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Why Have Kids?

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Guest blogger Brett Berk: As someone who's worked with young kids for 20 years -- as a classroom teacher, preschool director, and youth researcher -- I'm consistently asked to defend my decision not to have children. "You love kids," people say. "You'd be a great dad!" I faithfully explain that I'm far too immersed in my interests, projects, and hedonistic lifestyle to make the necessary time for raising a child. This usually suffices. But strangely, the same need for justification does not seem to apply to the decision to procreate.

Man thinking

Whenever I hear that a friend has begun the trying process of trying, or is considering attempting what I like to call The Ultimate Vanity Project, I often follow up by asking them, "Why?" If they were going to adopt a rescued greyhound, trade in their Civic for an SUV, or even ponder a bright colored accent wall in their living room, they'd be expected have some sort of well-sorted grounds. But the response to this line of inquiry is often nothing more than a blank stare.

I'm not saying I'm looking for some nugget of transcendent genius. But this is a human life that's being brought into the world. "I always wanted one" wouldn't cut it as a rationale for buying an expensive purse, and "My instincts told me to" won't even get you out of a traffic ticket, so why are these good enough for having a child? (And don't even try the whole continuation of the species line; I think we can all agree that the reign of human beings on this earth has been less than glorious.) So people, please tell me, what's your excuse?

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30 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lyndell January 27, 2009, 9:03 AM

I looked at my father, his love for his children later in life was his whole world of enjoyment. Then I look at my uncle who had no children, and he seemed much more lonely. But the truth is I’m not either one of those persons so it really didn’t matter. I don’t think anyone would have kids if they really knew what it would be like to a dedicated parent, on the other hand it has been one of the most wonderfully profound things I have ever done for myself. So there how is that for confusion. Bottom line I think if you don’t like change and refuse to do things you think you don’t like, don’t have kids.

lisa January 27, 2009, 9:26 AM

Halloween became boring. I never learned my nursery rhymes. And I have a lot of love to give. But in all seriousness, I wanted to begin life anew. I wanted to experience life from a new perspective, to see life as a child does with innocence, honesty and openness. It’s hard work, but there is no better way to lift my spirits then to have playtime with my children.

Natalie January 27, 2009, 9:35 AM

My kids just kind of happened. There was no reason behind it, and honestly, they were both little surprises. It’s not that we were trying, but we weren’t not trying. So along they came. Plus I just like having kids. They’re fun!

elizabeth January 27, 2009, 9:43 AM

I had put it off for a long time, as I’ve never gotten along well with small children. One day it occured to me that I didn’t have to like *children,* just the one. Maybe that was biology, or maturity, or neither. Haven’t regretted one moment of it for over 6 years now…

ashley January 27, 2009, 9:49 AM

Both of mine were accidents. Amazing, wonderful, beautiful, at times, unbearable little accidents. I didn’t want to have kids till I was 40. Turns out I had one at 20 and at 25. You know though, my favorite uncle, he was just like a big kid, always was all the kids fave uncle, never had kids. He never married either and he was very lonely and turned into an alcoholic and battled that for years. He recovered and few short months later, fell in his house and burst his spleen and internally bled to death. If someone had been there with him, he could have lived. Instead he died a lonely, wifeless, childless man at only 46. So, maybe it pays to have kids.

Megan January 27, 2009, 10:52 AM

Why have children? Hmm…well the thing is everyone has a different story and reason as to why. The same thing goes for those who don’t want children. How come the reason “because I just do” doesn’t cut it yet when tables are turned, we have to accept the “because I just don’t” response. Maybe some things just can’t be easily explained to those who don’t easily understand.

Lizza Woodstock January 27, 2009, 11:32 AM

that question speaks volumes, Sweetheart. My heart breaks for you.

Liz January 27, 2009, 11:47 AM

I too have taught, been a nanny and have worked with kids most of my adult life. I am a great god parent, aunt and as some people like to call it ” A sparent”. I constantly hear that I would make a great mother but never has that even slightly persuaded me.

