Is Having Kids Overrated Or Simply Not What We Expected?

I’m currently reading Jessica Valenti’s book, “Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness” and let me say this: If I was childless and someone handed me a copy of this book, I probably would go get my tubes tied. Or at the very least, an IUD. 

It is VERY thorough in detailing the ways the parenthood challenges us—both on a personal level and as a society. It makes me think of all the ways motherhood has changed my life—both good and bad. I actually wrote about the same topic in my post from two years ago, “Why Even Have Kids?” As I wrote earlier:

So many people close to me are trying to get pregnant.

I’m talking taking temperatures, having sex every two days, buying ovulation kits, stocking up on pregnancy tests, going through round 1 of IVF – the works! They are sooo looking forward to becoming mommies.

Now it is difficult for me to understand their enthusiasm. As you know, both times I found out I was pregnant, my first reactions were “Shit!!!!” and “How in the hell…?” respectively…. At that time, getting pregnant was the worse thing to happen to me. It was struggle after struggle to get my life in order before the baby arrived.

So when they talk about their disappointment of not being pregnant that month, it’s all I can do to keep myself from blurting out, “Enjoy your freedom! You’ve got one more month to go do whatever you want whenever you want before it’s too late!” How insensitive, right?

It’s got me thinking about why people decide to have kids. I had kids because I got pregnant. The end.

Once I became a mother, life stopped being all about me. You don’t sleep as much, your expenses become increasingly child-oriented and your time is no longer your own. All decisions you make must now factor in little individuals that depend on you for every.little.thing. Every new pair of shoes. Every meal from now until they hit 18. Every cold they catch. It’s all you.

And that is a lot of pressure.

It doesn’t help matters that our society seems like its set up for childless folks. Yeah, we have the “family” bathrooms at airports and malls, but can I get a lactation room? A reasonable maternity leave? Childcare that doesn’t eat up half the family’s income? These are some of the issues Jessica tackles in the book.

She discusses the safe haven laws in Nebraska, when they decriminalized the abandonment of your children as long as you left them in a designated location. What they didn’t plan for, however, was that they needed to also set an age limit. Within two months of enacting the law, more than 30 kids were dropped off—and none were infants. Most were over 10 years old. How in the world do you decide you are done raising your 10-year-old and drop them off at the hospital or fire station, never to be seen again? Parenting can’t be that bad, can it?

She also discusses the anti-vaccination trend and how it’s ultimately a power move by (mostly) women to assert their rights over their children, versus blindly trusting the medical establishment that works to prevent empowerment over medical decisions.

While I don’t agree with every statement Jessica makes (the breastfeeding chapter was full of “Okay, and?”) I do think she makes great points about what is missing from parenthood today. All our lives, it’s built up as a “completion” of sorts. We think that the baby will be born, it’s the greatest moment of our lives and we will live happily ever after.

But what we don’t hear is how childrearing tests our relationships. It tests our finances. It strains us both physically and mentally. It’s hard work. If we don’t consider parenting our children the most important and most wonderful thing we do, does it mean that we’re devoting all this time and energy for nothing?

Of course not.

I was familiar with all the problems Jessica presents in the book, but I was looking forward to more solutions, perhaps an answer to the question she posed in the title. Why do we have kids? What can we do to make parenting work in our society? How can we push for the policy changes that will allow us to live a full life with kids?

Check out the book and see if you came to same conclusions I did. It’s available for sale at Amazon.com.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions, of course, are my own. 

 

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Written by Tara

Tara Pringle Jefferson is the founder and editor of TheYoungMommyLife.com.

Comments

  1. I might review this from a childless person’s point-of-view. Hmm…*heads to Amazon*

  2. Parenting is not overrated. I think there’s just a lack of planned pregnancies or unrealistic opinions about how parenting will be. I feel like it’s a no-brainer that having kids will change your life financially and the dynamics of your relationship. That much we should already know from watching our parents and being kids. I definitely knew motherhood wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

    I feel like more couples need to practice safe sex so that they don’t enter into parenthood before they’re ready. In addition, I think blogs like ours would be great for couples who are on the fence about having kids to read. We offer up a real view of what being a parent looks like. That’s something that most parenting mags and baby books don’t do. Like everything in our lives being a parent is what we make it.

  3. I think you posted earlier on something that is relevant to this–who said it was going to be easy, right?!

  4. I’m 27 and recently married. All my female co workers have either infants, toddlers or kids at all ages. All they talk about is the bad stuff like getting no sleep, financial obligations or their children fighting with each other. It seems like they are always complaining. I just sit back and realize how thankful I am that all I have to worry about is me and my husband.
    I’m not baby crazy, yet, but after hearing all their horror stories, it makes me not want to have kids.
    I do have a nephew, who is 4. And after spending a weekend with him, I’m certainly not wanting kids any time soon. He is a little terror. And I know that parenting has a big role in how a child acts, but it was a big turnoff.

    I consider myself a very responsible adult and I’ve been on birth control for 5 years. If I’m not ready for children, I make sure I take my pill. I don’t understand why other women don’t use any form or birth control.

