Help me decide whether to reproduce or not.
January 29, 2015 2:55 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are trying to make up our minds about having children. We're between 30 and 35 years old, well-off, living a comfortable life and with good familial support networks. She's off hormonal contraception as of recently through a mutual decision, but nothing's set in stone yet. We're both anxious and uncertain and trying to deal with it, together as well as separately. Personally, I now feel like I have a loaded gun between my legs. People who were in my situation and made a choice one way or the other, or you who are in my situation now, I'd appreciate your input.

I'm looking for input from people who made (their half of) the choice about having or not having children in a situation that is reasonably close to ours, so bear with me while I get really specific.

Note: all of the following assumes that the kid grows up healthy, fully abled and emotionally stable like we did. If not, all bets are off, but I can't let that possibility paralyze me. No offense intended to parents of children with mental or physical handicaps or severe behavioral problems (also I'm not sure what's the polite language here, sorry if I got it wrong), but I'm pretty sure we're not capable of raising such a child without considering our lives ruined. If you are, you have my respect. You're a better person than we are.

The next bit may read like bragging, but it's not intended as such; it's a factual account of our privilege and good luck.

We're intelligent, secular, upper middle class, have good careers, with no mental health issues, hereditary diseases or negative genetic predispositions that we know of. I'm reasonably confident in our ability to provide the kid a safe, nurturing environment with all the support and love that he or she needs. All the external factors should be fine. We live in a European country with good societal safety nets. Money shouldn't be an issue. My parents live a literal stone's throw away and my wife's parents are a 30-minute drive from here. We're in good terms with all of them and they have expressed their desire to help us and to be positively involved in bringing up the kid, helping us with the day-to-day stuff and giving us some time to ourselves. Bad influences shouldn't be much of an issue before school, at least; we live in a safe, sparsely populated area with plenty of space, surrounded by nature, and have quite a lot of control in who the kid gets to interact with. We eat well, don't smoke or do drugs and only drink rarely and in moderation. All in all, we're in an excellent position to reproduce, if you think about it rationally.

And yet.

My emotions and my gut instincts are not quite in sync with my rational mind. We're so comfortable now that the contrast between our life now and our imagined life after the birth of a child is massive. "Imagined" is the key word here, yet I know that we can't really imagine what it's like, not the highs nor the lows. We really REALLY enjoy not having much routine and the freedom of coming and going as we please, sleeping in on weekends, working remotely from home without distractions, a tidy home, plenty of free time, etc. I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer. This sort of reinforces the notion that a lot of our hesitation is about the loss of a comfortable life.

But while we're comfortable, we've realized that if we don't reproduce, this is literally all there is to our lives, for as long as they last. Despite our privilege, this thought is not appealing, either. We used to have a cat (who died young, alas), and despite the maintenance requirements and practical restrictions, the joy and unpredictability that it brought our lives was priceless. It was a nice enough test run for a small thing in our house that depended on us, but a child would be SO much harder. Higher highs, lower lows.

There are two scenarios that scare the hell out of me. One: staying sane and just simply existing through the first, say, five years of the child's life, but especially the apparent living hell that is the first couple of years. I'm scared for our marriage and my own feelings. What if I become depressed, even suicidal? What if I grow to resent the child for all the hardship? Two: the thought of not having any adult children, any continuity, when I'm old. I want someone to be there for us like we are for our folks. No guarantees here, either, I know, but at least it shouldn't come down to us being abusive or neglecting parents and kid(s) cutting ties because of that.

Of the two scenarios, I don't know which is scarier. It's impossible to extrapolate from the current day to our old age to guess how we would really feel without children, and it's impossible to know what life would be for us with a small child. Some of our friends have kids, but they were dead set on having them for as long as I've known them. We're not, so their input would be biased and of limited assistance.

Besides the old age thing, I really like the idea of having a 6-12 year-old kid. I foresee those years to be pretty awesome, if things go our way. The teen years are unpredictable, to put it mildly, but if all goes well we should eventually have a well-adjusted adult with a healthy relationship with us. Our parents are extremely happy to have us now that they're in their sixties, and we hope to have the same.

Continuity is important, to me. It's irrational, but I guess it's natural. Apart from the need to have "a legacy", we live in a meticulously maintained, renovated and thoughtfully modernized big old house that my family has owned for generations, and the thought of not being able to pass it on to our descendants when we're too old and frail to live in it is unbearable right now. It seems like a betrayal of the lineage, just... inappropriate. Yes, this form of continuity is partially a materialistic concern, which seems like it shouldn't matter, but it does.

I'm just not sure of my motivations here. One side of me wants the kid and another side of me maybe doesn't, or at least fears that it will ruin my life, and I cannot seem to be able to make a decision. Not making a decision for long enough is itself a decision though, and I would like to not end up not having a child by default because the opportunity passes us by.

If you didn't think we were assholes before this, well, you might after this paragraph. To eliminate one option that may come up, we're not even considering adopting a kid who is old enough that we could skip the hardest first couple of years. This will offend a shitload of people for the choice of wording alone, and I'm sorry that I can't think of an alternative expression with the same descriptivity, but we don't want to risk a "damaged" child. I had to tolerate a nearby kid with behavioral problems, adopted at age 3 from a broken home, for my entire childhood until I was 16 and he moved away. He had no other friends, I was one just barely and begrudgingly. (He ended up in and out of a life of crime.) I don't want to risk adopting a kid like that. Also, we seem to have healthy genes, whereas any hereditary stuff in an adopted child would be a mystery. We don't need that uncertainty on top of everything else.

I don't expect anybody to be able to make the decision for me. I wouldn't accept it, anyway. But I would like insights and new perspectives from other people who were in a place where reproducing "made sense" but couldn't reconcile their emotions with the rational justifications. What did you do, and how did you end up deciding? I've been going around in circles for so long that any new thoughts might prove useful.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (135 answers total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
I am 85, have fathered 4 children--two marriages. Simply put: if you have to ask, you shouldn't.
posted by Postroad at 3:09 PM on January 29, 2015 [118 favorites]

Kids are great, including babies and toddlers. Parenting enriches your life.

You've seen many children, up close and personal, and apparently you've come to the opposite conclusion. "apparent living hell that is the first couple of years." -- really?

people who were in a place where reproducing "made sense" but couldn't reconcile their emotions with the rational justifications.

You've got it backwards. Parenting is the emotional thing. Leap of faith. "Rational justifications" or the lack thereof are mental noise.

[On preview: what Postroad said.]
posted by JimN2TAW at 3:11 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

It sounds like to me you're trying to talk yourself into having a child, and I really don't think that's a good idea most of the time. Kids are a lot of work, and it has always seemed really risky to me to go into it without knowing for certain you want it. I know there are a lot of people who say they weren't sure but went ahead and now wouldn't trade it for anything, but there are also a lot of people out there who regret it and aren't as open about sharing that feeling, for obvious reasons.

Now, it should be said that I am almost 40, married, and don't want kids and never have. I'm old enough now that people have (mostly) stopped asking me whether I'm going to have children, and then the inevitable follow up question: Why not? The answer to "why not" was always so apparent to me, though: All the reasons. The lack of sleep and freedom and money, the uncertainty and the stress on my lovely marriage. Basically all the things you said above. I've always thought that the real crux of it is that people have children because they want them, end of story - it's not something you can logic yourself into. It's a biological imperative that overthrows all those terrifying doubts and sacrifices. And yes, I know there are some people for whom it is a logical decision and it ends up working out fine. And, like you, I'm sure if my husband and I did have children we would provide a good home for them and all that. But it's not what I want in my heart and soul and body, and for me that's what it comes down to. Anything less than that just isn't a good enough reason for me. I guess you need to decide whether it's a good enough reason for you.
posted by something something at 3:11 PM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

Do you want kids, or not?

All of your text above reduces to those six words.

When you imagine yourself 50 years from now, are you surrounded by your grandchildren, or are you jet-setting retirees with no responsibilities to anyone else?

If you were told that tomorrow was your last day on Earth, would you feel happy about a life well-lived, or regretful that you weren't leaving behind descendants to carry on your family?

It also feels kind of weird to me that your major concern about having children is parenting a toddler. Honestly, babies and toddlers are easy. I was a part-time nanny in college, and people voluntarily left their babies and toddlers in my care on a daily basis. All of those children survived, despite being in the charge of a dumbass 18 year old who couldn't always be relied on to take the correct bus. When my youngest brother was a baby, my mom would leave me home alone to take care of him for hours. I was nine. Said brother is now a Marine.

Also, if you've cared for a pet, you've dealt with most of the havoc babies wreak. You've cleaned up poo and vomit and medicated a small mammal and shoved a wriggling thing into a pet carrier or a car and off to some tedious chore said small mammal is not interested in cooperating with.

I think a lot of men are worried about very young kids because they're not forced to be around them, growing up. So they seem very fragile, and then very intimidating. And possibly disgusting. And definitely sleep-ruining. When you're used to being around babies, they're kind of no big deal. Tedious, sure. But not nitro glycerine.

Have a kid or don't. Doesn't matter to me. Go with your gut. But it's silly to not have kids because the idea of a few sleepless nights scares you.
posted by Sara C. at 3:12 PM on January 29, 2015 [19 favorites]

No offense intended to parents of children with mental or physical handicaps or severe behavioral problems (also I'm not sure what's the polite language here, sorry if I got it wrong), but I'm pretty sure we're not capable of raising such a child without considering our lives ruined.
What if I become depressed, even suicidal? What if I grow to resent the child for all the hardship?
we don't want to risk a "damaged" child.

Oh my god, do not have children. If you're worried about legacy and continuity, spend your money and privilege on setting up a foundation to take care of your things and on forming lasting relationships with other people who you are not responsible for, but who you might be okay with them being responsible for you. There are a lot of ways to solve the worries you have that don't involve forcing a child to exist in a family that would be "ruined" if they had an illness.
posted by Mizu at 3:12 PM on January 29, 2015 [119 favorites]

You need to spend more time around kids to eliminate the concern the first few years would make you "suicidal". If that is a real worry for you your wife needs to get back on birth control NOW until you feel more comfortable with the "decision ". The first few years are hard but also full of joy and amazing moments.

I really think it's important you get your head on straight and not wait until this is already a foregone conclusion. You're doing a lot of agonizing about something you apparently already agreed to. Does your wife know about your feelings?
posted by treehorn+bunny at 3:13 PM on January 29, 2015 [17 favorites]

We don't have children for many reasons, but the main one is that neither one of us has what it takes to want children. And more than anything else, I believe children should be wanted and loved no matter how they turn out.

I don't see anything about wanting in your post. I do see several mentions of "reproduction", which doesn't convey any urge to actually be a parent or have a kid? And no emotional attachment to the idea to do for your potential children what parents do for their babies and toddlers and kindergarteners and tweens and teens and adults for the rest of their lives. Or: if you don't know that you absolutely want a child, I think it's generally best not to become a parent.
posted by harujion at 3:14 PM on January 29, 2015 [11 favorites]

No offense intended to parents of children with mental or physical handicaps or severe behavioral problems (also I'm not sure what's the polite language here, sorry if I got it wrong), but I'm pretty sure we're not capable of raising such a child without considering our lives ruined. If you are, you have my respect. You're a better person than we are.

Personally, I now feel like I have a loaded gun between my legs.

To eliminate one option that may come up, we're not even considering adopting a kid who is old enough that we could skip the hardest first couple of years. This will offend a shitload of people for the choice of wording alone, and I'm sorry that I can't think of an alternative expression with the same descriptivity, but we don't want to risk a "damaged" child.

The only question you really need to ask yourself is this: Do I have the desire to and am I capable of raising the child into a loving adult? If the answer is no (and your answer from what I am seeing here seems to be no), then don't.
posted by mochapickle at 3:15 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

It really doesn't sound to me like you want or should have a kid.

My wife and I cruised though our 30s and sort of halfheartedly tried to have kids before giving up and deciding that we were perfectly happy with our comfortable middle-class lives. Everything was fine for years, but then I became more and more unhappy with what seemed to me to be a static and dead-end existence, and it ultimately ended our marriage. I see that you're aware of that factor, I'm just pointing out that in my case it became a major problem.

As it happens, I met a wonderful person who has a really cool teenage daughter (although teenagers, holy crap!), and even though we're in our 40s we're going to give having a kid a shot. Neither she nor I have any doubt that this is something we want to do, we've had many, many discussions about the ramifications of having kids at our age, but I'm looking forward to all the literal and figurative crap that's coming my way, and I really, really, really want it to happen.

I would say that unless you feel similarly maybe you shouldn't do it.
posted by Huck500 at 3:17 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

What if I grow to resent the child for all the hardship?

Let's consider this for a moment: what if you do? Well, you will get the fuck over it and do what needs doing, because you're an adult and you have a goddamned kid to take care of. That's what.

Do you like kids? Do you want a kid? Those are the questions that need answering.
posted by trunk muffins at 3:20 PM on January 29, 2015 [25 favorites]

As one of the more (most) blunt posters on this forum, I am surprised to find my opinion to be more supportive of you than the others in this post.

I think you know yourself very well. I think you sound very rational, calm, and collected. I think I would like you as a person. I don't think you're an asshole, and I think you're planning better for this decision than the vast majority of people faced with it. I think it's great that you're having this discussion, and I think it's great you can recognize your own personality in the way you have. In short, I think you are a pretty good person.

I also think you should not have kids.
posted by saeculorum at 3:21 PM on January 29, 2015 [62 favorites]

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid…

I think you're thinking of them like pets or avatars of prestige. It's important to remember that they are people who are entirely dependent on you, disabled or not, and if you are not committed to going to the mat for them even when it's unpleasant, you shouldn't create a person that's going to be miserable.

Maybe think of it this way: In past times, luxury living people like yourself did not have birth control and had the burden of raising living people simply because they enjoyed sex. If you have kids, you are throwing away the big advantage your spiritual predecessors desperately wish they had.
posted by ignignokt at 3:25 PM on January 29, 2015 [21 favorites]

No, don't have children.

On one hand, some of what you said was, indeed, offensive. On the other hand, you were able to be truly honest with yourself and us here so we could give you the honest feedback. I respect that and want to say it's OK not to want children for un-PC reasons: it's just completely unfair to have kids and then resent them for it.

As others have said, have you had this very honest, real discussion with your wife yet? I wish you both luck. Now may not be the time but, should your feelings change, it's likely that you two will be able to have biological children a number of years down the road.
posted by smorgasbord at 3:25 PM on January 29, 2015 [15 favorites]

We're ... upper middle class, have good careers, .... We live in a European country with good societal safety nets. Money shouldn't be an issue....

I want someone to be there for us like we are for our folks.

Just to address this one issue: between your money and the societal safety net, you should be able to find/hire people during your old age to do the things that you can no longer do for yourself. I can't speak to the other arguments for or against, but you don't have to have children to have someone to help you when you are elderly.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:27 PM on January 29, 2015 [15 favorites]

Also I have to say that the idea that you shouldn't have kids because you don't want them hard enough, or because you're waffling, or because you are too offensive as a person to be allowed to raise a child, or whatever is absurd. I mean have you seen some of the people who have kids? It's not a Nobel Peace Prize. It's a little human. If you feel like you can care for a little human and unconditionally love a little human and help a little human grow into a self-actualized adult human, yeah sure by all means have a kid if you want.

