What are some unexpected/atypical reasons to have kids?
March 19, 2013 3:08 PM   Subscribe

One of my friends wants to have lots of kids because she loves the idea of having many miniature versions of her husband in the house. Now, I've heard of people wanting to have kids so they can have miniature versions of themselves around the house, but wanting a miniature version of your partner was a new one to me. Are there any other surprising/non-cliched reasons to have kids?

I've personally never had a desire to have kids, so I'd like to understand those who do better. I can understand (or at least I think I understand) the desire to have a "complete" family, prevent loneliness, watch/encourage a child to grow or fearing that you are missing out on a core life experience. I can also understand the possibly less-than-noble reasons including, "Because I'm supposed to," legacy, wanting power and, in some cultures, future retirement planning.

I'm interested in hearing other reasons out there to have kids, whether they are thoughtful, hilarious, selfish, completely inappropriate or off-the-wall bonkers. Any ideas?
posted by dede to Human Relations (71 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
If your child needs a kidney donor (or other internal organ), you may have another. Of course, I may have only gotten this from "Law & Order."
posted by xingcat at 3:09 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I want one so the little guy can donate me a liver after he drives me to drink.
posted by bensherman at 3:12 PM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I guess this might be the same as "prevent loneliness," but I've heard of people having kids because they wanted someone who would love them unconditionally.
posted by asnider at 3:13 PM on March 19, 2013

An old professor my high school anatomy teacher had had like 12 kids or something, because she and her also-an-MD/PhD-husband felt it was their duty to populate the earth with brilliant, high IQ-gened children.
posted by phunniemee at 3:15 PM on March 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

My wife's mother said she had her first son for tax reasons.

I've also heard the miniature versions of one's partner partner reason, too. So either we have an acquaintance in common, or it is more common than you think.
posted by eruonna at 3:18 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I knew one old lady who told me "I needed allies in my marriage" when I asked why she decided to have kids. A lot more kinda terrible backstory to it, but she was totally serious.
posted by Tchad at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's interesting, eruonna. I wondered if I was just late to the party on that one!
posted by dede at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2013

My oldest son is ASD. I wanted to have a second child by the same father in part to give him a full blood sibling. I felt he would do poorly, socially, without one. He is 25 and we have discussed it. We both think I made a good call. He is close to me and to his brother. No one else is really close to him. He is quite difficult to get close to. I think his life would be a lot harder without a sibling.

I have read of someone having a second child to serve as a medical donor for an existing child who was ill. I don't recall the specifics. I think it may have been blood (for a rare blood type) or bone marrow (for cancer). I don't think it was an organ.
posted by Michele in California at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Well, we kind of did it as a crapshoot. I was 34, my husband was approaching 40, and we thought, if we're going to do this, we should do it now. We were comfortable in many ways (financially, lifestyle, mental well-being) and didn't feel particularly inclined one way or the other. So we made a deal: We'd pull the goalie, and if I was pregnant by the time he turned 40, great. If not, fine as well - we'd just volunteer more and adopt another pet and travel or do whatever other childless couples do. Our strongest belief was that the world needs more nice people, and whatever will be, will be -- and she just turned nine last month.
posted by peagood at 3:19 PM on March 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have a friend who was similar to me and agnostic about having kids. So when she finally started trying, I asked her what was the tipping point.

She said that while her husband was a great provider and partner, she could tell that he was just born to be a great dad, and she couldn't deprive him of that.
posted by politikitty at 3:20 PM on March 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

A friend told me that as they had so many animals that limited their life because they needed care they thought they might as well add a child to the mix. No idea how serious she was...
posted by sianifach at 3:23 PM on March 19, 2013

My mom told me she wanted a doll baby to play with and dress up. That might be why I'm an only child.
posted by DoubleLune at 3:24 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Having children to take the focus off trying to make yourself happy and prevent yourself from worrying about inconsequential things. For example if you had children you would likely never have had the time, desire or curiosity to ask this question.
posted by therubettes at 3:30 PM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

We're teetering on the edge right now. My husband would be fantabulous; I am smart and stuff, but my experience being a child of a crazy mom has kind of thrown a wrench in my perception of being a parent.

