Do people regret having kids?
June 5, 2018 9:00 AM   Subscribe

Partner and I are trying for a baby but I'm finding myself very ambivalent about it still. I don't know if that's down to laziness and fear, essentially, or if my gut is saying "don't do this". So many people say you'll be glad when it's here but is that always true?

I'm worried that down the line I'll be one of those rare parents who regrets having kids but obviously it's too late then. But I've never heard anyone I know say they actually regret it. Is that because no one really does (or like a tiny fraction) or because no one will say it out loud?

We have a fantastic relationship, good jobs, a nice house, basically all the boxes are ticked. The main thing that puts me off is he is a lot older and I'm early 40s so even if I manage to get pregnant I'm worried that the child may have additional needs (that's not to be offensive to those who do, or whose children do, but it's a genuine consideration), and also that even if everything is fine I'll be setting a child/children up for grief before they're adults possibly. Those are the "legitimate" reasons to be wary. But really, it's also because I really love our life as it is. I love the peace and quiet in our house, lazy mornings, being able to do what we want, and just really enjoying our time together. I worry that a child will disrupt that past a point I will be happy with, and unlike my friends who will have their children grownup and left the nest leaving them a long happy retirement with their partners (all ideal world stuff I know but in theory), I might just about have got mine to their late teens before I'm widowed (worst case scenario here.) I'm worried it would feel like a waste of the time we have together to spend it in the drudgery of child rearing (sorry parents!) but the other side of that is I think we'd be great parents and have great kids and I'd love to have a family with him and all that entails and have part of him left when he's gone. But then that's selfish too, right? If we had met when we were both 20 I've no doubt we'd have had lots of kids and a big bustling family life but life didn't work out that way (to be fair I was only born when he was 20 so I blame my parents). As it stands maybe it's better just to accept we missed the boat? What if I have a baby and resent it coming between us because I really do adore spending all my time with him.

Despite all that we decided a few months ago to try, I took all the vitamins, stopped birth control etc, and it didn't happen first cycle, not surprisingly. Now I'm thinking maybe that's a good thing? Maybe quit while I'm ahead, like oh well we tried...

I feel like on the baby forums I read everyone is crazy desperate to have a baby and are crushed with disappointment every month it doesn't happen, and I'm more like cool we get to go on a trip next month and drink wine, so I don't really belong there.

So basically, will all these worries just go away if it happens and the kid arrives? Will I just take one look at them and fall in love and it'll all be worth it and all that stuff? Or will I just have consigned myself to a lifetime of work and anxiety and a longing for my old life when it was just us? If I'm even still thinking all this should I stop trying until I'm sure?
posted by socksually active to Human Relations (103 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
Will I just take one look at them and fall in love and it'll all be worth it and all that stuff?

Or will I just have consigned myself to a lifetime of work and anxiety and a longing for my old life when it was just us?

I think most people who have kids would kind of like to have a parallel universe life without them that they could just slip into from time to time (or even most of the time). Most parents would say that while they'd love to have the freedom they had before, they wouldn't change things if they could. The emotional attachment you develop makes it that way.

The reasons you give for wanting children all sound like they're about other things than a simple desire to have children, though.
posted by pipeski at 9:12 AM on June 5, 2018 [36 favorites]

Please leave your delicious life as it is. The friends who pester you with “ Oh, you’ll never regret it, blahblahblah” are not clairvoyant, and are likely wanting company for their own boredom and misery.

And the possibility of a special needs birth? That’s a distinct probability at your ages. Are you ready for that kind of heartbreak?

If it ain’t broke, don’t “fix it” until it is....leave well enough alone!
posted by BostonTerrier at 9:12 AM on June 5, 2018 [82 favorites]

Do not judge humanity by the baby forums. They are overrun by mass hysteria. I'm not saying you should or shouldn't get pregnant, just that you shouldn't use them as a yardstick for what "most women want."
posted by praemunire at 9:14 AM on June 5, 2018 [33 favorites]

Do people regret having kids?

Yes, some do.

So many people say you'll be glad when it's here but is that always true?


Is that because no one really does (or like a tiny fraction) or because no one will say it out loud?

The latter. It is taboo to not want kids. It is beyond taboo to regret the kids you have.

Those are the "legitimate" reasons to be wary. But really, it's also because I really love our life as it is.

That is a legitimate reason. No reason at all is a legitimate reason!

So basically, will all these worries just go away if it happens and the kid arrives? Will I just take one look at them and fall in love and it'll all be worth it and all that stuff? Or will I just have consigned myself to a lifetime of work and anxiety and a longing for my old life when it was just us?

Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe a combination of yeses and nos. Maybe the answers would change from year to year as the child grew up. Even if every other parent gave the exact same answers to your questions, there's no way of knowing your future feelings.

If I'm even still thinking all this should I stop trying until I'm sure?

This is something to discuss openly and honestly with your partner.

But please don't have a child if you don't want a child.
posted by headnsouth at 9:15 AM on June 5, 2018 [46 favorites]

I can't give you the perspective of a parent, but I can tell you that my partner and I have considered all these factors as well and decided not to have children. (Our situation is of course not identical, but fairly similar.) I don't expect to regret this decision, not having ever had a very strong drive to reproduce. If you also decide against children, you won't be alone, and it's not an immoral choice.

I do think we would be great parents, but that doesn't mean we owe it to our hypothetical offspring to do it. We have a lot of friends who are currently having kids. I think we'll make just as good a contribution to society by supporting them as we would by having our own children.
posted by daisyk at 9:18 AM on June 5, 2018 [19 favorites]

You can't predict whether a child will be angry with you for being born to one parent already in his sixties. it is a fact that some children in that circumstance are and some aren't. That isn't a reason to rule it out, so long as a resentful child whose grievances can't be dismissed as mere ingratitude is a possibility you're prepared for.

A lot of people consider the time when you and your parents -- or you and your children -- can be adults together, the period of equal freedom and comradeship before the return to dependence, to be the reward that pays for the worst struggles and conflicts of childhood. A child will probably have this with you, probably not with your partner.

The possibility of a child with longer-lasting or more expensive needs than you can provide for and who will outlive you for has to be thought out; you can't fall back on hoping for the best. This isn't just because of statistics and your partner's age, or your own to a lesser extent; potential parents of any age and economic circumstance have to have a plan in mind for what they'll do if they have a child who will never be independently self-supporting. (My mother was your age when she started having children and she took this very seriously, as was appropriate. But she also always wanted children and never had to convince herself.) If you can come up with a likely plan and also find a strong desire within yourself, do it.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:23 AM on June 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Baby forums are chaos. I can't read them; too much noise and seemingly panic info.

Pipeski's reply for the win - the parallel universe life concept; umm; IDK; taking turns drinking heavily once a month? j/k
posted by Afghan Stan at 9:23 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Something to think about is your own personality and your own feelings around big decisions. In the past, have you had these feelings of doubt around things that you ended up enjoying? Like, are you the sort of person who spends the week before a vacation dreading the whole thing, and then goes and has a great time? Or are you someone with more straightforward feelings, who looks forward to the things they end up liking and only dreads the things they end up hating?

Because I think it is both really common to regret having kids and also really common to fear parenthood but end up loving it. And it takes a certain amount of self-knowledge to figure out which camp you're likely to be in.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:24 AM on June 5, 2018 [32 favorites]

So basically, will all these worries just go away if it happens and the kid arrives?
No, but once you're pretty pregnant, your choice will have been removed, so you won't be sitting in the existential angst of whether you like it or not, you'll be doing the thing.

Will I just take one look at them and fall in love and it'll all be worth it and all that stuff?
Biology is overall pretty good at facilitating this, but there are exceptions. I feel like my own mother was actually somewhat of an exception to this. She certainly took care of us and loved us in her own way but she hated adolescents with the passion of a fiery sun, and actually hated a lot of things. I am still okay being here but I have to tell you it's not a perfect process. Also I held my babies, fed them, delighted in them but I hate the baby stage...luckily for me it is easier to do right by babies than adolescents.

So...the question is not will you FEEL love or will it be worth it to you, the question is, are you prepared to be the best parent you can be regardless. If the answer is yes, proceed. If not, maybe pause here for a while. Note that the best parent you can be is not a line of perfection, it is literally the trying hard. But parenting is a relationship, and a service to others. Good feelings come out of this but it's not really (at least not for me) a whole lot of a natural high once the new-baby hormones fade.

I can guarantee that if what you value is peace and quiet, a single child may leave this possible some of the time, but children are not inherently peaceful or quiet.

Or will I just have consigned myself to a lifetime of work and anxiety and a longing for my old life when it was just us?
It's possible. I think a lot of parents have nostalgia for that, especially the ones who had their kids later. I occasionally do but mostly I have just gone with my choices and I adore my kids and my time with them...but it is anything but quiet weekends and sleeping in. Thanks to my kids' activities I actually have to be out of the house earlier on Saturday than any day of the week, and I spend about 2 hours on Sunday driving to various things, but it's not all in one shot so if I get up at 7:30, the longest period of time I have at my house is 2.25 hours, up until 6 pm.

I feel required to say, for me yes, that's just fine. But it's not peaceful!

If I'm even still thinking all this should I stop trying until I'm sure?
I think this requires a lot of self awareness. In past life choices, have you had a point where you knew your desire overrode your doubts? It should be like that.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:25 AM on June 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

Oh, your questions are hard ones! Will kids disrupt your peaceful life? Absolutely and entirely. Will there be moments that you hate the drudgery and noise and chaos if you have kids? Undoubtedly, and likely, daily. I think those are real things that you'd have to reason through with yourself if you decide to go the route of parenthood. Personally, I think that parenting is like a great magnifying glass... it amplifies nearly everything. If you have tendencies for impatience or selfishness, those will suddenly seem enormous. If your marriage has challenges, those will probably exacerbate. If you have a tendency to be wowed by beauty and joy and transcendence, your cup will suddenly overflow. Where your marriage is loving and supportive, you'll find yet deeper wells of caring. It's all just bigger with kids. Thanks to my three kiddos, I've felt rage that I didn't think I was capable of, but I've also felt more joy and awe than I thought possible in life. I am not a person who likes conflict or chaos, and metaphorical roller coasters are not my thing. I absolutely miss simpler times with my husband, but I also just couldn't imagine life without my kids now.
posted by hessie at 9:25 AM on June 5, 2018 [20 favorites]

I am a woman who has actively chosen not to have bio kids. I know it isn't something I want to do. I love people, I love kids, but god damn it I have zero desire to grow one myself and have it tear its way out of my vagina. I have had people call me a "failed woman", I have had people call me "selfish", I have had MANY people say "Oh, you'll change your mind"...

... but I have also had people call me "brave" and quietly tell me that they wish they had stuck to their guns when they felt as I do. I have had people tell me that they admire me for knowing what is right for me and honouring it.

I think there are likely lots of people who sincerely regret having kids. That doesn't mean they are bad parents or that they don't love their kids. Just that if they had a time machine they wouldn't choose to have kids again. I also think all parents at some point deeply regret having kids.

