Ambivalence

When I was in junior high school, I had one particular teacher who was rather liberal in her views (at least by Utah Valley standards). She mentioned one day that she and her new husband had decided they would never have children. I was shocked. She was being so selfish! Didn’t she know the Plan of Salvation? Isn’t it our duty to multiply and replenish the earth? I couldn’t comprehend why someone would make such a choice. I’d had enough cultural conditioning and Young Women’s lessons that I definitely had an idealized picture of being a mother above all else for my future.

Now I am in my late twenties, have been married nearly six years, and haven’t yet had children or the desire to have them.I always envisioned myself with children, and never thought I’d wait long after marriage to start having babies. A few weeks before my wedding, my father sat me down for an earnest talk. The unspoken message of the talk was that he and my mother had never done any family planning, and they ended up having seven children and limited options for their life. If they had the choice now, I’m sure they wouldn’t give any of us back, but I suspect my father in particular would like to have done things differently. The actual conversation included vague questions like “do you have a plan regarding children?” and subtle hints like “sometimes it’s good to wait a while and get to know each other first.” I can’t help but wonder if now he’s really wishing for grandchildren. At present, the years are passing, my biological clock is ticking, and I wonder if I will ever have the desire to have children. I think I want to have had them once I am older, but I don’t want to do it now. I realize that I am in a privileged position of having the choice (at least I think so, one never knows for sure until one tries). I don’t want to be insensitive to those for whom the desire is there and the choice is not. I like my life right now, but I can’t help but think there is something fundamentally wrong with me in my complete lack of desire to be a mother.

I was visiting some girlfriends recently, all of whom have children. They were discussing the fantasies they’d had about being mothers. Prior to giving birth, they’d each had idyllic pictures in their minds of themselves with their children. I don’t have fantasies— I have nightmares. I don’t picture myself as supermom with a happy cooing baby. All I can think about is lack of sleep, poop, vomit, snotty noses, no time for myself, feeling trapped.

Isn’t there supposed to be a natural instinct to want children? Don’t most women pick up a baby and long for one of their own? The drive and desire for many is so strong that they will go to great lengths; the fertility industry is booming. I chose a career that would give me flexibility and work with having children. I always imagined I would want to do it, so what has happened to me?

I wonder whether it would be wise to go ahead and try to have children because I think I should even though I don’t really want to. Would I be a grudging mother who is angry at her children for usurping her life? Or would I grow into the role and come to love it? What if I keep waiting until the day that I actually want to have children, and then it’s too late?

Are there other women out there who have struggled with the lack of desire to have children? What have been your experiences as you’ve planned your own families?

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  1. Heather O. says:

    Having children changes your entire life. You have absolutely no idea what it will be like until you have them. Also, you have no idea of how much you will love your child, even if you are ambivalent, or heck, downright pissed about being pregnant. All of those things disappear when you are holding the child in your arms

    Motherhood is terrifying, no question. And it’s incredibly hard. But like I said, it’s impossible to say how it makes you feel until you live through it.

    Also, I don’t mean to alarm you, but so often whether or not you have children is not up to you. And infertility is just as hard as motherhood. And although I have known many women who don’t want large families, women who wonder how their lives will change when they have children, I have yet to meet a woman who has been told that she can’t have kids who doesn’t feel deep sorrow. Yes, these women have gone on to lead happy and productive lives, have much to contribute, and have become amazing women. But always, always, there is a sadness.

    To me, that shows that there is something inside each of us that longs to be a mother. It is definitely different for every woman, and it’s obviously ok to not want 10 children, or even more than one. But like I said, I’ve yet to meet the woman who is relieved that she will never be a mother.

    It’s a decision that shouldn’t be made lightly. Good luck.

  2. Heather O. says:

    I guess what I am really saying is that you should not ask yourself the question, “Do I want children?”, but rather, “How would I feel if a doctor told me it would be impossible for me to ever conceive?” That might give you a better picture of how you really feel about motherhood.

  3. Kiskilili says:

    “I’ve yet to meet the woman who is relieved that she will never be a mother.”

