maybe i should just get a realistic doll
May 11, 2006 11:18 AM   Subscribe

How to sate my baby lust without actually having a baby?

I am a woman in my late thirties. I have been married for several years to a man who has no desire for children. When we dated, and for the first few years of our marriage, I didn't want any, either. However, in the past year, many people I know have had babies, and it's really messing with me emotionally. I find myself in tears every time I hear about yet another friend, acquaintance or coworker who soon will be having a child. We even tried therapy for a while (both of us) but there was really no point to it. I couldn't "convince" my husband to have a baby, because I don't really think I want to raise children. What I want is to have a *baby* regardless of logic. My friends' babies don't need babysitting (they're all pretty new) so it's not like I can really have long stretches of time where the reality of an infant might make me a bit more clearheaded about the whole thing.

Has anyone else dealt with this? I doubt I'd be any kind of mother at all - parent-child relationships baffle me and I have my own family issues that I wonder if I would just revisit on a child.

So - should I go hold crack babies at the hospital? Convince my husband to buy a puppy? I really don't know what to do.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total)
Your friends could almost certainly use a little 'me' time away from those babies - a chance to relax and spend some time with their husbands. Have you offered to babysit for them for awhile?
posted by jacquilynne at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2006

Maybe you could volunteer at a daycare center.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:37 AM on May 11, 2006

Get a puppy. My then girlfriend wanted a kid, badly. I came home with a puppy one day and she never brought it up again....however about a month later she bought another wasn't a completely perfect sitation...but it helped her. (however)We were both really young(22). I'm glad to hear you're not just going to have a kid...wish more people thought like you.
posted by killyb at 11:43 AM on May 11, 2006

If you don't feel comfortable babysitting, you can come over and help your friend with their baby. In many cases just having somebody to hold the crying baby while mom makes the bottle is a gift beyond price.
posted by Megafly at 11:45 AM on May 11, 2006

I agree about the puppy thing. Having pups has completely killed off any of my lingering desire to reproduce, but I still have something to take care of and love that depends on me. And when I have to go away for a couple of hours, they can sleep in crates and no one calls the police.

Also, if you need a human to be proud of and worry about and share joys and all that jazz, look into being a Big Sister. I have friends who met their Littles in college and are now sending them off to college, and it's very emotional for them.
posted by ferociouskitty at 11:48 AM on May 11, 2006

A puppy sounds like a good idea. Kittens are also hella cute, and so much fun to play with. And if you play with them lots when they are kittens, they grow up to be more playful cats.

I do have sympathy. Though we're younger, my husband and I have just realised that within the last year we've been finding ourselves thinking more about babies and children than we ever thought we would, but having children would not be a good choice right now. So we've been sublemating to our desire to have a cat. (Actually, we want a cat regardless.)

Just don't try to dress them up in baby clothes - I did that when I was 8, and it was a bad idea. Cats have more claws than babies.
posted by jb at 11:48 AM on May 11, 2006

My friends' babies don't need babysitting

Yeah, as the father of two kids, let me say that EVERYONE with kids needs babysitting. I know what you mean though, if the kids are all 4 months old, they're with one parent pretty much all the time, but still, even five or ten minutes would be a nice break. Most normal kids can go that long without needing to eat or poop. Although feeding and diapers are at least 42% of the fun part of having a baby.

A puppy might fit the bill, as I know a number of thirty-something women without kids who adore their doggies.

Although it sounds odd, maybe try forcing yourself on a friend with a baby. We didn't have a lot of people over when we had small kids because our house was always a mess and we were horribly sleep deprived. But if you have a good friend that you can describe your situation too, just go over and hang out. Preferably a friend who uses cloth diapers - sometimes I wonder why we decided to go through that twice. Ugh. If you still want a baby after laundering a bucket full of bleach and little cloth bags of poop, it may be time to reevaluate the boyfriend.

posted by GuyZero at 11:51 AM on May 11, 2006

Your lust for babies/kids is probably very romanticized. I suggest you find a way to spend a good deal of time around a 2 year old. It may not get rid of your baby lust, but it may make it more realistic.

