating... when I'm home by myself, I have to think about what am I going to do with the baby when I have to pee. And I don't mind doing it, I'm honestly happy to make the adjustments, but were I not 1000% sold on the idea of having kids... I can definitely see where one might have regrets.

As for loneliness... pregnancy turned me into kind of a hermit. Having a newborn has ramped that up about three thousand notches. Getting out is tough, and having people over for more than twenty minutes at a time overstimulates the baby and let's face it, the state of my apartment isn't really something I'm proud of at the moment being as it's covered in baby swag, laundry, and random detritus I haven't had five seconds to put away.

I can say that I absolutely 100% recommend getting a pet first. A dog will give you tons of opportunities to meet people - going on walks, going to the dog park, etc. I've had friends who got dogs and were amazed at how much it opened their social lives since people love to stop and talk to someone walking a dog. Plus, having a pet inoculates you to an extent to the joys of dealing with another mammal's poop on a daily basis.
posted by sonika at 12:33 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: This answer comes weighted with the bias of a delightedly, deliberately child-free woman past the possibility of ever making a different choice. You'll get lots of other perspectives from people whose lives have been enriched by children, but this has been true for me:

Having kids is such a huge, utterly irreversible responsibility that no one should undertake it unless they feel very clearly and strongly about it. The default answer should be "no," and it should take a big strong push to get to "yes." Evenly balanced ambiguity is not a strong enough foundation for choosing parenthood.

Wanting to avoid the possible regret of not having had a child is not a big enough reason to undertake the commitment of having one. To me, that would have felt like an abdication of responsibility--like I was putting the job of giving meaning and purpose to my life onto some random other person.

Bear in mind, too, that while having a child will make you laugh, and (with some luck) add a lot of love to your life, it WILL break your heart. Every day. Even the thoroughly good kids who do everything right break your heart. Just seeing the pain, and worry, and terror that my friends go through as their kids grow up and grow away makes me wonder how they do it. And glad that I didn't.
posted by Corvid at 12:36 PM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Here's something to consider: you simply cannot extrapolate from who you are now, to who you will be when you have a child. So all your speculating now about how you'll feel once a kid is in your life, is basically going to miss the point entirely. Because once you have a child, you are no longer the same person - and as we all know, different strokes for different folks.

This is so, because the vast majority of people who have a child get a "mommy (or daddy) brain". Things you may find irritating today, will delight you once you have a mommy brian. I've seen it in action, many times, when friends had kids. So what's the point of trying to project?

What you need to do is to carefully weigh objective things. Like how will it impact your finances. Your job. Any help you may get with the kid from grandparents etc. Your career trajectory and any hobbies you cultivate. Those things are not affected by a mommy brain. Your bank account will not grow by one penny because of a mommy brain. On the other hand, you may not care as much - so your attitude toward money, career, job, hobbies etc. may change from what it is today.

Once you're more clear on the objective stuff, you can take stock of what it means going forward.

What if you change your mind? You cannot undo having a kid (barring things like giving it up after birth etc.). And you can only ameliorate not having a kid - you can always adopt later on; some people must have their own genes involved, but many seem to love their adopted kids just as much.

I have made a decision not to have kids, as has my wife. We're deliriously happy with that choice. Whatever choice you make, you should not have regrets. That's a waste of time. If I may be so bold - and I'm sure I'll catch incredible flack for this on metafilter - I strongly believe that if you have regrets about such decisions in your life (kids, that girl/boy, that job, that X), you are simply not living your life fully enough. When you live your life to the limits, there is no time for regrets and more importantly, regrets never even come up as a psychological state - what may happen is some idle musing "I wonder what life would look like had I done X instead". But I want to leave you with this thought:

Rethink how you conduct your life. Because if you pursue your life with vigor, regrets should never come up. It may be a controversial position, but I stand by it.
posted by VikingSword at 1:00 PM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

Almost all of the work of having a kid is going to be all on YOU to do for years. For a child that you are "meh" about? And that's not even talking about how it will affect your career and earnings for the rest of your life, physical issues, etc. I think you'd better want kids more than air if you are female and plan to birth your own, under those circumstances.