    I’m good friends with this woman. 🙂 I’m pretty sure she’s through menopause, and she’s very glad she never had children, in whom she has little interest. I have no reason to question her sincerity.

    This is such an interesting post. Motherhood is so enormously complicated–some, perhaps most, mothers adore their children. Some abandon or neglect them. Some lack enough of a sense of self to have real relationships with them.

    I’ve always adored children, loved dolls as a kid, and pictured myself with a brood of them. And I’m crazy about my nephews. But at this point in my life, I’m relatively happy where I am (single and childless). Sometimes I feel like I’m getting away with something.

  4. Caroline says:

    I’ll tell you about my experience, for what it’s worth.

    Like you, I had very little interest in having children. In the first few years of my marriage, I was always afraid my birth control would fail. I would imagine myself pregnant, and I would become terrified. Tears would actually start streaming down my face at the thought of having a baby at only 25 years old.

    But when i hit 28 I figured I should probably just get it over with, since I knew I wanted them at some point. It took me a year, but I finally got pregnant. The last trimester was difficult.

    But after baby was born, I totally loved him. The lack of sleep, spit up, etc. weren’t very easy the first month, but baby was so cute that it was all ok. Now he’s nearly 8 months old and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

    I work part time and sometimes I feel like I don’t have enough me time, but baby is so awesome (and I have supportive family and husband) so it’s working out really well. Now I’m actually considering a third child because my experience with Evan has been so positive.

    That’s my story. I’m not sure how it would work out for you, but I suspect you would adore your baby if you had one in the next few years. (No rush. I think one of the reasons I’m enjoying Evan so much is that I waited.)

    I think it also might be good for someone like you to keep a hand in your profession when you have a baby. If you can figure out the child care situation, working part time is really nice.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I’m glad that I’m not the only one who’s had nightmares about my birth control failing! I mentioned my fears to a sister in my ward recently, when she asked if we’re trying to start a family. I was trying to indicate that we’re getting closer, that at least my nightmares were subsiding – but she was completely horrified 🙂

  6. Deborah says:

    Amy: What’s interesting about your ambivalence is that it defies the stereotype that women who don’t want children don’t *like* children or are awkward around them. You spend six days a week surrounded by children. You devote your professional life to making their world a safer, saner place.

    I wonder if some of the ambivalence comes from loving your profession and wondering if children would interfere with your . . . children; if it would detract from your job as a therapist. I want a couple of kids of my own, but get a tightness in my chest when I think about leaving my child-centered vocation.

    As Amelia’s post described, I’ve injested a lot of either/or rhetoric when it comes to parenthood and profession . . . As I’ve realized that being a “working mom” could be a viable path for me, my ambivalence (mostly about timing) has begun to abate.

  7. rafred says:

    I want to share my experience which you can take it for what its worth. I am the mother of two children. Before I got married I had many nieces and nephews and adored them. My mother once told me I shouldn’t adore them so much. She said I was acting like their grandmother and that was her role not mine.

    I thought I would be the greatest wife and mother ever. Everyone told me I would. They said that someday my husband would be the luckiest guy on earth. Well, it took me until I was twenty eight to find him and I’m thirty-three now. We are still madly deeply in love.

    My first child was born a few weeks early and while I absolutely was estatic about giving birth and going into labor the next few months were awful.

    Don’t get me wrong. Maybe awful is the wrong word to use. Hard would be a better one. It’s hard to get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. I kept working until just a few months ago and it was hard to drag myself and my child to work everyday. (I made the choice and was able to take her with me during her first eight months). It’s hard to teach a child to eat. It’s hard to potty train a child. It’s hard to get them to quit throwing fits and use their words.

    But sometimes they grin at you. Sometimes when they do something that they’ve never done before you get a moment of blissfulness. Sometimes I have to cherish those moments and relive them because of the hard times inbetween. I fully admit that the first eighteen months of life are extremely difficult because they can’t do anything for themselves.

    I think of it kind of like missionary service. Eighteen months of pouring everything into that little one to get them past the immobile stage. For me once they passed that stage it gets easier.

    But everyone likes a different stage of baby/childhood. Once my oldest child started walking I wasn’t quite so stressed.