As for whether you specifically should have kids... personally, I feel like if it isn't a "HELL YES I WANT KIDS!" it might be a no. You know what's right for you. Take some time to really reflect and decide if you want to have kids or not. Weigh the potential risks/costs and benefits. Going old-school and doing a paper pros/cons list could help, especially if you give each of the pros/cons an "importance" rating. When you add up the values see which one comes out on top. If you are content to accept the result, that is your answer. If you find yourself wanting to fudge the numbers in order to get a different result, then that is your answer too.

good luck.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:26 AM on June 5, 2018 [38 favorites]

The “you will fall in love with them if they’re yours” is an overarching cultural myth. This is not a universal truth, and shouldn’t be counted on. It happens. It is a thing, but t is not universal.

I know several people who regret having kids, despite being good parents. In fact, written about my struggles as an ambivalent parent over on the blue before (AMA). I’m not naturally a good parent, but we manage, and all will survive and thrive (with much therapy).

Do what you want, but don’t count on ambivalence being eliminated upon birth.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

Yes, there are people who regret having children. There are also people who regret not having children. The latter can be talked about; the former, as said, is a strong taboo. But it's a thing that happens.

You need reasons to have a child (or try for one). You don't need reasons not to have them. Not actively wanting children is all the reason you need. After all, it would have a big impact on your life.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

I regret that I was older and he is only child and that I don't have a family for him to be a part of. It makes me very sad to realize that if and when something happens to me and/or my husband his holidays could be very bleak.

If I had a nieces and nephews or a close sibling I would feel differently.

He isn't completely typical and he has issues socially. I think people can be happy if they are rich or poor, smart or dumb, ugly or good looking - but a lonely life is the saddest thing. I hope I didn't set him up for a lonely life with parents that aren't around a long time.

He's the most amazing thing that has every happened to me and was very wanted. I am thrilled and worried, but I guess that is lots of parenting.
posted by ReluctantViking at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

I am 42 and have chosen not to have children because a) I was ambivalent leaning to not keen, and b) was born at pretty much the only time in history in which that choice was available to me as a working class women. I like being part of a new social experiment.

I also like having freedom, and that includes the freedom to regret, but I also think it's a lower-risk regret, that (if it happens at all) will be fleeting and manageable. But that's true of any choice. I feel that profound regret is only possible when an action is taken through fear, coercion or circumstances beyond your control. If you'd simply prefer not, then...don't. It's ok to be happy with what you have.
posted by freya_lamb at 9:27 AM on June 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

I know several people who have told me flat out they regret having kids, and hated it. So, having a baby and immediately falling in love with the baby/lifestyle is not a given.

There is no way to know the future here. It's a risk either way - life is a series of choices, and some choices, such as having kids, can never be undone when made.

I totally get where you are coming from. My husband and I were on the fence for a long time. We accidentally got pregnant (I'm actually due in a matter of days now), and we've just decided to go with it, as we have a decent life and can support this baby. My advice to you is to honestly weigh the pro/cons and see what you can live with. Lots of us aren't "hell yes" or "hell no" on kids, we're somewhere in the middle.
posted by FireFountain at 9:28 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I have kids. I do not regret them one bit. I mean, not even a little bit. But I only understand now why some people DON'T want to have kids. I have no lazy mornings. I still get up in the middle of the night, most nights. I do not have much disposable income. Or a tidy house. Or much free time. I am filled with all sorts of shoulds/social norms/anxieties that I did not have before. I still have a great relationship with my husband but it is very different than before we had kids. Kids are really really hard, and there's a lot of talk about it being harder now than it was before, but I think it was always hard and is supposed to be.

Not sure what advice I'm offering but I think the answer probably is -- yes your life will be worse and yes it will be better. Hard to know how the balance will tip for you.

Also, mumsnet, a UK forum, has some surprisingly frank discussions of mothers on regretting kids -- I recommend reading them!
posted by heavenknows at 9:28 AM on June 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

I can tell you straight up I have friends who had kids and have said to me privately that they really wish they hadn't. Now I don't have children myself, so it's possible they were trying to make me feel better or something (although I never expressed a desire to have kids), but I can't fathom why they'd say that if it weren't true. So if you're asking "Do people regret it," then yes, they certainly do, and yes, it's definitely taboo to say that, which I would bet is why you don't hear it more often.

More anecdata: I never wanted children (as in, knew by about the age of seven that I didn't want kids), and when I met my husband, he wanted them so we tried, complete with visits to a reproductive endocrinologist. Long story short, we never did have kids, and not only am I fine with it, but when I hear what other parents have to deal with, I'm really glad I couldn't get pregnant and I know we made the right decision for us. I think if I could have given birth to a full-grown adult, I wouldn't mind having an adult daughter, but you know, pesky biology.

Totally agree with praemuire that you should avoid the baby forums. I always feel like I come from a different planet when I read those types of things.
posted by holborne at 9:29 AM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

You raise the possibility of a special needs child. This is not just about being disappointed that they aren't how you imagined. It's so much about the level of anxiety and worry you can tolerate for the future. How will you feel if you have a special needs child who won't be able to live independently, and if your partner passes away? People act as if your child will be following an ideal narrative of care: dependent on you fully for ten years, partially for another eight years, and then independent. To have kids, you need to truly embrace the range of ways your life could change.
I highly recommend reading all or part of Andrew Solomon's Far From the Tree
to balance the baby forums. It is very compassionate and certainly the parents love their children, but you get a side of life that is just as much human reality as fierce mommy goddess lore, and very common, and should be on the table.
posted by nantucket at 9:31 AM on June 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

Maybe this will be enlightening:
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:34 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

We had a kid over 20 years ago. Back then, when people asked me how I liked being a father, I always said that being a father was way too much work for me to like it. But, I went on to say, I really liked my daughter. That's still my reaction in a very simplistic form.

Sometimes the responsibility has felt crushing, to the point that I've caught myself wishing to be alone so that the cost of whatever failures I suffer wouldn't be so great. And I really hate feeling like I have to act like an adult. I would've traveled more, quit more jobs without a kid.

But I was the parent-in-charge (an expression my wife and I use) when my daughter learned to ride a bike and I've never been happier than I was then. Many years later I taught her to drive. Glad we're still friends. and regret.
posted by kingless at 9:35 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I know one couple, in particular, who really really regret having a child. Its not that they don't love her at all, but I have heard the parents say, for example, that they wish she was their niece, not their daughter. (Not in her hearing, I should make clear.) And on paper they are definitely good/great parents- the extra-curricular stuff and the treats and the days out, as well as the basics, but- and maybe this is just because we know- i'm pretty sure that kid feels that there is something else going on under the surface.

And they are only in their early thirties and they talk a lot to other people about 'when they get out' and how they can live again once she's 18 and gone and they'll only be late forties. I left home at 18 years old and my mum turned 60 the same year- so its an entirely different prospect, if it turns out you really don't like it.
posted by threetwentytwo at 9:38 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Even the most love-besotted parent will have thoughts of regret pass through their minds when, functioning on only an hour of sleep, they're trying to calm an inconsolable infant, screaming its head off at 3:00am.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:41 AM on June 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've met two people who have said in my hearing that they regret having kids (not in the hearing of the kids). Neither struck me as a bad parent - one seems like an extra-good parent, actually - but it's possible to be a smart, competent, caring and decent person who has kids and regrets it. In both cases, I think the regret was for just the things you're worried about - time with partner, time alone, quiet, time to do scholarly or volunteer or arts work.

To be honest, if you're having the doubts you're talking about, I think it would be legit to stop trying. Those seem like big, big doubts to me, and I think your worries are realistic.
posted by Frowner at 9:44 AM on June 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

I was pretty ambivalant about having a kid and I'm not always a great parent. That is not a humble-brag.

It's such a hard question to answer because...well I feel about my kid the way I feel about air. I can't live without it, but I don't yearn for it because it's always around. There are plenty of things I miss about my life pre-child but I can't really imagine what my life would be without him. Not in a dreamy-romantic "I love motherhood" way but all the variables changed once he was born.

To me it's like imagining what it's like to be super rich and famous. I can see what famous people do, and what their lives are like, but how could I possibly ever really know?

Good luck, whatever you decide.
posted by lyssabee at 9:49 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I know two women who've said that they regret having kids. I myself do not have kids, so I might be considered a "safe" audience for this conversation. One of them is a great mom and has a wonderful relationship with her kid. The other is a terrible mom and has a strained relationship with her kid. I suspect that this is the kind of thing that can go multiple ways, depending on how keenly you feel the regret and what you do about it.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:52 AM on June 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I am childfree by choice and let me tell you - the standard I apply is that if it's not "FUCK YES" then it's "FUCK NO."

I realize not everyone has to be that enthusiastic about everything, but having kids will radically change your life. If you're not 100% down for that, then I don't think you should do it. I wouldn't get a dog or move my life to another city or get married at a lesser standard than "FUCK YES" so why would I have a kid at that lesser standard?
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:54 AM on June 5, 2018 [46 favorites]

I think most people who have kids would kind of like to have a parallel universe life without them that they could just slip into from time to time

I think honestly - realtalk - what I would say is that if you have the financial ability to have kids with the support that you need to stay sane, most people don’t regret it - what people tend to regret is not having the financial ability to deal with the chaos. Like - I had a baby I initially didn’t want pre-notification and it was awesome and amazeballs despite being a single parent BUT I also had a super robust support structure and childcare structure so if I wanted to take a weekend off and go to another city, I totally could at the drop of a hat, which made a /huge/ difference for me and I think is actually key to the fact that I don’t resent my kidlet even a little - because I was still able to have awesome amazing experiences.

Will you have respite care? Can you pay for childcare? What about a cleaning person? These things matter when making choices if you’re not desperate for it.
posted by corb at 9:58 AM on June 5, 2018 [32 favorites]

I have a friend who admitted (very quietly) that she regretted having a kid. She missed her pre-kid life. She's a great mom and loves her kid but he can't help but have that feeling. It's not mutually exclusive.

The problem is no one feels safe admitting it. There are too many judgey people out there who will tell them they are terrible for having a legit feeling. These judgey people also seem to be the ones who insist an adult's life can never be complete until they have a kid, and that all good parents unconditionally love their children. Don't listen to the judgey people.
posted by joan_holloway at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

this is hard to get data on because (1) baby forums are just madhouses, don't listen to anything, anything at all you read there and (2) there is such a strong taboo around admitting regret of having children.

But the answer is yes obviously people can and do regret it. Not just when an infant is screaming - that's rough but it's temporary. But other common, longer term changes involve things like being poor; careers derailed; romantic relationships failing because one now comes second in spouse's affection; an enormous burden of societal expectations around child-rearing and stuff like school "involvement"; isolation due to the chilling effect on adult social lives... I could go on. Basically it is a series of liabilities for a couple of decades, justified only if you're lucky enough to be lit up by a love so strong and joyful that it makes it all worth it. Some parents get that lucky, but not everyone.