Parenting is the hardest job out there and I personally like to leave my work at the office. I commend all who chose to do it but see far too many happy couples bring a little life into their home and soon the happy couple is no longer as happy. Maybe happy moms or dads but not happy together. Perhaps I am missing a biological clock but at the age of 38 I can say I prefer my child free life where I can focus on my partnership, myself and the kids in my life that I can give my all to with all of my heart but never have to bring home with me.

Sarah Jane January 27, 2009, 12:21 PM

Why? I think the aim is companionship on a selfish level at first, but later you realize it’s all about meeting the kids needs and teaching them to be independent. Ultimately we hope they’ll choose to spend time with us, but there’s no guarantee. That’s the harsh truth prospective parents rarely get to hear. You can feel more alone with kids and/or a spouse than without. And there’s also no guarantee your kids will like you, or you them, as one Mom so bravely admitted on a previous blog. She felt dislike for her daughter from birth and some readers were horrified. But it’s just reality folks, parenthood isn’t a fairy tale. Babies have personalities too, and if you’ve ever taken an instant dislike to someone, imagine having to live with that someone and you are forced to fake a smile 24/7 just to perpetuate a myth that parents always love their children. That’s BULLCRAP, as any kid who grew up with parents that favored one child over another can tell you. Marsha Marsha Marsha.

Marie January 27, 2009, 12:33 PM

If you don’t have kids, you might not understand the love and satisfaction from being a family — from creating a person who is part of you and your spouse, to whom you can impart and share you and your partner’s beliefs, ethics and dreams. It is an opportunity to carry on these beliefs/attitudes into the future. One of the biggest benefits is that you never have to question your purpose in life - as you will know that it is to provide your child with the right tools to make a positive impact.

Amy January 27, 2009, 12:34 PM

Because children are a blessing. They’re precious. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything…and would take more if God saw fit to bless us with them.

Mandi January 27, 2009, 12:41 PM

Because I didn’t want to be the kind of person that didn’t have children.

There are two routes to sanctification and either of them can go terribly awry. One: choose to devote your life to being kind and generous and self-sacrificing to others. Or two: have kids and have the choice made for you every day.

Sara January 27, 2009, 12:50 PM

Children give you the opportunity to pass along everything you’ve learned.
Children give you an outlet for sharing love and affection. Everyone feels more complete when they have someone with which to share their life and love.
Children provide entertainment and companionship. Life lived alone is lonely.
Yes, you could mentor another person’s child, adopt a pet, or cultivate a close friendship or partnership, but in most people there is a innate desire to have a child to carry on your gene pool.
It really comes down to that. We have children because of the impulsive need to procreate (whether you believe that impulse is God-given or not). If you don’t feel the need, then no one should question your choice.

Steph January 27, 2009, 12:52 PM

I commend you for being so honest and asking the question of why children? I always wanted a child and never pictured myself with more than one. And so I get the negative comments about that decision..and now am wondering if I am a bad parent to just have one child-thus the temptation to have one more because of the many many comments i have heard from others and for the companionship to my son. I really do think society has a lot to do with why people have children..and why they have more than one. There is very little acceptance in our society for people who are secure in their decision to remain childless or just have one child. Someone will always have a comment on that.

Agusta Bjorg January 27, 2009, 1:02 PM

My first child just happened, so I have no “excuse” for that. However I wanted the second one because I did not want to raise an “only-child”. I wanted him to have siblings and it was absolutely the right decision and the right timing too.

a thorn among roses January 27, 2009, 1:08 PM

first, it’s a gift…it’s a hard gift, but a gift. second, somebody has to have the good kids to run the world…maybe mine will do it…or maybe not.

i’ve been a foster mom for a number of years and i do question why some people decide to have children and mistreat them, but in general, i have found that most people want someone to love them unconditionally and they think kids will fill that hole.