But if you don't want a kid, definitely don't have a kid.
posted by Sara C. at 3:28 PM on January 29, 2015 [23 favorites]

In the case of my wife and I, what we decided was that in some ways it didn't really matter which way we decided. I think humans are genetically programmed to love their kids -- unless they're damaged in a way that blocks that love -- and even if you didn't want kids before, once you have them you'll change your mind.

So we decided that all the hemming and hawing about the pros and cons and trade-offs and how we might feel one way or another was ultimately not worth the energy. The question for us was really, (a) did we like our life as it was (yes) and (b) how intense was our desire to have a child? The answer for us was, yes we had that desire, but it didn't trump everything else we wanted in life. So we did not have children.

There are certainly moments of "what-if" and twinges of regret, but whenever the topic comes up, we're both happy with our decision, and become more so as time goes by. I think my wife and I would have had a cool kid, if that had been in the cards. I think we would have had about the same levels of happiness and sadness either way. I think what it comes down to is that, faced with a situation where we weren't overwhelmingly compelled in either direction, we chose the less risky path, and we're OK with that.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 3:28 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

We're intelligent, secular, upper middle class, have good careers, with no mental health issues, hereditary diseases or negative genetic predispositions that we know of.

Have kids. You'd be great parents and you'd likely have great offspring. The world needs more of you right now, seriously.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 3:29 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

DevilsAdvocate brings up a great point. My neighbor had three children precisely because she'd assumed they would look after her in her old age as she had done for her parents. She's in her 70s now and her adult children do not help her or visit often for various reasons understood only by them. Facing what she feels is their constant and daily ingratitude is more emotionally stressful for her than if she'd just hired someone.
posted by mochapickle at 3:34 PM on January 29, 2015 [16 favorites]

To address some of your concerns:

I wouldn't worry too much about catastrophic physical or mental disabilities. Most of those are tested for in utero, and if you're comfortable aborting with that information, your chance of having a child with a severe enough issue to be life-ruining is very, very low. Don't even let that enter your mind.

Also, I don't think the early years really have to be the hell that they are for some people, and there are pretty easy things you can do to make sure they're not. For example - babies tend to calm down with closeness and nearness. If you're willing to have them relatively close through your day to day activities, your life is infinitely easier. Happy children are easier to deal with than unhappy children - and it sounds like you have the wherewithal to create happy children much easier than some do.

It's also not terrible to want to have kids for the sake of continuing your line and passing on this home that has been in your family for generations. In fact, this was pretty much an accepted reason for having children for centuries. It doesn't mean that somehow you shouldn't have children, or that you'll love them any less, or be any less a great parent.

What you need to do is address your fear of the early years. Do you know any people who have great, well adjusted kids you could talk to?
posted by corb at 3:36 PM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

No, you absolutely should not have children.

I'm pretty sure we're not capable of raising such a child without considering our lives ruined.

Well, your lives would certainly change. But if you 100% honestly think they'd be ruined, then you should not have kids.

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer.

There's no reason to have a child if you're going have it raised 24/7 by nannies. And if you think the kid is rough to be around when it's a baby, wait til it's a teenager. You can't hire a 24/7 nanny to put up with their nonsense then.

We used to have a cat ... having a cat doesn't really compare in any way at all to raising a child.

What if I become depressed, even suicidal? What if I grow to resent the child for all the hardship?

If you honestly don't know that if these things were to happen, you'd get help, then NO, you shouldn't have kids.

I want someone to be there for us like we are for our folks.

Yes, but you previously mentioned you'd prefer to have a 24/7 nanny raise your baby/toddler. Your child could conceivably make the same decision about your elder care.

I'm sorry that I can't think of an alternative expression with the same descriptivity, but we don't want to risk a "damaged" child.

I gotta be honest. Referring to any child as "damaged" is offensive, period. And the fact that you can't be bothered to find a more sensitive way to refer to a human being, as well as your phrasing of the entire question leads me to categorically state:

No. You should not have children.
posted by kinetic at 3:37 PM on January 29, 2015 [52 favorites]

Kids are like sex, in a way, which makes sense since sex makes kids. If it's not a FUCK YES, it's a HELL NO.

You sound like the hell-no-iest HELL NO I've ever heard and I'm someone who spent her 20s trying to tie her tubes.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:42 PM on January 29, 2015 [44 favorites]

You're trying to make a rational decision and frankly having kids isn't one. They do suck up a lot of time, energy and other resources. You will literally have to wipe their ass and get all sorts of body fluids on you, among other gross and annoying things.

But being about to cuddle with them, the way they smell and the adoring love they naturally shower you with is irreplaceable. There's nothing like and reminds you that all the other things is the small stuff that'll pass.

You're in the most excellent position that one can be in to have children. All that rational foundations are there. All that's left is the emotional choice. Do you want those bonds, that love?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:42 PM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Lots of kids with rich parents with no problems have disabilities. So no.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 3:45 PM on January 29, 2015 [11 favorites]

You can't possibly appreciate how much it sucks and how great it is. My wife and I check all of your boxes. We have a Nanny 60 hours a week and usually get a sitter two nights a week. My life was great before we had the kid. My life is great now. ITS JUST COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. Accept that. BTW I hated babies too. Still don't really like them kind of.

These kinds of questions are perfectly normal.

At the end of the day it comes down to do you want kids or not. At some point they'll stop being babies and start being people. Before we had a kid I figured I'd grin and bear it for the early childhood years. What I learned was that light goes on with them way earlier than you think if you haven't been around kids. Its great.

But I mean its hard as hell. If you want kids do it. I can't tell you some tangible reason why I wanted kids - I just did. Ask yourself if your legacy comments are an attempt to rationalize that desire into something tangible.

I wish you weren't anonymous - so I could MeMail you more thoughts. Because I suspect people will also think I'm an asshole.

I would just second corb's point about in utero testing and termination.
posted by JPD at 3:46 PM on January 29, 2015 [16 favorites]

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer.

That would be convenient for you, but have you thought about how the kid would feel? Ultimately you can't just think of what's best for yourself here. You can't just calculate the optimum situation to preserve your current comfortable lifestyle. As soon as you have a kid, your whole life's purpose is going to change and you won't be able to put your own comfort first and still be a good parent.

If the thought of giving up your comfort is so terrifying that you think it will ruin your life, then listen to that gut instinct. Recognize your own limits and what you're willing to sacrifice. If comfort is #1 then comfort is #1. If you would rather take on the responsibility to love another human being unconditionally through thick and thin and occasionally - or perhaps frequently- have to suffer because of it, then that means you want a kid. But there's nothing wrong with recognizing that you'd rather not sacrifice your comfort. You don't have to make that sacrifice, you just have to accept that you're not willing or ready to change right now.
posted by winterportage at 3:50 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

I'm generally of the belief that unless your answer is YES LET US DO THIS then no, you shouldn't have children. Raising kids is, as you say, is incredibly difficult and it is best for the putative children to grow up unambiguously wanted.

If you want to leave a legacy, sock money away into a [YourFamilyName] Foundation that does [Charity Thing X] and gets to take over your property as its offices when you are no longer able to live there.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:50 PM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Oh sweetie, no, don't have children.

If you're only on board if the child is perfect, I'm here to tell you, NO child is perfect. And what if you do have a handicapped child? Are you planning on putting him or her up for adoption?

If you have white carpets, glass tables and delicate art work, you should not have a child.

If your biggest regret about not being a parent is not having kids to look after your in old age, you should not have a child.

If you and your wife aren't excited about having kids, despite being afraid, don't have a child.

If you could go either way, don't have a child.

If your commitment to your family is dictated by how comfortable you are in the moment, accept that you're fundamentally too selfish to have a child. Nothing wrong with it.

I am happily childless. FWIW
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 3:52 PM on January 29, 2015 [40 favorites]

I really like what Sara C. wrote.

I'll just add that to me, having a kid is all about the commitment: to be the best person you can be; to love your child unconditionally; to be there for them when they need you. It ain't rocket science, but yes, it's a huge commitment. Thankfully, we are predisposed to love our own kids, even when they (sometimes) annoy the crap out of everyone else around us. That screaming child on the airplane? If you have kids, that kid is gonna be your kid someday, and you are going to defend them even as you know they are doing horrible things to the person unlucky enough to sit in front of them. It comes with the territory.

Life is an adventure and a gamble, and raising kids definitely ups the stakes. But raising a family is also immensely rewarding, just as it can be challenging and, yeah, at times also very inconvenient. Like spicy food and contact sports, it may not be for you. That's OK. I can't tell you if it's right for you, but I can say that as a somewhat reluctant prospective father myself, I have ZERO regrets about having kids. Next to marrying my wife, it is the best thing we ever did, and we are lucky enough to have two of 'em. They are now 10 and 13, and they are The Best Things In Our Lives, Ever. Frustrating, rewarding, confusing, challenging, loving, disruptive, messy, amazing, at times too loud, at times too quiet, inquisitive, cheese-loving, slow to practice the piano, quick to ask for dessert, and just all-around, 100% awesome. But if you're in for a penny, you're in for a pound, so only have kids if you can make the commitment to being your best self.
posted by mosk at 3:53 PM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

Everything I read in your post indicates to me that you should not have kids. That's not a bad thing don't let anyone tell you it is. People who don't want kids should not have them. You cant have happy health kids and be a good parents with the prerequisites that you have outlined. Leaving a legacy is only going to be important to you while you are alive when your dead it really doesn't matter.
posted by jmsta at 3:54 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

You have no guarantees with children, and given your low tolerance for messiness, uncontrolled outcomes and imperfection, I think you should just say no.

That aside, remember you're thinking of trading in the known for the unknown, which is scary. And any change comes with emotional adjustment. I think wanting kids is kind of irrational - you like childhood, you like watching someone grow, and you want it despite all the unknown risky stuff and hard work.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:55 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

I wish decision making and our emotional state always went hand-in-hand on this issue. It's good to evaluate some criteria while deciding. But it's not always possible to know that how you feel pre-baby is going to be the same way that you feel post-baby. There are people who want a child, and find that it's harder and more disappointing than expected, and they aren't feeling fulfilled. On the other hand, I, for example, would prefer in my natural and uninformed state to be childless. However, I didn't know that I would prefer having children until we had our first child. There was no way for me to predict this, because it's primal and weird. My feelings were not a reliable indicator of what I would actually want, or need. So in some sense, I was actually okay on both sides of the equation. If I had an omniscient eye, though, the decision to have children would have been known to increase my overall net appreciation of life, and I'm now glad for it. But, it's hard to predict these things ahead of time.

I say this because a lot of ink is spilt on knowing what you want, and I'm not sure that you always can. Things change. One thing that might be good to ask though is this: if you aren't happy not having children, it would probably be saying something, rather than trying to figure out how you will feel later.

Additionally (and I saved this to the last, as it feels counter-intuitive to some people), having children is not always about self-actualization. Sometimes it's about the baby, even before the baby gets here. There is, for some people, something noble and good about giving life and providing a loving, nurturing environment because life and the opportunities it presents are inherently good. So you can evaluate it based on the question of whether you can do a good thing for its own sake. We talk a lot about the world going to hell, but we can actually contribute good to the world by raising children who experience love and social connection who can invest those values in relationships of their own as they get older. It's a potential to create good and increase the net good in the world. We can make persons who can hopefully make good contributions. I'm not talking about using babies towards ends, by the way, as if they aren't free persons to set their own course. I mean that embracing and caring for persons with all the love that you can give isn't all about our needs. It's about making positive contributions, through creating loving social structures, towards the world in ways that can offset personal sacrifices to get there. In this sense, there is the me component. But there's also a question in whether having children is good inherently. This is a question worth asking for yourself, I think, even if you don't come to the same conclusion. This variable isn't unrelated to the questions of our ability and convenience in having children, by the way. But our abilities and convenience may not be the only factors.

Disclaimer: If one argues that there's a net good in having children, it doesn't mean that there is a net bad in not, so no guilt should be felt in not having children. The latter does not follow the former. Not having children can create the opportunities for other kinds of goods to be realized.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:58 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

Please do not have a baby. Think of the environmental repercussions; the planet is hot enough already and will likely be a garbage dump for today's five-year olds. No, I don't have any cites.

I made the decision to have my "tubes tied" when I was in my mid-twenties. (It was that utopian era, just post-Roe V. Wade, when a young woman could make this decision in a medium-sized town without sass from medical personnel.) I have never regretted this decision. I am a richer person, literally and figuratively for it.
posted by BostonTerrier at 3:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'm pretty sure we're not capable of raising such a child without considering our lives ruined.

Uh, nope. Don't have kids. Hang out with kids if you like…maybe even consider getting involved in a volunteer situation that gives you face time with kids. Become a huge part of some kid's life if thats more palatable. But don't have your own, unless you're 100% okay with it. Consider fostering, even though its difficult because

I had a child on the autopilot of cultural expectations. It hasn't turned out great for a number of reasons. We're working on it, but because of my reactions to child-rearing, I've caused some collateral emotional damage to my kid. Lots of therapy for all of us, and hopefully things will be in a good place someday. But seriously, you can fuck a life up. Don't fuck a life up.

If you'd like to memail me, feel free. I don't post alot of those issues here on metafilter, because I consider them relatively private, but would be more than willing to discuss the problems we've had.
posted by furnace.heart at 4:02 PM on January 29, 2015 [25 favorites]

There's no underpopulation crisis that needs to be addressed. And, unless you have a longing and empty place in your life that can only be filled with a child, don't do it. Some people really desperately want children and are ready to face whatever comes if it out of the sheer joy of parenting. Others have kids because it's what everyone around them expects. Some end up being good parents, others, not so much.

I will say this, among the couples I know, there are some amazing parents who seem to have been created to be parents. There are some who are shabby at it and both they and the kids suffer. And, there are some couples who strongly prefer being childless. The couples who never had a strong desire for children (and didn't have them) are the most emotionally bonded couples I know. I think it's because they have similar orientations and are able to spend a lot of time nurturing and building their relationships with one another. Children take a tremendous amount of time and energy. That means other areas of your life will have to sacrifice. For many couples, their relationship with one another gets sacrificed and it becomes centralized around the child(ren). It's not to say that they're doomed as a couple, only that the nature of their connection can change.

Ask yourself whether you would be happy and fulfilled raising your child alone if your spouse were to meet an untimely demise. Can you do it? Would you be happy to do it? Would you trust that your spouse could do it? No one likes to think about the bad things that can happen, but a child is something that you can't give back. Be deeply and enthusiastically committed to raising the child no matter what.