Or, you might want to try being a foster mother for a while. You sound nice. Lots of kids could use a nice place to live for a year or two while they move through the system.
posted by milarepa at 11:52 AM on May 11, 2006

My friends' babies don't need babysitting

Don't assume this is true. New Moms and Dads need breaks, even little ones. Have you called and offered any of these women assisstance? Even if the baby is tiny tiny tiny, you could offer to come and take care of baby in the living room while Mom has a bath. If the baby is a few months old, offer to keep him/her for the evening while Mom and Dad go out on a date. That would be greatly appreciated by those parents. I wouldn't count on it snapping you out of your desire for a kid (though I suppose it might) but at least you might get some of the baby need met.
posted by raedyn at 11:53 AM on May 11, 2006

Heh. I wrote my reply before I saw anyone else's. I guess the parents in the crowd have a consensus on this.
posted by raedyn at 11:54 AM on May 11, 2006

You could vounteer as a baby cuddler at a nearby hospital. Seems like a warm and fuzzy and socially productive way to get your baby fix.
posted by tentacle at 11:55 AM on May 11, 2006

Please, please, please be sure you're ready to take care of a dog (or cat) for the next 15 to 20 years before you go that route. Changing your mind about the commitment once the "hella cute" phase all-to-quickly ends can be fatal to the dog.
posted by timeistight at 11:56 AM on May 11, 2006

I "lent out" my baby to tons of people who had baby lust and still don't have children. Often, hanging out with kids about once every two weeks, even if their parents are around, is enough it seems. Hang out around bedtime, offer to read a story, be the kind auntie. People who don't need babysitting often could use socializing with people who don't mind kids about. (Speaking from personal experience)

Now that my daughter is six, and I find my baby ache coming on, my dog (not a puppy but a small and cute mutt) is a great baby substitute that is a ton less work than a baby ever could be (even with the obscene spoiling my dog gets).

If you don't want to commit to a puppy or hang around hospitals, SPCA is always looking for volunteer petters to socialize animals, too.
posted by Gucky at 12:05 PM on May 11, 2006

Go visit your friends who have babies. They may not feel comfortable having a babysitter and that's normal. But that doesn't mean they'd be opposed to you interacting with their child -- holding them, playing games, etc. A lot of people (like me and my husband) would love it if people could give us a break without requiring us to leave our little one alone. (If the baby/toddler is not used to babysitters/daycare, it may not be worth the trauma for the parents.)
posted by acoutu at 12:34 PM on May 11, 2006

Even if your friends don't ask you to babysit, I am sure that they would love it if you offered. Trust me, I have a one-year-old, and I know. Even if you just stopped by and played with the baby while they mowed the yard or caught up on cleaning I am sure that they would be grateful. I wish that I had someone that would offer to do that for me.

As far the suggestions on getting a puppy go, you could also see if any of your local animal rescue organzations have rent-a-stray programs, Here in St. Louis, Stray Rescue will let you take home a dog for the weekend.
posted by Ostara at 12:44 PM on May 11, 2006

Kids will always, always need babysitting. I was part-time nanny to my 3 (much younger) half-siblings, and despite them being perfect angels, they were still a handful. I'm sure if you tell them that you just have a maternal urge to be near children, they wouldn't mind taking the night out to go to the movies either.

As for the puppy/kitten/pet route, I wouldn't recommend that either. If you think kids were difficult, just think of puppies as babies that NEVER GROW UP. :) If babies of any species could take up your love for the young-uns for a while, volunteer to foster care wild-life for your local wildlife centre/humane society. It's springtime, and the time for baby raccoons/birds/etc to fall out of their nests, and they're often so overwhelmed that they need to put the babies down because of a lack of volunteers.

However, don't think that just because you had family issues, that you'd make a horrible parent. I came from a pretty rocky background myself, and with some therapy and a lot of books, I'm ready (as if we're ever) to welcome a bundle in November. And five years ago I told myself I hated kids. And I think in our time having children defies all logic in the first place, but I couldn't say no to my instincts.

In the meantime, you can volunteer at a local hospital for sick children, an innercity government supported daycare, or even your local humane society.
posted by Sallysings at 12:48 PM on May 11, 2006

I just wanted to say what a smart question and I commend you for not taking the plunge to motherhood and recognizing what you need instead.

