RANT: Kids? Don't Have 'Em, Don't Want 'Em

I made a pretty quick reference to abortion in my last posting, simply stating that an inadvertent pregnancy on my part would, with absolute certainty, end in an abortion.
I have fairly strong views on abortion, and it’s one of my particular irks with America today. Sitting across the great divide, as a Canadian, it’s baffling seeing the land that’s so hell-bent on separation of Church and State on its quest to be its own Holy Land.
I swear, I think that if Bush accomplishes nothing in his time in office other than the radical reversal of Roe v. Wade, and brings about the elimination of abortion as birth control in America today, he will believe he has done his job as a leader. (Never mind that small matter of Iraq, the erosion of personal freedoms, information leaks, etc.)
But this is not the time for my soapbox.
Okay, well, yeah, all right: Any time is soapbox time.
But here, now, I want to talk about this myth of 2.4 kids, a dog, and a picket fence.
I’ve written in the past about the cultural objectifying of relationships – that if you’re single, you’re incomplete. Insert cheesy Jerry Maguire scene here: “You complete me.” [/swoon] Barf.
Not in a relationship? What’s wrong with you? You say you don’t want kids? Oh, give it time! You’ll meet the right person! You’re just being cynical. Everyone wants kids. You don’t know what you’d be missing!
Um, like, YEAH.
I’d be missing spending the rest of my life worrying about what’s gonna happen to my kids if anything happens to me. I’d be missing the complications of trying to find time alone with my lover. I’d be missing the ability to take time out for myself any time I need it. I’d be missing years of diapers, debt, spilled drinks, debt, crumbs in the sofa, debt, heavily soiled clothing, debt, kids crying about playground bullies, yada, yada, yada. Did I mention debt?
I’d also be missing the shaping of a young mind. I’d be missing the direct imprint of my values on another human being. I’d be missing the journey from embryo to adulthood, with all its zany stops in between. I’d be missing the endless surprises and laughter brought about by having kids around the house. I’d be missing the pride I’d feel as I watch my progeny take the world by storm, one small accomplishment at a time.
Don’t you think I know what kids add or detract from a life? That’s the thing that pisses me off. The smug, patronizing, “Oh, give it time, you just haven’t met the right man” bullshit I hear every time I have to explain, “Um, no, I don’t want children.” As if being a woman and shunning my birthright to bear kids is antithetical to nature itself. “Um, NO, I do NOT want children,” I have to say yet again, slowly, as if speaking to a brain-damaged psych ward lifer.
Fuck that, people. I don’t want kids because I’ve already spent too many years of my life patching up other people’s arguments and caring for a sick mother and forgetting who I was in between it all. I don’t want kids because I want to experience my life to the fullest, on my terms. I don’t want kids because, deep down inside, I know I’ll one day resent all the compromises I will have had to make in order to raise them well. I don’t want kids because kids deserve something better than some parent who’s only half-wanting to be there.
I don’t want kids because I have carefully considered all the ramifications, and I simply know I’m not willing to do what needs to be done to raise them well. And kids deserve better than being shipped off to boarding school by some prima donna parent who’s tired of the compromises.
When I was a teen, I was babysitting a fair bit. I had a great attitude, was fun to be around – because I love kids and think they’re an absolute hoot. They crack me up. And I always, always crack them up. I remember two women who made me really, really think about the whole parenting thing.
One had taken extreme measures to make her home a learning castle for her kid. She did everything for her kid, so much so that I wondered how in the hell she ever found time for herself. My guess is, she didn’t. The kid was doted on, and it showed – he was bright, funny, happy, wonderful. He really was a terrific kid, and I knew his mother and father were huge – HUGE – players in that reality. I realized how much then a woman had to forsake (and in theory, the man, too) in order to properly raise a child. I realized then how much my mother put into raising my brother and I. It was daunting, to say the least.