If having a bio child isn't for you, yet you think you could be a good influence on a child, there are lots of children who are already here who need positive and dependable relationships with adults. They may come from bad circumstances or have an abusive or neglectful home. Consider being a mentor to some children. You can make a very meaningful and important difference in doing so. And, those relationships you forge with a young person can last a lifetime. That's a chance for a legacy as well.
posted by quince at 4:02 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Oh and I wanted to add: if you don't want kids, you don't want kids and that's okay! Your reasons are nobody's business but your own, and no matter what your reason is, it's a good reason for you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:07 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

Get a dog. They're awesome, and their care can be ethically outsourced if you're not in the mood to do it.
posted by metasarah at 4:10 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Just coming in to point out that there are a lot of things that can go wrong with a child that can't be tested for in utero. Your child can be fat, or stupid, or lacking completely in ambition, or uber-religious, or an atheist, or lacking in empathy or compassion, or ugly, or homophobic, or gay, or snobbish, or hateful, or any one of any number of things that you, as a parent, may not like but will have to learn to deal with. Not all of those things can be fixed. Not all of what can be fixed needs to be fixed; some of what can be fixed, your child might grow to hate you for fixing, or attempting to fix.

You seem to be putting a lot of faith in the concept that nurture will trump any possible deficiencies in nature. But both nurture and nature are complex, chaotic symptoms that humans simply don't understand well enough to predict.

My parents were upper-middle-class people who loved to travel and loved their work. They wanted kids badly. They produced me, and personally I think they won that round. I'm emotionally, mentally and financially stable; I have good relationships with other people; I love my parents; I'm basically a happy person.

The same two parents produced my younger brother, who is a drug addicted, unemployed asshole with an utter lack of compassion for his fellow human beings, who treats them like crap. They also produced my older brother, who became disabled later in life due to an accident and still lives with them, basically helpless. Two out of three kids have been heartbreaking challenges for them (and I am pretty screwed up by the pressure I put on myself to be the one success in their game.)

You're laying out a probable best case scenario and pinning your future happiness on life turning out just that way. And maybe it will! If you choose to take the risk, I wish you all the best.

But please realize you have no guarantees that your situation in life gives you better odds for getting that best-case scenario. It's a roll of the dice, and if you can't bear the thought of coming up snake-eyes, you should stay out of that game.

(for what it's worth - I personally have been scared off the idea of having kids by those odds. Never going there. I think not having kids is totally valid in your situation and with the thoughts and feelings you describe.)
posted by kythuen at 4:11 PM on January 29, 2015 [24 favorites]

What I got from your post was that you want the perfect child. And I hate to burst your bubble, but there is no such creature. Infants get rashes and spit up and explosively poop on you when you least expect it. Toddlers, tweens, god forbid TEENS and young adults all have the potential for embarrassing, gross, "damaged" behavior or conditions. Based on your extensive post, I could easily see you being resentful and horrified by a bad case of prickly heat-how dare your child be so disfigured and unpleasant! You wouldn't be able to leave the house! Please don't have a child to fill a perceived space in your life. You have unrealistic expectations, and this can only end badly. There are plenty of people who do not feel the need to procreate. It's OK for you to join them. You would not enjoy being a parent. And this is not like giving up a pet to a rescue shelter if it doesn't work out. Having a child is the biggest life commitment you will ever make. You are not ready for this. I don't think you ever will be. Please, do not have a child.
posted by LaBellaStella at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2015 [17 favorites]

I would like insights and new perspectives from other people who were in a place where reproducing "made sense" but couldn't reconcile their emotions with the rational justifications. What did you do, and how did you end up deciding?

I was you! Married, well-off, good careers, healthy, stable, etc. There was no real reason not to have kids, but we didn't feel a strong pull to do it. In my middle thirties I saw a therapist to talk it through because like you I wanted to make a decision on purpose, rather than by default.

She asked me to talk to her about my strongest-possible motivations for wanting children, and to verbally sketch out what about it I would find most awesome. I did, and she told me (like some commenters are telling you here) that I didn't seem very compelled by the picture I was painting. I asked if she'd ever counselled anybody who chose not to have children and later regretted it, and she said that in her 25-year career that had never happened. That was super-reassuring for me -- I decided not to have kids, and I've never regretted it. It's perfectly okay not to have kids: there's no need to feel like it marks you as selfish or broken or weird. (And the people in this thread who are attempting to shame you are being jerks, honestly. I'm with saeculorum: I think you sound rational and thoughtful and great.)

The only thing I'd add is about your wife. Having a kid typically has a much greater impact on women's lives compared with men's. For that reason, in my marriage my husband was willing to mostly/partly defer to my preference, which was great. So although I'd say of course it needs to be a joint decision and ideally it will end up very, very mutual -- still, it would great if you can aim to underweight your own preferences to some degree, relative to hers.
posted by Susan PG at 4:15 PM on January 29, 2015 [22 favorites]

One side of me wants the kid and another side of me maybe doesn't, or at least fears that it will ruin my life

I can't speak to "ruin", but I can say that there is probably no aspect of my life that hasn't changed as a result of having a kid. That's important. Having a kid doesn't give you YOUR LIFE + KID, it gives you COMPLETELY DIFFERENT LIFE + KID.

You may like that completely different life. You may love it. You may be meh on it. I like it a lot, but miss some bits of the old life that I'm never getting back. So it goes. But if you want to keep your current life and add a kid to it, I just don't think such a thing is possible.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 4:27 PM on January 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

Your child can be fat, or stupid, or lacking completely in ambition, or uber-religious, or an atheist, or lacking in empathy or compassion, or ugly, or homophobic, or gay, or snobbish, or hateful,

Quoting myself to add that I personally am -- much to my parents' dismay -- a little bit fat and a little bit gay and a little bit of an atheist on alternate Wednesdays, and those things did occasionally make things challenging with my parents. But their commitment to loving me as I am always won out, and I feel like overcoming those challenges made our relationship stronger and better than if everything had been 100% perfect all the way through.

Just one more data point. You may not get perfection, but who knows; you may end up glad that you didn't.
posted by kythuen at 4:28 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I stopped reading after you said you couldn't handle a child with a disability.

My husband and I had a textbook pregnancy with my daughter and she was perfect. Except she had a cord accident and lost oxygen and ended up profoundly disabled...for the four days she lived.

This is how parenting goes. My next oldest got appendicitis at 4.5 and had a seizure...he is ok, but we think his fine motor skills suffered. My littlest guy ended up in the NICU 6 days after he was born with a liver issue. He is thriving. But every single day of parenting, there are a pile of possibilities.

And IMO the one thing you do as a parent is commit to handling it. That means getting help and support sometimes, and so on. But if you seriously have a laundry list of what you can't handle for the love of god do not have children.
posted by warriorqueen at 4:28 PM on January 29, 2015 [45 favorites]

For the record, I do not think you are an asshole. You are being honest with yourself about what you could bear.

I am childless for the same reasons you are, plus I don't want to pass on my family mental issues. I knew that if I had a child with a severe disability, or even a severe cat allergy (!) I'd be very resentful and angry at what I would have had to sacrifice. I have zero regrets about my childlessness.

Having a child is not for everyone. A baby is not a living, breathing Hallmark card. Sure, there are people who have doubts, go ahead and have a child and find out that they love their child and are good parents - and then there are people who have a child and find out that they do not love their child and resent being parents. There are no lemon laws for kids. You cannot take your child back to the Kiddie Humane Society or send it back to the Baby Factory for a refund or exchange. You can't get a no-fault divorce from your child. Having a child is an irrevocable commitment - about the only commitment that there is 100% No Take-Backsies on.

If you want a legacy, there are other things you can do. If you want old age care, there are other options for you - especially given that you live in a country with a good safety net. If you want companionship and cuteness, get a puppy or kitten.

Please don't have a child if you don't think you can love that child unconditionally and/or if you dream of outsourcing the everyday work and only want the fun. If you have a child under those conditions, it will not result in a sweet, loving, easy-going and low-maintenance child who grows up to love you anyway and will happily care for you in your old age. You will be in for a lot of therapy, guilt, and heartache. (And even if you did want and love a child and were eager to be a parent - life happens, and kids don't necessarily grow up to be available for your old-age care. They get jobs and/or spouses far away; they have demanding careers; they have their OWN children taking up all their time; or, unfortunately, they get severe chronic illnesses that mean YOU are still caring for THEM when you're 80. I've seen all this happen to people I know.)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:29 PM on January 29, 2015 [11 favorites]

If your wife is off hormonal birth control and you are having sex without another method (my assumption, based on your "now feel like I have a loaded gun between my legs" comment) then you are already deciding to have kids. If you aren't sure that's what you want, please start using birth control again yesterday.

I absolutely adore children and I (thought I) deeply wanted children when I was in my 20s, but I am married in my 30s and we love not having kids for all the reasons everyone already talked about. We feel our lives are much easier than those of our friends who are parents, and I know they probably feel their lives are much happier and more fulfilled.

The thing about this decision is that you can never know the if the alternative would have been a better choice. I can't say there is never a "what if..." thought that crosses my mind, and I expect more of them as I age. But since the answer for us was not DEFINITELY YES, we decided it is HELL NO.

Also being an official and unofficial aunt kicks ass.
posted by juliplease at 4:31 PM on January 29, 2015 [9 favorites]

I've been through similar indecision and certainly don't judge you for it. It's hard to know what to do when you truly have feelings in both directions. (And of course, if you know where your true heart lies on this, of course you should follow what you really want!) But if you are like me, then you may be working yourself into a state of fear of change/bootless worry based on some inaccurate/distorted thoughts about the risks and benefits.

I think little children that are your own are a lot more fun and enjoyable than you realize. (Or than I realized anyway. The kids that brought me around were the kids of a close family member and I get to see them a lot, and it was a big positive reality check.) And also, living with/helping someone live with many kinds of disability is not as bad as you think.

You enjoyed your cat, and took on the responsibilities of caring for it even though those were kind of a pain sometimes. You enjoy your parents, and you willingly take on the responsibility of caring for them, yes? You can envision a happy family life together, having holidays, building family traditions, etc, yes? To me, all this says, you like people in your family, and you can take on caretaking responsibilities without feeling resentful, when it's for someone you love. It's easy to believe in the abstract that you don't want to care for a child with a disability -- but honestly, with your own actual child, if that child needed extra care or whatever, most of us would step up and do it no questions asked. I think it's easy to get yourself worked up with apprehension over this kind of scenario but it's ill-founded apprehension. It's like thinking about who your "ideal" partner would be in the abstract. We don't get to choose from a menu of traits and assemble the ideal partner, but we find love with "imperfect" matches and then, hey, that is the person you love and you don't continually second-guess whether you should take care of them when they're sick. You just do it. So. I would consider whether you are maybe over-weighting your apprehension over this disability business.

I mean, disability can suck, yes, but loving people has that price of them possibly getting hurt, and of giving up some of your relaxing life to care for them. Loving people means extra uncertainty in life. Still, in many cases better to have loved, even at the cost of uncertainty/risk of loss, you know? Just saying, don't drive yourself nuts over worst-case scenarios.

Also, things are great for you now, because you're in good health and your folks are, etc. But regardless of whether you have kids, that situation will change over time. You'll get sick, or get fired, or your folks will get sick, or something about your living arrangement will become untenable and you'll have to move, or whatever. Those kinds of changes -- that will end your current status quo -- are inevitable. So your choice is not "should we remain like this forever or have kids," even though I think psychologically it can feel like that. Your choice is, "should we age and weather life's storms with or without kids."

Anyway - my sense from your question is that you're overfocusing on the risks. Maybe, as others are suggesting, that's because you just don't actually want kids. Or, as I'm suggesting, maybe it's a just a quirk of your thinking where you tend to overfocus on risks. Only you can know which it is.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:33 PM on January 29, 2015 [17 favorites]

Having a kid is fun as hell. It's a tiny you and you get to try and fix all your mistakes. You'll fail, but that's fun too, because they'll surprise you. The poo (which I confess was one thing i had qualms about before we had our daughter) is really not a big deal at all; it's just something that's there and you deal with it because why wouldn't you.

They never stop being entertaining, as they go from being adorable little sea cucumbers to having actual views and opinions and hilarious things they say.

Plus your brain chemistry gets literally changed so you just love them a bunch (and certainly in my case love kids in general).
posted by Sebmojo at 4:39 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Personally, I now feel like I have a loaded gun between my legs.

If you were American, I would ask if that felt positive or negative -- if it felt like power or just a bad thing. But given that you are European, I am guessing that has nothing but negative connotations for you.

Let me suggest you do whatever it takes to make that feeling go away. Get fixed or have the wife go back on birth control or whatever is needed. I think this is not a thing you want to do. I think you feel like you are wielding destructive power every time you have sex, not something that could potentially be a good thing.
posted by Michele in California at 4:40 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to speak to this:

"...but at least it shouldn't come down to us being abusive or neglecting parents and kid(s) cutting ties because of that."

Actually, you do sound like you could turn into a cold perfectionist demanding parent with little patience. I would characterize that as emotionally abusive in most iterations, and I would not expect a loving relationship with my adult child if this is how I behaved towards them throughout their vulnerable childhood years.

Also, I was wondering what your spouse has to say about all of this because you do not mention them once, and they're are 50% of the parenting equation!!
posted by jbenben at 4:42 PM on January 29, 2015 [28 favorites]

If you want more love in your life than you can imagine then have kids. Otherwise, do not. They are a lot of work and responsibility and they deserve the best life you can give them. So you really have to weigh the equation is BIG LOVE > work/inconvenience/anxiety. As was once said, having a child is like living with your heart out of your body. I did not plan on having one, but I will tell you I feel sorry for people who do not know that kind of love. But I am a person for whom love is a strong driving force. I can tell you with moral certainty I would much rather have what I have than a billion dollars, or for that matter any amount of money. It is that good. But it is plenty challenging.
posted by jcworth at 4:46 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I haven't read all the other comments, but based on my experience and my observation of the experience of others, one way to have both the joy and (positive) challenge of a kid AND not having being a parent take over your whole life is to have only one kid.

I have one kid. She's great, and she enriches our lives in a lot of ways, and has helped us be better people. I also think the older she gets, the better and cooler it is to have a kid (she's currently 12). Being similarly well-resourced, we've been able to give her all kinds of opportunities and really enjoyable and lower-stress childhood.

Your sense of how hard the first few years are seems way out of proportion. This is very much a YMMV thing, every kid is different, etc. My kid was sometimes infuriating, but mostly she was charming or funny or cute. And with only one kid, you can just take her with you a lot of places, and as she gets older, the more places you can take her.

My sense at this point is that having a kid was really worth it, and I'm really glad we did. I'm also really glad we didn't have any more.

Or you could just get another fucking cat.
posted by jeoc at 4:51 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Almost all of the things you wrote (not the thing about disabled children, because I have a disabled father and I'm not afraid of or disturbed by the way life changes in the presence of disability) are the reasons why my fiancé and I decided independently, long before we met, not to have children. Add me to the "don't do it" chorus.
posted by jesourie at 5:06 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

It looks like jbenben is the only other person who notices this conspicuous lack of information but, um, what does your wife think? Since you say she's off hormonal birth control by mutual agreement and you feel like you have a loaded gun, I'm suspecting that your wife actually wants kids and you have quasai-agreed to it but you don't really want them. Which is a whoooooole bigger can of worms.
posted by celtalitha at 5:08 PM on January 29, 2015 [22 favorites]

Also if you are going to go along with your wife and have kids (and you are, if you aren't wearing a condom) then please for the love of God get help for your attitude towards them. In my experience, the dads who expect child raising to be "living hell" and resent the idea of a kid taking up their and their wives' attention are self-fulfilling prophesies who end up as shitty parents. On the other hand, I feel bad for your wife if you've implied you're ok with having kids but now you're really not.
posted by celtalitha at 5:12 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

1. The suggestion that if you're not 100% sure you shouldn't have children is bullshit. I would counter that maybe anyone who hasn't given their doubts serious thought shouldn't have children. I would counter that if anyone suggests they didn't have serious concerns before having children, they are lying to themselves or to you, or from a different generation entirely, when it wasn't really a choice.

