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.