Uh-oh, we’ve hit the big one in our Examine Your Motives series: Having Kids! This is the discussion between Stacie and I that got the series started.
Disclaimer: This is not intended at all to be an essay on why you should or shouldn’t have kids. It’s an insight into our private lives, and where we are in our decision to have kids (or not). It’s meant to prod you into asking yourself questions of which you may not have thought. Now let the story begin!
We were on a walk to the library and out of nowhere, I asked “Why do we feel that we need to have kids?“.
Stacie looked at me, shrugged and said “I don’t know“.
We then sat outside the library for a while and discussed some reasons we’re thinking of having kids. Some of these are similar to the reasons I outlined for going to college:
- It’s what you logically do after getting married
- Our families expect us to have kids
- Most of our coworkers, friends, and even strangers keep asking if we have kids or when we’ll have them
- We couldn’t possible be happy without them, right?
- We want to help mold a child into a successful adult and make a lasting impression (a “legacy” if you will)
- We want someone to love us unconditionally (hmm, is that achievable?)
- They’re so cute!
- We might feel guilty in a few years if we didn’t start NOW
Why did I bold that last one? Because that is the same reason we bought a house 3 years ago. Everyone else was getting one, and we didn’t want to lose out on the experience of ownership. I’ll save the home discussion for another time, but there are a number of parallels between the two thought processes.
It’s the “What if…?” syndrome. What if we decide against kids now, but wish we had them in 5 years? What if we’re infertile in 5 years, or the risks are too great at that age? What if our family thinks we’re disrespecting the family name? What if, what if, what if…? But what if we’re totally fine with the decision 5, 10, 20 years from now to not have kids (not that we’ve made a decision yet)?
Having kids is probably the single biggest life-changing event most of us can go through. It’s an event that stays with us for at least the next 18 years of our life, and continues to be in our lives for (hopefully) the remainder of our time on earth. It’s not something that you should just say “Let’s do it!” to. I understand many births were unplanned (heck, I’m sure mine was!), but for those of us conscious of the decision, we do have a choice. A very big choice.
You see, having kids is rarely a decision that gets better as you wait for a few years. With buying a home, if the market isn’t right now, you can wait for a couple years while renting and saving your money. With a car, if you can’t afford what you want, you can buy something that will do just fine until you can save up enough money.
With kids, there’s a point where waiting makes birth risky to you and the child. My wife is 30 and I’m 29. You don’t know how many times my wife hears “You’re not getting any younger!“. Dear goodness, WE KNOW THAT! Now shut up and leave my poor wife alone! But should we have kids just because someone is pressuring us (intentionally or not)? Should we do it because we MIGHT wish we did otherwise in a few years? What are our other options?
I’ve just been talking about having kids biologically. We do have other options open to us if we decide that children would be the best thing for us in a few years:
- Adoption: We’d probably be more open to older children if we’re also older.
- Foster Care: I’ve made the uncouth joke that “we get to give the kids back” if we’re foster parents, but with full knowledge that fostering kids forms a strong bond between the foster parents (us) and the children. Helping troubled children isn’t a joking matter, but the short-term aspect definitely plays into the decision process.
- Big Brother/Big Sister: If we really just want to make a lasting impression on a youngster, then this is definitely an option.
- Spoiling our nephews and nieces: Yep, we can fulfill our need for children with long trips to Disney with our nephews and nieces, and give them back to our sisters when we’re done with them.
During our discussion, we asked each other if our thoughts were turning selfish. Were we just being selfish with our time, money and emotions, where we could be spending those on our child? Is it right to choose a life without “our own kids”? Or could we actually make more of an impact by helping many kids, rather than just our own? Can’t we just do both?
We’re still working through the thought process, but there’s another issue that has a major impact on the final decision: Family Support System. We don’t have one down here. We’re 2.5-3.5 hours from our families, and they haven’t visited since last year. My wife’s parents live 10 minutes from her sister, and have only driven there 1 time to see the new baby. Every other time, her sister has to drive to her parents’ house. If they can’t even drive 10 minutes, why would we expect them to drive all the way down to D.C.?
I know my family is different, and an hour closer that Stacie’s, but they live paycheck-to-paycheck. They can’t miss much work, so they need to plan any trips carefully. My sister is a single mom of 2 girls, and can barely take a day off work, so we can’t expect her to visit often. My gram would love to drive down every month, but she had a stroke last year, and while she can drive locally, no one trusts her to drive that long distance. They all say “then move closer”, but the jobs just aren’t there for us.
So there you have it. We’re now considering staying DINKs (Dual Income, No Kids). I’ve laid out the reasons why, and other options in case we want kids to be a part of our lives, but for now, we’re relieved to have this enormous weight off our shoulders. It’s not final yet, but we’ve given ourselves other options. We just never took the time to ask ourselves WHY. We’re going to take more time to consider the reasons we want kids before taking the plunge either way.
Has this helped you? Leave a comment with your opinion or insight. I’m not looking for people to bash us or praise us for potentially not having kids, but I will entertain constructive suggestions. Also, this is our own opinion about our own lives, not a suggestion on what YOU should do with your life. I just want you to examine your motives before making such a big decision. Kids are great, but you need to make sure you know why you’re having them!
Photo Courtesy of Jim Epler