My husband and I are committed to not having kids ever, but we are only 26. I wonder what will happen when we are much older, and if I or he will have similar feelings. Questions like this give me hope.
posted by agregoli at 12:56 PM on May 11, 2006

If you think kids were difficult, just think of puppies as babies that NEVER GROW UP. :)

There is an element of truth to this. A baby will grow up, learn English, and stop pooping itself. I'll be picking up dog poop for another 15 years.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:18 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

I didn't get yearnings until after I turned thirty -- the thump-thump is like a heartbeat in the gut sometimes, I swear, even if I know that this is just hormones. Always thought I didn't want to have kids or that I wanted to adopt, but now I think I very well may want to get pregnant in a few years.

Go cuddle your friends' babies. Shush them when they tell you that the house is a mess, bring cookies/quiche/whatever, and give them a grownup to talk to for a bit while you fuss over the baby. It's pretty awesome.
posted by desuetude at 1:26 PM on May 11, 2006

Start going to church (if you don't already) and volunteer to work in Sunday School/child care. That's where I got my baby fix for a long time.
posted by clh at 1:42 PM on May 11, 2006

I doubt I'd be any kind of mother at all - parent-child relationships baffle me and I have my own family issues that I wonder if I would just revisit on a child.

Disclaimer: I do not have children. However, since nobody has said it, I have to say that I don't see anything in your post that goes even the slightest way to persuading me that you wouldn't be a good mother. Honestly, the fact that you're willing to suppress your powerful desire for a baby on a frankly unconvincing basis like this suggests to me that you're actually exactly the kind of person who should in fact have one.

What I want is to have a *baby* regardless of logic

If you were simply too young, or living in absolute poverty, or a heroin addict, or had a massively high risk of giving the baby a crippling genetic illness, then logic would clearly support not having a baby. In your circumstances, not so much. It seems like in your efforts to not be impulsive or irresponsible, you are putting yourself in a position where you're not paying any respect to your feelings at all. Your emotions might not be an infallible source of guidance but they do matter and they do have meaning.
posted by teleskiving at 2:01 PM on May 11, 2006 [2 favorites]

Somewhat tangential WRT pets. It's only a small thing, but always think of it as 'getting a dog', not a 'puppy' (or cat instead of kitten for that matter). These little souls are dependent upon you their whole lives.

Speaking as someone who has a small dog and is going to have a baby, the small dog is definitely good at curbing any baby lust. Especially small dogs since they are always pick-up-able.

With small dogs in mind, I'd recommend the Havanese, but I'm biased. Strong points are
-they have a very strong puppy behaviour
-they are quite the lapdog
-non shedding
-excellent, just wanna please personality
posted by eurasian at 2:11 PM on May 11, 2006

I just wanted to say what a smart question

Seconded. An excellent question, getting excellent answers. I agree with the suggestions to babysit, and I think you'll make a superb aunt (or "aunt" if you don't actually have any nieces/nephews); my favorite aunt and uncle took out all their thwarted parental urges on me and my brothers, and we loved it.

teleskiving: Did you miss the part where she said her husband has no desire for children? What are you suggesting, that she divorce him and look for a more child-friendly mate?
posted by languagehat at 2:12 PM on May 11, 2006

Damn, well said teleskiving, exactly what I was thinking.

That said, what is your employment situation? Working at a day care or preschool might be the ticket, though it might make you want children more. But same goes with babysitting.
posted by kmel at 2:17 PM on May 11, 2006

Start going to church (if you don't already) and volunteer to work in Sunday School/child care.

YES YES YES. Most churches are desperate for people to watch the babies for an hour (nobody wants to- those with babies want to get away, and those without don't feel obligated); some have even resorted to paying.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:32 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

This is not meant to be flip: watching some of the scarier episodes of Nanny 911 and Supernanny sometimes makes me feel like running out and getting my tubes tied. Little babies are portable and cute. Once they're old enough to be small individuals with discipline issues, that's the real test of how badly you want to be a parent (as opposed to someone who might just as well buy a puppy).
posted by availablelight at 5:24 PM on May 11, 2006

Working in church nurseries isn't a bad idea - I went to one that was so desperate they started paying the teenagers. However, if the church is big, that may be overwhelming, especially if there is a lack of workers... and two hours a week might not be enough for your baby lust. Be aware that some churches are doing background checks on all nursery workers (even parents with kids in the nursery) now - mine did. I actually think this is a good thing but just wanted you to be aware.