    I am not the mother that everyone said I would be. In fact, sometimes I stink at it. I have a sister who always thought she would be a horrible mother and when I listen to her I believe that she does it better than I.

    So I have come to the conclusion that no matter what your thoughts or actions in regards to children where before motherhood afterwards they are totally unique to each individual.

    Also, now that I’ve quit working to stay at home I’ve decided that I need to finish my master’s degree and that is hard too. Finding enough time to put a few sentences together that are higher than a two year old level. But somehow I’m succeeding. Slowly…ever so slowly, but surely.

  8. Sue says:

    Most people I know who have kids, even if they were somewhat anxious or ambivalent about it previously, end up loving them. Of course.

    But I gotta say – for balance if nothing else – I know plenty of people who had children who didn’t particularly want children. After they were born, they still didn’t particularly want them, and it showed. Their children probably would have been better off if they’d refrained from parenthood.

    I was the second oldest of a huge bunch of kids and for the longest time, I didn’t want kids at all. I’d been responsible for helping to raise children for most of my life – changing diapers, feeding them, playing them, caring for them – I felt like I’d already been there/done that and was sick of parenthood before I’d ever actually experienced it. When I finally had my first, at 29, it was because I’d gotten to the point where I actually wanted a child and welcomed my baby, and subsequent babies, with open arms. (Even so, I still have lots of flashes of deja vu – where I feel like I’ve been through all of this before and was tired enough of it the first time!)

    Parenthood is hard. I can only imagine that parenting a child you don’t want is harder – for mom and child.

  9. Veritas says:

    Heather I totally disagree. I have prayed and prayed that I would not be able to conceive because then I would have an ‘excuse’ (my husband already tells people we can’t, so they will quit asking and expecting it). I don’t know if I am emotionally stable enough to raise kids honestly.

    This post could have been written word for word by me. Im coming up on 6 years married, always figured I would have kids by now when I was growing up, but I don’t and I’m not sure I will that soon (but as I am turning 27, I feel like I HAVE to do it now or never…)

    Maybe I will just wait and adopt. I’m not opposed to having kids LATER and having older kids…but I am completely horrified by the idea of becoming pregnant and giving birth. or changing diapers. and especially of breast feeding (shudder).

  10. Anonymous says:

    I just had my third child two weeks ago. Personally, I can’t understand the reluctance of most of the women on this thread. Yes, children can be messy and time consuming. Occasionally they will drive me crazy. However that is hardly the whole picture.

    One of the biggest surprises for me upon becoming a mother was how fun it was. Most of the time I really enjoy my children. Right now I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else. I was also surprised to find out that staying home with my children has allowed me to develop talents that I otherwise would not have had time to develop had I not had children and went to work.

    You will hate me for saying this, but many of you sound to me to be very self-absorbed. I was the fifth of eight children. I’m very grateful that my parents gave me a chance at life and to be born into the gospel. I hope to yet give others that chance. Neither of us have have to be a perfect mother to do that.

  11. Anonymous says:

    PS Veritas

    Bottle feeding is great!

  12. Deborah says:

    “You will hate me for saying this, but many of you sound to me to be very self-absorbed.”

    No, hate here! . . . but a plea for a slightly more charitable reading. Every woman who has replied is either a mother who has generoulsy explained her thoughts and emotions about having children (in real and encouraging ways), women who are actively trying to have children (and it ain’t always easy time in one’s life, let me tell ya), or women with fears or concerns they want to discuss. These are big decisions, to be made thoughtfully and prayerfully — and it helps to be able to talk about them with other women . . .

  13. Heather O. says:

    Veritas-

    You fear having kids, and that’s totally normal. My point was, though, that that door has not been shut to you, or at least not to your knowledge. In Amy’s mind, she also still thinks she has a choice. It’s a far, far different thing to think that maybe you won’t want children, or even choose to not have any, than to be denied that option completely.

    Every woman is different, and like I said earlier, becoming a mother is not a decision to made lightly. But I think a more honest appraisal of how one feels about having children can happen if one examines, honestly and in her heart, what it would really feel like when told it’s impossible.