Sara January 27, 2009, 1:25 PM

Whether or not to have children has never been a question in my mind. I feel that my life purpose is to be a Mom and raise children to be great, responsible people. By great I do not mean that my son (who turns 1 in a month) is to become the president of the United States of America. I simply mean that I want him to follow his dreams, as I have followed mine. I want him, and any other children I have, to realize his dreams come true, no matter what they are.
I can’t think of anything better to do with my life. Just as I’m sure a Dr. healing people in Africa may feel he is doing the best thing he can do. By the way, what if his mother said “why should I have kids?”
There are many people who should never procreate, I will admit. I have worked with kids my whole life, stopping now, only to work with my own. I have seen a woman who had 12 kids in less than 9 years. Each child is living with their respective father, as ‘mom’ has nothing to do with them. Children to her are a way to keep a man, or even to con him into buying her a house (true story) for her and her current boyfriend after dumping him. I have seen people have a baby just to stay on welfare or wic longer. To those people I say: you are the bottom of mankind, using children to fulfill your own lazy needs. I pray for you daily, that you might wake up and realize what you are doing to those children.
If you don’t want children, ever, and are in a heterosexual relationship with even a 10% chance of becoming impregnated please listen: GET YOUR TUBES TIED, because there is no other way to prevent it. And why abort (kill) an unborn infant because of your own mistake. That baby did not ask you to have sex, forget to use a condom, to rely on a 98% accurate pill alone, or to forget it all together.
Children are the light of this world. And I want to live in a lighthouse.
God be with us all.

Georgiann January 27, 2009, 3:20 PM

I’ve been asking myself a similar question, about if I should replace my cat that died. Not exactly the same as having a child, but when I was first married I brought cats into our home simply because I was raised a cat lover. But now, fourteen years and three cats later, my husband tells me he never liked cats or pets in general, and was glad for the chance to live pet free for once. I was flabbergasted. All these years I thought he’d enjoyed animals too. Was I simply oblivious? Maybe we all are to some extent, especially when it comes to kids. We just expect everyone to love them and want them without even considering the expense or bother. Now I’m considering the expense and bother I put my husband through, and I’m embarrassed because he didn’t even like pets the whole time! Regardless, I’m still desperate to replace my cat. What to do, what to do!

Michelle January 27, 2009, 3:46 PM

Why have children? Well for me it wasn’t something that I have always yearned for. In my 20’s I enjoyed my life, working close to 70 hours a week, dinners and drinking with friends. All in all playing with all that extra money. Then one day I realized it wasn’t as fun as it used to be and much of my life was very hollow. I wanted kids because quite honestly I wanted to love someone more than I loved myself without reserve and with complete unconditionality.

And before you(or anyone) can say you can do that with a pet or spouse - very simply- IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. There will always be something that keeps you from doing that. With your own child (at least with me) you have no choice but to love them that way.

And now I have no money and no free time but I love and have the love of two of the most womderful children ever and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

mom of one January 27, 2009, 3:50 PM

I submitted earlier but i guess it did not go through. Basically, I think this guy should be commended for 1. knowing what he wants or doesnt want…2. saying it 3. asking the question why people choose to have kids. Kids are NOT for everyone. And unfortunately, people that should not have them do. I was a child care worker, social worker and family besides seeing them in society..I saw them at work as well. And yes, they do take away the days of being selfish in your own interests..for a while:) Which i am ok with..but some arent. Since I was married a couple of years ago, i have really noticed the impact that society can have on people even more than before. And i studied this in college for heavens sake! But i was asked days after the wedding the question”When do the babies come?” And now we have one child..and thats all i want..everyone tells me their opinion on only children. Society is going to try to stear you the way they think things should be…some people follow it and end up very unhappy…maybe as unhappy as those childless people many talk about. I think this guy is right in asking the question.. maybe it will cause those out there that should not have reconsider the thought of kids. We all have our reasons..or some just think its the only way of life to have children or a child.

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