This is critically important. I know there are lots of dads who are engaged, but overwhelmingly I see my married friends and acquaintances who have kids are more or less dual-income single mothers.

When the kid is sick the school will call you, even if your husband is also on the list. People will judge you if your kids misbehave. All the group activities and events at school will expect your participation and not his.

And this will go on for the rest of your life. If you were all YAY CHURREN it would be different, but unless you're passionate about being a mother I'd suggest not doing it.

Also, you would be bringing a new person into the world. If you were that person, would you want the life you think they would have with you? Can you afford to care for them at a middle-class standard of living, and do you have the career prospects to sustain that? Do you have the time and energy to devote to developing their interests and activities at the expense of your own? Do you want to spend every waking moment for the rest of your life with the well-being of someone else taking priority over your own, and are you willing to acknowledge that what you think that should be may be different than what that new person would wish?

I know that people say 'have kids and everything will work out', but I see that worldview as irresponsible. This is a human life you're bringing out, it's not something to do without enormous preparation and forethought like you can just hit the reset button and try again.
posted by winna at 2:10 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get the dog, see how you feel after that.

I adore kids - but I really don't want the responsibility and stress and angst associated with them. I play with other people's kids, I sponsor kids, I may at some point volunteer with kids.

I need a lot of time and space to myself. I need to have the ability to spontaneously decide to change careers or study something new or go somewhere different. I don't want to wake up at 2am to change someone's nappy or think about what clothes to buy them or what school they're going to go to. I don't want to be pregnant.

All of that to me outways any positivity associated with holding my own child in my arms.
posted by mleigh at 2:54 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some alternatives to the dichotomy of "having kids or not having kids" are mentoring (*ie. Big Sister) or caring for foster children.
posted by aniola at 3:48 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think most everyone has covered the gamut of emotions/ possibilities. So I'll say this: how is your relationship? Husband and I spent the last two years warming up to the kid idea -- talking about our fears, our questions, etc., in regards to having a child. I kept waiting for OMG KIDZ!! to rear up but it didn't for me. It was a pretty cerebral choice.

We are 3.5 months out and it's so great. Our daughter is amazing and 100% fascinating to us. Other kids are now a bit more interesting to me because I'm looking at development and other things but I still don't want to cuddle all the babies. I just want to cuddle mine. And this process has brought my husband and I closer than ever before. Our relationship feels incredibly strong and I feel like we are such equal partners. It's been a really amazing transformation and I could not have imagined that things would work out this way. But, the couple we were ten years ago? Even five years ago? Maybe not ready. I have so much awe and respect for single parents -- having a willing, trustworthy and engaged partner is so incredible.

And, yes, it was not possible for me to imagine what this would be like. I feel lucky, indeed. You really can't know until you cross over. If anything happens to this little girl, I will die. And that's something that I didn't expect and probably the scariest thing of all.


So, um, yes. Make new friends! You want a network. Talk to moms. Keep talking to your husband about it. Think about your relationship. It's okay to not have children -- we just don't typically have much of a road map for that life but it's not a lesser life.
posted by amanda at 3:50 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

And this process has brought my husband and I closer than ever before. Our relationship feels incredibly strong and I feel like we are such equal partners. It's been a really amazing transformation and I could not have imagined that things would work out this way.

Seconding this for emphasis. I'd heard people mention it, but kind of disregarded it, but honestly - having a baby with him has made me love my husband so much more, and I loved him an awful lot to begin with. (Also: he has newfound respect for me after watching me go through 47 hours of labor!) Our relationship is definitely stronger and I love watching him grow as a father. It's amazing and I totally hadn't imagined it *at all* before our son was born.
posted by sonika at 4:07 PM on April 1, 2011

I'm 23 days out from giving birth to my son and I have to say, while pregnancy made me more empathetic to women who choose to have an abortion (because pregnancy is HARD, yo), having a newborn has made me understand why some people don't want to have kids.

Ok, so, just to be clear, when I said that being a parent is rewarding, I should specify that my kid is now almost two. The first 4-6 months of being a parent is a crappy, crappy experience for everyone involved.