    Certainly when I was told I would never have more children (I have one), I was astonished at how devastated I was. I was never the woman who wanted a million children, and yet I found I had to vastly reconstruct many of my expectations about a great many things. And infertility and miscarriage has caused me more pain
    than I could have ever possibly predicted.

    I’m not saying that it’s wrong to choose not to have children, or to be scared, or to want to wait, or whatever. I’m just saying that it’s a different matter entirely when that choice is taken from you, and, like I said above, an honest answer to that question about how you would feel if you knew it was impossible might provide more insight about your mother heart.

  14. Mathew says:

    My wife had her first child this year at age 28. She considered herself a little young but otherwise felt ready to take the plunge. She is very glad she did. Not incidentally, so am I.

    Just this morning my wife expressed to me again how happy she was to have given birth at a young enough age that she will have time to have all the additional children she desires. She thinks about this often because her female colleagues typically have their first (and often last)in their mid thirties.

    We both expected to love our child but neither of us were prepared for the deep sense of joy and fulfillment we feel daily. We’ve got a good sleeper and neither one of us thinks wiping the little gal’s bum is a hardship. This evening the whole family spent a beautiful hour on the bed playing together. For us it doesn’t get any better than that.

    Having said all of that, I see no reason why a person should feel bad about feeling ambivalent about having children. People feel differently about a lot of things–from where they want to live, to what they want to do to whom they want to sleep with. Is feeling apologetic or duty bound reason enough to bring new life into the world? It doesn’t seem fair to the child. I doubt a person can ever fully prepare to have a child, but actually wanting a child seems like a pretty uncontroversial baseline.

  15. Eve says:

    Amy, thanks for such honest thoughts on a complicated and difficult subject. I’ll add my story, for what it’s worth. I don’t know what light it sheds on anyone else’s circumstances–frankly, I don’t even know what light it sheds on my own.

    I’m the oldest of seven. Unlike my sisters Lynnette and Kiskilili, I grew up despising–and I do mean despising–children. I had no interest in dolls, even less in my or anyone else’s younger siblings. My idea of babysitting was to snarl at them and lock myself in my room with a book. When my mother became pregnant with my youngest sister, I was furious–we had finally gotten child #6 out of diapers. When my YW leaders went on and on about motherhood, I wondered who they were trying to fool–I had lived in the diapers, the mess, the emotional exhaustion for my entire life, and as far as I could see it looked like a prison sentence. When women cooed over each others’ babies, I assumed they were just faking it (I still don’t have much interest in other women’s babies).

    But I do want kids.

    I think a lot of what made me want kids was the realization that I did not have to be any other mother but myself, so to speak. I didn’t have to coo and gurgle like some image of maternity out of a sappy Romantic poet. I didn’t have to be an angel mother. I’ve so appreciated seeing women who don’t lose their ability to talk or think about anything else, women who approach both their families and their other projects with intelligence and down-to-earth good sense. It’s done me a world of good to see women who are utterly devoted to their children without being completely consumed by them or overidentified with them.

    Now I’m thirty-five. So far I have been unable to conceive. If I’m really honest with myself, I deal with it by mostly by denial, hoping that I will eventually get pregnant. If I have to face menopause childless, that’s going to be a very tough passage.

    But the fact that I so far haven’t been able to have children has also increased my fear of it because it’s remained an unknown experience. Sometimes, in my darkest moments, I figure that God knows I’d be a rotten mother. (Of course, this doesn’t hold up to scrutiny–God seems to have no compunction whatsoever about passing children out to rotten parents–but it’s that ineradicable desire to make life make sense, I suppose.)

    I don’t know what to make of any of this jumble or what bearing it has on anyone else’s life or decisions. All I can say is that I understand–at least to some extent–both the reluctance to have children and the sorrow at being unable to have them. More often than not, I experience both emotions simultaneously.

  16. Eve says:

    You will hate me for saying this, but many of you sound to me to be very self-absorbed. I was the fifth of eight children. I’m very grateful that my parents gave me a chance at life and to be born into the gospel. I hope to yet give others that chance. Neither of us have have to be a perfect mother to do that.