    I’m very interested in reading this book. It sounds really interesting.

  5. I definitely had an unplanned pregnancy, but strongly believe that my daughter has made me a better person simply because I want to be a better person for her. Even though I do daydream of having a day all to myself, with no responsibilities (like my childless friends’ weekends), I couldn’t imagine a life without her. I never knew I could love anything or anyone as much as her.

    There is a lot I could complain about when it comes to parenting, but no matter how many irritating things happen throughout the day sometimes all it takes is a little giggle and a smile to wash it all away.

    • I absolutely 100% agree! Of course we complain about our children just like we complain about our jobs, etc. but we’re definitely greatful to have them! My son was also the result of an unplanned pregnancy, and let me tell that even after all of the trials and tribulations I would NEVER trade him for anything! He indeed is the reason why I try everyday to better myself =)

      • i try to better myself everyday and i don’t have children, i do it for me! to be a better person for my family , a better friend, and a better coworker!
        i don’t need a child to be a better person.

  6. ok, you totally convinced me to read this book. especially because i have baby fever *so* badly!!! hayley is now 8, and we recently started trying for #2. i thought it would happen right away, but it hasn’t, and i’m one of those crazy people with ovulation kits and basal body thermometers. :| i certainly wasn’t trying for hayley, and i can’t believe how different my two experiences are.

  7. UnhappyFather says:

    Most men just want to make the children and go away, if you women want them, feel free to have as many as you want.

  8. I was just talking to my mother about all of the challenges and joyful moments parenting and pregnancy can bring and it got me thinking about the fact that I am almost 30 and by the time my mom was my age she had a house, a full-time career and was on her second and last child. Today is much different than the 70′s and 80′s and I question: Will I ever hit a point where I am like , “Ok, honey. Everything’s in order. Let’s start making kids.”

    I don’t feel like I’ll ever be ready. At 29, I am just getting my career together, my relationship solid, and a home I can actually call my own. I need time to enjoy that. I still want to travel. It’s not to say I can’t do these things with children, but I don’t think I am quite done with my life being all about me. I always say if you’re not 100% positive you want to do something, don’t do it. Is anyone (especially these days) 100% positive they are ready to bring a child into the world where layoffs happen everyday and only a few people are truthfully financially set? I don’t have the best examples either: Most of my friends that are starting families don’t have the healthiest relationships and look at working as optional.

    One thing I disagree with is that the world is set up for childless people. Did you see my return at tax time because I sure as hell didn’t get any of it with my single, unmarried behind.

    • I don’t disagree with anything you’ve said except the last part. LOL. ‘Cause um, I NEED those child credits after spending $14,000 a year on daycare. Doesn’t come close to offsetting what it costs to raise kids, so I think you’re still coming out ahead. :)

  9. I always thought my pregnancy would be planned. I was waiting for the right time. There isn’t one. Some times are just better than others. When I found out I was pregnant, all I could think was…”How am I going to tell my boss?” I was actually afraid to be pregnant because I just started the job 5 months prior.

    Now as a mom I wonder how did my friends do this at such young ages (now 30). Its a lot- and I’m home. Daycare costs alone scare me from getting back to work. We really do need better support. I don’t know where to begin. But I do know I shouldn’t have to look for “The best companies for working mothers”. All companies should accommodate for that. Women bare children and nowadays we work. For someone like myself who doesn’t have a mother to help with the baby or a load of wealth…being a mother is very unappealing. Our children give us joy but there is great pressure to (and how to) provide…all while giving back that same happiness. Funny my previous post speaks to this in a way.

  10. I don’t have kids yet. But sometimes I wonder if the current generations have overthought things and don’t enjoy being parents as much because of that. I think my desire to be a mom comes from my parents. My dad often talked about how much fun he had raising us. He loved being a dad. My mom has not been as vocal but I’ve asked her if she ever worried about if she was a good mom or doing things right in terms of raising us or had mommy guilt (questions I often hear from my age group of moms online). Her answer is always No . Maybe we over think it going in with unrealistic expectations and then over think it some more leading to feelings of inadequacy, guilt and too much comparison to other moms.

  11. I am 40 and happily childfree. I never wanted kids and I marvel at people who do. I find it so incredibly odd. Basically it is a desire to own a pet human that takes up 100% of your energy and time. I think that is weird. My cousin has 8 kids and counting. I ask him, “how? why?” He answers, “it just keeps happening.” I am at a loss for words. So is he, at this point. My life is utterly my own. My money is totally saved for me and my husband. I sleep, I play, I do as I please. If I want to eat cocoa krispies for dinner I can. If I want to sleep in, I can. If I want to stay out all night, I can. I guess it is true that I must be selfish by default, since I don’t have kids to worry about, but I’m not a mean horrible person. I’m actually a very emotional and sensitive person. I think family is important. I see lovely pics of my friends and their kids and think it is terrific. For them. Not for me. I’m just so damn happy that I am 100% free. They say “you never really know love until you have your own child.” I just respond back “And you’ll never know true freedom, bliss and peace of mind that not having kids brings.”

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