It is an important, if widely unremarked-upon, fact that The Miracle Of Birth does not provide you with a baby. You give birth to a screaming, flailing, moody and incomprehensibly finicky shit factory. That wad of protohuman eventually turns into a baby somewhere between four and six months. You won't really remember this period very vividly - six months of sleep deprivation and near-constant low-grade panic helps that amnesia along quite nicely, and the people who could still remember that period vividly and chose not to have another kid were weeded out of the gene pool thousands of years ago.

But I stand by my claim, that even with that in mind, this is a rewarding experience; I regret nothing. But it's equally difficult for me to fault people who don't want to do this, because make no mistake, it's goddamn hard.
posted by mhoye at 5:09 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

But, I'm getting older. Lately, I feel the maternal instinct firing up a bit more.

I'm going to say no, don't bother because a) that's just hormones talking, and b) unless you and your husband have really secure jobs with excellent health insurance or have flexible jobs and are independently wealthy and don't need to worry about money and can hire help, or have a higher threshold for stress than most, it's too much responsibility.

And as much as a baby could possibly bring you and your husband closer, it's not always the case. Plenty of people divorce from the stress of having children. Does your husband even want to be a father or is he going to be all "Whatever you want" and leave you with all the work?

You say your husband isn't a really social guy. Does he have any friends? Does he like people? I think you should really figure out if a child would benefit from having him as a father.

No parent is going to say that their kid feels like a burden and they wish the kid had never been born unless they are okay with thinking of themselves as horrible parents and truly awful people. Even parents of rapists and murderers would never say that they wish their kid had never been born.
posted by anniecat at 8:04 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

We've moved around a lot for my job, so I don't have many close friends around me. My family is in other states. My husband is not very social, and my job keeps me so busy that it's difficult to make friends, and many people in my field tend to move around too, so often the friends I make end up leaving.

If your job keeps you so busy that don't have time to meet adults, it doesn't sound very compatible with child-rearing. Is your husband prepared to be the person who leaves work every day at 5:30 for pickup from childcare, if he's not that excited about having kids either?
posted by palliser at 8:40 PM on April 1, 2011

I have a 4 month old baby that I was very excited to have.

I'm 33, and before pregnancy, my husband and I lived an AWESOME life, we spent a year and a half living in a campervan driving around Canada and the States while he worked as a freelance computer programmer. We also loved getting drunk, getting high (both in responsible moderation), going dancing, staying out all night etc etc.

Having a baby means we are living a pretty conventional life settled in the city. I really miss all those free and easy times pre-baby, doing all that fun crazy shit. However, I LOVE being a mum, I love my baby, and I love life now too. I'm not one of those people who insists that having a baby is the "best thing you'll ever do" - I think it's great but I think being an independent adult is great as well. I think having a baby is the most intense thing you'll ever do, in that it's so consuming and the emotions involved are so ... extreme. It's fantastic. But so are other things.
posted by beccyjoe at 5:31 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Speaking as an "albatross child" - my parents didn't even really LIKE kids and certainly weren't prepared for the experience of caring for a real life child instead of a living dolly - don't have one if you can't give it a decent childhood. Too many parents and parents-to-be think that it's all about THEM and that the child should fulfill THEIR desires.

Whatever one feels about Dr. Phil McGraw, he said one thing absolutely right: "No child should ever come into this world with a job."

I chose to be childfree because I didn't want to be the kind of parent my parents were. Think about if you turned out to be a bad parent, or not really want the child, and your child grew up to dislike and/or resent you and kept up a relationship with you out of duty or, worse, because they expected an inheritance somewhere down the line.

Lonely? Make friends, get a pet, volunteer, get a hobby.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 6:21 AM on April 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, thank you so much for so many candid and heartfelt comments. It gives me a lot of fantastic food for thought as I move forward making this decision. I turn 37 this year, so the clock is really ticking, but of course I've also thought quite a bit about adoption or, as some of you mention, simply mentoring a young person through a program like Big Sisters. That's a great idea.