The other woman took the “Well, it’s my life too” method of parenting to a whole new level. I was hired as a babysitter who would come over three to four nights a week at 8:30. I would put the kid to bed, and the mother’s partying would begin. The mother had a one-way radio in case something happened to the kid, but she was in a separate wing of the house, and for all I knew, would never look in on the kid. I’d return at 7am, get the kid ready, and take him to school. I would be paid for 12 hours of work, despite doing only about five – and I was only 17 at the time, and still going to school. This woman was doing blow, drinking like a fish, and sleeping with other men, despite being married. I didn’t need x-ray goggles to figure that much out. I saw what was in the kid’s future – anger, resentment, aloneness, despair, and a lack of self-esteem. Oh, and boarding school. Mom might have been around, but she made it pretty fucking clear where her priorities were.
Having kids is not to be taken lightly. Children deserve love, attention, nurturing, fun, and every kind of support imaginable. I’m a fan of parents who invest in their kids – who are so proud of their kids’ works of art that they frame them. I admire parents who expose their kids to new worlds, who don’t let their tykes crash in front of the TV and remain. I can’t get over, and never cease the admiration of, parents who are actively involved in all areas of their children’s lives, who establish trust and openness at a young age, and who stay plugged in as long as possible, who put their kids where they deserve to be put: First.
But I’m not willing to make the sacrifices in my own life to be that kind of parent, and I’m not going to do a half-assed job, either. The last thing any kid ever needs to know is that you’d rather be lying in a hammock in Bali, working on your novel. No kid needs to know you wish you’d made different choices in the past, and I know that’s how I’d feel, regardless of the highs.
So how in the fuck does my knowing where to draw the line in my sand make me some sort of crass, unplugged woman who doesn’t get what she should be? Society judges chicks like me, still, and I’m tired of it.
Hell, I was watching Oprah the other day and Kirstie Alley was on, talking about dating, and she insists that any man she sees be previously married and even have kids. “If you’re over 40 and you’ve never been married, you’re a perv!” she shouted. Oprah just laughed – but I wonder what went through her mind. She’s over 50, has never been married, and has never had kids. Why? Because she feels she has a different role to play in life, so why limit her potential by being a mother?
And before you get up my ass about the “limited potential” as a mother comment, think about it. If your first priority is NOT raising your child, you’re probably not doing it as well as you could, or should, be doing it. Those are the sacrifices you’ve elected to make. So make them.
Me, I’ll have no kids. I watch my nephew and my friends’ kids with great love and respect. I try to play an important role in their upbringing, as I know I’ll never play that role for kids of my own. I have “kids” out in the world now, going to university, who I taught how to write when they were only 8 or 10 years old, and they still remember all the things I taught them, and they smile at me, and tell me stories about the way I made them fall in love with writing. I cherish the knowledge I’ve been that for those kids, and that I still am that for others, since I’m still having the same powerful experiences I used to have… yet I go home at night, alone, and have a long, lingering bath, a meal I’ve cooked and can enjoy in silence, and I watch what I want to watch on television, and I go to sleep and wake up whenever the hell I want.
Life is about balance. And I have achieved mine, moreso of late with the acquisition of a great relationship, and I have no regrets about my definition of “balance”, and no intention to change it.
If kids are on your list of must-haves, along with item H on page 62 of the latest Restoration Hardware catalog, you better fucking check your motivations and know, with certainty, that you’re able to make the required sacrifices to give that child all the attention and love it deserves. Otherwise, kindly outsiders like me are the ones who’ll be picking up your fucking slack, and really – I’ve got better things to do.