    Well, I think it’s more than a matter of giving others a chance at life and at the gospel; we also need to consider the issue of large families in all its complexity. Some parents can handle seven or eight children. Some can’t. Like Amy, I grew up in Utah Valley, in the last hurrah of big families, and I saw more than one set of overwhelmed parents who really could not meet their children’s emotional or even basic physical needs because there were just too many of them. I’ve seen children grow up strangers to their parents, lost in the shuffle, not even provided with adequate food or clothing simply because their parents couldn’t keep track of so many kids.

    I think the church handbook of instructions is, well, instructive on this matter–the health, including the emotional health, of the mother needs to be a paramount consideration. It’s not enough for kids to be given life and some empty gospel platitudes every Sunday. Kids need to be raised by someone who’s capable of being there for them.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “Some parents can handle seven or eight children. Some can’t.”

    Eve, I agree. Large families are not for everyone for one reason or another, but my parents made the right choice. This blog questions whether or not to have children at all. I am saddened to see so many sisters in the gospel pass up such a potentially rewarding experience out of fear of one sort or another.

  18. amelia says:

    i’ve been thinking about this all day, amy. and i react on a few levels. one is deeply emotional and personal. i cannot understand not wanting children. because i want them more than anything else, except a husband (and i’m not even going to try to explain all the emotional complexity involved in the desire for a husband, because i don’t have the words for it). i truly cannot imagine what it would feel like to not want children or to be afraid of having children. i worry about it–about whether i’ll have the strength and wisdom to parent children in the way i hope i can parent them. but i’m not afraid of it.

    i react to your post on other levels, too, however. i have a good friend who is probably about 20 years older than me–my mentor as an undergrad. he used to say with some regularity that if someone is not afraid of getting married, they haven’t thought about it sufficiently to be getting married. i don’t think he was talking about simple fear, but rather about recognizing the extent to which life must change and the huge potential for difficulty and struggle that comes with such a life change. i would say the same thing of having children. if there’s not a little concern about having children, i think someone is a little too glib in doing so.

    that’s not to discount faith or trusting that god will help. i have such faith myself; it’s why i continue to want to have children without fearing it while i am simultaneously concerned about the ways in which i may (and will) fail as a parent. but this is a significant decision and should be seen as such, in my opinion.

    and i very much sympathize with being in a position in which you do not feel what you “should” feel as a woman. one of the problematic side effects of trying to define “womanhood” so explicitly, and especially by linking it so tightly to motherhood, is that women who don’t find themselves feeling natural inclinations towards what we’re taught makes us women often feel like they’re somehow not a woman. and i think that’s a load of hogwash. only you can know what is the right decision to be made.

    my only suggestion is that you not let fear inform a decision. it’s an awfully bad place from which to make serious decisions (i’ve been grappling with this myself recently, in regards to some pretty significant decisions).

    thanks for sharing. i believe so strongly that there needs to be a forum in which women can speak openly about their concerns and fears and problems without being condemned for doing so. i’m glad to see this conversation happening.

  19. Sue says:

    Personally, I can’t understand the reluctance of most of the women on this thread…. One of the biggest surprises for me upon becoming a mother was how fun it was.”

    That’s wonderful. But you do realize of course that not everyone has the same experience, the same talents, the same natural enjoyment of motherhood? You realize that people are different, with different strengths and abilities? Right? Or do you think that everyone is just like you?

    “You will hate me for saying this, but many of you sound to me to be very self-absorbed.”

    You will hate me for saying this, but you seem to lack compassion, understanding and empathy.

  20. Tona says:

    I would just offer to the conversation that there are also other alternatives to bearing your own children, if that prospect concerns you or you feel Heavenly Father might be calling you in a different direction. There are many children in need of foster care, and they needn’t be infants either. You might be one of those people who really excel with older children, and fostering school-age kids might be a good fit for you and your spouse. Adopting a toddler or older child is another possibility, too. Not everyone needs to go through pregnancy & childbirth, or to hold their own biological child, to be a parent & a nurturer.

  21. AmyB says:

    I really appreciate the very thoughtful comments and I wish I had time to respond to all of them.