I can say that I would never bring a child into this world simply to meet my own selfish desires or simply to fill a gap of loneliness; I'm just trying to pin down what's driving these newfound feelings. But I appreciate so many you saying that I should think of this of what I would GIVE a child, not simply what I would WANT from the experience.

One thing I can say for sure is that I love animals (I do have pets - but they're cats!) and feel I can give tremendously to them, so a dog may be the best next step. I get excited at that prospect - not so much when I think about having a kid.

So, thank you again. This truly helps.
posted by Ms. Toad at 8:51 AM on April 2, 2011

Watch out for this mentality. Not having kids isn't selfish. Having kids is.

I am trying so desperately hard to understand how this statement rings at all true, for anyone, anywhere. How in the world is changing your entire life to suit the needs of a small glowing pink thing that eats poops and sleeps a selfish endeavour?

Maybe I have dad brain. Is this what people who don't want kids say to make themselves feel better if they are threatened by the idea of becoming a parent?

Lots of wonderful advice in this thread, I can't really add much. Just still trying to wrap my head around the idea of parenthood as selfish.
posted by cavalier at 3:55 PM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

No. No. No.

Don't do it. My marriage disintegrated because we had kids. You will DEFINITELY change when you are responsible for shaping a human consciousness. You can't possibly know how you will change. It doesn't matter how one prepares for the future - the future does not exist, does it?

I am so glad to be able to answer this question. I am really glad I have kids, but it is difficult for me to be glad I made the decision to have them. That only makes sense if you've lived it, I know, but it's the best way I can put it. I love being a father, and I always wanted to be one. But I now suspect that the woman I had kids with did it because it was the thing "everybody does," because she'd "regret it later," and because she felt she'd be "missing something" if she didn't.

No. No. No.

Excellent question - good for you for having the foresight many people lack. There's nothing worse for a kid than a regretful, ambivalent parent.
posted by Waldo Jeffers at 9:14 PM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

Hmm... Take a look at the answers you've 'bested' and ask yourself if they reveal what your leaning is - it seems pretty clear that even if you never wanted kids in the past, that's not the overriding sentiment now.
posted by namesarehard at 11:39 PM on April 2, 2011

I'm 34 and the same - never really wanted kids, love animals, don't really see myself as a mother (even though I'm deliriously happy with my spouse). Anyway - BoingBoing has an interesting thread on being childless by choice that is worth a read.
posted by getawaysticks at 8:44 AM on April 4, 2011

I'm almost the same age as you (will turn 37 later this year), but still single. I don't know if my own deliberations will be helpful, but I'll share them. I have a niece and a nephew, ages 4 and 1. I have plenty of friends who have kids under about 6 or so. I LOVE visiting these kids and playing with them. I love seeing the little lightbulb that goes on over their head when they learn something new. I love the snuggles and the giggles.

And I am usually OVER THE MOON to leave them at their parents' house and go back to my own quiet place where I can walk around naked and leave trash in the trash can until I'm in the mood to take it out. (This, uh, makes my place sound worse than it is. I don't do those things a bunch, but having the pure freedom to do them is lovely.) Even when I visited my brother when my nephew (who is pretty much the perfect baby: always giggling and smiling, slept through the night from very close to the beginning, etc.) was at his most adorably chubbular, I didn't leave his house thinking, "gee, wish I could take one of those with me!"

So I'm pretty much decided that I won't be giving birth ever. BUT, I'm not at all decided yet that I won't have children. I've been thinking pretty hard about adoption for a pretty long time. But for me it's not the cute little babies that make me want to adopt. It's the 11 year-old in foster care who says his favorite things are "dragonology and origami." The idea that there is a real, live, already-in-existence PERSON who has had a pretty shitty hand dealt to him so far, loves nerdy stuff and might not have had anyone who understood and loved that about him so far... that is powerfully compelling to me. I guess it's what someone else said upthread. I want to give so much to that little boy. I want to help him. HIM. A specific person.

So... maybe that's where your feelings will end up taking you too? No option is better or worse than any other. There's just what feels right to you.
posted by MsMolly at 11:06 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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