That Children Issue

When I meet people for the first time and they find out that I was 20 when I got married, the first question they ask is how many children we have. It’s rather funny to me that people automatically assume that a young marriage happens only because of pregnancy, but it’s true. However, that’s not always the case. Jerry and I were madly in love then – and still are! Most often, when I reply to these people that we have no children, they go on to ask if we plan on having any (answer: no, but we’re open to changing our minds) and why not. It appalls me that people would even begin to think that the answers to these questions are any of their business.

We have plenty of reasons not to have children. There are medical conditions that we chance passing on to offspring. There’s the fact that we’re trying to end the cycle of abuse, and we can’t be certain of our ability to do that with children in our home. There’s the desire to give our potential children the best life that we can – stability, hard work, values, diverse interests, etc. There are the standard ideas that we can lessen the environmental impact of the world community by not contributing more Americans to it. There’s the fact that our siblings were born after we both entered double-digit ages, enabling us to experience firsthand the effort involved and the challenges faced in parenthood. There’s the recognition that so many children already exist in this world in abject poverty, parent-less, and disease-ridden. Those children need loving homes and guidance more than we need to continue our genetic makeup. And then there’s the fact that the medication I am on would definitely harm any fetus – and going through the process of pregnancy without my medication would be a harrowing experience at best.

With all these reasons not to have children (in addition to the others that I cannot recall at the moment), we see no need or reason to have children. From our perspective (on the outside, I understand) it seems that people have children for one of a very few reasons. These can be “wanting” them, accidental pregnancy, and meeting social expectations. I’m sure there are more, it’s just so hard to gauge people’s reasoning and even more difficult to ask them how they came to the conclusion that having children was the right choice. I can only imagine that from the parents’ perspective that question would seem as a direct challenge to their decisions.

Without wanting to challenge anyone one about their decisions to become parents, I am constantly seeking a reason to have children. And I don’t mean something like having someone to take care of us in our old-age or finding out what combining our genes would do. I’m seeking something concrete. For example, we just decided NOT to get a Blu-Ray player for a Christmas present this year. We used reason in coming to this decision. We looked at our DVD collection and assessed how often we actually watch the DVD’s that we own. We estimated how often we rent DVD’s vs renting video on demand. It turns out that we probably have absolutely no use for a Blu-Ray player, despite the fact that they are cool and we love new gadgets. That money would be more wisely spent elsewhere – or saved. Now that’s the kind of reasoning I’m looking for in making a decision to have children. Something that follows logic and makes sense. So, please, if you can think of a logical reason to have children, please let us know. Leave a comment, send an email, anything.

In the meantime, please enjoy reading this article explaining some additional reasons for choosing to be child-free.

5 Comments On “That Children Issue”

  1. Hi Jenni! I enjoyed your reasonable article. You did a great job rationally explaining the reasons you don’t want to have kids.

    I can think of one reason to have kids in your case…knowing you and Jerry and that you are rational, caring people, you could make great adoptive parents. There are a ton of kids who need a good home with parents who love each other. I’m not going to lie to you and say that having kids won’t get in the way sometimes, but I believe you and Jerry have a strong relationship, and one of the best things you can give your kids is an example of a loving relationship between parents.

    Anyway, there’s my two cents. Hope you’re doing well!

  2. Thanks, Jed! Jerry and I are doing well.

    We are definitely leaving open the option to adopt. There really are so many great kids out there who need good families. I think that we could provide that, eventually. I have to finish this darn program and get certified as a vet tech, then get a job. If that works out, we may be able to do something. But if I can’t get stable enough to actually hold down a job, I’m afraid I’ll probably be too unstable to raise a child well.

    Thanks so much for your comment. It’s good to hear someone else’s point of view. Especially someone who is doing a great job as a father!

  3. It’s interesting to read your point of view and I definitely think your reasons for not wanting to have kids are legitimate. I’ve never been of the opinion that everyone should marry or that everyone should have kids. (In fact I have more friends without children that ones with)

    However, I find it strange that you describe your reason for getting married as being “madly in love” but expect that having children should be an entirely logical decision? The truth is that having kids, like marriage, is an endeavor of love and the decision is not at all logical. There is no way in hell I can explain it in terms that would even resemble the decision to buy or not buy a Blu-ray player. It’s nothing like getting a new pet (I have 2 of those as well) or a new gadget or appliance. Mainly because children are human beings.
    While most of my friends and family are cool with having chosen different paths in their lives for different reasons, I’ve also heard some spout off about how they “don’t believe in marriage” or “nothing ruins a good relationship like getting married”. Or mentioning divorce statistics. Or telling stories about putting pennies in a jar every time you have sex before marriage… you get the idea.

    These are personal life choices based mostly on emotion and there is no one answer that is right for everyone. If you want kids, go for it! If not then don’t. There is absolutely no reason you should have to explain your decision to anyone. Period. And leaving yourself open to changing your mind is always a good plan if you aren’t sure.