2. The jumping down your throat for saying you are afraid of having a child with disabilities - well, that was un-PC and unlikely to have gained you friends on this forum. But to say that on its own it's a reason that you shouldn't have children? Also bullshit. Parents of children with disabilities love their children deeply, but wishing for a healthy child is the most natural instinct in the world, and it's only honest to admit it. We don't have to be perfect moral beings before we're qualified to be parents.
posted by namesarehard at 5:22 PM on January 29, 2015 [27 favorites]

This is such a mechanical view of people :-( You might be the world's greatest future parent, but it won't be because you are upper middle class, secular and free of hereditary diseases. To me the part of your post that most indicates you should maybe consider not having children is lack of empathy conveyed in degree of cold practicality with which you approach the entire question.

If you have a baby it will be a huge roll of the dice as to whether you receive a screamer, a sensitive child, an emotional child, a scribbler on the walls, a child who undergoes trauma at some point, etc. etc. however great your genetic credentials. It seems the key is that you consider this child as a bundle of lovability and goodness despite whatever foibles he or she is bound to have.

Being upper middle class doesn't confer you some Super Parent certificate, but being willing to love and accept your child through high or low may. And also, it sounds like you should explore the stuff about your estranged adopted brother with the support of a therapist because that really does not sound worked out. Anyway, I vote have kids and grow as a person, but I really hope the second part happens, for the sake of both you and your hypothetical child.
posted by mermily at 5:24 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think having a little nugget and learning to accept the resulting messiness (of living rooms & life) could probably do you a lot of good, but I'm not entirely sure it'd be fair on the kid. Then again, not much is fair, anyway.

On balance, I'd say no based on your horror of imperfection (which, I do give you props for being honest about).
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:27 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm the very busy working parent of a 13-month-old, and I haven't read any of the other responses. I just have two things to say.

Note: all of the following assumes that the kid grows up healthy, fully abled and emotionally stable like we did. If not, all bets are off, but I can't let that possibility paralyze me

Actually, you should let this possibility paralyze you. For two reasons. First, you should not have a child if you are not prepared to accept one which is less than fully healthy. Second, you WILL have to deal with both physical and mental health issues if you have a child. The only question is, for how long, and whether they can be "cured" or just "managed".

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer.

If you outsource the shitty bits, you forfeit the ability to experience the beauty. You don't get one without the other. OK sure, you could outsource the butt-wiping, tantrum-soothing, laundry, sleepless nights, and so on, and then you could take the kid hiking or to the movies and maybe you'd have some fun... But you would have outsourced the depth of relationship, and the love, and the dependability, and the trust. You would have outsourced the commitment that makes parenting worthwhile.

When my son was newborn and he cried, I wanted to comfort him, every time, even when I hadn't slept in days, even when I was crying and crazy with stress and exhaustion. Because I wanted the privilege of earning his trust and respect - I wanted to be his mother most of all when it was hard. I wanted to be the one to teach him what love looks like, what dedication looks like. I still feel that way.

If you don't want to be the person who teaches a child what selflessness and love mean, even when things are very hard, you should not have a child.

*Yes, parents need breaks sometimes. It's important for sanity and I take them too. It's also important to teach your children what good self-care looks like. But in the early years, the equation is weighted heavily towards the needs of the child.

PS. My toddler is actually totally delightful and really good company. The tantrums and crankiness are like 5% of the time or less. It's not easy to care for a small child, but in my case anyway it's usually pretty damn fun and pleasant and rewarding.
posted by Cygnet at 5:27 PM on January 29, 2015 [32 favorites]

No, you absolutely should not have children. People who lack empathy, can't handle imperfection, or mess, or uncertainty, or the very idea of illness/disability shouldn't be parents, and you fall into that category by leaps and bounds. You would be doing a disservice to a child by bringing them into your life if you couldn't love them exactly as they were. You just aren't the type of person who would make a good parent if your statements about yourself and your expectations are accurate.

Thank you for thinking deeply about this, as many people don't.
posted by Hermione Granger at 5:28 PM on January 29, 2015 [11 favorites]

There are a lot of things you can't test for in utero. That's why parents of babies worry. They worry about autism and ADHD and allergies and speech delays and chronic ear infections and meningitis from RSV and OCD and...

Thinking you can control what baby you get and that it'll have no serious problems is deluding yourself.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:30 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Parents of children with disabilities love their children deeply, but wishing for a healthy child is the most natural instinct in the world, and it's only honest to admit it.

I was scared before, sure. I still am -- I don't want something to injure my kids for a wide variety of reasons. No you don't have to be perfect. But you do have to be aware when you have kids that this is a lifelong possibility.

Being scared is different from knowing up front that you will be miserable if the universe does not grant you a perfect kid in the context of thinking you might not want kids. This post does not read as "I really want kids but I'm scared of my child having a disability."

Also there's a myth that all parents rise to the occasion no matter what. No, they don't. They really, really don't, sometimes.
posted by warriorqueen at 5:33 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

The first thing I did in this world was have a severe brain hemorrhage.

I am the child of a healthy recreational therapist and an obsessive perfectionist OB/GYN, with a pediatric specialist close relative. Basically, everything was done perfectly during the pregnancy.

I lived. It did some damage. Not that much, overall. I test very well, I am employed in a job that requires a decently sharp mind and sound body ( I teach in a medical school), I have good friends, and even when I struggle or am ill I manage to land on my feet--with help from my wonderful, nonjudgmental friends and extended family. It even seems that if I never eat carbs again, I get to live a life without seizures.

What did the real damage to me was my perfectionist father's incessant, never-ending need to fix and correct my "damaged" and "broken" self as early and often as possible.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 5:40 PM on January 29, 2015 [26 favorites]

You may be smart and healthy and well-off, and yes, those all help with having and raising children. But the really crucial things that a parent can provide a child are love, acceptance, and involvement and interest in their life. It doesn't sound like you're ready to provide those.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:40 PM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

Two years ago my parter gave me an ultimatum - have a kid, or we were breaking up. I spent ten months trying to make this decision. I'd never particularly wanted to have a child but everyone I knew was having babies, I didn't want to be alone, so many people said I'd be a wonderful mother, etc.

I decided to go for it. My partner's family would totally be there to help with childcare! I'd be able to share the childrearing experience with all my friends! I'd always been depressed, a child would give me a reason to live and find meaning in life!

And I told myself that, over and over again for the six months of trying. I believed it at first, and then something switched off in my head and when I heard a crying baby in a movie my mind screamed NOPE NOPE NOPE NOPE and I didn't sleep for three days. So I did what I always do when I'm upset, I went to MetaFilter. I looked for Ask Mefi questions about pregnancy, about people who were on the fence but then had children and didn't regret it. I can't find the exact quote or Mefi user but essentially someone said "if you're not 100% prepared to raise the child on your own, financially and emotionally, don't have the child."

I wasn't prepared. I never will be. Now I'm single and childfree with no regrets. I'm sharing the childrearing experience with all my friends despite not having children myself, and it's wonderful.
posted by wheek wheek wheek at 5:46 PM on January 29, 2015 [19 favorites]

I could have written your post six months ago (aside from some hereditary health problems). I identify with most of what you said. I guess I'm also a perfectionist bitch.

That said, my spouse and I decided to go for it. No, I don't like little kids. But I used to hate dogs. Couldn't stand them - the dirt, the mess, the smell... But once I got my own and raised her up to be a good dog, she became one of the best things in my life. I even like other people's dogs. I'm a converted dog person, smell and mess and all. Having my own to love and love me back made all the difference.

I think the same thing can happen again. I think it can happen for you too.

Me-mail me if you want more support. This thread hasn't changed my mind.
posted by sock puppet du jour at 5:54 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Oof, but I wouldn't encourage rethinking of any people as 'damaged' - missed that part.
posted by namesarehard at 5:58 PM on January 29, 2015

Please, PLEASE DON'T have children.

I don't know mochapickle's neighbor (or mochapickle, even) but I would consider wagering money that this kind of situation:

My neighbor had three children precisely because she'd assumed they would look after her in her old age as she had done for her parents. She's in her 70s now and her adult children do not help her or visit often for various reasons understood only by them. Facing what she feels is their constant and daily ingratitude is more emotionally stressful for her than if she'd just hired someone.

is directly related to this kind of upbringing:

Actually, you do sound like you could turn into a cold perfectionist demanding parent with little patience. I would characterize that as emotionally abusive in most iterations, and I would not expect a loving relationship with my adult child if this is how I behaved towards them throughout their vulnerable childhood years.

As others here have stated, you don't get to pick what kind of child you will have or how things will turn out for that child. Being a good parent, to me, means raising an emotionally healthy person, and this can only be accomplished with the deepest sense of unconditional love and a lot of sacrifice, even in the best case scenario where the child is miraculously issue-free. You can't assume anything. Even if you are the perfect parents, there are a thousand different reasons that adult children want nothing to do with their parents. And, speaking as someone who had an unhappy childhood, gratitude has nothing to do with it. No one asks to be born.

Likewise, you can't just wave away the possibility that your child could have or develop health issues or otherwise severely inconvenience you in some long-term way. Being a parent is not compatible with convenience.

Frankly, judging by the way your question is worded, you don't sound like much of a humanitarian to me. And that's what kids are. HUMANS. Flawed. People can sense resentment. People can sense when they're being "tolerated". Even little, developing people.

If you are still on the fence and are as economically well-appointed as you claim, you should seriously discuss the possibility of your wife having her eggs frozen, or even embryos pre-fertilized with your sperm frozen, and then you both can revisit the question years later at your convenience, if your attitude shifts. But I would politely suggest to wait if and only until your outlook and attitude on children is less entitled.
posted by MeFiMouse at 5:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'll add my voice to the chorus, but in a different way. If you're reading these responses and feeling not relief that Metafilter thinks you shouldn't have kids, but sadness because you really wanted us to tell you it would be OK , then get y'all's selves back onto birth control and get with a therapist who can help you sort out how to work through these issues so that you can be more open-minded and glad-hearted about becoming a parent. You don't have to be unambiguously joyful about the prospect in order to be an excellent and loving father once the probability wave breaks and you're dealing with not A child but THIS child. . . but you do have to actually want it, deep in your heart.
posted by KathrynT at 5:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [14 favorites]

I just want to chime in and say I think a lot of people are being unduly harsh here. It's natural to try to reason your way through a decision as big as this one. I'm in your shoes right now too - my partner and I are trying to figure out if we want children and we are going through some of the same questions and feelings as you stated in your Ask - how would we feel with a disabled child? Would we feel like our lives were ruined? Would we ever regret having a child? Can we be happy with a completely different lifestyle than what we have right now? Etc.

I think people are trying to shame you for asking these kinds of questions and trying to reason through this decision...frankly, they are wrong to do that. It's okay to think about these things. Even the "non-PC" things. IMO, it's best to be completely honest with yourself and your partner about what you want, because this IS a huge decision with large repercussions.

Anyway, good luck with your decision. At the end of the day, it will basically boil down to trying to figure out what you want exactly and what responsibilities you can live with. There could be regrets either way. I know people who regret having kids, and also people who regret not having them. Sometimes life is funny that way.
posted by FireFountain at 6:16 PM on January 29, 2015 [19 favorites]

Maybe this is just a quirk, or maybe it's meaningful. I notice that your question isn't "Should I have any kids?" but "Should I reproduce?"

Maybe the fact that the question is so clinical means you aren't connecting to the idea of raising any children, as actual people.

I also notice that your question had little about actually spending time with any potential children or watching them grow.

I think you shouldn't have kids.
posted by maurreen at 6:26 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

I am of two minds here.

On the one hand, I agree with the chorus of responses saying you shouldn't have kids. It doesn't sound like you really want them, you don't seem to have a lot of empathy, you seem like you would only accept a "perfect" child (which doesn't exist). Et cetera, et cetera.

However... another part of me thinks that what you really NEED is a kid in your life. Having a child changes you. Even though I knew I wanted a kid more than anything else, I wasn't prepared for the depth of my love for her. The way she opened up so much joy in our lives. The way she gave purpose to our lives. Just the silly moments that make me laugh so much more than before. The fact that I find myself trying to be a better, more patient person. That I have become so much less snobby and judgmental than before I gave birth to her. A part of me thinks that maybe your lives are just a little TOO comfortable, that you need a child to disrupt your perfect lives a little.

I don't think you are a terrible person, just a little detached and clinical. Maybe you actually just need this kind of change in your life. For what it's worth, even though I knew I wanted kids, I've never been a baby person. I never thought they were that cute, never wanted to hold them. It's totally different when it's your own kid.
posted by barnoley at 6:41 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

This reads to me like cold feet after getting rid of birth control. A lot of us have cold feet once we have "pulled the goalie". This is normal and you do not deserve a beating for having second thoughts.

You had better talk to your wife ASAP about your feelings and where you want to go from here.
posted by crazycanuck at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

No, of course you should not have children. Frankly, given the contents in that wall of text, I'm having a hard time believing this is a serious question.

Re all of the following assumes that the kid grows up healthy, fully abled and emotionally stable like we did. If not, all bets are off...

Just curious—what would you do if you ended up with a "subpar" child?
posted by she's not there at 6:49 PM on January 29, 2015

Get a pair of kittens.
posted by zadcat at 6:52 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know how to say this tactfully. I think maybe you should go see a doctor or therapist and get screened for an anxiety disorder. If you don't have anxiety, I think you should see a therapist and figure out what is going on with empathy, as you didn't mention your spouse and I'm worried for you. If you do have anxiety, I think you should get treatment and see a therapist and see how you feel about things after treatment. I am worried that you might have anxiety that's strangling your empathy and blowing up some things into huge thoughts. If you rule all these things out and these are still concerns, definitely don't have kids. But I read your message with less "jerk who hates kids" and more "worried guy who might have anxiety".

I thought I would never want kids with special needs. I was willing to take the risk. I thought everything was fine. Then trauma befell us. And I ended up a single mom with two children with special needs and a pile of my own medical challenges. At times, my life has been an absolute living hell. But I love my kids and would do anything to get their needs met. And they are not profoundly challenged in the way that some children are. Just more in the massive, huge, enormous disruption to your career and day-to-day and finances. Would I have my children again? Absolutely. But I don't think everyone could do this. And it really, truly sucks some days. I don't have the same supports you do. But it really sucks some days. And I love my kids to bits and they are wonderful people who will one day be independent. I hope.

So don't do it if you have a whole bunch of hesitation. But do make sure it isn't an anxiety disorder. Your life will improve in multiple ways if that is part of the problem.

Note: I don't mean "I don't want kids" = anxiety disorder. Not at all. It was just some of the content that made me think this was worth exploring.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 6:52 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

Are you going to be able to be nice and supportive and loving to her during the ups and downs of pregnancy? Are you willing and able to roll with life's ups and downs? What kind of family dynamic do you hope to cultivate?