    Heather, the point you bring up about infertility is an interesting one. There’s been more than once that I’ve had the thought that I’d be “off the hook” so to speak if I were infertile. I identify more with Veritas in that area.

    I also identify with Eve, as another eldest of seven children I feel like I’ve been there/done that already. Maybe after a little more time to myself I’ll be ready to go there again.

    Amelia, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I think it’s very wise counsel to try not to make a decision from a place of fear.

  22. AmyB says:

    I also want to respond to Tona. I appreciate that you brought up adoption and foster care. I actually think foster care might be the path for me down the road when we can afford a place with another bedroom. Several of the children with whom I work are in foster care, and I’ve had many fantasies of rescuing them. (I also need to be careful about my motivations in that arena). There certainly are many children out there who need people who are willing to care for them. Motherhood can come in many different forms. Perhaps there is one that is right for me.

  23. Heather O. says:

    Amy-

    I think your last statement, “Motherhood can come in many forms” is very, very true. And I second what Amelia said–anybody who isn’t scared of having kids hasn’t thought it through very well!

    Again, good luck.

  24. Anonymous says:

    All of these posts on marriage and family around the blogs this week are fascinating to me. But I am particularly interested in discussions about child-rearing and family planning from a “Mormon” perspective. And the thoughtful reality that we can each chart a different course and end up okay.

    As for me, I married early (22–my wife was 21) and we had our first of four boys at 23–with the fourth coming at 29. As my father noted, with a tone I’ve yet to decipher, “you’ve moved quickly”.

    But we’re happy. My wife’s daily grind is just that but she finds support in good friends and manages well. We have had to sacrifice in some areas, but we have felt blessings from heaven at every turn. The hardest time for my good wife are Sunday mornings as I am in a calling that takes me away and puts me on the stand during Sacrament Meeting. But we find that prayer gets us through the tougher times, if barely.

    We are just one in a giant tapestry of different experiences, most of which, I am convinced, are endorsed and watched over by God. I look out over our congregation on Sundays and see marrieds w/o kids in their mid-30s; older couples with young kids; older couples with no kids; empty nesters; young’ens like us with lots of kids; and I am grateful that all are welcome and that all contribute so much to our congregation and, most importantly, that I consider almost (it would be quite presumptous to think everyone thought of me as a friend, or in a positive light for that matter) all of them to be a friend.

    I just pray that we never become so shallow that we determine to pass judgment on others for their oh-so-intimate decisions. Good luck as you make yours.

  25. Ana says:

    Amy, I have met plenty of other women who share your ambivalence. I have never had it, myself. But here’s what I share with those who do:

    Yes, parenting is messy and stinky and hard. Beyond diapers and spit-up, there’s sibling rivalry, school troubles with behavior or academics or friends, the battle to limit TV and computer time, wall graffiti, food obsessions (we are going on two years of grahams and milk for my 7 year old).

    Without the bitter, we never can know the sweet.

    There is story-reading and bicycle riding and family home evening, cuddling in the big bed, running through the sprinkler, playing I-Spy in the car. There is the moment when, as we listen to General Conference, the Lego-playing kids suddenly start singing along with MoTab. There’s the moment of incredible peace when they’re all asleep and the only sound in the house is the whir of the dishwasher and you can peek into their bedrooms and see their bliss. The sudden softening of two big boys (at least they think they are big) when a little sister joins the crew.

    If you want that stuff, you have to sign on for the whole package. You just do. In my opinion it’s worth it. But anybody who thinks it’s not probably shouldn’t make the leap.

  26. Ana says:

    I also need to address the notion that adoption might be an easier route to parenthood than pregnancy. (i.e. “I’ll just wait and adopt”)

    Well, it might be. But there’s no guarantee. Probably the best way to decide which way to go, if you are going to make a choice, is to decide whether you prefer physical pain or emotional pain. From what I can tell, you pretty much can’t become a parent without at least some of one of those.

    When you adopt your gain is always someone else’s loss, whether not they chose adoption for their child. Your joy will always be their sorrow, to some degree. The process is also intrusive, convoluted and uncertain for most people. It is hard no matter which way you go.