But one thing my husband has mentioned, very quietly, is that he would like to give a child a better experience than he had. That's one of the best reasons I've heard -- and I'm convinced that both of us would be successful on that front.
posted by Madamina at 3:30 PM on March 19, 2013 [15 favorites]

If you truly want to understand why some people want kids when you don't, you might start with not being so flippant and dismissive of your friends' reasons for having them.

I doubt your friend said she wanted kids so she would have "little copies" of her husband. More likely. She was trying to express how great it would be to have kids with her husband's qualities. Which makes perfect sense, really.

It seems perfectly natural to me that, having met and married someone you found physically attractive, with qualities you admire, you would be warmed by the thought that your sons might grow up to be just like him.
posted by misha at 3:31 PM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

My mother and her siblings were conceived so that my grandmother could travel with my grandfather on certain (rather remote!) military postings. I suspect the policies have since changed, but at the time, if your wife was pregnant, you could bring her with you.
posted by elizeh at 3:32 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do not know how serious she was, but I have a friend who decided to have a fourth child because she didn't like the dynamics of three. I only have a brother, so I don't know if this is true, but she said she didn't realize how much the 2 against 1 shifting alliances would happen around all sorts of decisions, and she wanted to even the odds a little.

She has four, and I can't say that it helped. BUT, they all really seem to like each other, and are pretty close.
posted by anitanita at 3:35 PM on March 19, 2013

If you have kids, you get to re-experience a lot of kid stuff. You can build castles at the beach. You can go sledding. You can read WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE. Only now, you're parenting.
posted by musofire at 3:36 PM on March 19, 2013 [32 favorites]

A lot of people have kids as a retirement plan. This is quite common in Asia where kids are expected look after their parents when they grow old. A Metafilter post last month had an article about women in Vietnam who chose to be single mothers. Some of the women indicated that they needed someone to look after them in their old age.
posted by cyml at 3:37 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spending more time with my extended family and studying our genealogy gave me a better understanding of why someone might have a kid in order to "continue the line" or give their parents grandchildren. It starts to feel like there's this whole momentum and history and who are you to break the sequence?

(Note: this pressure hasn't actually caused me to have any kids yet.)
posted by shattersock at 3:37 PM on March 19, 2013

There used to be a saying (maybe there still is) in the religious Jewish community that you should try to have at least three - one to replace yourself, one to replace your spouse, and a third (or more) to take the place of one lost in the Holocaust.

No pressure, though.
posted by Mchelly at 3:44 PM on March 19, 2013 [22 favorites]

Providing your relatives, especially potential grandchildren, with babies to play with and so that they'll stop harassing you to have children.

The old "who will take care of me in the nursing home" one.

Feeling just plain obligated to have kids, especially if you're an only child/last of the line/relatives are harassing you.

Having a sibling so that someone can take care of the older handicapped child after you die.

Having everyone you know tell you that you WILL regret not having a kid, period, even if you don't actually want one. Combined with being female and over 35.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:44 PM on March 19, 2013

The "having an additional child (primarily?) for medical reasons" is very real. IANAD but I work in a medical/biotech related field, and we have encountered this. In fact, we had a very loving, awesome family give a presentation at our firm that explained how our firm had helped them treat their first child's congenital medical condition. Speaking broadly, they needed more genetic material to treat the first child, and had a second child with this in mind. The first child is now healthy and both children are doing doing very well.
posted by mosk at 3:44 PM on March 19, 2013

I have an acquaintance who was conceived to keep her father out of the Vietnam war. Which doesn't make sense to me, because I know plenty of people whose fathers went to the Vietnam war, but that's what she says.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:46 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I like board games, my husband doesn't. I had a kid to have someone to play games with.

