At this point in my life, I don't want to have children. Thankfully, my husband is on board with this. Whew! (I checked it out before we got married. It's a good idea to know how the other person feels about these things before agreeing to do life together.) Usually, when asked whether or not Peter and I are going to have kids, I answer with some variant of "Future Lisa and Peter can decide that." I don't want to rule out the possibility of having kids, but right now I definitely don't want them. And that may not ever change.
This isn't to say that I think deciding to have kids is a bad idea. I have a hard time reading child-free blogs where the author spends all his or her (mostly her) time talking about how miserable people who have kids are. Yes, having kids is stressful and time-consuming and mind-numbing at times, but I know that it can be rich and joyful and fulfilling too. I am not anti-kid, nor am I anti-other people having kids. It's just a different choice. And not one that I and my husband should feel obligated to make.
This is where the conversation gets tricky. I feel like many people will then try to convince me that I will change my mind or tell me that I don't know what I'm talking about. For those of you who know me, those are some surefire ways to raise my hackles. How should I know whether or not I will change my mind? And what would be wrong if I didn't?
Here are the most common reasons given for why we should decide to have kids:
- We'd be great parents.
- We really like kids and get along with kids.
- We don't know what we're missing.
- There are things in life we'll never learn and ways we'll never grow if we don't have kids.
- We'll regret it if we don't.
While some of these things are true - Peter and I love kids and are really great with them - I don't think these are good enough reasons to have children. Here's the bottom line: Peter and I should not have kids unless we really want to have them.
I would like to respond in more depth to two of the above points now. Bear with me.
The argument about regretting it if we don't have kids is, I think, a really dangerous one. This one in particular should be banned from all conversations with women or men who are deciding whether or not to have children. Parenting is not something you can try on or test before you buy. Once you decide to be a parent, you can't quit. Or rather, you shouldn't quit. And while you will love your kids, you may discover that you don't enjoy parenting! There is no way to know what you may or may not regret in life and having kids so that you won't regret not having them is among the worst reasons to have children.
The second dangerous argument is that I don't know what I'm missing. Of course I don't know what I'm missing! But that doesn't mean that our choice is bad or that our life will be less rich if we decide not to have kids. It will be different! And different does not mean better or worse. It means different. And maybe good. It is possible (and okay!) to live a full, meaningful life without procreating.
This would be good time to mention that while I never get excited about having my own baby, I get ridiculously excited about being a real and adopted aunt. I love love love the idea of being involved in the lives of the kids of my friends and family. I am a drama teacher who is around kids of all ages every day. I love kids. Liking kids has never been the issue. (Hint: liking kids and wanting your own are separate things)
Once again, the bottom line: unless Future Lisa and Future Peter reach a day where they discover that they want to have children, that they ache for their own kids, then we will remain child-free. And that will be okay.