    (We have adopted two boys and are fostering a baby girl, for those who don’t know …)

  27. rinlee says:

    This is an interesting post to me because when I was a teenager I often wondered if I’d ever want to have children. I saw the way my friends would swoon over babies, and I worried that my feelings were unnatural. It’s not that I disliked children, it’s just that I didn’t know if I’d like them enough to bear and rear them. As a youngest child and an almost-youngest cousin, my experience with children was limited, and the thought of being responsible for another human was (and is) terrifying.

    I’ve since come to keenly appreciate children in my own way, and I’ve also come to the realization that’s there doesn’t seem to be any better way of learning about unselfishness than raising kids. Personally, I can’t think of a single thing that would be more of a refining process for my spirit. I hope that doesn’t sound like I want to use my future children as tools for my own progression. I guess it just makes sense to me why our Father would set things up this way, and I’m learning to look forward to the challenge. I see how my friends and my own mother have progressed spiritually from raising children, and it gives me hope. I think it might even be kind of fun.

    Of course, I might feel differently once I start actually having kids. 🙂

    Anyway, that’s my own limited experience with this topic, for what it’s worth.

  28. JKS says:

    “All I can think about is lack of sleep, poop, vomit, snotty noses, no time for myself, feeling trapped.”

    I read an interesting article recently about people choosing not to have kids. It said that childless people have a warped sense of what parenting is actually like. Diapers only last two years. An infant turns into a toddler. Tantrums disappear. The teen years pass.
    You aren’t committing to a lifetime of poop or wiping noses. Kids learn to wipe their own noses.
    Because my mother had worried about it, I learned from her that I didn’t have to want babies when I picked up someone else’s baby in order to love my own kids. So I never worried.
    My husband, however, is constantly amazed that having a wife and kids brings him so much joy. He is surprised daily at how much he loves them.
    I think raising kids is similar to marriage. Hard work but worth it. With effort you can build a wonderful relationship with your spouse.
    Children will bring you added purpose. They will bring laughter. You will see the world in new ways. You will get to “fall in love” when them.
    When they are babies you get to hold them. When they are young speakers they say the cutest things. When they are kids you get to explain how gravity works. You get to teach them to play your favorite game. You get to love them and be loved by them. You get to have more faith in the plan of salvation because you know God would not give you this amazing love for a person and then not carry that relationship into the next life.
    With a little effort, you don’t have to lose yourself as a mother. Sure you might have periods of time that things are more stressful. But if you want to read, you can read. If you want to talk politics, you can talk politics. You get to choose the kind of person you will be….mother or not.
    I recommend it highly. I feel like I have acheived far more while being a mother, than I could have otherwise.

  29. w. catcher says:

    AmyB – I totally and completely understand your feelings here. I have never wanted children (love kids, never felt any, I mean *any* urge to have them), never had them, and it is officially too late to do so (via my own body anyhow) at this point. I’m only just barely sad for the loss of the option, but I’d never wanted the option, so I honestly don’t feel that bad for having missed it. I didn’t think I’d be sad at all, so the eensy bit of sadness is a surprise, but not an unpleasant one. It’s good to mourn, even lightly, for a choice that has such a large life impact.

    Here’s what might make me different to the rest here. One of the reasons I didn’t have children was because I was honestly completely scared of loving another human being that much. Yes, I realise how neurotic this may make me sound. But I’ve had enough pain in life, and despite the potential for the major joy in having children, there is also the potential for pain that is likely unparalleled in life. I honestly didn’t think I could take it, and I could see myself never letting the child out of my sight, freaking out over every cough and sniffle, looking in the shadows for child abusers or molesters, and generally making things miserable for both of us.

    The mother of a friend of mine once said that having a child was like having a broken heart for the rest of your life. I knew I couldn’t do that. Call me weak, call me ruled by fears. I just couldn’t do it.

    I still am open to what the universe might send me – perhaps there is a child already hurting and in need of a safe place. That I could definitely do.

    No matter what happens, *you* are fantastic. You are enough. Only you can decide if having a child/ren is for you or not. It’s a decision worth thinking very carefully about. And if you decide not to, it doesn’t mean anything negative about you. Follow your heart and your gut on this one – the voices of your community, your religion, can drown you out sometimes. So just listen carefully to *you*.