This was pretty far down my list of reasons, though.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:46 PM on March 19, 2013 [8 favorites]

One of my friends wants to have lots of kids because she loves the idea of having many miniature versions of her husband in the house. Now, I've heard of people wanting to have kids so they can have miniature versions of themselves around the house, but wanting a miniature version of your partner was a new one to me. Are there any other surprising/non-cliched reasons to have kids?

I mean, I think the other version of this is wanting to see what a person who is some combination of you and your partner is like.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 3:49 PM on March 19, 2013 [9 favorites]

For the jokes. For instance this guy who told his kid that they wouldn't know her permanent eye color until her baby eyes fell out and her adult ones grew in.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 3:49 PM on March 19, 2013 [20 favorites]

Having someone else in the house who you can MAKE do the chores you don't want to do ("go mow the lawn/empty the dishwasher!")
posted by Lucinda at 3:51 PM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

A woman that I worked with had two kids when she was in her early 20's, figured she was done. Then she had a "surprise baby" when she was 40...and then immediately had another on purpose. She herself had grown up as an only child, and found it to be a lonely experience. Since the older sibs were so much older, she had another same-age sib for the "surprise baby" so that he wouldn't be lonely.
posted by Elly Vortex at 3:59 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, misha, I guess I should have been more clear. My friend said she wanted a "miniature version" of her husband as in she wanted to time travel (in a way) and get a chance to see what her husband was like when he was a child. I thought that was really interesting; I never thought about that possible aspect of having kids before.
posted by dede at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the main reasons my parents adopted me when they found they couldn't have children of their own: Though they weren't really good Roman Catholics, and weren't hugely religious otherwise, they really really believed what they were taught as far as God's Plan for Marriage. Otherwise, you know, all that sex and stuff would be just for fun.
posted by peagood at 4:31 PM on March 19, 2013

My...friend's parents had their first kid because the father wanted to beat his siblings to the punch, offspring-wise. They had their last because the mother wanted to have more children than any of her siblings.
posted by punchtothehead at 4:37 PM on March 19, 2013

We'd pull the goalie

Is my new favorite phrase.
Ronald Reagan told his wife that he was excited when they had their daughter because he wanted to see Nancy as a little girl.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:43 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

No, I'm sorry, dede. i get what you meant now. :)

I understand the reference to a father not having to go to Vietnam, by the way. When my Mom was expecting my oldest sister, my Dad found out about the pregnancy when they sent him home from his physical to determine his fitness to serve --a really close call!--because Mom called the office and told them the rabbit died. ("Would it make a difference if a draftee was married and having a child?" "Er, yes..." "Well, I'm his wife and I'm PREGNANT!")

My Dad's older brother died in a shooting accident when Dad was nine, so he was an only child, and maybe that added extra weight, too.

But President Kennedy had also officially decided that, in the event of a draft, young married men, especially those with kids, would be moved to the bottom of the list.

Later, Lyndon Johnson took office, and promptly ramped up the war, a lot of men were killed and more warm bodies were needed to replace them, so he rescinded the "Kennedy husbands" exemption. That's why some expecting Dads were excused, while others were not.
posted by misha at 4:47 PM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

I came in here to give the Holocaust reason. I am not a parent, but I was raised to always stand up for the Mourner's Kaddish in temple for the same reason. No matter how many times you say it, you will never be able to say it for all the victims.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:48 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

My friend's sister felt it was ethical demand that since she was psychologically-minded enough to raise happy, compassionate children for the next generation, she should. This reason definitely gave me pause around my own choice to be child-free.
posted by amileighs at 4:58 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

It's not pretty, but there are some women who've had babies because they thought it would make their partners stay with them. Similarly, a lot of people have children when their relationships are weak or unhappy because they think that having a kid will bring them closer or save the relationship.
posted by decathecting at 5:10 PM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm an only child in my mid-40s. Both of my (divorced) parents told me as an adult why they had me. In my mother's case, it was to save her marriage and keep my father from wandering (it didn't work). In my father's case, he wanted a child because he thought it would keep him from being drafted to fight the Vietnam war.

