The Motherlode section of the New York Times, “Adventure in Parenting,” posted the following query submitted by a reader. What would you say to her? I think she answered her own question.
“Why Does Anyone Have Children?
By LISA BELKIN
A reader, Bailey, has a question. It’s a request for advice, but only in the broadest sense. Mostly it’s a philosophical inquiry, a “why”, rather than a “how”, of parenting. She’s 24 years old, working in finance and reading Motherlode in anticipation of a day when she herself is a Mom. All her reading makes her wonder, though, WHY people have children.
One of the largest things I have been thinking about lately is the fundamental question that is at the root of all the essays and articles and comments on your blog: Why have kids? I understand the evolutionary pull (and necessity) of procreation, I get that some-to-most women have ‘the urge,’ but the logical side of my brain can’t grasp why. (And maybe that’s the beauty of parenting, that from a logical brain only perspective it doesn’t make sense, but the best things in life so many times are illogical — take love for example).
Some background on myself. I grew up in a very close family with lots of love, compassion and of course discipline when necessary. From my first memories, I knew I myself wanted children one day. I loved taking care of my little sister, I started babysitting as soon as I was old enough to take the ‘Babysitters Course’ at the local fire station to learn infant CPR and safety measures to put on my Babysitting Resume, and to this day babies make me coo, caw, talk funny and feel warm inside. I am in a committed relationship with a man I love and can see us developing a life together, and that life undoubtedly includes children. But my educational background is in engineering, so the logical side of me just can’t understand why I want to raise children. They’re extremely expensive, at times frustrating, have the potential to wreck havoc on your marriage (and your body), and many times don’t even appreciate all the sacrifices parents make for them. But yet, I love being around them, I love seeing their progress, am amazed at how quickly children learn and grow, and view having a baby a very special gift.
I guess I’m simply interested in knowing and hearing about why other readers decided to (and not to) have children in the face of all of these facts, because when people ask me why I want to have children, I just say ‘Because I do,’ and I’d like to be able to say more than that.
Ah Bailey. Good question. We touched on the subject this spring, in a post titled “Does Having Children Make You Unhappy,” but yours is a somewhat different train of thought. I am interested to see how readers will articulate their answers.
Here’s mine: When I turned 30 I went for my yearly ob-gyn checkup and instead of the usual peek-and-poke, my doctor pulled up a chair. “So,” she asked, “are you thinking of having kids?” I told her that I was terrified of the thought, and that my life was perfect as it was, and that I really wasn’t comfortable around infants and that my work required a lot of travel — but that I also knew that I would regret never having children. I was planning to wait until I was more certain, I said. “When it comes to children,” she answered, “75 percent certain means go for it.”
Evan was born before I turned 31. I am 100 percent sure that was the best decision I ever made.
So, readers — what would you say to Bailey? I know I risk opening a Pandora’s diatribe by those who don’t want children. And I am the first to agree that anyone who does not want to be a parent should not be one. But for those of you who were always certain, or who struggled like Bailey (and I) and decided to “go for it,” I’m hoping you’ll take a moment to tell her why. As Bailey says, there is no logical reason, and yet so many millions of us take the plunge.