    I’d also like to contradict the article on some levels, which indicates that having kids means your adult life is “over”. Kids do grow up so naturally you won’t be watching G-rated crap or reading “GO DOG, GO” for all of eternity. Only a few short years actually.

    Hope that made sense?

  4. Wow, Sue, you make a good point. While Jerry and I did get married because we were in love, we also sort of went through some logical steps to make the decision, too. We realized that there were certain things going on in our relationship and knew the statistics about how long we would last if we didn’t get married. We also took into account the legal and financial benefits to being married versus cohabiting.

    But even if we had only employed emotion in making our decision, I still think logic should be the primary mode of decision-making when thinking about bringing another human life into the world. While getting married has a profound effect on the lives of the two individuals, others are only affected on a secondary level. When having a child, you are creating a human being. You are responsible for that person’s life. It lasts far beyond the typically-viewed 20 years. Though most adult children don’t rely on parents for their livelihood and well-being, some do. And the ones that don’t still seek advice and occasional help from their parents, whether it comes in the form of money, favors, or something else. You have to commit to being that person’s primary “go-to” person for everything and for as long as they need you.

    I understand that some people don’t “believe” in marriage or think it ruins relationships… I’ve heard the pennies (M&M’s) in a jar thing… that’s a completely different issue. I actually wrote a little bit about it here:

    I guess what I was really going for here is that I am not sure about having children. I have plenty of reasons for not doing it, but I think if I could find a compelling enough reason to have children, I probably would change my mind. But I can’t make that decision based on just wanting a child, or wanting to have someone to shape and mold into a valuable member of society. For me to have children, I need a reason. Maybe that just means I will never have kids because I can’t come up with a reason. I just know that no child deserves to be brought into this world without its parents having a reason that’s good enough for them to commit to being the best parents they can be no matter what it takes. Maybe it’s harder for me because I saw so many of the evils that can occur when children aren’t planned or prepared for well. But, since I can’t come up with a good reason, I’m inviting others to participate in my process by contributing possible reasons to have children. If emotion is the only way to decide to have children, there’s no way I’m even going to come close! But if there are good reasons, I might (just might) be willing to listen! Hahaha! But I have to be honest, kids just aren’t my favorite…

    Thanks, Sue, so much for your insight, though. I hope you and your little ones (and Chuck) are doing well! Perhaps it is all about emotion. If so, then I’m a lost cause…

  5. Just to clarify: obviously we used logic to decide WHEN to have our kids. We looked at our financial situation, what other things were going on in our lives at the time, the strength of our relationship, etc. But when it comes down to WHY we chose to have children at all, it is purely emotional. There is no silver bullet “reason” to have children so I’m not sure what you’re looking for? It’s not like “having kids prevents cancer!” or results in a huge financial return somewhere down the road. You and Jerry would never have chosen to get married if you were not in love first. The emotional element preceded the practical considerations.

    I can tell you from my first hand experiences what the rewards have been, but it will be entirely subjective and might not be of any use to your own decision. When I look back at what Chuck and I were like before having children vs after, I have to say: we were total wimps. Also, we took a lot of things for granted, such as free time and personal freedom. While having total freedom to do whatever, whenever sounds good, it actually resulted in a lot of just sittin’ around not doing much. Now our decisions have a lot more weight and purpose to them. In other words: I feel like a stronger and more responsible person with a better head on my shoulders because I have to frequently put others’ needs before my own now.

    As for emotional and intellectual benefits, it gets much harder to describe.
    Our children depend on us for everything, but they slowly develop their own identities and who they are as people starts to take shape. Seeing Charlie exhibit sympathy for the first time was profoundly emotional. Seeing him go from caring only about his own immediate needs to caring about the well being of someone else brought me to tears. However negatively I had seen humankind before, seeing things from a child’s view gives me some hope that deep down we are all capable of good.

    Chuck and I will also have the intellectual satisfaction of guiding them helping to shape their values and world views. Not that they will choose to keep those views later on, but they’ll at least have solid foundation to start from and hopefully use it to make the world a better place. (as corny as that sounds to non-parents)

    When you want to know why anyone would bring new life into the world, it is again totally personal and highly emotional. Bringing a new person into the world and creating that person out of our relationship is hands down the most amazing and humbling experience of my life to date. That is a completely subjective statement which is not going to be much help in your own decision.

    What ever you guys decide, it’s what’s right for you. If you’re “feeling it” and you want to adopt a child I have no doubt you will make awesome, loving parents! But if you’re not “feeling it” then I can definitely respect your choice to not have kids. It’s not for everyone.

    Know that Chuck and I did not make our decision rashly or just to please our families or meet the status quo. If that had been the case, we wouldn’t have made the same decision twice! Trust me, we talked it over and thought it over and fully understood what a huge responsibility it is to bring a baby into the world. And decided that for us at least, it would be worth it.

    Good luck with whichever way you go! It sounds like you have hit a point where you really want to make the decision and move on from there and that is a tough place to be in.

    Always enjoyable to hear what you have to say:)

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