I'm very close to my neighbors' 2 older kids - 14 and 11 - since I had been watching them since the oldest was only 6 months old. After I went to college they had to get a new babysitter since I wasn't available anymore. They have a 2-year-old now, and I watch him one day a week when I'm not working. It's nice for them since their regular babysitter needs Tuesdays or Wednesdays off occasionally, and it's great for me since I get to spend time with the little guy and it's enough for my baby lust. (I'm 25 and out of college now.) And I get to see the older kids after school for a while.

By the time one of my friends had her 3rd child (so the ages were infant, 18-months, and 6 years), she was delighted to have me over to entertain the kids while she was doing laundry or showering or whatever.

Since you're in your late 30s, this probably doesn't apply to you, but when I was 21 I had a 19-year-old friend who had a baby... and not that she didn't love her son, but she was used to a certain degree of freedom. Sometimes I'd ask to take him out for a day (even before he was a year old) and she was thrilled to hand him over!

Good luck - I absolutely love kids and I won't have a child till I'm more financially stable than I am now... so I feel ya!
posted by IndigoRain at 7:11 PM on May 11, 2006

As someone who's never going to have kids, I've decided to be a cross between a friend and a fairy godmother -- the one who swoops in with great presents, a sympathetic ear, trips to the movies -- spoiling every little kid in my aquaintance rotten and never having to live with any of the consequences. The perfect setup, to my mind. There's so much freedom there. I still remember and cherish the adults who befriended me -- the ones who were magic, in that they gave me time and books and music and treated me like a small interesting person. It's good for kids to have adult friends to look up to in a different way from their parents and family; it gives them such a better sense of the world and all the different ways you can choose to live in it. And it's good for you, too -- you get to see the world through their fresh eyes, and it's a far more hopeful place for it.

You can be that, and whatever else you want to be -- a volunteer for babies and kids in need, as others have suggested, or the go-to babysitter. Obviously, everyone here woud safely bet a million bucks that if you called your baby-having friends and asked them if they wanted to go to the movies while you took care of things at least one of them would leap at the chance.

I understand baby lust, I truly do. Be good to some babies you know and it will go a long way to scratching that itch.

(Oh, and if you want a pup or a cat by all means, get one, but make it because you want a pup or a cat. There's a lot of creative and satisfying things you can do with that nurturing instinct, but you should actually want to do them for reasons independent of this.)
posted by melissa may at 9:39 PM on May 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

Seems like a lot of the answers so far think that it's you that doesn't want a kid. But to me it sounds like you really do, but your husband doesn't.

In this case, either:

1. Leave him and find someone who shares your desires. Or ...

2. Have a kid with him whether he likes it or not. Just stop taking the pills. He doesn't need to know you did it on purpose. It could just be a gift from God. A friend of mine has a delightful little baby boy, even though his girlfriend was on the pill, so it does happen. If you do decide to deceive him, make sure you keep taking the pills out each day and... I don't know, dropping them in the shower drain or something.

This isn't about logic, it's about your most natural instincts, the dreams of your soul.
posted by The Monkey at 9:48 PM on May 11, 2006

I know I'm repeating some of what has been said before, but I think its really important to find ways to honor your feelings. Certainly try the auntie route and if it satisfys / turns you off having kids, great.

But also accept the fact that you may be in for some very big changes in your life and that you may need to find ways to be true to your feelings such as actually having kids. Many many women don't want to have kids in their twenties, but find in their thirties that they do (in other words you are not alone) and its perfectly legitimate, and the idea that therapy can "cure"you of those feelings is ridiculous and may ultimately be an act of violence against yourself.

Give yourself permission to feel the way you do, and that you may need to really shake things up.