I was with my ex for 12 years and I am so relieved and grateful he will never be the father of my child. He wasn't optimistic, he was self-absorbed in unhealthy ways, and when he talked about being a dad, I'd get a huge pit in my stomach because he didn't honestly understand the idea of building relationships or relationship dynamics.
posted by discopolo at 6:56 PM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't know if you should have kids. I deeply disagree with the people who find your dispassionate discussion of your perceived pros and cons of having children as some sort of indication that you ought not have them. I do not understand how anyone can choose to have children (as opposed to, say, stumbling into it accidentally) without some reflection on how it would change their lives, or how they would feel if their child were or became disabled. I think you are being honest and rational. These are qualities I would want in a parent.
posted by anthropomorphic at 6:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [17 favorites]

You know, upon a re-read of your question, you remind me of myself a couple years ago. I was on the fence, and I was scared that I'd be an awful parent or I'd hate parenthood or that Something Would Happen, and I beanplated it endlessly.

I'm pretty sure I'm not an asshole, so I don't think you're an asshole, either. It's good that you're giving this some thought, because it is a hard decision.

As anyone who's familiar with my posting history knows, I have a baby. I chose that path, and I'm happy with it. I'm keenly aware that something could go wrong at any moment, and it terrifies me. But that's how it goes with any relationship, any opportunity, any streak of good fortune. To love is to risk a broken heart.

While I was debating, though, I kept daydreaming about being a mom, and imagining conversations I'd have with my future kid, the goofy family jokes, the problems I could help solve, and so on. My head couldn't decide, but my heart was already in it.

I can't tell if your heart's in it. It sounds like it's not. It sounds like the downsides of being a parent, both the certain ones and the ones that are only remotely possible, outweigh the benefits for you. It sounds like you're more concerned about missing out than excited about raising a kid. And if you're not excited about it, skipping it isn't really missing out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [12 favorites]

My husband and I are in similar situation, although we're in the United States. I was of two minds about having kids, but my husband was strongly in favor of it.

We've spent a while talking about it, and I had a lot of the same worries that you did. In the end, I changed my mind because I realized:

1. A big part of it was that I had an irrational fear of change. I liked my life. It was comfortable. I didn't want it to be different. But I thought about why I was convinced that a kid would ruin things, and I realized it was not based on anything more substantive than irrational fear.

2. I was worried about not loving my child enough, or resenting them for changing my life. I like to think I'm detached and not particularly loving. Then, I looked at the close, loving relationships I have with not only my partner, but also my much-loved sister and my close friends, who have all changed my life. I love my sister and friends and spouse, and while I've changed because of them, I don't resent it. Because I love them. In fact, I think that I've become a better person because of it. Usually, my problem is that I'm too partial to them, and I don't see disputes between them and a third party fairly.

So why would my kid would be magically different?

3. I had a lot of fears about having a kid with serious health problems -- I didn't know if I'd be able to handle the emotional burden, and I also didn't know if it was ethical to have a biological kid when I knew there were risks of X, Y, and Z. I still worry about my capacity, but again, I've spent time thinking about it -- how would I feel if my sister or my spouse were in a serious accident and had serious health problems?

I also spent some time thinking about the assumption that serious health problems = an unhappy life, and I realized I had a lot of shitty societal baggage about disability/chronic ill health.
posted by joyceanmachine at 6:59 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer. This sort of reinforces the notion that a lot of our hesitation is about the loss of a comfortable life.

Honestly, as someone who had a dad who was imperfect, who treated me and my sister differently, the thing I appreciate about him (and my parents divorced when I was 1 and I'm glad they did) was his ability to love me so much. Yeah, I grew up with my mom and I don't really understand my dad or why he does what he does, but I love him, even though it's difficult to respect him for being who he is (even though he's a totally decent guy who never remarried but was principled enough to come pick me up each weekend, clearly loved spending time with me, and wasn't one of those asshole dads who argue about child support). He loves me so much, and I am grateful now that I had that from him/have that from him. Even though I'd never want to be like him. (He cried last time I saw him and said he wished he hadn't just accepted my mom's wish to get divorced, that he could have been a good husband and he could have always been there. He's close to 80 now, quite emotional.)

Can you envision yourself being totally open to loving your child extremely deeply? Are you able to love without demanding? Do you think being a great husband and father is a worthwhile goal? Are you loyal? Can you make your wife your first priority? Or is the idea of change and focusing on building a family, participating in a family life too much/too hard/not something you find motivating?
posted by discopolo at 7:08 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think you should get another cat.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:23 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

You don't mention your wife's feelings much in your post. Her feelings are extra important here, because unlike you, she can only have kids if she does so very soon. Since she's off birth control I'm assuming she's more into the idea of having a kid than you are.
posted by manderin at 7:34 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have to say, anyone can have a child with significant special needs. If you're not excited to care for someone helpless and adorable, this will be very hard for you. Children are an amazing experience but you should not expect perfection. Children are an adventure in messiness, relearning, and sleeplessness. It's wonderful to love your life as it is. Make your own decision.
posted by Kalmya at 7:37 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

You should do it, mainly because of the cat thing.

Yes, it will turn your life upside down!
posted by yarly at 7:49 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

One thing to keep in mind is: if you think about it enough nobody really wants anything. Wanting precedes thought, as does love. Maybe you have no idea what you want? Maybe you won't find out until you have it or don't have it. So whatever you, do thou with your whole heart. Jump on a chair and say FUCK IT IM DOIN THIS YOLO MOTHERFUCKERS (possibly literal) and then do something one way or the other. Not that you can't change your mind, but more waffling and list making isn't going to reveal anything. It sounds to me like you think having a kid is pretty inevitable. So why not now? And why not own the heck out of it?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:53 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

First of all, having a cat isn't at all like having a child.

I have a one year old daughter. My day probably looked like your nightmare. There are toys everywhere, food in our carpet. She had a meltdown on the changing table today and has been generally harassing the cat. A week ago, she got sick and there was diarrhea and vomit everywhere. I got sick. I had to deal with her diarrhea while on the edge of vomiting, myself.

And yet . . .

About a half hour ago, after the changing table meltdown, I took her to bed to nurse her to sleep. I was dreading it. She's been so fussy and so difficult. I went to latch her, and she opened her mouth wide--and then blew a raspberry on my belly.

Within minutes, we were rolling around on the bed, cracking each other up. I would pretend to eat her fat little chin and she'd laugh and laugh. She'd pretend to eat my big, floppy stretch marked stomach and I'd laugh and laugh.

I can't really articulate the joy that's come into my life since having her, no matter how messy our apartment and our lives.

I understand your anxiety. The night we conceived her, a friend had been telling us about a mutual acquaintance's third pregnancy. "She'll never write again!" she said. "She'll never have time to read another book!" We'd been trying for five months at that point, and I felt highly, highly aware of the fact that this one choice might ruin our lives forever.

But, nah, it hasn't. The opposite, actually.

There's two things that might happen if you have kids: you might dig in your heels and continue trying to impose stifling structure over these new people, forcing them to fit the life you've been living. You might be resentful. You might be abusive. It might be a disaster.

Or it might help you to radically let go. Having children is seen by some as selfish, but it forces you to be radically unselfish, if you ask me. It forces you to make your life about them, not you. It is wild, crazy, and unpredictable. You don't know who your children will be. But you don't really know what kind of parent you will be either--you don't need to be the same kind of person you were before you had kids. You could let the situation change you, and make you better. If you're up for opening yourself up to the chaos, it has the possibility of bringing so much joy to your life.

So much joy. I can't even.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:56 PM on January 29, 2015 [21 favorites]

If your material life is so important to you that you won't compromise it AND

If you would only imagine yourself parenting a perfect child THEN don't do it

You can't control what life has in store for you, so unless you can embrace the uncertainty and selflessness that come with raising children, you had better abstain.
posted by Kwadeng at 8:09 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

maybe you should go see a doctor or therapist and get screened for an anxiety disorder.

I was actually thinking the same thing, because I personally do have an anxiety disorder, and I have been totally tortured by the question of kids in a similar way. It sounds like you caught between two giant balls of fear. It is easy to conjure terrible worst case scenarios for having kids (they are disabled, your life is ruined, etc) and not having kids (your life has no meaning, you die alone and isolated, etc.) Both sides feel unbearable so you bounce between them like a ping pong ball. Naturally you are confused and overwhelmed.

While I was similarly spinning like you are now, I visited my cousin with her newborn baby, and I would have thought it would have triggered all these feelings and helped me figure this out, but it didn't. The kid was there in the real world and was both fun to play with and a bit of a pain to watch all the time, and neither of those was the alternating visions of paradise or hell I was stuck in; the real kid in front of my didn't connect with these feelings in any way whatsoever. I feel actually like my anxiety is not being honest with me; it doesn't actually want kids per se; it just sees them as a convenient means to remove uncertainty about the future and safeguard against the possibility of discovering on my deathbed that my life has been a waste.

It is worth pointing out that this would be a lot of pressure to put on a kid and it wouldn't really work. Kids are very good at straying from the script, and when they become their own people and move away, you still have to be with yourself and find some source of meaning that comes from within. I would suggest you work on this fear and try to figure out what it is telling you and why. For example, why do some things feel 'unbearable'. Don't necessarily believe the fear is what it claims to be. Also, try to anchor your thoughts in reality; instead of imagining terrible situations, or wonderful situations, try to imagine real situations, what your real life could be like. Eventually the way through this is to clear away the fear on both sides of the issue and make room for your inner self to shine out and tell you what's right for you.
posted by PercussivePaul at 8:26 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Help me decide whether to reproduce or not.

If you have to ask strangers on the Internet, the answer is "no". You don't want to bring in a kid if this is your situation.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:29 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

You sound like a perfectly normal nervous potential parent to me.

You asked for stories about the decision to have a child, here is mine:

I always knew I wanted a kid, Mr. Chapps had worries about whether he would be tied to a job he hated due to responsibility to a child.

Mr. Chapps thinks through every decision in detail, I never think about any decision, just go on gut, then impatiently eye roll and wait for him to catch up.

For three years I groaned and nagged and eye rolled and pressed him to make up his mind.

Mr. Chapps meticulously researched everything and worried about making the right decision. He interviewed every (and I mean this literally) father he knows about their thoughts.

And he reported that every single dad had the same final thought:
"It is the worst and the best thing I have ever done".

I think that sums it up. It is not a nightmare in the first years... It is terrible wonderful. It is exhausting invigorating. It is rewarding draining. All at once.

And Mr. Chapps is a great dad, btw.

I wanted kids, so perhaps it is no surprise that I now feel my life would be empty without my son. I have grown as person because of him. I am better with others: a better listener, more patient with people's flaws, and I have learned to be more careful about the impact of my words. When I really want to lose it with someone, or when I am afraid to stand up to someone, I find that I have to be my best self so that my son will learn to be his best self.

One sad surprise for me was that some friendships ended.. sometimes because they were friends based on shared interests, and I now had no time for these interests. In other cases, it is just hard to have the time for people, so there are dearly loved friends who don't get much time from me now.

One pleasant surprise for me was how much it enriched my relationship with my own parents. They were great parents, kind and caring, but honestly I had not appreciated how great until faced with parenting myself. I understood why they had acted from fear and frustration at times. I appreciated what they had given to me, and given up for me, in a way I never had before.

And on the question of children with disabilities ... I will just say that while many share your fears, and I think they are quite normal, the parents I know who have faced it are having lives just like mine as a parent with a healthy kid.
They love their kids, they love the time with them, and they learn as they go. As said above, no kid will be perfect. Every kid will have barriers and challenges. As a parent, you just keep loving them and supporting them to face their challenges. There is no guarantee your child will be able-bodied. But lets face it, you or your wife could get MS, or be in an accident, and I bet if you did have to face that, you would find a way, and still love each other and have no regrets.

Ok, so that is my story and my two bits. There is no wrong way to live your life, so I wish you well whichever path you choose.
posted by chapps at 8:41 PM on January 29, 2015 [10 favorites]

Work from the assumption that your kid is going to be completely different from what you expect, want and plan. Oh, some things might go the way you picture them, but your kid will be their own individual, completely separate from you. They will have their own body and their own appearance and their own moods and their own taste and their own desires and their own ambitions.

Your kid is not going to be intelligent, secular, upper middle class, have good careers, with no mental health issues, hereditary diseases or negative genetic predispositions.

Your kid is going to struggle to learn his or her times table, will not get the joke and will find reading frustrating. Your kid will be curious about religion and will be drawn to understand faith, grace and ritual. Your kid will be unemployed and poor, and feckless. Your kid will be driven half batty by fairly ordinary daily challenges. And your kid will turn out to have genetic baggage that results in medical bills - be it astigmatism, short Eustachian tubes, asthma, knees that turn in the wrong direction or weird endocrine hormones that make their gender convoluted, or something much much harder to live with.

You can basically count on all that. Your kid is going to be the opposite of everything you value in yourself. At lot of this will be temporary, and perhaps visible only in comparison to you, the adult - that is, your kid is going to be unemployed and poor and feckless until they are in their teens, or twenties, or maybe their thirties if they get into grad school or something. By the time they have reached a nice ripe adulthood so that they can even possess the same list of traits you listed - accepted by other adults as intelligent, mature enough to have figured out what they believe concerning religion, employable and stable, risen or fallen to the level of their ultimate social class, at that point they will no longer be your kid! They will be your adult offspring, someone who may or may not end up with a part in your life.

I'm guessing that you are struggling with the idea of bonding with your future kid, because you bonded so badly with your adoptive brother. Good news. Genetics does play a large role in your ability to bond with your own kid. If you were able to bond with your partner and with your partner's genetic parents than there is a good chance that you will be able to bond with your baby the way you were not able to bond with the cuckoo that your parents raised.

It will be possible for you to accept, love and appreciate your kid, even if he or she is dumb or has mental illnesses like depression or anxiety or excessive perfectionism. Given a firm and reasoned genuine commitment, I think you can overcome the most probable personality differences. I don't think the chances are high that you will be as estranged from your own child as you are from your adoptive brother. But you could be. It's possible that one reason for the estrangement with your adoptive brother is because you are not flexible enough to bond well with other people and both you and your kid might be bad at bonding. But you are going to produce a new totally revised version of yourself and your partner and not a new and totally revised version of your adoptive brother.

I'm going to ask you to think about your adoptive brother. Did he have fetal alcohol syndrome? Did he carry genetic baggage that resulted in behavioral problems and social difficulties that resulted in no friends - in fact, in being impossible to like? If you had wanted, oh fiercely wanted, tried really hard, do you think the two of you could have ended up in a loving relationship? If you had done your share, more than your share, ten times more than your share, would he have ended up beloved to you?

It's actually a good thing that you are asking about how it is possible to survive if your kid turns out to be totally alien to you, because some parent start by being unable to differentiate between themselves and their kid and if they don't figure out how to let their child be different they do dreadful damage to themselves and to their child.

My feeling from what you wrote is that you are not ready to have a child. You seem to be too worried to enjoy your little person easily, to relax in the role of parent and to laugh at the inevitable disasters that will happen. I think you might be able to become ready but you might be someone who has to do a lot of growing and giving up to thrive as a parent.