What happens later in life, I'm not sure of. From what I can see, for some people, their adult children and grandchildren save them from an otherwise crushingly lonely dotage and makes the earlier investment even more worth it. Others not so much.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:06 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

You’re getting good, thoughtful advice. I just want to state how physically taxing it is to have kids. I was in my late 20s when my kids were born. Now that they’re teenagers, and I’m in my mid-40s and starting to experience some significant health issues, I’ve found parenthood to be physically (and emotionally!) draining in new and unpleasant ways. Don’t neglect this physical reality as you and your spouse contemplate whether to have children.
posted by cheapskatebay at 10:07 AM on June 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I also want to say that you can't ever un-have a kid. But if you find you regret *not* having a kid after your fertility window passes, you can foster, adopt a needy child, etc. So the stakes of the regrets are of a different order.
posted by nantucket at 10:16 AM on June 5, 2018 [18 favorites]

My parents were 36 and 47 when I was born. I'm now an adult and they're still alive and mostly healthy. They're not the ideal choices for grandchild caregivers (older, less stamina, bad hearing, bad arthritis) but other than that, it was ok that they were older than most of my friends' parents.

A friend's father told him point-blank once, "I really love you and your siblings, but I wish I hadn't had kids". Knowing what I know about their family, I think a lot of his sentiment came from being in a dysfunctional marriage for decades, in a culture where divorce is frowned upon- so the dad feels trapped in the family/marriage, not specifically trapped by fatherhood (I mean at this point the kids are long moved out so I don't see how "fatherhood" even affects his daily life any more, whereas he still lives each day in a marriage of mutual dislike). Still, all 3 adult kids in that family are high-functioning and pretty happy, and the parents are visibly proud and enamoured of them. So in their case it turned out ok too.

I think in life we regret things we didn't do more than things we did do.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:17 AM on June 5, 2018

You and your spouse need a robust conflict resolution mechanism. It's hard to exaggerate the self-righteous feeling that used to come over me when (I thought) I was arguing for the good of our daughter.
posted by kingless at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I can report that I have feelings of both gratitude and regret about having had my children, and they are still very young. Sometimes the feelings are strong, sometimes they are even simultaneous. I would bet a lot of parents feel that way - feelings constantly dynamic and changing. It's not a solid state. Still, despite the regret, I don't think that means for me anyway that I am sure that if I had to do it all over again, I would choose differently and moreover be certain that I wouldn't be consumed with similar regret about NOT having children. I personally don't think it's particularly helpful or healthy to give the word "regret" so much power. I mourn the doors that closed, but that is true of a lot of doors in my life and that is just inevitable as you keep walking down ANY path.

And baby forums are terrible, unless you join us in our Metafilter pregnancy / parenting group which is full of people who have highs and lows and struggles and joys and ambivalence about all kinds of things related to having children and the toll it takes on your life / your sanity / your body / your career / your finances / your relationship / your identity, memail to join us, we are pretty level-headed, thoughtful, honest, and no one is gushing about gender-reveal cakes or using silly acronyms or "Luv Being Mommies 4eva."
posted by sestaaak at 10:20 AM on June 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

The baby forums are for people who want to do nothing but squee about babies. I didn't connect with those folks at all, even though I do actually enjoy talking about kids and parenthood with the regular folks in my life. They're not representative at all.

This question has come up on the green before; if you search my comment history with the word "regret" you'll come upon a few. Because, yeah, there's stuff I regret about having a kid. There's probably things I'd regret about choosing to remain childfree, but I can't go back through that door to confirm. Because it's not something that can be undone, it's not something I find much value in ruminating on, though, and that may be what you see out in the world when you see happy parents admiring their adorable children.

I think there's some value to going into parenthood ambivalent, though. I've known a couple of people who had elaborate ideas of the wonders of parenthood that really got crushed down by the reality, and are not great parents because they can't handle the cognitive dissonance. I knew there'd be hard bits, and turned out to have a reasonably accurate sense of where those hard bits would be, so I can spend more time being pleasantly surprised by small delightful things that happen.

As for your relationship--think of it like travel to someplace that's pretty foreign, together. There are stressful bits and exciting bits, and experiencing all that together kind of speeds up the level of entanglement and understanding. I know a lot more about my partner now than I would otherwise. I would talk to them about your feelings, and theirs, to make sure you're in it together either way. I don't think either choice is wrong.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:23 AM on June 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

You might find this earlier post and discussion from the blue relevant; there were a lot of frank discussions there and good links to additional info. (Here's my answer from that thread)
posted by stellaluna at 10:25 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might find this string helpful - I asked this very question a couple of years ago and I can say that I received some helpful advice.

I have chosen NOT to have kids. That was already the choice I had made in my heart, but it helped me a ton reading over these answers and seeing which ones I more readily agreed with.

Asking the question out loud helped me really solidify what it was that I had already been feeling... I still have no desire to have kids, the thought fills me with dread! That's not to say I don't like kids... I just don't want my own.

The worst part about choosing not to have kids is when people seem actively disappointed in my choice, as if it has anything to do with them, and then try to change my mind! That's very common and very annoying.
posted by JenThePro at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I've had several friends tell me that they regret having children and would not do it, if they had the choice to make again. Of course, these have mostly been people who are in the thick of rearing, say, 0-13-year-olds. Maybe in another 13 years they'll look back with hindsight after catching up on a decade of missed sleep and say, you know, that was actually pretty great after all, when all's said and done. I wouldn't say it's half the parents I know who've confided a variation of that, but - maybe a quarter? An eighth? Something like that; it's not a vanishing minority but also not by any means the majority.

Can't speak to the rest of it, but FWIW, there's the perspective you get as someone who knew early and without reservation that she would not be having kids: you become the safe repository for your friends' regrets, and you find out there are a lot more of them than you might have thought.
posted by Stacey at 10:28 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

"Baby forums" sound like a really biased sample of people who really want babies right away. Not a place to get unbiased advice.

I didn't fall in love with my kid at birth, it took me a couple of weeks until he started smiling and then I was truly smitten. I did not have the energy to have a second kid. That seemed inconceivable to me. No pun.

Whether you will be happy with kid(s) in your life really depends quite a bit on your personality, imo. Since I don't know you, but you do, try asking yourself -- How flexible are you? (Kids bring chaos.) Do you have a great sense of humor? (It helps.) And do you enjoy making other people happy? Watching your kid enjoy things seems to be the most gratifying part of parenting.

Parenting tends to bring higher highs, lower lows, and mountains of work and worry. If people are throwing chirpy platitudes at you, you are right to recognize that those platitudes contain quite a bit of bullshit.
posted by puddledork at 10:36 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

You don't sound ambivalent about wanting a kid, you sound like you definitely don't want one but are trying to talk yourself into it anyway. Your reasons against having a kid are concrete, detailed, and specific to you, while your reasons in favor of having one are abstract, vague, and generic. You envision childrearing as drudgery—why would you sign yourself up for decades of drudgery? You don't want a kid. Please allow yourself to be honest with yourself about that.

I am firmly of the opinion that only people who absolutely definitely want kids should have them. There's no biological need for everyone to reproduce—plenty of humans around, more all the time—and being an unwanted child is just about the most miserable and unjust existence that I can think of. Intentionally bringing a child into the world that is not wholeheartedly desired and wanted is—in my opinion—incredibly and inexcusably immoral. Having a kid just to see if maybe it changes your mind is just as bad, I mean what are you going to do if your mind isn't changed? Send it back?

No. If you aren't totally sure that a kid is what you want, don't have one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2018 [31 favorites]

My feeling is that a lot of people who "regret" having kids are ones who don't really consider the impact of having a child and then are surprised when their life changes significantly. It sounds like you are aware that a child will change things. :)

When we were expecting our child, I had so many people give me the jibes about "Last bit of sleep for years, har har har!" and "Guess you won't be going out again, haha!". I found it really annoying and it increased my anxiety quite a bit. But kids get easier. Yes, the first several months were busy, sleep was harder as the baby would need to feed in the night, but with every development things got a bit easier. We did sleep training and then she could go down much easier. Would sleep better through the night. When she could sit up she didn't need as much one-on-one and could entertain herself with you nearby. Relatives could babysit for a short periods after a few months and we could go for dinner or to a movie. When she started to crawl and walk she could play in the kitchen while I cooked, and I didn't have to be attending to her every minute.

To me, a lot of the, "Oh, be ready!" jibes didn't turn out to be as true, in my experience, and it feels like it gets a little easier every week.
posted by Nightman at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

This question comes back frequently with two typical answers which bring you no closer to making up your mind:

i. I was ambivalent before but since I have my little princess, I love her to pieces and she brings so much joy to my life. I couldn’t imagine my life without her.


ii. I’m childfree by choice and do not miss it at all. I have a fulfilling life, I travel, I have pets, and hobbies and friends, and I like being the cool aunt. I have no regret whatsoever.

I think you can be happy either way, and will not necessarily be better informed by the experience of others.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:57 AM on June 5, 2018 [18 favorites]

I want to say just to say: I don't have kids, and I celebrate it every day. It's awesome. I love kids; I live with kids; I loooooove not being responsible for them day in and day out.

The answer to your first two questions is: maybe! Maybe not!

I have known two people -- both women -- who were willing to say in intimate spaces that they regret having a child. Each of them has a great kid who is turning into a wonderful person. Both moms in question love their kid wholeheartedly, but the effect having kids had on their lives was not worth the cost, now that they're on the path.

So: that is a thing that can happen.
posted by spindrifter at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

How many things in life do you regret? If you've gotten to your early 40s with a limited number of regrets, I don't think you're going to start with the deep regrets now whatever you decide to do. On the other hand, if you are a person who holds onto specific turns in life and hold regrets, you're likely to have a complicated go of it whatever you decide. You sound very ambivalent - are you ambivalent in general and tend to see all sides of things, tend to resist change unless you are sure, or are you just ambivalent about this particular thing?

This is what I'll say:
- You're most likely hormonally predisposed to bond with your child, whether immediately or a bit later. For some it doesn't happen, but I think the bonding is the normal pathway.

- Parenting is hard work, and it can feel tough to get a break and it doesn't usually leave room for a lot of other thing - I don't miss all the other stuff I did, I do look forward to doing some of those things with my kid in the future, but it can feel full-on for sure. And it also goes by really fast, especially as an older parent. And there's nothing like it, so it cannot be compared to having pets or bonding with other peoples' kids. It just can't.

- Early genetic testing (cell free DNA testing, at 10-12 weeks) will help eliminate some of the primary risks for having a special needs child. Not all of them, and other stuff can happen at any time, who knows, but it's a great help and relief for those of us who are older.

- I may be wrong, but I think most of the people who actively or semi-actively regret having children didn't have material or emotional resources for them, or they like to complain. I think people who have regrets often feel overwhelmed financially and emotionally because they have multiple children. I also think the expression of regret is somewhat a cultural thing: two people can experience similar feelings and one will call it regret, another will call it ambivalence, another will call it another type of temporary bad feeling. My friend group includes nearly all older parents of singletons or, less common, 2 kids and I have never heard anyone express any of their negative feelings about parenting as regret. I don't think it's just that it's not PC to say it, I think they just don't experience their frustrations in the form of regret. I also hate when people bitch about their kids even more than I hate when people dote and brag about their kids, so I tend to avoid those people.