  30. Johnna Cornett says:

    somewhat like Caroline, after about six years of marriage, a year or so shy of age 30, I got pregnant not because of an overwhelming desire to become a mother, but out of a sense of that if I wanted children and motherhood to be a part of my life, I might as well start now.

    In taking this tack, I threw off both a cultural idea of having a child as a personally fulfilling choice, and a specifically mormon cultural idea, of having a child because of a spiritual prompting to do so.

    I think it helped me through the little scares and inconveniences of my children’s babyhood that I never believed that the normal tasks of taking care of an infant were the point or were supposed to be glorious. In a way, your child is ageless, since whatever you do for him or her in the present, is to serve them not only in the moment, but for the sake of their general lives. The time when your children are babies is not usually typical of your years of motherhood. It just gets blogged about more.

  31. a spectator says:

    I was at the top of a big family and never had any interest in kids until one day I saw one, and felt this warm tug in my chest. What? Is that what those other girls always feel? It came after my Mom had stopped having babies–I guess I missed them.

    I have a friend who has been married about 7 or 8 years. She too feels no desire to have kids. She always said she would not have them until she “felt” she wanted them. I can’t help wondering if her husband is still OK with that–it just may never happen for her.

    Don’t have kids if you don’t want to. I think doing it for someone else would be a poor motivation. I do echo, however, what everyone else has said–you just don’t know how it is until you experience it.

    I think being a parent is an amzing eduacational opportunity. That is also not a great motivation, more of a happy byproduct. I just thought I would mention that I have learned alot (not just about my kids) and look forward to continuing that education.

  32. Anonymous says:

    (I’m a single male in my late 40’s.)

    The fact that so many children are in foster-care systems in the US is evidence (in my opinion, at least) that not all people are fit for being parents.

    I knew prior to my teen years that not only was I not going to have children, but also that I shouldn’t have children. But I didn’t know why.

    It wasn’t until my 40’s, after a period of self-discovery, that I finally realized the whys.

    It wasn’t until well into my adult years that I realized that the home I grew up in was abusive and dysfunctional. Had I known that my parents were “bad,” maybe I could have sought out the opposite traits and made up for whatever they ingrained in me. But it wasn’t until long after those bad traits were well ingrained that I realized they were there. On one hand I grieved when I realized how “broken” I was, but on the other I realized I had finally learned the explanation of why I wasn’t supposed to get married and have children of my own.

    If the door to marriage isn’t permanently closed for me, there’s still time to fix my broken-ness, and perhaps even find someone who already has children.

    I guess my point in writing this is that there can be real and unseen/unknown reasons behind someone’s lack of desire for children, or their active desire for childlessness.

    The desire for childlessness (or lack of desire for children) is not necessarily born out of selfishness. In some situations the greater sin would be to have children and raise them in an abusive home.

  33. AmyB says:

    anononymous,

    Thank you for sharing your perspective. I’m very sorry for the pain you’ve been through. Growing up in a dysfunctional family can certainly have a bearing on whether or not one wants children. I share some of your pain in that area. I also have hope that healing from family trauma is possible.

    I also want to say thank you to everyone who has responded. I’ve gained some new perspectives and a lot of food for thought. This is a sensitive topic and I appreciate the thoughtful responses that haven’t poured down judgement but rather shared personal experience and ideas. It’s so nice to have a safe space to discuss this.

  34. EmilyS says:

    Amy,

    I feel just as you do, and we seem to be in similar situations in life. I’m very late to the conversation, but I wanted to direct you to my post on the same topic at FMH a while back. Feel free to contact me if you wanna…I dunno…commiserate? 🙂

    http://www.feministmormonhousewives.org/?p=807

    I just realized that I’ve turned into one of those annoying people who always direct others to their own blogs. I didn’t mean to! There were just these two conversations that so closely mirrored my own thoughts…well anyway. shutting up now!

  35. Kiri Close says:

    Yup! i’m in love with my selfishness, and it feels so good not to have little kids around.

    I would like to have them, too, but I’m so afraid of the amount of work children are. I’m still working through me issues, too.

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