You asked about how other people made rational decisions to have children: In my case I had one child because the child happened and I saw the balance between the harm to the baby in rejecting it to be vastly greater than the benefit to me in not having that child. I also saw good things for me in having a child. So I had the child and kept the child. I had that first child for the sake of the child and I don't think it was a bad decision. I get the impression that my first child is glad I had them and was able to love them. This child turned out to be a piece of extraordinary luck for me.

I then went on to create a family. I wanted to recreate the closeness and sharing of ideas and work and affection that I had in my own family. When I created a family with an additional two children I was looking for a benefit to me. I had those next kids for my own sake, yet kept in mind that in the long run they would not be mine, but their own people. I assumed that they would form a family together, but did not assume I would have a place in it.

As it turned out I failed to create a new family. It turned out that my children had a flawed legacy, that I had bad genes I didn't know about until after I had them and saw my own faults mirrored and magnified in them. I don't regret having had any of my kids. They all seem to be reasonably happy thriving individuals, with a varying degree of ability to manage life. Their lives each are important to them and seem to be deeply absorbing to them. Along the way for me it has been sweet and wonderful and wretched and often as exhausting as a marathon.

In the end they do not all three share ideas and work and closeness and affection with me or with each other. Not at all. I am close to one, and quite distant from two of them. It perplexes me still that I can have created imaginative story writers like myself and yet that the stories we write are so personal that we don't share them with each other. But I agreed to this possibility when I had the kids. I knew that I was going to try for a family but that the end result was out of my control. I told the dealer to deal the cards and only then got to see what was in my hand. It didn't work out the way I had gambled but it worked out alright.

Possibly that is because I have been content to settle for so little. But there is a great deal of truth when a parent says, "If you are happy then it is okay."
posted by Jane the Brown at 8:46 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

I was born damaged but we had no idea until I started having symptoms as a teenager. Life ruining ticking time bomb right here!

Also consider the possibility that you birth perfect kids who turn into total shitheads as adults who want nothing to do with you. Stranger things have happened.

Personally I am way too selfish to have kids. I'm ok with this. It is ok to admit it.

I also think you should get a kitten.
posted by phunniemee at 9:03 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I wish (despite the fact I have two wonderful, creative, darling, kind, loving adult children) that I had followed the advice of a very wise friend who told me (that her dad had said to) "wait until you can't bare not to me a parent, to have children."

Absolutely most rewarding experienceS of my life, but also most guilt-ridden and painful.

I tried to do the right thing by my kids, and given their current circumstances I didn't fail. But. Not everyone is a people person. Not everyone has the patience little people deserve. Not everyone feels immense joy and satisfaction in bathing tired kids, putting them into bed and reading them a story. And I sort of think, that ideally, new human people deserve that sort of fascination and appreciation, and doing it from a sense of obligation or duty is going to damage (mildly or a lot) one or the other of the parent or child.

So I've not exactly discouraged my (young) adult children from reproducing, and I'm going to not exactly discourage you. Being responsible for health nd well being of another human being is such a burden and responsibility - you must WANT it, not as an esoteric and unpredictable kids to look after me in my old age...

I personally regard people who choose not to have children as responsible, thoughtful, ethical people.
posted by b33j at 10:28 PM on January 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh Jesus H fucking Christ. Ambivalence about having kids is normal, and ultimately a good thing. I hear nothing in your question that tells me absolutely do or don't have kids and people that are telling you you must do one thing or the other are wrong wrong wrong.

Having kids *is* a leap of faith. It's going to be ok either way. The thing is, when your baby is born your cross this threshold where suddenly everything that is important to you is different. There's really no good way to explain this to someone who hasn't crossed that threshold yet, other than to say: if you are a thinking, compassionate person with a partner with whom you are compatible enough to figure out tough situations, having a child will be fine, no matter what.

There's this genetic program that kicks in when your baby is born that takes care of everything. Baby crying in the middle of the night? No problem, you love that kid and your patience and love for him is infinite. You are happy to get up and comfort him. Whatever your baby's faults, it doesn't matter, trust me.

Ambivalence is good. It means you are likely to approach your child with an open mind and deal with things as they come.

I never really wanted kids all that badly. Our conversation about it boiled down to "Should I get a condom or not?" 4 weeks later we were pregnant. I am 100% happy with my kids. No one ever regrets having kids.

You will have less free time, no doubt. Are you doing something with your free time now that you couldn't live without? Cause you're going to have to live without that, at least for a while. Other than that having kids is easy because your heart will be into it no matter what.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 11:07 PM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

I made the decision to be childless at the age of eleven. I knew myself well, and I have no regrets. I did, however, surround myself with wonderful friends, with their children, with nephews and nieces -- all of whom I love dearly. They have enriched my life. And I've had pets, and do volunteer work and enjoy life with my SO and his family from a prior marriage.

All this to say ... I don't sense that you are meant to have children, but that doesn't preclude a delightful life filled with friends, loving relationships with other people's children, your own pets and much love in your life.

Trust your instincts and don't be pressured to have a child if it's not a deep desire. Your whole family will suffer.
Children must be wanted and deeply loved, or life goes awry.
posted by alwayson_slightlyoff at 11:11 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer.

You've gotten a decent amount of flak for this, so I just want to say: I grew up with a 24/7 nanny (who is still with my parents, as their housekeeper) in a country where this is perfectly normal and acceptable, and my brother and I turned out fine.

So you don't want to change nappies and wipe vomit at three in the morning. Most people wouldn't if they had the chance. I don't think this is a factor, because if it got too much you could always outsource the munchkin to your parents for a while.
posted by Xany at 11:42 PM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

I strongly disagree with slarty that all people automatically raise up to the challenge of parenting. I know many adults that had babies they refused to get out of bed for, even when crying for hours, let alone subtler forms of neglect; those children have been traumatised by their parent's emotional and physical neglect. Having children does NOT suddenly imbue you with patience or empathy, or even love for your child; many of those parents rationalised that having children "made sense" but whose rigidity prevented them from adjusting their expectations when faced with the reality of parenting.

I do not know any couples who are parents of a special needs child that did not have one parent decide to walk away and leave the other parent holding the emotional, logistical, and financial bag. I am talking over a dozen children; special needs children (whether they were born that way or challenges later developed) ARE a huge stressor and it is important to recognise that. I also know many parents that have either privately or publicly stated they regret having children and who's actions and priorities reflect that regret, again traumatising the children. Although parents in low socio-economic families are overly represented in statistics of child abuse and neglect, the worst outcomes I have seen are actually where the parents self-indentify as "intelligent, secular, upper middle class, have good careers, with no mental health issues"; those parents are the least likely to recognise their own flaws or be willing to accept help, and the impact of emotional neglect seems to be much, much deeper than physical neglect. I know lots of people that have fulfilling lives without children; there is absolutely nothing wrong with that choice. The only conflict I can see is that you have already agreed to be a parent through your actions, which indicates that you have not communicated to your wife that you are not currently willing to parent any child that results. It is great you are working through your feelings together and seperately, but you need to not make a decision by chance before you've made a decision by choice.

I have talked to a lot of parents, and of the ones that expressed values similar to what you have written none of them have been happy or fulfilled as parents, many of their marriages have broken up or fractured, and many of their children have limited emotional connection with their parents. Your values are fine, I want to emphasize, they are just incompatable with being a successful parent in the way that you would define success.
posted by saucysault at 12:29 AM on January 30, 2015 [17 favorites]

We wanted kids for admittedly selfish reasons. I wanted someone to share that special unconditional love with. I wanted to live in a family. I was getting bored with life as it was.

So two kids latee I'm in poopy diaper hell, having to do 300 things at the same time, waking up every three hours at night with no time to myself at all. And you know what? I got what I wanted. My life is full of love, family dinners, chatter and excitement. And I am happy.

You need to have an emotional reason for wanting kids. One that is strong enough to make the other crap not matter.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:54 AM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm pretty sure we're not capable of raising such a child without considering our lives ruined.
If this is really how you feel, you should definitely not have kids. If you have to be talked into (or talk yourself into) having kids, you don't really want them and everything else you've said tells me you don't really want kids.

I have four kids from 12 to 28 years old. My youngest was born with a syndactyly of his right hand. There's not even anything genetic here that you can watch out for - it's just a thing that can happen. There are many more things that 'just happen' for no reason and that you can't do anything to avoid. My youngest daughter has severe depression. These are the sort of challenges that you may have to face and, if you would consider your life ruined because of them, you should not have kids.

There's no real reason these days to have kids unless you really want them and, if you aren't as prepared as you can be for the myriad of things that can go wrong (trust me, you can't really be prepared for a lot of the things kids will throw at you), you should not have kids.

Based purely on what you've written here, you should not have kids.
posted by dg at 2:31 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't think you want a kid. I think what you want an heir -- someone to take your wads of cash, nice house, superior pedigree, surname, "legacy", the "insurance policy" and whatnot.

Not once did you mention wanting to have the "kid" part of a kid -- you know, all the stuff the MeFi parents have mentioned so far, the facebook memes, the actual desire. It sounds like you want to outsource all the hard work and reap the long term rewards.

This concerns me and for these reasons, I do not recommend that you reproduce.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 3:05 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Money's great, but what do you have to offer a child?
posted by GhostintheMachine at 3:57 AM on January 30, 2015

Do not have children.

You don't want a "damaged" child and you have no way, absolutely no way, to guarantee that you will not have a "damaged" child. You have no way to guarantee that your child will not have health problems, behavioral problems, mental problems, learning problems, social problems, problems of any kind that you can possibly think of, regardless of all your privilege.

You miss having a cat around so get another cat.

Do not have children.
posted by Polychrome at 4:21 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

The part that stood out for me is you saying, basically, that life without a child would be "this is all there is." That's insane. Without kids you have OPTIONS, you can have WHIMS, you can TRAVEL at a moments notice. If your life seems boring, shake it up - but not by having a kid.
posted by agregoli at 6:40 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh, FFS. The person who seems the most well-adjusted and non-assholish to me in this thread is the OP.

The sanctimonious chorus trying to shame you about perfectly reasonable fears is the type that does more harm to children and families, by being unable to stomach their own fear, anxiety, and disappointment enough to actually talk about them, then do any corresponding number of honest adults. Depression among new mothers and fathers is partially directly related to this 100%-or-you-suck ethos. Not having the adult imagination to see that people can hold mutually contradictory feelings without being horrible is a huge problem. I loved the person who suggested the OP wasn't a "humanist" based on this little bit of text.

My first kid ruined my life, and I love him madly. I have 3.5 month old twins, and they have damn sure ruined my life, but they are magnificent. The new twins mean we had to spring for a minivan, we may not be able to stay in our house, my wife needs to choose between childcare and her career, and because we are in our 40s, we are likely to never be able to retire. We spent much of the pregnancy mourning some of that, just as well adjusted adults mourn their hopes and expectations when they have a differently abled kid. I will proudly say that I'm terrified that my twins will be autistic, and hyper vigilant to signs and symptoms even this early, because if they were autistic it would ruin my life. Not because they would be lesser, or because I would not love them, but because wanting to do everything possible to give them a good life would mean it was likely the only thing I ever did. Adults recognize that first feelings, especially prospective feelings, often change. The shame brigade is welcome to judge me, but I'm fairly confident that their puerile and childish judgements are the real problem. (Incidentally, my wife does therapy with kids adopted out of the foster care system, and she would certainly describe a kid with Reactive Attachment Disorder as "broken" in a private moment. I don't think it's anywhere like a horrible sin for a lay person to use that language. )

That aside, the overall tenor of your post suggests to me that you should at the very least think about this quite a bit more before deciding to do it. Kids aren't for everybody, and you sound like you might be more happy without them.
posted by OmieWise at 6:56 AM on January 30, 2015 [28 favorites]

One point about the disabled thing: People are really piling on about the "damaged" statement but I think there is something else to consider: you won't know whether you are capable of having a disabled child without considering your life ruined unless it actually happens. These things are different in theory than they are once they are happening to you. I think if you happened to have a disabled child, you'd develop a different perspective, the same way all parents develop a different perspective on kids once they have kids. There's also something to be said about loving a kid just because the kid is yours. My mom says she disliked children (she still dislikes children) except for her own. As a general child-disliker, I have a feeling I'd be the same way.

Basically, I think the things you said that people are piling on about are not incredibly relevant to whether you should have kids, because they are theoretical and you're likely to develop new feelings once and if you actually have kids.

So many people have kids without thinking about it. I'm in your demographic and I've noticed there's such over-consideration about this among us, who are probably the best equipped to support a child anyway. Meanwhile, I have relatives much younger than me who dropped out of high school and have multiple children with different co-parents, without a consideration in the world. If you have kids, it will be ok and you will make it work. If you don't have kids, it will also be ok.
posted by millipede at 7:02 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

If you think a small child may make you suicidal, you may not be as physically and genetically healthy as you think, which is another reason to not have kids.

You aren't sounding that into it from this post, but given it sounds like your wife could already be pregnant, if you DO end up with a kid, then man up (person up?), show up, and make sure that kids feels WANTED.
posted by Elysum at 7:02 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Could we all please stop shaming the OP for having ambivalent feelings about having a child? Everyone's acting as though he's already abusing some child, when he's just talking about possibilities. There are many different ways to be a good parent. People seem really worked up about the 24/7 nanny comment.

OK sure, you could outsource the butt-wiping, tantrum-soothing, laundry, sleepless nights, and so on, and then you could take the kid hiking or to the movies and maybe you'd have some fun... But you would have outsourced the depth of relationship, and the love, and the dependability, and the trust. You would have outsourced the commitment that makes parenting worthwhile.

I simply don't think the above is true. My mother never changed a single one of my nappies. She did have a nanny, as well as my father and all grandparents around and she hated dealing with poop. She was (and is) still an amazing mother -- deeply committed to making sure I had the best childhood and best education possible. Your hypothetical children do need you to love them and commit to them, but all the rest is negotiable.
posted by peacheater at 7:17 AM on January 30, 2015 [10 favorites]

So many OPINIONS in this thread!

Hello OP, I'm a 41-year-old father of two. My wife and I were in a fairly similar situation to you when we chose to have kids: mid-30s, financially stable, living a very comfortable life in Europe. Free time, spontaneity... all the good things!

Like you, we began to feel a bit "is this all there is?" Unlike you, we both had a very strong gut feeling that we wanted to have kids. So we just went for it...

It has been the most difficult thing we've ever done. Our reality for the past four and a half years comes fairly close to the "living hell" you're afraid of: the "comfortable life" of old is a distant memory, our marriage is under tremendous strain, and both of us have had to dig really, really fucking deep just to be able to keep going every day. And there's nothing "wrong" with our kids. They're just normal, healthy, EXTREMELY LOUD little monsters.

I'm pretty sure our neighbours hate us.

But! While the situation we find ourselves in can be a gigantic pile of suck, my kids themselves are truly an achingly wonderful presence in my life. I'll spare you the gushing anecdotes, but I tell you this from the bottom of my heart: they drive me fucking mental, but they have been the making of me. Because of them I am stronger, braver, more alive and more inspired than ever before, and I am deeply moved and thankful at the thought that they'll be in my life forever.