15 thoughts on “RANT: Kids? Don't Have 'Em, Don't Want 'Em

  1. The boyfriend

    Time for me to chime in.

    When friends of mine get pregnant or have kids, I start to feel like I want kids, too. And then the feeling passes soon after.

    I can enunciate my feelings about parenthood pretty succinctly: I don’t want kids badly enough to have them. I am 36 years old, and I have never been driven to have offspring. And kids deserve parents who really want them, with no regrets. (And urban kids deserve to be born into a household with a combined income of six figures, IMHO, but that’s a whole ‘nuther argument)

    My kid sister has five kids. And if I feel the need, I can still corrupt them.

  2. PS

    Righteous. This from an *shock..gasp…run for the hills* avowed Christian.

    I don’t necessarily agree that kids should be the priority – a priority certainly. (I say that simply because certain people tend to put their kids above everything, even themselves and relationships with spouses. That’s as fucked as completely ignoring the kids. Well, maybe not as fucked but pretty close to it.)

    You’re right, it is balance. I’m glad you’ve found yours.

    Corrupting kids who aren’t your own is fun. But man, I want the opportunity to corrupt my own flesh and blood. Surely that’ll be more satisfying. Of course then I’ll have to deal with the results of the corruption. That might not be fun. Maybe I’ll stick to other people’s kids and let them deal with my influential perversion.

    Things to consider.

    I don’t really get judging. Questioning I’m all for. But judgment seems just as stupid as… No, I think it’s the stupidest thing you could do.

  3. Haaaaaaa

    As a parent, I respect your viewpoint. I have run across lots of fellow parents who should not have had kids. It seems like you know what you want, so more power to ya.

    When I was a kid I had two hellions for brothers. As a newly married adult at 24, I was not the least bit interested in having kids. I committed to my wife that we would have kids, but when was a question. As the years went by I softened to the idea and my wife hardened to the idea of having children. She was into her career. We left the door open, if you know what I mean, and said if it happens it will happen. I did become a father at 32 and haven’t regretted it. I am a very involved dad and wouldn’t have it any other way.

    For me, the turning point in my attitude was about the finality of it all. You get so many years to have kids and then it’s over. You don’t get to reverse that decision. You’re stuck with it. I couldn’t stand it if I had made the wrong decision and lived a long time thinking of what might have been.

  4. scribe called steff

    Boyfriend — From what I’ve heard, your sis’s kids NEED a little corrupting.

    PS — Christian? Sez who? I was raised Catholic, and now don’t know what I believe, if I believe anything at all. I’m not comfortable with the idea of “God” but I throw the word around a lot because saying “universal energy” sounds flakey, and I don’t know what else I could define what I mean as. But I’m not comfortable being pegged as a Christian. I have Christian attitudes at times, but I also have Buddhist attitudes, Islamic attitudes, and atheist attitudes, so I’m a mosaic of mindsets, really.

    And if you think my views on kids is anti-mainstream or something, then so too are my marriage views. (Check the sidebar for those postings.)

    Haaaaaaa — Yeah, I know what I want. I know there’s a chance I’ll regret my choices… but I doubt I’ll ever regret the life I lead in lieu of them, thus I doubt I’ll feel regret at all.

    I will lead an interesting and full life, because I already do, and I’ll maintain that. The experiences I’ve had thus far, and the experiences I’m still sure to have, they all keep me loving my life. My experiences would be completely different with kids, and probably not the same at all.

  5. PS

    Sorry, I meant I was a Christian. “That from a Christian” was meant as an underline to my comment supportive of “Righteous.” Just sayin’ I agreed with you.

    Who said you don’t have an anti-mainstream view on kids…or marriage for that matter? I guess you do, but hell, that’s a mighty good thing.

  6. scribe called steff

    Oh, yes, okay, well, you’re allowed to be a Christian. 🙂

    I get it now. Bear of very little brain sometimes. 😉

    Yeah, someone’s gotta speak up for those of us who aren’t too off of center, but who don’t wish to live within the narrow boxes set out by the rest of society’s “norms”. I know I’m not alone, but I’m also not an extremist, and I’m the kind of person most people would assume to have kids or get married or what have you, I would think. It just ain’t the case. Heh.

    Thanks, tho. 🙂

  7. myself

    Thank you for this. I am a woman who has not wanted kids and taken crap for it my whole life. Babysat WAY too much as a teen, I know what goes into it, and frankly, good on anyone that decides it’s for them, but childrearing is not going to be on my resume.

    Thankfully, being in my late 30’s the “I’m too old” comment works very well, and doens’t need any explanations. I can (and have) get pregnant if I wanted to, but there’s that problem of want.

    Don’t want.