- All this comes from my bias: I am pro-only children, pro-older parenting, and pro-not-complaining-about-your-kids-or-your-life-in-general. I also have a reasonably easy, funny, smart, willful toddler who is generally not quite the person I expected but also from time to time offers magical moments that align with what I thought parenting might be like when I set out to do it. I was also quite sure I wanted a child, but was not sure until I was in my early 30s and not ready until my mid 30s, and in the end I had to work very hard to make it happen.
posted by vunder at 11:07 AM on June 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

The only people who should choose to have children are those who feel a burning, driving, consuming desire to have children. Anything less, and my answer to you is unequivocal: DON'T. Just live your life. Play aunt and uncle to your friends' kids. Be the village that helps raise their children. Don't have your own kids unless you feel like you will die of grief without them.

FWIW, I am a mother to two kids whom I absolutely love. What's more, over the past 3-4 years I have come to enjoy being their parent. I find it deeply rewarding to care for them, guide them, watch them grow. Right now this job is legitimately adding value to my life. I am an excellent parent, and I'm raising them with kindness and utmost care. We have a great relationship, for now.

But there is not a doubt in my mind that if I could go back in time, I would choose not to have these kids. A million times over. No decent parent can ever expect any "returns" from all this work and care and $$ invested in their kids - if I end up having a mutually rewarding relationship with them when they are adults it will be a miracle, as it is for any parent. That's literally the only reward and it's so unlikely.

What's worse is how much the children limit my life. Forget the first two years of basically being a zombie, not even owning my own body because the child is attached to my boob. Forget the no-more-partying, the no more impromptu weekend trips, the whatever the fuck else. Here's the real deal: for the past few months I've grappled with a suicidal depression indirectly because of my children.

I got divorced 18 months ago because my ex husband was abusive to me, but we still coparent the kids equally together because he's a great dad (yes! abusers are not unidimensional monsters!).

I'm a writer, and the major thing that's helped me get through this time is the fact that I can write my heart out whenever emotions are overwhelming. I now have on my hands a memoir full of essays and poems. It's really good shit. But you know what, I can never publish it! Because my kids might read it! Even though I plan to tell them the truth about why I got divorced when they are older, it would still be violating for me to expose them to it. I don't know at what age anyone is ready to know that their beloved father raped their beloved mother. 20 or 30 years from now, maybe it will be okay, but being a parent means I have to keep my secret for now. I cannot begin to tell you what an unbearable burden it is. This is oppression made stark: the fact that I have kids and I need to protect them and part of protecting them is protecting their relationship with their dad when they are this young... is literally exactly what helps a man get away with rape scot free. It is literally exactly what keeps a rape victim silent.

The price of children is high. I'm sure many others have equally weighty stories, because hear me: the price of children is high. Nobody escapes without paying more than they ever thought they would.

Don't have kids unless you feel like you'll die of grief otherwise.
posted by MiraK at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2018 [39 favorites]

My grandmother was basically railroaded by societal expectations into having a child. She hated motherhood, every aspect of it. She is now in her 90s, and that bitterness still burns.

I have met women who have regretted having children, and I think that sort of regret can be linked to not having the emotional/financial resources to deal with it, or not knowing what you were getting into. But it is also possible to hate motherhood, to hate having a child. I think that's more rare, but I have met one other woman as well as my grandmother who was in that situation.

I have no idea if you would have any regrets about having a child, let alone be in the even smaller category of people who actively hate the experience. You might love it. But I sort of want to put it out there that there are people who have problems with motherhood that go beyond "I need sleep and a social life and there not to be baby crap".
posted by Vortisaur at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Wait, so your partner is in his sixties (I am in my sixties, so I speak from that perspective) and suddenly now wants to have children? Hasn't he had plenty of opportunities over the last 40 years to decide to have children? Is he feeling his own mortality? Is he worrying as he gets older that you might find him too old? Is his desire to have kids a way to bind you more tightly to him?

Oops, I just looked at your previous question, this guy has a daughter your age and wants a new baby? Nope, nope, and more nope, especially since you don't sound really into it anyway.
posted by mareli at 11:33 AM on June 5, 2018 [26 favorites]

I come from a long line of women who had children even though they didn't really want to, and it's made me a firm believer that one should really only have kids if they feel like their life would be ruined without being a parent. Hell, my best friend's only life goal when I met her 15 years ago was to be a mom, and now that she's a mother of two she's like, "no, listen, this shit is so much harder than I thought it was going to be, no one should enter into this unless they'll jump off a bridge if they can't have a kid". If that's not you, then... maybe don't be a mom.

And here's the thing I tell myself when I start to question if I made the right decision to not have kids: yeah, maybe my own kids would have turned out great, but omfg there are so many kids out there who need adults to love them and teach them things and be present for them. I can volunteer with kids, I can spend tons of time with my friends' kids, I can become a foster parent...
posted by palomar at 11:35 AM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Your partner is in his early 60s?

The people I know who have similar relationships and happily added kids really, really wanted kids and had the financial resources for full-time nannies.

(Age does matter, but in some cases, less than one might think. My uncle was one kind of bad father at 35 and is a different kind of bad father at 65. However, this is probably partly the result of my grandmother's lack of reticence when it came to expressing her regrets. "I shouldn't have had all these kids," she'd say, glaring at the youngest ones.)
posted by betweenthebars at 11:35 AM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I regret having kids. You don't hear people talking about it because (a) there's a huge taboo surrounding it, and (b) most of us use psychological tricks to convince ourselves that it was the right choice, because acknowledge that it wasn't is too much of a nightmare. I sometimes think that some of the "everyone should have kids it's so awesome" crowd are protesting too much, or trying to bring more people into the hell they're living. ;)

I firmly believe that people should only have kids if they desperately want to.
posted by metasarah at 11:41 AM on June 5, 2018 [19 favorites]

I am a lot like you, had a kid, found the first few years (especially the toddler years) very very hard but also full of a certain kind of irreplaceable magic. However, the young child lifestyle is too intense for me and we are only having one kid (despite abundant social pressure to have more than one) which in many ways feels like the best of all worlds. I knew I would regret not having them. I love the experience of increasing our lil tribe and building a family culture but I do not have to be parenting endless toddling tornadoes for years. We get more money for travel. I get my own identity and time for my own creative and personal work and still get to explain to a small person really cool things, like how butterflies fly, and I can tuck her in at night and just love and love her every day she grows and changes and becomes more amazing.

So I'm a big proponent now of the 1 kid lifestyle and think about having A kid, not kids. It really changes the prospect in a lot of ways.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

What PuppetMcSockperson said. As someone who never reproduced, I am a target both for people who want to vent about how often they fantasize about what their lives would be like if they hadn't had kids/accidentally become pregnant/coerced into having children and also some who are truly deeply bitter and regret having a child.

It is taboo. Even women who don't regret having kids anymore than the average former drama club kid regrets not going to Hollywood to be a star are cautious about discussing the "What ifs" they enjoy.

So, if you are on the fence and counting on magically being filled with awe and wonder and joy, put awe and wonder and joy in the maybe column.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:47 AM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

The only people who should choose to have children are those who feel a burning, driving, consuming desire to have children.

I hear this a lot but am not really convinced. When we decided to have a child I was worried that I didn't "want it" enough. My life was good before our child. We were happy. I felt fulfilled. But when I pictured my life in the future I imagined a family. I wanted a child, but didn't feel a wild burning that could only by satiated by a baby. We discussed it practically as a couple and I thought about it seriously for a long time. And I don't have regrets about having our child.

As a side note, I feel like some people have their lives more disturbed by a child than others. I was never one to go out to clubs or be out to parties most nights. Although things were busy, it didn't exactly feel like we were missing out in the same way some people might.
posted by Nightman at 11:47 AM on June 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

(46NK) I think it is possible to be YES KIDS in the grand scheme of things and scared of pregnancy and the great unknown of the future and still come down on the YES KIDS side of the equation, and it doesn't sound like that's where you are but it's worth maybe working through that on paper just to see what you decide.

I have known people who wanted children in a way that I just simply don't recognize as a feeling. It was a need. Not all of those people got the best possible outcome and I don't think any of them have flat-out regrets but it's sure not like they imagined and it's not better than they imagined.

And one of the things I have learned in the past 10 years as most of my friends had kids is that nobody talks about what pregnancy and delivery can do to your health permanently, and what that does to your ability to parent, support kids, stay in your relationship etc.

Finally, a whole lot of people have kids with mediocre partners and that sure does turn out to be a huge fucking mistake. You can have a good relationship with a mediocre partner when the stakes are low. I'm starting to think the NUMBER ONE FACTOR in a person's experience of parenthood isn't the child, it's the partner and the family. I do not think the scenario you're describing is a good idea, on that front. You have reason to be very concerned about the future there.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:49 AM on June 5, 2018 [15 favorites]

I'll be honest. I regret having my kid. I love them more than I've ever loved anything or anyone in my life, but they deserved a better parent than I'm able to be, and newly pregnant twenty-year-old me deserved support and help and a sense of self before they became a parent. My kid is fifteen now, and I still spend a lot of days thinking ok ok ok I just gotta--three more years, and--. And it won't be over in three years, obviously, but some of the stakes will change, at least, and I tell myself that it'll be easier then.

I adore my kid. I like hanging out with them, I like doing things with them. I like when they come and get in bed with me and tell me what they're thinking about or worried about or whatever. I would be a completely different person without them, and I think that I would have an objectively better and easier life. I feel like if they were someone else's kid, they probably would've had an objectively better and easier life. Sometimes I wish that we could have had that. I'm staggeringly envious of my friends who have had a comparatively simple path to and relationship with parenting. I expect that much of this is never going to go away, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life wrestling with the idea that I had a baby and derailed my life, and derailed my child's life, and in a lot of ways, I failed both of us. I wish I hadn't.

If you love your life, if the thought of it changing or being disrupted fills you with sadness, I wouldn't have a child. I especially wouldn't have a child if your partner is markedly older and is the one who feels strongly about having them. This question sounds a lot like you're uncertain, he's pushing, and you're trying to figure out if you're willing to shoulder all of the physical risks, and the lion's share of the emotional and financial risks, as well. My advice is not to.
posted by mishafletch at 11:54 AM on June 5, 2018 [14 favorites]

My bias is that I have a kid, I wanted one (I wasn't HELL YES to it, more like "Yeah, I think I could do it" and if it didn't happen, it'd be ok. I think. Who knows). I can't express how much I love her and everyday I marvel at how amazing she is. Seriously. This isn't one of those "my baby can do no wrong" things either, I really wonder how she came to be and how I got so lucky. This comes in tandem with her driving me bonkers sometimes and I can't keep on top of the mess (I'm messy to start with, so it's mostly my fault). I'm also separated from her dad, we co-parent amicably, so when she's with him, I do miss her, but I also like the me-time. So having a kid is about feeling every contradictory thing at the same time.

I feel like this Dear Sugar might help you - the OP of that letter asks "how do we know we want kids" whereas you're saying "I'm ambivalent, and I'm worried that I'll regret it later because it'll disrupt my life" but I don't think you're that far away from that OP.

