I just read a very interesting post written by a woman who objects to everyone thinking her decision to not have kids is their business and their assumption that the only reason she doesn’t have any is because she can’t have any. Her objection, more specifically, is that anyone thinks it’s their business to ask what she’s planning to do with her womb in the first place. The post itself didn’t spark my thoughts today as much as the many comments she received about it.
One commenter tells the author that she can’t know what she’s missing by not having kids. Others talk about leading a “more fulfilling” life by having kids. This all echoes a million different comments I’ve heard over the past decade on the subject of having babies: women claiming that their life can’t be complete without kids, that if they don’t have more than one child they can’t feel happy, that having children makes a life more meaningful, that having children makes them a better person.
I’ve got news for everyone: what having children really does for you is wear you out, make you fatter (not universally, but very common), steals all your time for personal development, divides (by however many children you have) the time you have to spend with your spouse as a couple, each additional child you have robs attention from the previous children you already had (your love may be infinite but your time and attention are not), it robs you of sleep, robs you of relaxation, makes hanging out with grownups difficult, and drains you of money.
I want to take a moment to remember how angry I used to get when women I talked to who were working outside the home used to imply that my life must be mind-numbing and less worthy because I was a stay at home mom. It’s always been my belief that if a woman decides to have children the best thing she can do for them is to stay home with them as long as finances allow. I still believe this and career women without children assuming that staying home is an unfulfilling life choice are asses.
Since then I have encountered so many smug women with children who think their purpose in life (having babies) is the most noble and fulfilling one that a woman can have. Women who think a childless life is less meaningful and fulfilling are also asses.
Smug career women are asses.
Smug working moms are asses.
Smug stay at home moms are asses.
What I want to say to the woman who suggested that you can’t know what you’re missing by choosing to not have kids is this: if I have two eyes in my head (or one really sharp one) with which to observe the parents I see around me I can know EXACTLY what I would have missed by not having one. Now that I have one I can say authoritatively that I was NOT missing anything necessary to make my life more fulfilling or meaningful.
I was on the fence about having kids for seven years (right after having spent a decade knowing absolutely that I didn’t want any) before I finally decided to give in to my hormones and have one. The idea of having a kid had nothing to do with being fulfilled. I was already fulfilled by my life, by the things I chose to spend my time doing, by the people I chose to know, by the goals and ambitions I already had for myself, and the new things I was always learning. I wasn’t missing anything in my life, I just wanted to take a detour, to go in a new direction.
If I had turned out to be infertile I would not have been devastated, I would merely have been disappointed. I wanted to experience family life but long before I even met my husband I had a serious sit-down with myself after dating one too many stupid men where I basically slapped myself upside the head and told myself that having fun, having a good life, and finding meaning was all my personal responsibility to myself and that I would end up so much less powerful if I looked to other people to fulfill my needs and dreams.
The plus of having my child is not about my own fulfillment, the plus is that having him gave me him. I love him. I am proud of him. I won’t give him back. He’s awesome. He’s smart. He’s handsome. He’s talented. I love him more than anyone else.
However, I didn’t need him to truly understand the circle of life, the fact that we’re mortal, or that parenting is hard. I do understand some of the choices my parents made better now that I am one, but that knowledge wasn’t necessary to develop a strong relationship with my mother. I didn’t need to have my kid to get closer to my spirituality or to improve my empathy or compassion. Having a kid has not made me a better person than I would have become without one.
Being a cognizant, evolving, self-aware person is what makes me a better person. My son is a big part of my life but I would never burden him with being responsible for giving my life meaning and fulfillment. He will have to be responsible for his own and that’s enough.
So screw you all who think a woman needs children to be fulfilled just because you couldn’t figure out how to make your life meaningful on your own!
Fulfillment in your life should NOT depend on: anyone else.
How about this scenario: how about women stop being smug asses to each other and realize that all of us have different ways of reaching our potential and that the greatest thing we have is: CHOICE.
You will never hear me say that a woman can’t meet her greatest potential and meaning by being a stay at home mother.
Being a woman who chooses both a career and a family is the hardest choice of all, in my opinion, and regardless of the choices I personally would make, I respect any woman who can make having both work.
Lastly (and maybe most importantly of all), you will never hear me suggest that the life of a woman requires either a man or a child to make it meaningful, productive, beautiful, fulfilling, or complete.