Keep us posted on how things go.
posted by zia at 12:38 AM on May 12, 2006

languagehat: Did you miss the part where she said her husband has no desire for children? What are you suggesting, that she divorce him and look for a more child-friendly mate?

I think the first step is for the questioner to be honest with herself about what she actually wants and whether or not she really believes that she wouldn't be a good mother. In my opinion it would be a mistake to factor her husband's wishes into answering that first question.

Clearly, if she does decide that she does want to be a mother then she's going to have more issues to deal with. Having said that, I don't think there's enough information in the question to be sure that the husband cannot be a good and willing father; it sounds like his current position on kids may never been seriously challenged (it's not clear what happened in those therapy sessions) and may actually be quite superficial.
posted by teleskiving at 12:44 AM on May 12, 2006

Have a kid with him whether he likes it or not. Just stop taking the pills. He doesn't need to know you did it on purpose.

Aaargh, please! That's an awful thing to do to both partner and baby. It also requires the assumption the poster lacks any ethics, self-respect, respect for her husband and concern for the chilld, and is just plain stupid, because if she really was a person capable of such irresponsible behaviour, she would have done it already without asking this question here, no?

She didn't say she wants to have a child at all costs and despite her husband. She specifically said "I don't really think I want to raise children" and asked "how to sate my baby lust without actually having a baby?". There is no need to challenge that very clearly stated premise.
posted by funambulist at 3:02 AM on May 12, 2006

teleskiving, you're making a lot of unfounded assumptions and questioning things about the poster you have no reason to be questioning.

Her post sounds very clear and exhaustive to me and to the vast majority of people who commented before, and actually provided helpful appropriate answers to the question as formulated.
posted by funambulist at 3:05 AM on May 12, 2006

funambulist, of course it's awful, I was being a baffle in the echo chamber. And it seems to me it worked, as zia & teleskiving have both since posted more moderated versions of the alternative (to "childfree") position.

The only real solution to wanting to have a baby is to have a baby. Dogs are great, we love our dog. But dogs aren't babies. Babysitting is fun, we do it for some of our friends sometimes, but it's not the same as having your own kids.

If her husband refuses to reconsider his position, and she wants to have a baby, my honestly held belief is that she'd be happier with someone else. Someone who shares her desires. Having a baby is a pretty fundamental sort of a thing.
posted by The Monkey at 4:16 AM on May 12, 2006

The only real solution to wanting to have a baby is to have a baby. Dogs are great, we love our dog. But dogs aren't babies. Babysitting is fun, we do it for some of our friends sometimes, but it's not the same as having your own kids.

That's all true, but that's the kind of suggestions she specifically solicited ("should I go hold crack babies at the hospital? Convince my husband to buy a puppy?") because she said she really doesn't want to raise children.

Her post also summed up rather neatly the process she went through in examining her feelings and options and realisations, and the conclusion is very clear: without actually having a baby.

I don't see why question that and her self-awareness on that. It doesn't sound as if it's lacking or faulty. She says this has been an issue for the past year, and she went to therapy with her husband, from which we can fairly assume she must have given the thought some considerable attention already. I couldn't "convince" my husband to have a baby, because I don't really think I want to raise children. ie. she's not convinced herself. She just feels the 'baby lust' and wants to sate it without having a baby. Suggestions to leave her husband and find another partner willing to have children are rather bold unwarranted leaps.

Sorry, I don't mean to turn into proper-answer-police, eh, really!, it just strikes me that this was a very clear and precise question that doesn't need a re-examination of the premises, and indeed, most people who replied didn't do that, they just took the question on its own terms.
posted by funambulist at 5:07 AM on May 12, 2006

update from the OP:

Thank you all for your thoughtful responses - it was not easy for me to post this question, and I puzzled over how to phrase it for a long time. I've felt rather alone lately in this, and just knowing that several people wanted to respond to it does actually make me feel a bit better.

jb - I promise I will not be dressing up cats in baby clothes. EVER. Heh.

as for volunteering at a church daycare - I'm Jewish (pretty much non-practicing) so I would think that rules that out. Where I live doesn't have the largest population of us in the world, so I don't think there are a lot of babies to mind during services. Although I don't belong to a temple so I couldn't say for sure.

and the dog, well - I probably won't be getting a dog, and neither one of is particularly enamored of cats. my husband also wonders (as timeistight did) that I might get bored with taking care of a dog. I think he also wonders if I might get bored with taking care of a child - but I don't think that's really his main "reason" for not wanting kids. That's irrelevant, actually - he doesn't want any, I'm married to him and I'm staying married to him, that's the situation.