You say this:
I think we'd be great parents and have great kids and I'd love to have a family with him and all that entails and have part of him left when he's gone. But then that's selfish too, right? If we had met when we were both 20 I've no doubt we'd have had lots of kids and a big bustling family life

You'd love to have a family with him and all that entails and have a part of him left when he's gone. I think that's a pretty strong yes to having kids. As for the selfishness - it's selfish to have a kid (because you're passing on your own genes, etc.) and it's selfish to not have a kid (because to not do so means that you just want all your time to yourself). So don't let societal perceptions of "selfishness" factor into this for you. All it comes down to is what you and your partner want, together. (And you didn't say what your partner wants.)

Other considerations for the "no" side - I did the math, and your partner is about 60. So when your hypothetical kid is ready for college, their dad will be about 80. Is that a good reason to not have a kid? Only you and your partner can determine that for your lives.

To answer your question about regret, yes, people do regret it. Lots of stories on the internet. Here's a good one I just found. Will you and your partner regret it? Again, no one can answer that for you.

My point is, I feel like there's no wrong answer for you? Choose yes, or no, either way, you'll have to live with the decision. If you choose yes, go all in. Yes, it will be disruptive and hellish and amazing and wonderful, and all you can say is "I/we chose this." If you choose no, then you don't get to have the experience of raising a kid and seeing them grow, seeing your partner as a father and you'll be able to do all the things you want. If you choose yes, you're saying good bye to your old life and you don't know what you'll gain. If you choose no, you're staying with what you know, but possibly missing out on something great, or not so great, as it were.

On preview to what Lyn Never said: "I'm starting to think the NUMBER ONE FACTOR in a person's experience of parenthood isn't the child, it's the partner and the family." Yeah, your partner is a huge factor in this. My ex wasn't abusive, but he wasn't a great partner, and sometimes I feel bad that our kid has to grow up in two houses. Things could be worse, but yeah, your partner is a big factor in this.
posted by foxjacket at 11:57 AM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

More anecdotes: with two boys, 3 and 6 yrs old, there are good times and trying times, but almost always it's their time. They're generally good, but sometimes they're just a lot - lots of talking, sometimes lots of bickering and fighting, lots of early mornings and rarely a full night without someone else joining us in bed. We love them to pieces, and we don't regret them, but we plan much of our lives around their schedules and needs. My mantra is "this, too, shall pass," and I'm trying to live in the moment with them, even when I'm tired and want to hide from their chaos.

Still, having two healthy kids isn't enough to ward off critiques from friends and strangers - my wife has been asked if we're going to try for a third, or try to have a girl. In public, if they're in a foul mood, or haven't slept enough, or are hungry and grumpy, we'll get some scowls if they're noisier or crazier than other adults would like, and often my wife gets more criticisms from strangers for her lack of ability to wrangle our kids, while I, the dad, get some "bless his heart for trying," in addition to the generally surly looks.

tl;dr: as a woman, you'll get it coming and going with regards to kids - if you have one, it's not enough, and if you have more, it could be too many, or the wrong gender. Or they could be noisy kids and you're a terrible parent for not raising silent, docile offspring. There are unending, competing expectations placed on women regarding kids, so do what you can to make yourself happy, as an individual and in/with your relationship.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:02 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is my test for knowing whether you really want kids or not:

Picture your life 10 years from now, without kids. How does it feel? Does it feel empty or meaningless, with no children around? Or does it feel full , with you and your partner enjoying a more quiet life just the two of you? Really breathe into it and imagine it.

This is such a personal choice and I hope you feel supported whichever way you go. The world does not need any more kids, so you certainly have this internet stranger's support if you choose not to - you do you!

For me, the thought of not having kids and a family of my own felt absolutely awful. It didn't matter to me how much money we had or traveling we were able to do (one of my favorite things); without kids it felt meaningless. I was really quite surprised by how strongly I felt about it!

I'd like to offer a few thoughts to add more color to the comments above. I always vaguely figured I'd have kids someday like most people, but I was never into babies or that fussed about it. However, I absolutely LOVE having kids and have never for a moment regretted it. Not even at my most sleep-deprived, financially worried, toddler-tantrum-wrangling self.

I am an educated, well-traveled woman with great friends and a good job - but being a mother leaves everything else in the dust. This is my life's work. This is what gives my life meaning. My kids charge me up every time I see them (I call them my love batteries). I tell them just about every day that being their mother is my greatest gift and honor, and I mean it and feel it down deep, into my bones. It's not all fun and games, far from it, but the highs so far outweigh the lows that they're not even on the same playing field. We have created a tightly-knit, loving, accepting, fun family and honestly, I am humbled by the amount of love and laughter in our life.

This may not be the road you take, and that's totally OK. And I sometimes think that I enjoy motherhood more than many others, so even if you take it, this may not be where you end up. But if you're scared that motherhood and having a family isn't really what Hollywood has made it out to be, I'm here to say: it can be even better. It takes hard work and your life will never be the same again, and there will be plenty of times that you miss your previous spontaneity and cashflow. But the joy of building a loving family together makes it all worth it - for me. Good luck!
posted by widdershins at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

I always knew I wanted kids. Partner was not sure when we got together, but soon came around to the idea. We got married, I finished grad school and training, and he was like "Ok, let's do this." And I panicked and thought no way. And so we waited a bit more. It was like I knew I was going to regret not being a parent, but I also felt every single thing you said above, with another heap of what if I screw this kid up and who ever said I was adult enough to take this one? First kid came at 35, second at 40.

I love them to bits. They are amazing and make my life so much richer and so much better in so many ways. At the same time, my relationship with them is grueling, and exhausting and is seriously challenging even on the very best days. There are definitely things I've sacrificed as a person for them, and things we've sacrificed as a couple for them. Most of the time that's ok, but honestly there are days you question why you ever did this. It's important to acknowledge that that is part of the deal. It's not every minute, and it's wrapped in moments of incredibly intense joy, but it's part of the deal.

So this is where I give you the same talk I gave my husband way back when. It's ok to not want a child. It's totally, totally ok. You have to decide as a couple what that means for your relationship. The flip side, though, is that nothing is ever guaranteed. Yes, you might have a child with special needs, there is no guarantee there. You could also choose to not have children and find that the life you love right now gets unexpectedly changed in some way you can't predict. There are people who have children when they are young who still die unexpectedly and leave their children behind. Careers end, unexpected illnesses and accidents happen, marriages end, etc., etc., etc. Ultimately, taking some risks, like choosing to enter a serious relationship, or choosing to have children, is worth the potential downside to some people.

People on the internet can't make the decision about whether that potential downside is worth it to you and to your partner. Only you can decide that, and it will probably never be a neatly decided choice. There will be regrets and joys in either case. Keep talking to your partner. Talk to a therapist. Maybe talk to a therapist together. Either way is ok.
posted by goggie at 12:14 PM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

There are heaps of online forums devoted to this and the short answer is yes, plenty of people do regret having children. No, you don't just fall in love with your child. That is a dangerous myth that makes plenty of parents feel inadequate.

I don't think you should be trying unless you are all in, but that is just my opinion.
posted by thereader at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Talk to your partner.

It's the best/worst experience you will ever have, and it is HARD.

I don't know if this is true for every woman, but I can never feel 100% relaxed because there is a little someone that I am ALWAYS concerned about. The first few years were a lot of terror, eventually I developed a pretty intense meditation/yoga practice to help me cope. I'm a better person for this experience, but also I don't have a choice?

Talk to your husband because no one warns you about this angle, and it's pretty big (or maybe other people trust life more, ha ha?)
posted by jbenben at 12:26 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I hear this a lot but am not really convinced.

Gender plays a huge role in people's experience of what parenting is, and sadly, the experience is unequal enough that my answer is applicable mostly only to birthing parents.

I was never one to go out to clubs or be out to parties most nights. ... it didn't exactly feel like we were missing out in the same way some people might.

Did you read the rest of my comment??
posted by MiraK at 12:38 PM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

No, you don't just fall in love with your child. That is a dangerous myth that makes plenty of parents feel inadequate.

I think it's less 'you don't just fall in love with your child' and more 'love is a complicated emotion, and is not free of darker elements'. Talking to people with complicated feels about their kids has helped me realize that loving your child doesn't mean you necessarily like them, loving them doesn't mean you're not upset or bothered by them. You do love them, but you can also love them like you love your dirtbag ex-boyfriend you dated ten years ago and now you're bewildered as to why you made that choice in the first place, but would still be sad to learn something bad happened to them.
posted by corb at 12:39 PM on June 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

After delivery, you have a surge of hormones that do promote feeling in love with your baby. I wish I had more than 1 child, for reasons.

That said, the planet is fully populated, and increasing the population has significant environmental costs, esp. in the developed world, esp. in the US. Having kids also costs a bundle. You might have a child who is a brilliant musician, gifted scientist, unusually good at sports, or just a pleasing personality and kind to their parents. Or you might have a child who is autistic, has a trisomy (Downs, Williams, etc.), becomes schizophrenic, has a heart condition or something that needs extensive medical care, etc. You could have a child who has bipolar disorder or becomes an addict. From the time you realize you're pregnant, there are countless ways to have your heart broken. There are also countless ways to have your life enriched, and to have your family extended. I liked going to soccer games and track meets and reading bedtime stories.

Having a child is unlike any other relationship in that it requires you to give unconditional love, to nurture and support a human for at least 18 years (or experience true anguish if less than 18 years). I am glad to have had my life changed in this way, but it's truly not a requirement. I love babies, have a new grandchild to dote on, but I totally get people who choose not to have kids.

It is harder and more dangerous at 40+. It takes a ton of energy. But of parents I know, age is mostly not a factor, except for parents who have kids with major illnesses related to parental age (including my brother), and parents who ended up spending a big chunk of life doing fertility stuff and adopting. Fertility treatment and the adoption process are emotional roller coasters, and I think it's scarier for those parents to voice any ambivalence. People who have kids with Down Syndrome or other serious issues are not necessarily regretful, but many conditions that cause intellectual disability also come with medical problems.
posted by theora55 at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Gonna be brutal honest here.

I was highly upset about getting pregnant the first time around. I wasn't ready, was just at a financial place in my life where my husband and I were going and doing as we pleased. I was in great physical health. Because I was so weary, it definitely lent to some pretty gnarly post partum depression. This is also a factor you should highly consider. If you are not really into it, the risks are higher for your mental health as well.

It was bad enough that into my 30's, my husband wanted another child and I refused to get pregnant again. We ended up adopting. Having a child in my 30's is drastically harder than in my 20's.

Do I regret it? No.
Do I miss my old life? Hell yes.

Would I do it all over again? Absolutely.

