If you’re reading this, you’ve probably grappled at one point or another in your life with this question: Why have children?
It’s one of those things that if you approach intellectually, you can’t possibly justify. You invest time, money, and enormous amounts of emotion and love into a little person who, if you are lucky, will maybe call you on your birthday occasionally when they grow up. You sacrifice sleep, peace of mind, and if you become a parent by giving birth, your previous blissful ignorance of the offerings in the shapewear department.
Lisa Belkin of the New York Times’ Motherlode blog tackled this question recently, at the request of a reader who was wondering what the logical basis for such a decision would be. She doesn’t have kids yet, is pretty sure she wants them, and is trying to apply the intellect and logic to the decision just as she did every other important one in her life.
Belkin said she struggled with the decision herself, until she was told by her OB-GYN, “with children, 75 percent certain means ‘go for it.’” For many commenters, it came down to a feeling that it wasn’t really a decision, that it was something they just had to do. Not that there wasn’t ambivalence about it, but the idea of choosing not to become a parent was far more awful than the idea of becoming one.
I have to agree that that was the case for me, although it was also something I thought about. In high school and college, I thought I didn’t want them because while I liked babies and little kids, I didn’t like, say, nine-year-olds. Then I worked as a nanny for a little four-month-old boy one summer in college, and realized I did, in fact, really really really want one of my own. There’s the cute factor, of course, but it also had a lot to do with knowing I was helping this vulnerable little person figure out the world and that it was a good place. Of course, both times I was holding a positive pregnancy test, one of the first thoughts I had was “what have we DONE??” And all I have to say about that is, thank Mother Nature that pregnancy takes nine months because it took me about that long to get my head around the idea.
Was becoming a parent a decision for you, or something that just felt compelled to do? Is it something that can, in fact, be decided intellectually? I say no — it’s one of the few big decisions in life where logic simply doesn’t apply. Thoughts?