All this is to say that having kids is unlikely to be a smooth ride, but it has the potential to completely transform your life. If you do choose to have kids, be prepared for (some of) your fears to become reality — and trust yourself to rise to the occasion when that happens.

One final thought: if you do choose to have kids, your one big advantage over us is having family nearby. This will be an absolute godsend in terms of being able to take time for yourselves. Use them!

I wish you the very best of luck whichever way you go. FWIW, you sound like a thoughtful, realistic chap who would make a very caring parent. Feel free to memail me if you have any questions.
posted by ZipRibbons at 7:51 AM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]

Peacheater, thanks for bringing that up, because I was thinking of clarifying. You're absolutely right - there's no need to change diapers in order to be a good parent or have a good relationship with a kid. It's also not necessary to be the one doing all the night-time soothing. People with 24/7 nannies can and absolutely do grow up happy and awesome! Oh, and something else very close to my heart - it's not necessary to martyr yourself in order to be a good parent. In fact, it's a pretty bad idea in my opinion.

What I was trying to say, more specifically, is that if you outsource ALL the difficult stuff, the relationship you might have with your child would not be the one of deep trust that people think of when they imagine parent-child relationships. Children will learn to trust and rely upon the people who help them when they need help, and if ALL of the challenging care and soothing is provided by somebody else, THAT person is who the child will turn to in times of need. Not the parent. It might be something like being a grandparent, you know? A long-term, fun relationship with a child, without the dirty hard work. (Most people seem to think being a grandparent is pretty awesome!)

My personal opinion, which I am very aware is shaped by my culture, is that if you want to bring children into the world, you should WANT to be responsible for the hard work, and you should WANT to be interested in demonstrating the kinds of values - love, devotion - that are associated with hard work. Because PLANNING to rely upon others to do the unpleasant bits, I feel, is unfair to the child, and could result in instability in their lives, resentful parenting if the help doesn't materialize or is too expensive, or whatever.

Again, it's my personal metric: if you don't want to be in the trenches of parenting at all, if you have no desire to demonstrate embodied love and devotion in the hard times, you shouldn't choose to have children.

I thought very long and very hard about whether to have a child, and I also focused intensely on the risks, particularly on the risk of having a severely disabled child which would completely re-route my life even more dramatically than children normally do. I understand your ambivalence, OP, and peacheater - I certainly don't think that a mother has to change diapers to be a good mother. And I think having help - a village - is amazing and should be more common where I live!!!

But I really, really do think you have to want to do a large chunk of the hard stuff, as a requirement for entry to parenting. Because when you dedicate yourself to somebody else, you show them what is most beautiful and important about what human beings are capable of.
posted by Cygnet at 8:10 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Big boldface blinking underlined NO. There's already too many unwanted perfect children and many more unwanted children with "problems" and your probability of having a child with some sort of issue at some point in life is definitely non-zero. The planet needs no more children of ambivalent parents.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:26 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your worries around child-rearing sound a lot like mine. I have been really, really happy with the decision not to reproduce. Just to warn you, there were a few moments where I've had to mourn the fact that I'll never have children. It's the right choice, even if I still sometimes have pangs around children. So whatever you decide, understand that mourning the other choice not taken is OK.
posted by ldthomps at 9:46 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Cygnet, I think we don't disagree -- just looking at this from slightly different angles :)
posted by peacheater at 10:11 AM on January 30, 2015

Definitely get a dog. Or two dogs.
posted by shesbenevolent at 11:16 AM on January 30, 2015

So I'm not even sure you're still reading. But you asked from stories on both sides, so I'll share mine.

In my family, my youngest brother has Downs Syndrome, my cousin is paraplegic from a horrible tumor that developed in utero, and we have several family members with mental health issues. In addition, we have several friends who have had children diagnosed well after birth with a variety of issues. My brother wasn't diagnosed until after he was 2. So there's that - you can't test for EVERYTHING in utero. Things happen.

All of the parents of these kids have stayed married, and are doing what they can for the kids. HOWEVER, this isn't some tra-la-la thing where you say, "Oh, this kid I love so much is going to have mental disabilities and may never be able to live on their own, that's cool. No worries, dude." YES, you still love the kid. But dear gods, it's a process to work through where you accept what has happened. Two things I can tell you from that front:

My mom got so sick of people smiling sweetly and saying in syrupy tones, "God never gives you more than you can handle!" that she started looking them dead in the eye and stating flatly, "Yes, he does." She loves my brother. But the first couple years were hard on her.

My mom also later said that she had to spend a year mourning the "normal" child she had envisioned so she could truly love the child who was in front of her.

And - he's in Special Olympics now. He's an adult. Out of the 10 special needs people on his team, only 3 had family members show up to their latest event. The other 7 arrived on the bus from their group home, and I've never met their families, even after knowing some of them for 10 or more years. So no, it's not realistic to say "Oh even if you have a special needs kid you'll just love them anyways, unless you're some sort of heartless monster!". You have no idea how you'll react until you're actually in the situation.


So because I am so acutely aware that things can go horribly wrong - because I know there are no guarantees of having a normal child - I don't want to have a child. I have other reasons as well, deeply personal ones, but that's a main one. And I've had plenty of people say, "But you'd be such a good mom!" That's ok. Just because someone thinks I would be a good mom, doesn't mean I would be, or have to be. It's just their opinion.


Last summer, I had a pregnancy ... question. I wasn't scared, so I think calling it a pregnancy scare is a little melodramatic. But I'd realized it had been 2 months or so since I'd had a period, counted back, realized it had been 3 months, and got a couple at home pregnancy test kits. I definitely had mixed emotions. I knew if I was pregnant it would turn things upside down, but was I happy? Sad? Nervous? All 3 plus gods know what other emotions? Turns out I was not pregnant, and I was 98% relieved and 2% sad....and my partner was about the same. I don't think it's a simple thing at all for most people. Even now I occasionally think about it with a mix of relief and melancholy, but since it's so highly skewed toward relief, I think it's a good thing and don't plan to pursue having kids.

I think you're ok to look at it so logically, but for me, I can't handle knowing the fact that a normal child is not a guarantee - and I love my brother immensely. But that unknowingness, that randomness, that level of chance is too uncomfortable for me. So I volunteer with Special Olympics, and have fun with my nieces, nephews, and friends' kids, and save up for elder care for myself and my partner.
posted by RogueTech at 12:16 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

Jeez, people. Haven't you EVER had thoughts like this? I have two kids I adore and I still sometimes look around longingly and wish I could have one nice thing in the house without it getting destroyed. I'm not a monster and neither is the OP.

OP, I think you are WAY overthinking this. Once you're sure that you are mentally and financially capable of being a decent parent, then you should stop listing the pros and cons and go with your gut.

Imagine that you're infertile; are you relieved, heartbroken, or neutral?

Imagine that you're 90 years old with no kids; do you see yourself having a full life?

As others have said, what does your wife say, and what have you said to her about this in the past?

You're looking for a way to reconcile your emotions with all the rational justifications. I suggest you throw away the rational justifications and go with the emotions. This is not a logical decision.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:22 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

OP, you've been on my mind quite a lot ever since this question posted.

I keep comparing your question to this one from someone in NYC who wonders whether it's a good time to get a dog. And the questions on a basic level are really quite similar: you and the other poster are financially stable, independent, well into adulthood, and capable of providing a home for a smallish creature.

But I keep noticing the differences: How much the other OP loves dogs, voices some practical concerns, looks for solutions, suggests mitigations, and tries to make it work. There's no complaint about having to take the dog out on city streets in the rain in the dark, the expense of boarding, the possibility of vet bills.

And I keep thinking: If Anonymous can't be as enthusiastic and solution-oriented about a human child as the other OP is about getting a dog... Maybe it really isn't the best option for you.

I'm childless because of a genetic illness. Admittedly, it's easier for me because I can honestly say I've never yearned to have a child of my own. I like old people, and dogs, and strangers, and that's how I focus my nurturing side. Having a child is a wonderful way to bring love and joy and perspective into your life, but I promise you: it's not the only way.

So count me among the voices who say it's really OK to not have kids if it's not your thing. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But do try to find something to nurture: a shelter animal (if you feel a connection), a houseplant, an elderly neighbor.

I wish you a lot of luck.
posted by mochapickle at 12:30 PM on January 30, 2015 [9 favorites]

You've gotten a decent amount of flak for this, so I just want to say: I grew up with a 24/7 nanny (who is still with my parents, as their housekeeper) in a country where this is perfectly normal and acceptable, and my brother and I turned out fine.

This. Many of my older relatives were raised by 24/7 'nannies', in a country where it was socially normal and acceptable, and they are great, wonderful, caring human beings who in many cases have deep, deep attachments to their parents.

This is really just a bigger case of the daycare scare that suggested working women couldn't be good parents, and it's noxiously untrue. You can be the emotional support for your kids even if you never changed a single diaper.

And just because you don't want a severely emotionally damaged or physically or mentally disabled child doesn't mean you won't be able to deal with the "hard stuff." There's a lot of normal hard stuff that can be easily risen to without having to accept severe options.
posted by corb at 12:55 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

It is totally ok to not have kids, yes, but I just wanted to make the point that very few people in baby contemplation mode are saying "oh I love kids, I can't wait to have a little me to hug and caress and care for who will carry my legacy." Like, I know exactly one couple who was like this and they are terrible parents, because guess what, babies are more complicated than that.

I don't think you're done thinking about this and I don't think you should outsource your decision to random internet strangers.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 1:00 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

On the other hand, I don't see a lot of people in baby contemplation freely referring to a child, any child, as damaged. Or for that matter, outwardly worrying that the arrival of a child would spin them into suicidal depression. OP even refers to their housecat as an it, which seems odd for a creature who was beloved. Perhaps it's a language thing. But maybe it's not.

I think that sort of thing is what folks are reacting to here. It's certainly what I'm reacting to. I think it's a given that the people on the other end of the spectrum -- the ones who imagine babies as nothing but cuddles and sunshine and diapers filled with cotton candy -- are always in for a surprise.
posted by mochapickle at 1:09 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Re-reading all of the comments, there's something that I've often noticed when people discuss having kids vs. not having kids, which is the unequivocal love you get from having kids. Having not had kids of my own, I have no idea how it feels (how could I, when I haven't had them?). And I know, I've had friends directly tell me that they're completely different people now that they've had kids, because it changed them so thoroughly, and they wouldn't even like the person they used to be. Which always makes me wonder how they feel about me, since I was friends with them before/after they had kids, but I figure they'd let me know if I no longer fit in their post-kid life.

So all of my grandparents were dead before I was born. And when I was a kid, people would find that out and say, "Ohhh, you poor thing! To never know what it's like to have a grandparent!" But it didn't upset me, because how in the world could I know the pain of what I was missing? Having no grandparents didn't hurt me because I had never experienced having grandparents, to then know what it felt like to have that loss.

I get that it's not at all the same thing as having kids, but my point is: there are plenty of things in life that you may not experience, but that you won't know the pain of not having experienced it, because you have no frame of reference to understand what it is you lack. Some people may not ever know what it's like to have a 20, 30, or 40 year marriage remain loving and vibrant. Some people will never have sex, and some people will never have grandparents, and some people will never have kids, and yet will still live fully realized lives that are full of love and kindness and giving. I reject the thought that to become the best person you could possibly be, you have to be a parent, that to understand love you have to be a parent, to understand what it means to be an adult you have to be a parent. Again, I don't have kids so I might be completely off base. But if it were really true that you have to be a parent to be a fully actualized person, there are a lot of half realized people wandering around.

Also, with regards to the "is this all there is?" question - having kids isn't the resolution to this question. If that were the case, people who have kids would never have a midlife crisis - "is this all there is?" is basically the heart of a midlife crisis.
posted by RogueTech at 2:07 PM on January 30, 2015 [13 favorites]

I don't see a lot of people in baby contemplation freely referring to a child, any child, as damaged.

As another viewpoint, OP - I am currently, actively trying to get pregnant. I want babies, I know I want babies, and I am trying to make them.

I also would reference adoptable children after the age of 6 as too damaged to adopt. I might not refer to it publicly, but if I were talking about it at home to friends or family, that is 100% what I would say. I know this, because these conversations have happened with well meaning people who have suggested my adopting instead of trying to get pregnant.

Do not think you have to be a magical fount of boundless compassion for all humanity in order to actually want children.
posted by corb at 3:06 PM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

OP, I think the point many people are trying to make here is that having children is unpredictable, dangerous, and scary. It may work out for you and it may not. It's like a trip to Everest. No one is going to say for sure that you'll come back alive.

Lots of people want to (and do) have children, and are fine. But some are not. What people are commenting on is that you have to be prepared for that possibility when you start. You may get a "damaged" child (whatever that is). They may die as a toddler or a teenager. It's a big commitment and risk and it might not work out. You should know that going in. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it.

Also, Corb: You don't have to be a fount of boundless compassion for all of humanity to actually want children, but referring to all "adoptable children over the age of 6" as "too damaged to adopt" is incredibly cruel... and entirely inaccurate. It's like referring to children of a certain race as "too damaged" because of their experiences of being that race. In other words, disgusting. Don't spread this harmful and hateful idea.
posted by 3491again at 4:09 PM on January 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

I'm a bit late to this, because I was not sure what to say, but I don't agree with the analysis that if you are asking the question, then maybe you shouldn't; I think that asking these questions does not preclude you from being a parent, and could in fact be a pointer that you could be a very good parent.

Personally, as a dad, and with the caveat that everything is situational, my attitude has has kind of gone from loving my work and thinking that having a kid might suck, to loving my kid and thinking that my job sucks. YMMV of course.
posted by carter at 4:45 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think you're asking these questions because

A) becoming a parent is a lifestyle change, and

B) you had a horrible experience with someone else's child, as a child, and there is a strong voice saying NO! You don't want to not-have-a-choice-with-a-child companion again and yes, progeny are for keeps.

This may crank up even more if you are an only child.

I am a parent. You have good infrastructure - nearby family to give you a night off. Friends. Good experience with a pet. We live with uncertainty

Trust me, if you have a kiddo, they will have A LOT in common with you, regardless of gender identity - maybe you've figured out commonalities with your own parents?

The fetal tests are nerve wracking. There is beauty and joy in years 0-5 that eclipse anything my cats have provided, and there is no litter box after year 2-3.

My advice? Go hang out with a couple who are the kind of parents you'd like to be. There has to be one within your extended circle of family and friends. Visit a family-friendly place in your interest zone (science museum? Park?) and look at ALL of the kids there and think some more.

It is your decision and, this is based on very limited information, and a hunch.
posted by childofTethys at 5:29 PM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I think it's disingenuous of some of the "have a kid!" responders to characterize the "don't have kids" crowd as shaming or judgmental of the OP. No one is condemning the OP here. Simply weighing in favor of not having kids and readers giving their honest impressions of his situation and what limited knowledge we have of his viewpoint doesn't make the "don't reproduce" people shaming of anyone. I don't think anyone here (at least, speaking as the person who made the humanitarian remark) is calling into question the OPs overall, probable goodness as a person.