Be totally honest with your partner. Consider about fostering instead of having bio kids. It's something you can do short term or long term. Then if you decide to have a child later, discuss how important (or not) it is for them child to be biologically yours. I will tell you from experience in having 1 bio child and 1 adopted child -- the feelings are the same.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2018

Two of my friends, women, are bitter about having had their children. Not because of the children, whom they love very much, but because of their partners. Both of them have male partners and both of those partners have failed to step up in the way that had been planned for and agreed to before the children were born. Both of these women are capable and talented and ended up following the path of largely although not completely being responsible for the child rearing. Which sucks. So as alluded to above, part of one’s feelings about having children is highly dependent on how one’s partner (if there is one) responds. If you are wealthy enough that you and your partner can have a housekeeper and nanny, say, then you may not end up resenting your partner in the way my friends resent their partners. As I have noted in older Qs, I think breeding is overrated. But am thrilled and happy I have the kid I always wanted. Good luck, OP.
posted by Bella Donna at 1:00 PM on June 5, 2018 [18 favorites]

I’m about your age and on the fence. I’m thinking about the fact that the first five years appear to be brutal (sleep deprivation; *totally* vulnerable being *utterly* dependent on you; this being knows nothing and is emotionally dysregylulated [your job to teach them about that]; no time for really anything else unless the kid’s unusually well-behaved). There are other things I want and need to do, over these next particular five years. You?

There’s also the possibility of having to be a caregiver to others around the time your kid will need you (leaving even less time for yourself) - your partner might encounter issues; if your parents are around, maybe them too. That’s an entirely different and more difficult kettle of fish. So possibly you’d be juggling 2-3 of these enormously taxing fish kettles. How’s everyone’s health?

(I hung out with a puppy for an afternoon and it wore me *out*. They say it’s different with your own [human] child, and it probably is, but damn, it’s still so tiring, regardless.)

Rewards a child *might* be able to offer: the chance to see the world through fresh eyes. The opportunity to help a new consciousness unfold (I believe that is a huge privilege). The chance to expand your family, to have a whole new person with their own character, thoughts, feelings, broaden and enrich your heart. It might pain you, and increase your grief, there are no guarantees.

The stuff in the last paragraph moves me deeply when I think of it, as someone who only started opening myself to the idea of motherhood only recently and partially. But the rest (and that puppy)... I’m already exhausted. (But I know I can also rise to the occasion - like probably all parents do! - but only with adequate resources.

Good luck in working it out.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:05 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

This is a VERY VERY individually based question and answer - as evidenced by the variety of both the questions and answers related to this that pop up constantly here.

What I can say is:
I love the peace and quiet in our house, lazy mornings, being able to do what we want, and just really enjoying our time together.
This will ABSOLUTELY change. It's literally impossible to not change. You will be keeping a small human alive.

I recommend talking to your partner, being around more kids in care-taking ways, talking with a therapist to figure out your feelings. Every single person's experience is different. Don't have a kid until it's a YES.

In my experience - I don't want kids. And I'll be honest, my husband and I don't even LIKE kids. (That's also taboo to say as a woman.) Nothing about it is appealing to me.
My Mother In Law was/is a pretty good parent, but has openly admitted she could have done without kids. My husband and sister in law just had a conversation that they think she wouldn't have kids if she could do it again. It's not regret exactly. She adores her kids... but she also adores her dogs. It didn't ruin her life, but it's a different life.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:08 PM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do not reproduce to please a partner, a parent, a friend, or the future child. Do not reproduce for anyone other than yourself. This is just about the only decision in life that must be entirely selfish. If you give anybody else, including your partner and the putative kid, any weight, you'll risk making a catastrophically wrong decision. (I know this from experience because my father did this and the woe it caused is impossible to put into words.)

Get all thought of all other people out of your head and think about the question. Imagine you never met your partner and you are in a partnership with some shadowy someone else you've never met--the way you imagine marriage and parenthood when you're a kid. In this situation with an unknown person, would you want to have a child? Do you want a child? If not, then no. If yes, then yes. If wishywashy, then, for God's sake, you're 40 years old, they are enormously expensive, they will break your heart, they could get run over by a bus or be born inside out, the world the new person will have to live in is rapidly becoming a dystopian hellpit, for the love of all that sensible, NO NO NO.

(But if you do want one, yay! You go! Get that baby!)
posted by Don Pepino at 1:09 PM on June 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

Life is about change in my opinion. Even if you love the way your life is now, it's going to change eventually whether you want it to or not. When you have a kid you are hopefully making a conscious decision to change your life. I'm glad I made that decision. Sure it's been hard at times and you might be setting yourself or them up for heartbreak, but, once again that's part of life.

I just got back from my oldest kids 6th grade "promotion", so the fact they are growing up is very fresh for me at this moment. Soon they'll be grown (then I plan to going back to doing whatever the f I want when I want), who knows what the future holds. But, they were given a chance to live life. That's all any of us get.

Make a decision one way or another, then don't look back. Don't wish-wash your way into having a baby and give yourself an out to feel regret. Regrets are unproductive and keep you from appreciating or changing what is in front of you.
posted by trbrts at 1:36 PM on June 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

The only people who should choose to have children are those who feel a burning, driving, consuming desire to have children.

I disagree with this. I was not sure I wanted kids, but having kids is the best thing that happened in my life (mine are adults now - I raised them mostly as a single parent with serious financial problems). Something biological kicked in with me so that I was madly in love with my children from the moment they were born. Not everyone has that experience - but it seems that most people do.

That doesn't mean you will feel the same way or that you should have kids. You can't eliminate the possibility of regret. To me, it's kind of like having a partner. There are probably hours or even days when your former single life looks pretty good, but overall, you prefer having a partner to not having one. It being a good decision to have kids doesn't mean you have to be absolutely delighted to be a parent every minute of every day. Life doesn't work that way. But if that's the only way you can be happy with having kids, then you shouldn't have them.
posted by FencingGal at 1:44 PM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm another child-free by choice person. I grew up honestly and deeply wanting a couple of kids, but once I was well into adulthood and interrogated why, it just didn't hold up. My husband and I both adore kids and would make absolutely excellent parents. We've also had over 15 years of extensively discussing values, approaches to parenting and discipline, and are incredibly well-matched in that arena as well. But, that's not enough in our book. I'm very happy with our choice and love my life and the special, self-indulgent time that I get to have with my spouse. I feel no emptiness and am very involved with the kids and babies in my family (bio and chosen) circles.

But, like many people here, my choice to be child-free has resulted in moms and dads confessing to me that they regret their choice. They didn't realize how much children would disrupt their lives and ambitions and would change their relationships to their spouses. They love their kids, but would choose differently if they were able to.

If you don't feel like you have an insatiable desire for a kid, I'd take that as evidence that the choice has already been made. Sure, many people fall in love with their child, but that doesn't mean that they also think that it was the best overall decision that they could have made. I'd also take a very long pause given the age of your spouse, especially if you're considering a bio kid. Men's sperm quality declines largely in parallel with women's fertility and 60+ year old sperm generally has major problems that can negatively contribute to a child's health. If you're very, very enthusiastic about carrying a pregnancy I'd minimally get major testing of both of you or consider donor egg and donor sperm or extensive assisted reproductive technology (embryo testing, etc) to hedge the bets.
posted by quince at 1:58 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

"'s kind of like having a partner."

Whu... HAH?

Sorry, no, it super is not! The whole reason it's a difficult decision is that it's exactly not like a partner or a friend relationship. Parent-child is really forever, unlike, say, husband and wife or BFFs. The ways for a parent to get out of the relationship with a minor child dependent are all criminal: suicide, murder, or child abandonment. There's no divorce. You can't drop the kid off at Goodwill.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:00 PM on June 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Interesting recent article in Maclean's:

‘I regret having children’

In pushing the boundaries of accepted maternal response, women are challenging an explosive taboo—and reframing motherhood in the process
posted by naju at 2:08 PM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't buy a house I was meh about. Perhaps stripping away the social pressure and just looking at this like any other life decision. This is the biggest decision you will ever face, it is made for your entire life time. This child will bury you, if all things go according to plan. Make sure you are 100% behind this idea, and have been for quite some time. I would be wary of going along with it just because other people think its a good idea.

This is more permanent than a tattoo. Would you let other people choose a tattoo for you that you are meh about ?
posted by Oceanic Trench at 2:18 PM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I was just talking about this with a neighbor. She and her husband have two teenaged daughters and a son, aged six or seven. I have no kids. I said I didn't want kids but that now and then I wondered what it was like. Her eyes got kind of big. She didn't exactly say that she regretted it, but just then her son walked out of the front door wearing nothing but a towel draped over his head. "Let me just say, I'm glad I had them earlier in life, and I wouldn't want to have any more," she said, and then excused herself to chase after her son, who had wandered out to the sidewalk and was poking the ground with a stick, towel still flapping about. It is telling that I don't know enough about having kids to know whether I should be shocked her kid is wandering around in public without clothes or if this is just a thing some kids do and not to think twice about it. I would be terrified someone would report me if I let my kid wander around in public sans clothing, but I would also be terrified of child abduction, someone molesting my kid, of accidents and everything else you can think of happening to them. So as one person without kids to another: I'm curious, but not that curious. Frankly, I like my life without that kind of worry in it. I like being able to get up and go. I do not have a strong enough desire for children to have them "just because." It's perfectly okay if you decide not too.
posted by Armed Only With Hubris at 2:47 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

As the child of a parent who was unconventionally old when I was born, I just want to say that if you do have children, seriously address the age issue with them. Start early, and talk about it often and sensitively. They're going to be aware that their dad is very different from their friends' dads, and may have considerable anxiety, fear and worry about their dad dying that they don't know how to express. And I'm sorry to say it, but at your partner's age those fears are legitimate.
posted by the thought-fox at 2:59 PM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Whether you have kids or not is up to you, but keep in mind there is more than one way to be a parent. The people who feel most stifled by it, ARE stifled by it because they are living a life that is not authentic to them. You will need to change when kids come along, but there are ways to make it work in a way that is meaningful and grows with you rather than against you.

Apologies if that didn't make a whole lot of sense - my kids kept me up all night...
posted by Toddles at 4:47 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm going to link to this post on the blue as a counterpoint to the overwhelming "Oh, ignore your doubts! It all goes away the moment you lay your eyes on your baby" narrative found in baby forums (and society in general.) Or the "you're selfish" / "incomplete" nonsense that child-free people (especially women) get. It's OK to not want kids, and it's OK to not have them.
We have a fantastic relationship, good jobs, a nice house, basically all the boxes are ticked.
Box ticking isn't a reason to have a baby. It has driven me up the wall over the years to watch some friends reach a point in their lives/relationships where they sort shrug and go, "Well, I guess we're supposed to have a kid next." Not "we've always wanted to raise a family together and now really seems like the right time to do it" excitement, just sort of a "welp, I guess it's time to do the thing" resignation. Glib "You'll never know until you have one, so you might as well try it!" advice makes me similarly crazy.

I mean, I can't imagine making a decision like that so blithely/passively. I think the two most irreversible decisions human beings can make are 1) Taking a life and 2) Bringing a new life into the world, and I'm definitely in the camp that nobody should have a kid who isn't really certain that they want one.

I don't have kids and have never really wanted them, but I do have occasional pangs when I see particularly lovely families out and about, or seeing longtime friends' kids grow up from afar.... but my siblings' kids (the eldest is now 10) have been a healthy gut-check for me. I love my nieces and nephews unconditionally; they're smart, fun, and adorable, really great kids - but they're exhausting even in my small-doses, low-responsibility avuncular role. I know people have been raising children for millennia, but I honestly don't know how parents do it, especially the really awesome ones.