I've had a lot of therapy over the years.
posted by _Mona_ at 5:12 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not me, but I've known military women who got pregnant to avoid being deployed.
posted by corb at 5:16 PM on March 19, 2013

I don't have kids and probably won't, but some of the reasons I've considered changing my mind are:

-I want to give them cool names
-I want to see them interact with, love and be loved by their grandparents
-I want to see them interact with our pets and grow up loving animals and taking adorable pictures with them.
-I might have a kid who needs glasses and I think little kids who wear glasses are the cutest thing ever
posted by Jess the Mess at 5:17 PM on March 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

Because holding and admiring a fresh squishy newborn that smells like heaven while it snuggles peacefully in your arms for the first few weeks of life is the most amazing, precious, amazing, (did I say amazing? )thing EVER.
Also, being able to essentially relive the awesome parts of your childhood by recreating those experiences for your kids is so, so cool.
posted by tenaciousmoon at 5:27 PM on March 19, 2013

For what it's worth, I'm pretty sure my mom had me because she'd already had 3 abortions and didn't want to go through with it again. My parents wedding was definitely the shotgun variety.
posted by mermily at 5:55 PM on March 19, 2013

My mom had me because she looked at me, decided that parenting was something she apparently was good at, and had another child because it is important to do things that you're good at.
posted by Pwoink at 6:27 PM on March 19, 2013

There's a story that may be from Harpo Speaks and that is referenced on his Wikipedia page. Harpo said:
"I’d like to adopt as many children as I have windows in my house. So when I leave for work, I want a kid in every window, waving goodbye."
posted by wemayfreeze at 6:27 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I just want to add that the idea in your original question is kind of the main conceit in the highly enjoyable novel The Time-Traveler's Wife (a man has time-traveling powers and meets his wife as a child). I didn't really get this concept, on a deeper level, until I had a daughter who was a miniature version of my wife. It does feel like time-traveling sometimes.
posted by chinston at 6:32 PM on March 19, 2013

I'm pregnant and I'm super excited to finally have more people in the house to cook for. Cooking for two sucks.
posted by gatorae at 6:33 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm firmly on the fence about having kids, but one point on the pro-side of the list is having a reason to hang out on playgrounds and amusement parks etc again without looking weird. Also, those ridiculously cute baby hats.
posted by akrasia at 6:55 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

My friend's father in law had a stroke shortly after her and husband were married. This couple were told chances are he wouldn't live much longer. The husband decided he wanted to have a child at that point so his father could experience a grandchild before he died. (I didn't think it was a great reason to have a baby but that's just me). Both concerns were moot, they went on to have four kids and twelve years later grandpa is still around with at least 10 grand kids under his belt by now. The extended family, funnily enough, still hold their breath like he's going to die any minute. I think he will outlive the lot of them!
posted by Jubey at 7:23 PM on March 19, 2013

One of my reasons for the timing of my first child was that my parents are relatively young & active. I loved being able to go stay at Grandma's house when I was little, and getting to know my grandparents well as I moved into adulthood. I wanted my kids to have a decent chance at the same experience.
posted by linettasky at 7:36 PM on March 19, 2013

I'm pretty firmly set on not having kids, but sometimes I daydream of having an infant as an excuse to get out of going to (or even being invited to) social engagements. Team curmudgeon over here.
posted by rinosaur at 8:04 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are parents who are musicians and have children to make up a family string quartet.
posted by Logophiliac at 8:11 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I always knew I wanted kids. But I really wanted the second one was to give my first a sibling. One of the best decisions I ever made; my daughter and son love each other so much, even still, now that they are older teens. But another reason for the 2nd was that I loved being pregnant and I loved the birth experience. I mean, it hurt like hell, but it was incredibly empowering. And I wanted a 3rd (never did, though; my marriage ended and I was getting old) because I really wanted a home birth.