Yet my humanitarian remark still stands as far as I'm concerned. I know exactly 3 people (just offhand, and if I did an exhaustive search of my extended contacts, I'm sure there would be more) with life-long, permanent, severe disabilities that require ceaseless, around-the-clock unending care. Not reactive-attachment disorder, not mildly "special-needs". Rather, debilitating medical illness. Yes, rare conditions are rare, but there are more than 6, 800 of them and they affect millions of people. If the OP really sees himself as unable to handle the worst life can throw at people, I'd urge against bringing more people into the world.

It seems a few of the "I love my kids!" commenters are dismissive and glib of those discouraging the OP, but it is exactly the kind of attitude that is undesirable about people who reproduce too readily -- and, in asking, the OP is genuinely caring enough to give all due consideration to the most major life decision, and one that affects life not only for the potential progeny but for everyone else on Earth for whom those progeny, loved or unloved, are now a fact. So it seems childish to cast aspersions on some very well-considered reactions against doing so.

Also regarding other pro-reproduction comments, no one is debating that children, in the general case, are joyful or capable of producing happiness, and it seems like the pro-reproducing crowd keep hammering home this point as if the OP hadn't considered that already, or if that hadn't occurred to him...I wouldn't say the OP is outsourcing the question as much as he wants as many additional considerations as possible - which I can completely relate to, being of the sort who wants as much input as possible for decision-making.

I reject the thought that to become the best person you could possibly be, you have to be a parent, that to understand love you have to be a parent, to understand what it means to be an adult you have to be a parent.

Some social polls have been conducted that say parents' happiness is overall less than those of people who don't have kids, or that at minimum it has no effect on overall happiness. It does seem like "more effort, more worries, more conflicts, more people to consider" is a bad bet on happiness, if you are the kind of people who appreciate low-stress, low-obligation lifestyle. Also, I suspect some parents just say these things to console themselves at their restrictions on free time and money and to make the childless feel like have-nots.
posted by MeFiMouse at 6:20 PM on January 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

I honestly didn't read your entire question because I think whether to have a child or not is kind of the same for most people, as much as we feel like snowflakes:

Kids are hard. Even "normal" ones. Your life will be more tiring and boring, with less of the things you currently think of as rewards.

You have no control of what kind of kid you get. Even if your child is born "healthy and normal", she can become disabled, or turn into an asshole, or die. This is a really big thing.

Having a child gives meaning to life in a way that as far as I can tell, nothing else does. You will not have more fun or ease, but you will have more meaning and depth. For me, having a child is what made me an adult, able to tolerate discomfort, adapt to different situations, grow as a person.

I don't think anyone on their death bed ever said, "I wish I never had kids".
posted by latkes at 8:23 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Put me in the camp of people who applauds you for being so honest with yourself. I think many people become parents because they feel obligated, or they want to relive their childhoods, or the child is a surrogate for something, or simply because it just happened and they went along with it and then they find out afterwards it was a terrible idea.

As others have pointed out, having a kid so someone will take care of you, take over the house when you die, and because materially you feel you can provide are not, in of themselves, good reasons to have a kid. Especially the first two, because for all you know the kid will grow up to hate you and want to spend their life in a yurt. Using an anticipated behavior from your child as a reason to have a kid is like, the worst idea. It's like marrying a perfect stranger and your reasoning for it is you want someone to cook for you. For all you know they burn everything they make!

However, it's fairly likely that if you had a child, even a disabled child, you would probably love the hell out of them and find a million ways to delight in their existence and feel like you would do anything for them. I say this just because this happens to many parents, whether they wanted the kid or not. But even if you love the kid that doesn't mean you'd be happier, and it doesn't mean you may not regret it.

An anecdote: I once worked for a woman who had a child with her husband because they felt they were in a good position to do so and her parents wanted it. The couple deeply regretted their decision. Their kid was amazing--I met her when she was three and she was so, so smart, so clever, she spoke and read in multiple languages, she was happy, she was empathetic, she was perceptive, she had a very fun personality, but she was still a kid and carried with her all the messes and random disasters and sleep deprivation and lack of freedom that entailed. They missed being able to go out. They missed being able to travel. The mom ran a small business from home and her dreams of expansion were severely hindered by the time commitment of taking care of the child. I don't know whether they didn't anticipate the effect a child would have on their lives or whether they assumed they wouldn't care once she arrived, but whatever the case the mom told me if she could do it over again she wouldn't have the kid. Don't get me wrong: they fiercely loved their girl and were completely committed to her happiness and well-being. But to them, the sacrifice of their lives was not worth it.

I say all that because there seem to be a lot of parallels between you and that couple. So that is something to consider.
posted by schroedinger at 11:50 PM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

I think your terror is pretty normal and I don't judge you for it; infants are intimidating as all get-out because they're smarter and more adorable than we are and they have magic, which we don't - so as adult humans we're pretty freaked out when we've made an infant and it's handed to us and it's "there you go - have a nice life." Cue cold sweat and trembling uncertainty. But those who have children know this doesn't last very long, mostly because parenting doesn't leave enough time for a person to wallow in anxiety and fear for more than five minutes at a time.

Every parent worries off and on about the possibility of having a child with a disability or an illness or an injury or something; if there's nothing obvious to worry about, that doesn't matter - you'll come up with something. It's an ongoing thing, part of the process, nothing to fret over - your body and brain get used to it.

And I suppose to some degree everyone worries about the impact a child will have on their fun and routine and job and home life and travel and relationships and finances; that worry evaporates immediately upon the birth of the child because whatever impact there's going to be IS, so there's no point in worrying about it now. And you find yourself bragging about the accomplishments of this tiny infant instead of your own - "Wow! Did you hear that burp?" is just the beginning. There's no way to describe the good stuff about having kids because there's so much of it it simply can't be done. But kids, like puppies, grow up, and every one of them has some rough ground to cover in the process - they need a guide, someone they can trust absolutely, and that's where you come into your own. You'll have to do the best you can, and you will do just fine. IF you decide to go ahead with having a child.

I can run over the same ground everyone else has here - there are so many good points to consider in these comments - but the one that just keeps hitting me between the eyes is

what does your wife feel about having a child?

This is the #1 most important point that we know nothing about. All the comments here - mine included - are just dust motes on the wind compared to the weight of your wife's opinion on the matter. If she's in the exact same spot you're in, then I'd say you're both just having the usual case of nerves which would be expected for a couple who've dumped the contraception. It's important that you're on the same page here, though, and if you're not you should probably get some counseling with regard to the fears and uncertainties you're dealing with before you "fire your gun."

As for the "hell" of the first two or three years - or however you expressed it above - that's of minimal concern, really. See, the baby steals your heart immediately - seriously, you just get all weird and start singing songs and babbling and cooing and making faces and squealing with delight when the baby smiles at you and stuff like that. It is hard trying to get enough sleep with a newborn who has to eat every three hours, but there are two of you and you can even hire someone to help for awhile if necessary. If you're financially comfortable, that's going to make a lot of difference for you and the baby.

If you're both up for it, just do it. Everything falls into place by itself - how else do you think good kids keep popping up all over the place? And they do - oh, yes they do.
posted by aryma at 2:17 AM on January 31, 2015 [4 favorites]

I agree with aryma-- what does your wife want here? Go with that. I say this is not a perfectly split so-called "50/50 choice" for you and your wife at all actually-- she gets the deciding vote! This future pregnancy will be happening in her body. If she feels she needs to get pregnant right now, go for it. Take that leap of faith with her. Support her fully. Since she is in her 30s she only has about a decade of fertility left, tops. Do this for her.

Agree with others who have said you are waaaay overthinking this. Which is understandable, but don't let the fear paralyze you. You sound super risk averse. Look, most people -- seriously the far and away majority--in this day and age have healthy kids. Most people do not regret their children. And the good news for you is the happiest hetero parents of all are the dads. Seriously, the most zeitgeisty parenting advice books right now are all telling moms to relax more and act like typical dads! Man, if I could be the dad in my hetero marriage with kids, I'd be thrilled. Good luck, OP, I, too, applaud the balls it took to ask this question.
posted by hush at 10:13 AM on January 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

I really appreciate your honesty in your post. You've been totally neutral and not tried to dress it up one way or another.

Not that you need a 130th opinion at this point, the answers seem to have a pretty clear pattern. The line I keep coming back to is –

"while we're comfortable, we've realized that if we don't reproduce, this is literally all there is to our lives, for as long as they last. Despite our privilege, this thought is not appealing, either."

I think this sums everything up. Life will probably get boring. Having a kid might be a distraction. It might also go terribly wrong.
posted by stackhaus23 at 7:06 AM on February 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've been thinking that if we were rich enough to afford a 24/7 nanny who lived with us, and therefore outsource much of the shitty bits of raising a kid, I think it would be a no-brainer. This sort of reinforces the notion that a lot of our hesitation is about the loss of a comfortable life.

Some would disagree with me, but in my opinion these shitty parts of raising a child are also the most important parts of raising a child. Getting help is a good idea — sometimes necessary even — but outsourcing all this altogether seems, to me, an unwise idea.

Also you have no way of knowing how you or your wife will respond emotionally to the presence of a child in your life. It's so absolutely disruptive — emotionally, mentally, physically — that it's virtually impossible to plan for.

Let me put it this way: the first time I held my child in my arms, I understood how heroin addicts must feel each time they plunge the needle in their veins. It was this overwhelming, all encompassing feeling of happiness. Even now, with a 3 year old son who is sometimes very, very trying, I still love being around him and spending time with him and doing many of the "shitty" bits you wish to avoid.

I would agree with others that the way you talk about children is not the way that people who are going to become parents talk about children. You talk about children almost like things to have. Children are not things to have; they are transformative catalysts who require you to basically change the person you are. You will still be you — you will still want to do many of the things you do now, you will still have much of your existing personality — but you will be a parent, first and foremost.

I would allay your concerns about growing old without children by saying I know many people who are childless and still not alone. Their trick is they have cultivated meaningful relationships with others: loving, reciprocally caring relationships of mutual support and interdependence.

Also, you know, if you are, as you appear, in very good economic shape, you will save a buttload of money not having a child. You can save that money and put it into any number of investments that will ensure that you will be well cared for , even if the people caring for you do not actually love you. It's just as possible that your offspring won't love you either, especially if your ambivalence lasts past their birth.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:44 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is my last point, I promise.

Oooh celtalitha raises an excellent point about how your wife feels about this. You are looking on children with dread, she wants them. If she didn't want them, she would not go off her birth control. Metaphorically, you have a loaded gun; she has a suicide vest. Although the risks are smaller than they were in the past, she still is literally putting her life (and definitely her health) at risk by allowing herself to be pregnant.

I hate to bring up the word "divorce" but if your wife is set on having a child and you are set against, going ahead and having a child when you really don't want to have one is going to really mess things up.

Having a kid changes not just your lives, schedules, environment, etc. It also will affect your relationship.

You can end the marriage, or you can figure out a way for one of you to be okay with the way things are going to be.

I recommend spending some time around young kids. Do you have relatives living nearby with infants or toddlers? You could offer to give them a night off and watch the child — doing the very shitty bits you are leery of. Because even with a nanny, so much of raising a kid is the shitty bits sandwiched between wonderful bits.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:10 PM on February 2, 2015

It's also worth noting, perhaps, that it is far far better to regret not having children than to have children and regret it--those attitudes will come out in your parenting. Not having children leaves open the options of adopting, becoming a godparent, being actual or honorary aunt&uncle, etc.

Have kids and you've got 'em.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:20 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

Somehow I missed the fact that your wife really wants kids and you are in your early thirties. In that case, your choices are to either have kids, or get a divorce to let her find someone else to have kids with. It would be morally reprehensible to try to talk her out of babies that she wants just so that your life would be a little calmer.
posted by corb at 3:49 PM on February 2, 2015 [1 favorite]

OP, I wanted to thank you for asking this question (and thank the several responses that didn't outright scold you). I am in a somewhat similar place (though I'm the woman in my hetero relationship) and have very similar concerns. Reading all of the answers (even the ones that just scolded you--which were the majority) helped me with some of the things I've been struggling to decide.

The one thing I'd like to rebut is the idea that you aren't taking your wife's thoughts/feelings into consideration enough/at all. I DO see consideration for your wife all over this question, specifically the concern for outsourcing for 24/7 childcare for the "shitty bits." Because, honestly, I feel like a lot of hetero cis men do not concern themselves with--nor are they expected to--this part of child rearing. That's because in many cases, the man's share of "shitty bits" DO already get outsourced. To his wife. The fact that this is part of your calculation at all means that you are seeing your wife as an equal partner in your marriage and potential child-rearing. In the last century, a lot of Western society has gone from the idea that parenting is just generally keeping your kid alive and thriving to 100% involvement, 100% of the time--AND without paid or readily available free societal support. (AND again, this mostly falls on the woman, who also is expected now to work full time outside the home. The system isn't broken, it's fixed, etc. . .)

I do not think you are a ghoul to balk at this level of demand. I think you are to be commended for wanting to arrange for the happiest possible marriage for yourself in which to raise children. I think you have your wife's best interests at heart. I hope this post has given you as much food for thought as it has given me.
posted by tyrantkitty at 10:30 AM on February 6, 2015 [4 favorites]

Don't have kids! What you have laid out sounds extremely selfish and I advise you to find other solutions to your wants.

You said you want the joy that comes from sharing your life with a well-behaved, purebred individual - so get a pedigree cat/dog or three and put your energy into that. You will get a lot of happiness without the major commitment of having children. And if you decide that you miss your freedom after a few years of having pets, you can simply decide not to bring new pets into your family.

You want a legacy - start a charitable foundation in your name for a cause you care about and make the house you live in its headquarters. The foundation will exist after you are gone and the house will be maintained beyond your lifespan.

You want a caretaker/"friend" when you are old - nurture friendships with young and old now, invest in your health so you'll stay fit for a long time, put aside money for professional care services. Again, wanting children so they can keep you company once you are old is selfish and nothing you should bank on.

Now, you said you wanted fresh input. I didn't read any of the other answers yet and maybe I'll just repeat what was said many times over, but here goes:

Consider the environmental aspect.

Read the last IPCC report so you know what kind of changes are highly likely to occur within OUR lifetime and respectively in the lifetime of the next generation. Studies show that the planet is overpopulated already, to reach sustainable levels population would need to be reduced by 1/3. As a European, your ecological footprint is not as giant as that of Americans, but it is way bigger than most people's on this planet. To give you an idea, your footprint is likely ~100 times bigger than that of an average Ethiopian, and more than 6 times bigger than that of an average Indian.

As a white, middle-class European you use up a lot of stuff and a lot of space. Having a child will multiply your carbon sins. According to this American study, not having one child has a 20 times greater positive impact on the climate than adopting an eco-friendly lifestyle for your entire lifetime. It also notes that having a child in the U.S. has a more than 160 times bigger negative impact on the environment than having a child in Bangladesh. As a European you are much closer to the average American than to the Bangladeshi.

Choosing not to have kids is by far the best thing we can do to limit the size of our environmental footprint. And it doesn't sound like it would be a sacrifice for you. Embrace that.
posted by travelwithcats at 6:29 AM on February 8, 2015 [2 favorites]

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