But all of that aside, it seems like you answered your own question:
I feel like on the baby forums I read everyone is crazy desperate to have a baby and are crushed with disappointment every month it doesn't happen, and I'm more like cool we get to go on a trip next month and drink wine, so I don't really belong there.
Kids are enormous, life-disrupting responsibilities and as a fellow child-free person who's also in their early 40s I can't imagine having a baby with my partner at this stage of our lives if we weren't both 100% positive and enthusiastic about it.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 5:34 PM on June 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

The thing is, what's best for you and what's best for the kid can be different things. The people saying "every child should be 100% wanted" are thinking of the future child. The ones saying "nah, I wasn't sure but it turned out great" are thinking of you. I happen to believe a potential person's life should be taken really seriously because it's the ultimate decision they have no control over. I wish I had never been born all the time, and my life is pretty great. If you bring a person into the world on purpose, I think you owe it to them to give them the best shot possible. It doesn't sound like you're ready for that, or even want to (and I don't blame you because I don't either, it sounds terrible!). I really don't think it's fair to give a kid a 60-year-old dad either. Nothing is guaranteed but why start there?
posted by masquesoporfavor at 5:42 PM on June 5, 2018 [12 favorites]

Here’s a spin on things you may not have thought of. Everyone is asking how you’re going to cope with an ageing partner and what will happen if he passes early. I’m going to ask the opposite.

What kind of parent will he be? If something happens to you (illness, death etc) does he have the capacity and desire to step up?

The reason I ask this is because I’ve come across older fathers who have already had one family. I’ve asked how it’s going with the new wife and kid, and their response was something along the lines of, they never took the time to be involved with their kids the first time around and messed up their chance to be a good parent. So they’re having another go at it. (I’m sure their first adult children were delighted to know that.)

How was his relationship and parenting experience with his other child like? What has he learnt from that? How will it affect things the second time around?

It’s very easy for a man, particularly a traditional older man, to ask a woman to have a child for him. In many cases, in his mind, you’ll take the burden on. The physical burden of carrying and birthing. When he thinks about who is getting up in the middle of the night, who does he picture? When the child is sick and someone needs to take time out, who is doing this? Who goes to the doctor, thinks about buying the next size up of new clothes, remembers that it’s little friend Johnny’s birthday party and you need to buy him a present, or that your kid hates tomatoes and you need to pick it out of everything.

Some men (and yes, NotAllMen) just...assume that this will automatically fall to the woman. Now, maybe you’re fine with that, maybe you’re not. You may have this romantic rosy idea that everything is split whereas he may have the idea that you’ll just step up and do whatever needs to be done.

If he had to raise this child by himself because you were sick/died/whatever, would he still want to do it or does he like the idea of having a child so long as the hard yards generally fall to you? Because he’s the one pushing for this. And whoever is pushing for it should be ok with the idea that you may actually end up doing it all, all by yourself. Because you can’t predict the future. If he’s not ok with doing it all by himself (or you’re not) or he’s only in it as long as you get the grunt work, neither of you should be doing this.

Either way, you need to have these discussions and find out what kind of partner you expect vs what kind of partner HE expects to be and vice versa - same for you too!! Because this can be the difference between enjoying parenting and not, heck, it can be the difference between you developing PPD and not.

I wish you luck. A lot of this you figure out as you go along, but you also need to have some very clear discussions before you head into it because your preconceived ideas about how this is going to be could be markedly different to his. Read the emotional labor thread with regard to parenting and see if you’re on the same page.
posted by Jubey at 6:01 PM on June 5, 2018 [18 favorites]

I had a husband who was not old and I got widowed anyway. Some of the assumptions you are making are not certain.

I was in the camp of ‘longed for a child and desperate to have one’ and sometimes I think about how if the timing has been just a little bit different, I’d have nobody now and it makes my blood run cold. I do think my perspective is different, though, and not just because of my special snowflake stuff but because I was older when I had him. I had lot of years to do whatever I wanted. It’s not so terrible to do for someone else now :-)
posted by ficbot at 6:21 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think I've ever admitted this anywhere - maybe even to myself, until I read this question - but I've structured the vast majority of my life, and the entirety of my adult life, around parenthood. I wanted kids, badly, as early as my college years. In my experience this is an exceptionally rare attitude for any college student to have, let alone a man, but my desire to be a father outweighed every other consideration in my life. For a variety of reasons I didn't become a father until age 28. My recollection of my 20s is substantially one of preparation, waiting, yearning, and longing for children. As trite as it may sound, my life didn't feel complete until the kids came along. I've willingly and happily foregone significant career and travel opportunities for parenthood. I've lost potential relationships over an unwillingness to wait any longer than I had to before we could plan for children. I've become estranged from dear friends whose adult lives took a different trajectory, and for whom I didn't carve out the time needed to sustain those friendships in favor of devoting that time to my kids. I regret none of these losses and missed opportunities. Preparing for parenthood and then being a parent has been, in every meaningful way, the driving force of my adult life. I have zero regrets, and I'm by no means suggesting that every successful parent needs to feel the same burning desire that I did, at a young age, to have kids. Millions of ambivalent parents of all ages are out there and doing a wonderful job raising their kids. And yet, I was the guy upthread who alluded to significant health issues that are making parenthood very, very challenging in my mid-40s.

I guess I don't really have a point except to highlight the astonishing variability of experiences that one can have in this area, and to encourage you to continue to think long and hard about what you might realistically encounter. You write thoughtfully, candidly, and lucidly about your desires and concerns. You're settled, you're in your 40s, your husband is in his 60s, and you're living what sounds like a rich and meaningful life. I'm living the life I always wanted as a dad and yet, at an age close to your own, at a time when my kids need me more than ever and I want to be present for them more than ever, I'm struggling with the demands of parenthood in a way I never envisioned. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, even if it is the thing I've always wanted the most, and it's only getting harder.
posted by cheapskatebay at 6:25 PM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I've known people who absolutely regretted it, but they are a small minority. And none of them did the emotional work that you're doing now, which probably says something.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:59 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

My husband and I desperately wanted a child. Started trying when we were both 30. Couldn't get pregnant, suffered through months of failed IUIs and a miscarriage, then started the adoption process. Waited almost two years, then were matched with soon-to-be-born twins with a strong family history of mental disability. We *chose* to be considered, but could have opted out of that situation. We were 35 then. I love them, but nothing about raising them has been anything like I had pictured. It does NOT necessarily get easier as they get older -- not for all kids. Twins are hard. Special needs parenting is hard. Parenting twins with special needs is hard. Parenting twins with *different* special needs that often bring them into conflict with one another is hard. Now we are 45. They are almost 10. Most of my day is spent dealing with something involving the kids, or trying to recover from dealing with the kids. I always thought I would go back to work full-time, but instead I spend my days handling school and medical/behavioral providers and insurance and big pharma and trying to keep my kids from literally killing each other or themselves, on top of running the household, cleaning, shopping, etc. It is exhausting. They are exhausting. I am exhausted. But the increasingly-frequent glimpses I get of the people they are growing into keep me going. I would make the same choice again if I had the magical opportunity to go back in time, but there have been some truly low points at which my answer might have been different. Nevertheless, I do not regret my choice.
posted by candyland at 7:18 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Don Pepino, that’s why I said it’s kind of like having a partner, not exactly like. I could have been more clear, but I was referring to a relationship that isn’t 100% great at all times, but is a trade-off you nonetheless choose because the pluses outweigh the minuses.
posted by FencingGal at 7:34 PM on June 5, 2018

My mother has told me honestly that she only had my brother and I because her father in law wanted them to have kids. But she loves us dearly, but I will be frank, I am not financially independent at the age of 18 and my parents are happy to support me financially as I go through a career change, mental health insurance, and re-education because they want to see me through everything with the resources they have. If at any point, you would resent your child for being not normative and not following a neurotypical timeline, do not have a child. I am grateful everyday for my privilege, and for my parents not abandoning me at the age of 18, because I am their child for life and they want to see it through.
posted by yueliang at 7:34 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Even perfectly healthy, normal kids are hard. They need you 24/7 for years and years and it's a huge burden that's hard to carry even if you wished and hoped for kids before. Even when they get more independent, you can never really stop worrying about them. Teaching a child to be a human is an immense undertaking. Yes it's rewarding! But in the same way that any very hard task is rewarding. It isn't any less hard while you're doing it. And with kids, there's no skipping out early if you get exhausted. You have to keep going.

If you are ambivalent, don't have kids.

If your spouse truly wants to nurture kids, the Big Brother program is always looking for volunteers. Lots of kids out there need good men in their lives. Or Boy Scouts. Or any number of organizations.
posted by emjaybee at 9:15 PM on June 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

My partner and I got together when I was 27 and he was 54. Initially we were going to have kids, but he decided he was too old.
posted by 8603 at 9:58 PM on June 5, 2018

From another related post: I don't have any kids and frankly enjoy the flexibilty (last weekend I took off and drove about 800 miles, hiking at Crater Lake and the incomparable Smith Rock). You can have a fulfilling life without having children.

My brother had two children late in life, probably under similiar circumstances to your situation (adores his wife, wife wanted children). While he loves his kids, one is mellow and easy going and one is high strung and dramatic and frankly, pretty demanding. If you ask him to rate the fatherhood experience, he will honestly answer that it is both rewarding and very challenging/trying at times. It's not massive bliss for everyone; it's piles of laundry and tiring and stressful, too. Other times it's funny, enjoyable and sweet.

There are no guarantees with kids, you cannot order in advance the variety you'd like, and it is a big/long term/round the clock commitment. Some people LOVE it, but not everyone does. Do you have friends with kids? Could you spend some time with a variety of ages soon to see how you feel about babies, toddlers, and beyond - the demands of their schedules and care, and also the tender moments? Autism happens as do birth defects. They will change your life radically if they occur.

Look at Quora for people who regret their choice. They’re out there but I agree, it’s taboo to admit. Half of all US pregnancies are unintended, as a food for thought point.
posted by OneSmartMonkey at 10:17 PM on June 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I have a friend with two disabled children (one severely so that will never live independently) that she had because her husband wanted them. She definitely regrets it.

I nth that this is a "fuck yes or no" situation. Especially for a woman. Everything in your life and body and relationship will change, at least some of it for the worse or worst, to have a baby. If you are not totally psyched to have a kid, you don't have to. Odds are very high all the caregiving will end up on you, so if you aren't enthused now, I doubt it'll get better.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:40 PM on June 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I think Jubey above makes a very very important point not to ignore (and was brought up to us when we got pregnant) - what are you going to do if one of you dies? Because that can and does happen (has happened in four families that we know). How will your husband be, at 60, with a three year old? Is there someone then who can jump in and take over for you? Or will he be great?