By the way, I hope your friend has more luck than us: neither of our children looks much like either one of us. So no little copies. And no guarantees.
posted by primate moon at 8:20 PM on March 19, 2013

This is probably not that atypical, but my mom had 4 kids mainly because she wanted to keep trying for a boy (never happened).

Another one I've heard of which is a little twisted, I suppose - having a second child on the off chance that something tragic might happen to the first one.
posted by randomnity at 8:21 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I came up with lots of reasons to get pregnant, but one of the most embarrassingly compelling ones for me was that as far as I know I've never met a kid with the ethnic background our kid will have and I'm so curious how she'll look. I am the spitting image of my dad's side of the family and everyone is having a great time speculating about whether our kid will get anything at all from my mom's side, how thoroughly my genes will dominate my husband's, etc. My parents had three children with three different eye colors - this genetic lottery result could be really interesting. Of course this also means we should have more than one since if our baby ever needs bone marrow or anything it'll be ridiculously hard to find a compatible donor.

Also I am often the person deployed at parties to entertain children because I can literally talk for hours about a. the best rides at Disneyland and b. which Hogwarts house we would be in and why, and I realized I could have those conversations a lot more often if some children lived in my house.

Finally, I'm hoping once we have a baby to take care of my husband will stop lobbying for a third dog. Only time will tell.
posted by town of cats at 8:34 PM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Definitely having more in case something happens to one - the heir and the spare. Internally, I am always amazed at the courage to have just one child because of the potential of losing that child terrifies me. Also, to have the age spans worked out - we want a sixth so the surprise fifth has a sibling closer in age.

People have babies for alimony. As a trophy wife of any kind, your fertility is linked directly to your babies. You need to have at least one or two to have a stake in the family fortune, because you can be replaced.

The Quiverful movement is very sad - No Longer Quivering has some good stories about why people chose to have children for religious/social/cultural pressure.

In my family, I am referred to as the fourth mistake. My mother had four girls, then the long wanted boy.
posted by viggorlijah at 8:38 PM on March 19, 2013

I have heard of a soldier who fathered four kids, one for each deployment to an active war zone, because he was just sure he was going to die each time he left.

As for little copies of dad: It is fairly common for infants to look a lot like dad, though they sometimes outgrow it as they get older. The theory is that it helps insure that dad and the in-laws continue to provide support if they feel strongly that, yea, verily, he's definitely the dad. Thus, there is evolutionary pressure in the form of increased survival/increased thriving of babies who favor the father.

(My sons looked so much like their father, he was teased that he didn't father them, he cloned them. Once, when I showed up at his unit with both kids in tow, a soldier I had never met before walked up to me with hand extended for a handshake and said "You must be Mrs. (married name). They look just like him.")
posted by Michele in California at 8:43 PM on March 19, 2013

Because kids are freaking hilarious!

Also, I needed to try and create a family member who lives Disneyland as much as I do.
posted by purenitrous at 9:12 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

And I've heard from several adoptee friends that it was really important to finally have someone in their lives that "looks like me"; to have a genetic connection to their child was very powerful for them.
posted by purenitrous at 9:15 PM on March 19, 2013

Because having a kid is a really interesting science experiment. You start out with some cells, and 9 months later there's a person! Because you get to have a person living inside your abdomen. And a few years later there's an even more interesting person who can do all kinds of crazy things like walk around and talk and brainwash you into adoring their every move. How is that even possible?
posted by medusa at 10:47 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know several women who got pregnant because they wanted a break from their job without actually quitting or getting fired (around here, we get a paid 1-year pregnancy leave).
posted by gakiko at 12:56 AM on March 20, 2013

I know linguists who work on child language acquisition who are quite excited about the prospect of never have to go through human ethics clearance for their research again. It's probably not their MAIN reason for having babies, though.
posted by lollusc at 4:45 AM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

Fourth at bridge? (with Grandma, of course)
posted by acm at 7:07 AM on March 20, 2013

I have an acquaintance who was conceived to keep her father out of the Vietnam war. Which doesn't make sense to me, because I know plenty of people whose fathers went to the Vietnam war, but that's what she says.