  8. Mad Coyote

    Personally, I think it’s great that you both know you don’t want kids- as Haaaaaaa said, I’ve seen far too many people who should never have had them, and far too many who should have their kids taken away.

    My sister and her husband have never wanted kids, and it’s what’s best for them. Children just don’t fit into their lifestyle, and I think that’s great.

    Myself, I always wanted kids; and I’m quite happy being a single dad with a teenage daughter (and like The Guy, I too am 36). I wouldn’t give up my daughter for the world, and to me, all the hard work and sacrifice is worth it. But I definitely wouldn’t say it’s for everyone; and for those people who don’t feel comfortable with the idea, I think the important thing is that they realise it, and don’t bring a life into this world that won’t be truly welcomed.

    Besides, you never know- by choosing not to have a kid, you may just be denying the world another George Bush… 😛

  9. Neurotica

    wow… you elucidated that all so well. I also have chosen not to have kids, for many of the same reasons you listed (though I don’t think I could have done so as clearly!), and am so tired of being made to feel like there is something wrong with me for that. particularly as I’m from the south, and when I go there for a visit, I get the distinct impression that they think I have somehow failed in life….. that the ultimate success is marriage and kids, and the fact that I am working on a phd, or have traveled to some amazing places, really doesn’t count. anyway, I could rant on this myself, but just wanted to say thanks for stating it all so clearly!

  10. scribe called steff

    PS: I only wish I’d been ironic enough and smart enough to say, “Oh, God, No!” to a comment about my being Christian. That’s a good one. I only said “Sez who?” Hardly brilliant. 🙂

    Myself — Yes, the pressure is odd when you’re female, isn’t it? Fuck ’em. 🙂

    Coyote — That’s it, I’m calling my unborn, unthere child George.

    Neuro — Hey, you’re welcome. Yeah, I get a lot of flack from certain people. My dad applauds it, says good on me. Other people tell me cool, I’m thinking for myself, but then there are the “oh, you’ll change your mind when you fall for someone, you’ll see” crowd who piss me off. 😛

  11. mhorts

    I’m 44, married, and do not have any children. There have been fleeting moments when I wondered what it would be like to have an ankle-biter or two, but these moments pass quickly.

    One interesting dynamic that I have noticed is that as I get older and still don’t have children, many parents treat me like a child molester. You are 44 and don’t have any children? What is wrong with you? Stay away from my kids. Actually, this is mostly in my head, but it does concern me.

  12. A Scribe Called Steff Post author

    Posted February 19, 2008 at 10:42 pm | Permalink | Edit
    I am glad you understand all that is entailed in raising kids and can recognise that you dont want that in your life. I have to respectfully disagree with you on abortion.. but that is my own personal, mom of 4 beautiful kids, oppinion. I think if more people were like you.. abortion would not be necessary. You seem to have your head on straight and that is one thing so many seem to lack. I found your site looking for ways to make mine and my hubbys relationship work more and your bondage post was great. But when I read this.. I know I am going to bookmark your site and keep up with it.
    While for some.. pregnancy was not intended.. a gift like that just seems (to me)like something you could not waste.. but if you are careful.. and I advocate all sorts of prevention methods… you will never have to face that terrible decision of ending another life.
    I have devoted a good 95% of my life to my kids who are all still small.. and you are right.. if you are not willing to put all of that into them.. to make them and their situation better than what you had.. you have no business with kids. If you are willing.. more power to you.
    I am glad to hear though, that you have kids in your life. Every kid should have the COOL Aunt or Uncle (actual or out of respect and friendship) that can show them the things in life that mom and dad might not have time to show them. I had an Aunt like that and she was the best… Took me to my first rock concert.. bought me my first drink.. was there to talk to when my Boyfriend at the time screwed with my heart and all mom said was ” I told you he was bad news”.
    Enjoy your singleness.. and realise that you ARE appriciated and respected by us Mommys and Daddys.. because sometimes.. seeing you is the kick in the pants we need to get us back into “US”.. not just “Our Family” even if it is only for a weekend.. or a night out.. and usually.. you are the ones we call to babysit!

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