We had kids in our late 30's and I have a friend who is my age, 50, who very suddenly found out his girlfriend is pregnant (he had cancer and was told to freeze sperm beforehand if he wanted kids because he would be sterile afterwards - he did not (and yes it is his)). He is very worried about not just his health (and the very real chance he might not be around in five years) but the whole fact of having to take care of another kid for the next 18 years. The first couple years (up to, say eight) are brutal in ways you didn't know brutal can be. And at 40 we felt we were absolutely at our limit. We had some help but not as much as we expected and both felt we should have started this all five years earlier. (And with the onset of 50-year-old sicknesses (like cancer), the prospect of having to care for some young person makes me/us a little anxious.)

That said, having kids is like leaving your life completely and going on to a different life. If you want that - go for it. But I would side with the "If it's not Fuck Yes! then, no."
posted by From Bklyn at 2:29 AM on June 6, 2018

I'm sorry to say this but with your partner's age taken into consideration, this internet stranger doesn't think you should have a child.

60 is not too old to look after a baby but it would be difficult.
Raising a ten-year-old at 70 would be insanely difficult.
Your child would almost certainly have to be a caregiver to their father in their early 20s and beyond.
if it's not "FUCK YES" then it's "FUCK NO."
I agree with this statement.
posted by fullerine at 2:29 AM on June 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

ficbot: I had a husband who was not old and I got widowed anyway. Some of the assumptions you are making are not certain.

That's illogical. It's not certain that a young man will not die, but it is indeed certain that an old man will eventually die. And the older he gets, the closer to death he will be... same as for all of us. Sorry to be grim!
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:31 AM on June 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

The math is brutal. I am not sure what country you are in but the average lifespan for a male in the US is approximately 77 years. Potentially you will be in charge of a child when possibly dealing with a partner who may be needing care himself. Do you have the resources to deal with being the primary caregiver or financial backer in the worst case scenario circumstances? Do you have a robust network of family and friends to help with childcare? Do you have the financial resources to handle a single income at a crucial time?

Also, Jubey is correct in pointing out the issue of what kind of expectations and role your partner will take to child rearing.

As mentioned above, people do not like talking about any ambivalence about having children because it is taboo, as in major judgements being made and threats of Child Protective Services. Heck, you get debate about parents letting their kids walk by themselves to the park.

You and your partner need to have a lot of things squared away to have a thorough idea of whether having a child will work for you from a practical stance.

What I can tell you from personal experience is having a child to make your partner happy is very risky for your relationship. Why is their desire more important than your feelings, including your fears, and anxieties? The traditional trope is that a child binds a man to a woman when actually it is the other way. Once you have a child there is no going back.
posted by jadepearl at 2:40 AM on June 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

As for the potential father's age, is there any way of looking at his family history to estimate future health? My father is now in his late seventies (had me at 48) and fitter than I am, and my maternal grandma is 96 and lives independently with some help with shopping and cleaning. Most of her relatives lived to a ripe old age, and my grandfather's family is the same. His last cousin (I think) passed away at 99. My mother's cousin, so someone who is on the side of the excellent DNA, had a baby with his much younger wife when she was 45ish and he was around 70, which I would not do in his shoes (he also has a child from a previous marriage), but it worked for them. The child is only 6 or 7 now, though, so who knows what will happen.

One thing I would like to say as a child of older parents is that while I am highly offended when people suggest "older people" should not have kids (would you prefer I hadn't been born?), I do think that it can be quite a sad experience. I know I won't have my parents around for as long as others usually do. I'm 29 now and by the time I end up having children of my own, if I ever do, my parents will likely be too old to run around with them. I never met either of my grandfathers because they died right after I was born. (One may have lived longer under better circumstances, considering his genes, but he was an Auschwitz survivor and that took a toll.) Your children will likely never meet one set of grandparents, and they may feel a deep sadness over their lack of time with you. Or they may not, considering their personalities.

But if you really want children, who am I to tell you not to?
posted by LoonyLovegood at 3:57 AM on June 6, 2018

People are still not allowed to admit they regret having children in our society.

There is a certain sadness associated with not wanting to have what the majority want or consider a life passage. Not to be confused with desire.
posted by mossy_george at 5:06 AM on June 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

Thank you so much for all of your very honest answers. I really appreciate it. They have given me a lot to consider, and have all been helpful. Thank you for all the links, which I will read through. The ones I marked as best were the ones that caused me to reflect not so much on the having children part, per se, but on my general ambivalence around major life decisions. Being in my current relationship was the result of a long period of agonizing indecision, for reasons. As it turned out, it is the best thing that ever happened to me, and my only regret is not taking the risk sooner. Then, as now, I worried about the future and while it's stupid not to consider that of course, my present is amazing. And so in terms of having children, I think it's my fear of making the wrong decision that's holding me back more than anything, which is a more lifelong and underlying issue. Thank you for highlighting this to me so I can do some processing around it and factor this into this choice. And this:"Even if you love the way your life is now, it's going to change eventually whether you want it to or not. When you have a kid you are hopefully making a conscious decision to change your life." - thank you for this.

Just to clarify, my partner is not pushing me into this. He has two adult children, who he is and has been a great father to, but who both suffered traumas in their lives and one of which still causes him heartache on a regular basis. So he is fully aware that having kids is not all sunshine and roses, and that they can break your heart in ways you never anticipated, and it doesn't stop when they're 18. He also loves our life and would be fine if I decided not to go ahead, basically for all the exact same reasons as me. But he has said that if I wanted a baby he would never deny me the chance to be a mother and as I will be carrying it it is ultimately my choice. Like me he also has a sense that we could create a really happy little family, even if we're not of the "dying for it to happen" type. The benefit of his age (which isn't his fault - he just happened to be born 60 years ago and not die since) is that he is self-aware, calm, supportive, and completely prepared for the work involved in child-rearing. We have discussed every aspect of parenting for a long time (it was me who finally decided to go for it, only to realise that taking that step didn't finally resolve my ambivalence in the way I thought it would). We have agreed that if it were to happen, he would take on the stay at home parenting role when I went back to work, as he will be in a position to take early retirement around then while my career is heading upwards. So while the kid may not have him as long as others, the quality of their relationship with their Dad would hopefully be at a level that younger fathers can't always match due to the very gender issues raised up thread. We have had many conversations about emotional labor. He's a good guy, honestly.

Sorry, didn't mean that update to be an essay. Obviously there's more to consider and discuss between us and we will. But thank you all very much for taking the time to answer.
posted by socksually active at 8:41 AM on June 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

I want to add one thing about the "it's either fuck yes or it's no" and the "Don't have kids unless you feel like you'll die of grief otherwise" camp. Yeah, that sounds good and yes, it's important to have some clarify of thought here... but not only are some people just not built with quite that temperament (and maybe it's not the best temperament to model while parenting TBH), it's also a particularly dangerous position to find yourself if trying to conceive at an advanced age.

I wanted a child with increasing urgency but if I had thought I would die of grief if I didn't, I would have spent 5-6 years fearing my own misery as we navigated a lot of procedures and decision making. If you knew a person having trouble getting pregnant who told you they would die if it didn't happen, wouldn't you want them to be able to see the bright side of a child-free life as well?
posted by vunder at 10:06 AM on June 6, 2018 [8 favorites]

I want to second vunder. Not everyone is capable of "YES" or "NO" answers.

Some people hover around vacillating in the middle by nature, and as one of those people, I find it upsetting how casually people who are not like me posit as universally applicable a piece of advice that, had I followed it, would have meant that I never make any major important positive decision away from the status quo, because I'm incapable of achieving a perfect lack of ambivalence. I would never have married my husband (who is, to be grossly sentimental but honest, the best thing that ever happened to me) or had my child (who I love and enjoy) if I had listened to those people.

What I would suggest, actually, is that you join, not baby groups (insane), but parenting groups. I found it helpful to be a fly on the wall, listening to regular parents dealing with regular parenting issues, with all the frustrations and ups and downs and venting and moments of joy. It normalized it for me, made parenting less of an exotic foreign country, and it made it clear that it was something I kind of wanted, whereas I imagine a childfree person would have found it equally clear that it was something they did not.
posted by Cozybee at 10:26 AM on June 6, 2018 [9 favorites]

So a nearly identical question was asked on May 7th and I realized I was pretty much writing the same answer so here is me quoting me:

"I've watched people around me have kids due to fear of missing out. It hasn't gone well. Dirty secret in the parenting community there are people who profoundly regret their kids, they often don't say it but you can either tell or slips out after a few too many glasses of wine. Also a marriage destroyer. Not as often a marriage ender, because "stay for kids" trope, but destroyer.

I'm a parent to 2 kids and I became a parent because me and my partner both really wanted kids and wanted to be parents. I adore my kids, I love them and cherish them and wouldn't have had a bad word to say about parenting or child rearing ever.

Until I got sick. The last year I developed a sporadically life-threatening chronic disease. For the first time in 7 years of being a parent, I started to see the wisdom of being childless. Because when you give a kid your 100% and seeing them light up with understanding and basking in your attention. That's wonderful. When your getting back from the hospital and desperately need sleep and you have a two variously small extremely loud roommates. When your meds make you nauseous and tired and you have to spend all your time at home with two people largely incapable of being chill or giving you space. When you don't have spare energy for them, when your too tired to be engaged. That isn't wonderful.

Even before I was sick the hardest thing about parenting is how relentless it is. It's 24 hours a day, every day.

Now I see parenting with new eyes. I still love it, I still adore my kids but I'm more keenly aware day to day of how things would be different in the hardest moments for me and my partner, who has the herculean task of sometimes being care taker to all of us at once. I don't know how they manage. "

So do people reget having kids? Yes. Do I? No, but I can imagine it now, I can see those sliding doors and see how ignorant I was of the sturggels of the chronically ill and how having kids makes the hardest moments in your life harder. Which can be a lot.
posted by French Fry at 12:32 PM on June 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I know plenty of parents who love their children deeply and strive to be the best parents they can - and still regret becoming parents. Even some who wouldn't change the decision if they could - they really love their kids - but wish there were some way for those people (the kids) to exist without them having been the parent. (It's complicated. It is not actually less complicated for parents who unreservedly love and want their kids, but that's considered "normal" so nobody frets over not having adequate language to describe how that works.)

The stretch from about 6 months to about 3 years is the most physically exhausting. You can't rely on getting a full night's sleep - EVER - and every day is fraught with new terrifying dangers, as the kid's lifeskills improve and they can reach things that were previously not a problem. It doesn't get less emotionally exhausting after that. The only way the terror ever goes away, is if you become numb to it, which is an awful thing to happen. (You do get used to navigating it.)

The good parts, however, are amazing. You get to watch this lumpy doll-shaped blob turn into a whole person. You get to explain how everything works (I suspect this is the core reason why many women have children despite not wanting the responsibilities of parenthood - a young child will almost always want to listen to you, want to know why you're doing something), and then you get to see those explanations come back to you years later, in the foundations of their own hobbies and interests.

Synopsis: The complex, varied, and contradictory descriptions of parenting you have heard are ALL TRUE. You can try to influence your own narrative, but you don't get to actually decide which parenting-story is going to be yours. With that in mind, you have to decide if you think you'd get more out of it than you'd lose.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:05 PM on June 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

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