The fathers who went most likely volunteered, while being a current or expectant father kept you from being drafted. I am also one such "Draft Dodge Baby."

If your child needs a kidney donor (or other internal organ), you may have another. Of course, I may have only gotten this from "Law & Order."

No, this is something that Law and Order themselves ripped from the headlines, as it were, so it's real.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:42 AM on March 20, 2013

I've known a lot of women who had children because they didn't want to work anymore and their husbands could support them while they were staying home with the kids. Not sure if the kids desire or the "stop working" desire was stronger, but I know it definitely played a part.
posted by jabes at 7:59 AM on March 20, 2013

When my parents married, my dad had a vasectomy because neither of them wanted children. Seven years later they became evangelical christians and subsequently felt the need (pressure, possibly?) to procreate. It took five years to naturally conceive me and I'm an only child.
posted by E3 at 10:00 AM on March 20, 2013

This is such an interesting question - I can't wait to ask my parents why they had me! My husband and I are trying for a baby now, and the main reason is that I'm one of those people that's just always wanted kids. He was more on the fence but came around to it when one of our friends had a baby and he saw how much they love that little dude. Our next point of discussion is whether to go for one or two, and other than the give-#1-a-sibling argument, my biggest argument for 2 is that we'll be able to play 4 player card/board games.
posted by hungrybruno at 10:11 AM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

[This is a comment from an anonymous answerer.]
We had my son for the usual reasons, as well as to have someone to help blend our families, since we had both been married before and he has kids from his previous marriage.

We wanted a second so our son would have a companion, and also someone who was "just his" sibling since his other siblings share so much in common that he's excluded from.

Now, after multiple miscarriages, years of unsuccessful IUI's and four failed IVF attempts (and no more ART insurance coverage so we can't try again), any child we might miraculously still have would be too young to be a realistic playmate for our son. And it turns out he shares plenty with his older sibs, despite the age difference.

I work, I have rewarding hobbies, I have an amazing child and fantastic step kids who love me. I never thought I would ever let myself be defined by my body. But now I would give anything to have another child so I would feel less broken.

Just wanted to say this was a lovely, powerful, fun and painful thread for me. Hug your babies.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

My parents had a tribe of kids because the Catholic Church said not to use birth control. When I got married, the only motherly advice that I got was "You know, you don't have to have so many children. There are (looks around furtively) things you can do.
posted by CathyG at 11:31 AM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]

I vaguely remember seeing some show on TLC (before it became look-at-these-weird-folks porn) or Discovery Health where some lady had a bunch of kids because being pregnant kept her from having the awful symptoms of some menstrual disorder she had.
posted by phunniemee at 11:46 AM on March 20, 2013

To back up phunniemee's answer, I have a friend who swore that pregnancy alleviated all her symptoms of PCOS. People would tease her about morning sickness, and she'd reply that she never felt better in her life because her hormones were finally normalized.

Of course, PCOS makes it difficult to conceive, so she didn't have a bunch.
posted by politikitty at 11:49 AM on March 20, 2013

Mr. JulThumbscrew's mom had him - TWENTY YEARS (!!!) after his eldest sibling - because her husband was gently pressuring her that it might be time to go back to work. She elected to have another kid instead. Amazingly, not the most mind-boggling thing she's done.
posted by julthumbscrew at 12:52 PM on March 21, 2013

« Older Plant Filter: Name That Flower   |   Grinding along the Research Assistant career path Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.