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THE kid question
I don't want to have children. i never wanted to have children. i come from a place where everybody has them. my dental hygienist told me last time i was there for a visit: 'what, you don't feel like having a little baby' (baby in english - ma, lo ba lach eize baby). it was revolting. this entire crowd is trying to convince me that if i don't have the kid now i'll regret it later. i have a couple more years to go, then it's over. i am strong minded and not easily disuaded from my beliefs, but this one is particularly difficult. the thought of the thing, screaming pooping and demanding food is totally revolting. Should I have one?
I would say the main thing is to make the decision for yourself. There are few things harder (or more irritating) than making a major, personal life decision, when everyone else in the world has a strong opinion (especially if those mainly point the same way). Of course, you probably want to get some advice from people you trust, but not the average person on the street who doesn't know the first thing about you; and whether the cumulative effect is that you do have a kid because you're bullied into it, or don't because you can't stand being told what to do, a decision made as a reaction against society isn't exactly the register of the question. No one else can know the things you want to do with your life and the particular way your originality will manifest -- it's hard enough to figure this out for oneself.

We probably all know people who were a bit ambivalent about having kids, and for whom this turned out to be an amazing life experience and completely transformative (in a wonderful way). And people whose lives essentially were over when they got pregnant (Steinem's famous quip that we are told it is more important to give birth to others than to ourselves).  Obviously, the personalities involved and the particulars of the situation have a huge effect. You have to know yourself.

There are many ways to live life and many interesting things to do. Children are an obvious and immediate source of meaning, and who's to deny that most of them grow up to be pretty fantastic. The mistake, of course -- having watched a number of women I know put up with this -- is casting a decision not to have kids as a vote against humanity (which society typically does, and unleashes upon you the full force of its anger).
If you decide that for you kids are really not in the cards, you should realize (which in any case is true but perhaps now more obvious) that the pressure's now on to make something out of life.  You can get on to the difficult business of living. You can say sweetly to the manicurist and the taxi driver and the doorman, "You know, I love children, but what with my expeditions to Everest I simply don't have time."
Hi Natalie, Mia

I would like to bring forth three points which I think are usually quite neglected in these considerations. These points do not point to having kids or not, a very personal decision, but highlight certain traits these conversations tend to have. They do try to show that there is actually a choice, and not simply what will obviously have to happen.

1. Most conversations about THE kid question revolve around “you don’t know what you’re missing” it is the most amazing thing in the world, and so on. It is always around what you are missing. The choice is put as to choose not to have kids, to choose to give up on that wonderful thing, to choose an unfulfilled life, to choose not to become a real woman as this is the moment women really fulfill themselves as women.  Moreover, you need to choose immediately, and what do you know about who you’ll be in 20 years, but no, you have to choose now. What they do not take into account is that it is a completely different life, and both cases are a real choice. It is not merely to choose to have a screaming pooping and demanding thing as you put it, but a choice of a completely different life.

They want to put it like a choice to buy a big screen TV. Yes, it will cost you a lot of money, yes you’ll be giving up something as you could use this money to buy yourself a nice sweater – how egotistical can you be, but it is really worth it to spend that money as you’ll be getting something really great in return that will bring meaning and happiness to your life.

What they don’t say, what they don’t understand, is that it is a completely different kind of choice. A choice between two completely different ways of life. It is not only gaining something for a certain price, but also losing a lot. For instance, trying out Crack cocaine could be very interesting, you could gain a lot from the experience, maybe (don’t know myself), but you also lose a lot. It is a choice where both sides offer something and have a price. If you never try it you don’t know, that’s true, but then trying it changes you - there’s no going back. You’ll never know what could have been if you didn’t try it.

I will say this for this for having kids – you very rarely regret it. Having them, well, you love them. The alternative doesn’t  exist anymore, neither in the present, or the past.

 

2. You should understand that people’s comments, people’s suggestions, don’t necessarily come from a good place. Not to say whether their suggestions are good or bad, their motives are not clean, whether it be a very good friend (as Mia suggests) or not. I’ll explain.

You probably noticed how when people start going to a therapist they either don’t tell anybody about it, or are very insistent that you should go yourself. “It is the most wonderful thing, and so helpful, you simply must do it.” Now, immaterial of whether it is a good thing or not, their insistence is strange. I think psychology has a name for this phenomena, but I’ll simply say that psychologically, they don’t want to feel sick. They are like everybody else, and if they are going, everyone should. It is ok to go, that is what they want to feel. It is the same with having kids. After people have kids, they don’t want to feel like they’re the sick ones, like they are strange, but everyone needs to be like them. At the same time, they gave up a lot – and trust me they know it all too well (even if they don’t regret it) but then they need to feel that their choice was good, that they didn’t give up their life for nothing; that it is a choice everybody should make.

 

3. My third point is to note that though people seem to think that it is biological, that women simply have a biological urge to have kids, and that it is not merely the way they are brought up, it is interesting that most men don’t seem to get that urge (even if they decide to have kids for other reasons). If it was so biological, so evolutional, don’t you think men would also have that urge? Somehow men, and women, seem to think that this biological urge is reserved for women.

Now people reading this might think I am against having kids, which is not at all the case. I think it is very good for some people, amazingly great even, and very bad for others. What I find disturbing, and hence what I find important to note, is how much it is not a choice. People think they are making a choice, but it is ridiculous to see it happen and how this “choice” is being completely personally chosen, by well, everyone. (there are some places, like Germany, where it isn’t apparently like this, but mostly it is).

People will give you many different reasons why they decided to have, or to want to have, kids. But I can clearly say this – in my surroundings it was very easy to know when the topic of kids was brought up, and it was always at a point of boredom from life, of not really feeling one has anything important to do and then kids appear as a way to find meaning. Not consciously obviously, No, they give many many reasons. But from the outside, it was quite clear and very easy to guess when the kid answer will appear. Now this boredom is not necessarily of both people in the couple, but even for one person it is usually enough pressure to start the snowball.

 

I’ll say it again, for some people it is great, and I’m sure you have many friends who you always knew will want to have kids and to whom it brought a lot of happiness and meaning.

But one also shouldn’t forget that there is no going back and it is a choice for a very specific way of life, instead of another.
Hi all, great posts everyone. Not sure I have much to add to this careful and structured analysis of the problem. I myself am very confused: I feel like having kids will be at some stage a priority in my life, but not quite yet...and I'm getting closer and closer to the age of decision. It's very strange: I know people who are against having kids, I know people who are all for it, and I've thought a lot about it. I think I want to have a child. Eventually.
I find very interesting how many men, who abstractly think that they couldn't bothered with having kids, suddenly find themselves in that situation (mainly because of pressure from the female partner) and easily get used to the idea, and simply think: I love my partner, kids are a strain but they are also great, oh well, ok let's do it; simple as that. To me it sounds like a huge thing, I want to give a great deal of thought to, before doing anything rash. It seems to me that it involves being ready to give up the idea that I am the most important person in the world, which is I'm afraid quite central in my personality. To put it in a less extreme way, I think it involves a revision of the idea of self and identity, which sometimes I think should require years of studying and learning...still people have been having kids since always, without having any specific university degree!
Summing up, the whole process is still quite a mystery to me, and I do not intend to take a blind jump. I guess the time of understanding will come, if ever, and then I'll know. What else can one do???
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This topic has the following siblings:

THE kid question - What do people expect from parenting?

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Latest Post: November 13, 2010 at 12:48 AM
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