Monkey - I'm not on the pill, and my husband well knows how babies are made (smile). I don't know that deceiving him into impregnating me (I have met women whose husbands didn't want children and "gave" them one anyway, those family units seemed less-than-optimal to me) would contribute to the health of my marriage (which is a wonderful one, I don't want to give any impression otherwise). I would need his active cooperation in the enterprise if I was going to go forward with making a baby - which there are no plans to. And heck, I'm staring forty right in the face - my time seems to have passed for this. That's one of the reasons this irrational longing just SUCKS.

kmel - I'm pretty well locked into my job - I've been there for many years and the benefits and salary I receive are good enough that working at a daycare wouldn't make much financial sense.

for anyone who mentioned being a big sister or a foster mother - I wouldn't feel all that comfortable with those options, as it's really a baby (my own) that I'm selfishly longing for. Plus, I never have any idea what to say to anyone who is old enough to talk (children, I mean - I can speak to adults just fine). Babies, however, seem to adore me. Perhaps one of the reasons I want one is that almost every infant I pick up smiles at me. Cruel trick of nature, that. Maybe my face looks like a happy clown's. Or a boob.

I don't know that there really is an "answer" to what is very likely an emotional/biological/hormonal dilemma. But I appreciate everyone's time in responding to me - it's been rather a difficult year.
posted by jessamyn at 5:38 AM on May 12, 2006

Anonymous, just so you know, I think there are churches that wouldn't care that you're Jewish for watching the babies. Particularly the ones that are so desperate they're beginning to pay people.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:03 AM on May 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

OK, it seems like having a baby really and truly is out of the question here and I apologise if my previous comments were a distraction from the discussion.

That said, it seems like the issue here is more how to basically come to terms with your childless status than it is to do with finding a substitute. This is clearly going to be very hard while the door is still just about open but somehow you need to recognize that you have suffered a loss and go through the grieving process needed to accept it and move on with your life. I do think that it would be worth talking to a therapist about this.

I don't mean to bang on about this but I do get a feeling from both of your posts that you do tend to be quite hard on yourself and tend to dismiss your feelings as "irrational" and "selfish". At the very least, you have to stop doing that. Your emotional pain doesn't seem to me to be all that different in character to that which would follow a miscarriage and it really does deserve to be taken seriously.
posted by teleskiving at 7:27 AM on May 12, 2006

Offer to provide NIGHT ASSISTANCE to any friend with a newborn for a week.

It will almost certainly cure you of your lust.

Of course, if you still want a baby after that, you may need to try counseling again...

Good luck!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 1:11 PM on May 12, 2006

Let me add that I say this with a HUGE grain -

I was in the same place you were four or five years ago, at age 32. We weren't sure we wanted kids, and we knew we would stay married. We decided to try and six months later found out we wouldn't be able to do it on our own. All of a suddent, getting pregnant became a quest. It took four years and lots of assistance, but we did finally get there.

Point being, it is a loss, no question. Biologically, most women (not all, of course) are hardwired to get that pang. And if you choose not to go ahead, as you and your husband have done, you need to take some time to mourn the loss.

Not trying to get all heavy on you here, but I have many friends who have not been able to conceive and while some chose to go the adoption route and other chose the childfree route, all of them had to go through the experience of letting go of the desire, and healing through the grief.

All of them did one thing which I thought was very important - they all went on some type of birth control. It was a very active choice to specifically decide they would not get pregnant, so that it wasn't nature or someone else making this decision for them, but THEM taking active control of their bodies.

I read a wonderful book called Sweet Grapes, and while it's about people choosing to live childfree after infertility, it might be really useful to you.

Sorry for the rambles - hope you find the support you need here!
posted by OhPuhLeez at 1:26 PM on May 12, 2006

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