Yesterday as the four of us were heading to Mary Chung’s for a very late lunch/early dinner Warren commented that at that moment he found it hard to believe the studies that said that most people were less happy after they had kids, or something like that. It was certainly hard to believe in unhappy parents at that particular moment, with Duncan cooing on my left hip and Margaret dancing down the sidewalk as we each held her hand. As she often does she’d periodically swing between us. It seemed hard to fathom anyone being unhappy in such delightful company. Of course Warren mentioned that many people are pressured to have kids, and perhaps many of them do before thinking through the practicalities of what that means.
A lot of people I know choose not to have kids. Intellectually I understand this. Kids require work and certain lifestyle adjustments. For example, yesterday we were having a good day and Warren and I got to actually dance with each other for about 40 minutes before the kids woke up from their nap. Compared to the 12 hours a week we practiced when we were competing seriously that was pretty pathetic (though it was both argument-free and felt productive, which was an unusual combination when we were competing). I don’t think I’ve had eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in more than two years and computer games are a thing of the past. If people don’t think the predawn snuggles and family outings are worth sacrificing the other stuff I can understand why people wouldn’t want to have kids. At least intellectually I understand it. Emotionally I find it harder to comprehend than not liking chocolate, but I understand that not everyone likes what I like. I find it sad that so many of my friends are opting out of having kids because they are smart, interesting people who would most likely have smart, interesting kids, but that’s not my choice to make.
Apparently the societal pressure to have kids means that not only are there some unhappy parents out there, but there are some people out there who don’t want kids and are all bitter and unhappy about the societal pressure. I understand this, and I certainly agree that it’s not nice to be pressured to do something that you don’t want to do, especially something as huge as having kids. On the other hand, some of the more bitter and unhappy “childfree by choice” crowd occasionally drop by and make rather nasty comments on infertility blogs. There were a couple of nasty instances after infertile bloggers had premature babies after treatment. They seem to have the attitude that since they don’t want kids, infertile women definitely shouldn’t have them either, and IVF is a waste of resources. I find this approach boneheaded. If the common complaints of the “childfree” are to be believed, then infertile women are the ones you want having the kids, after all, we’re really sure we want them, and if you can afford IVF, it’s generally the case that you can afford to feed any kids you get out of it.
In an ideal world we would all respect the choices that individuals make, people would think it through before they procreated, and those who wanted kids would be able to have them, and those who don’t want kids would not feel put upon. Sadly we don’t live in an ideal world, and I must confess that in the future I might become guilty of applying pressure to procreate. Part of the point of having kids is to eventually get grandkids out of the deal. Intellectually I know that the time to convince my own children that they want to be parents someday is now, by giving them a relatively happy childhood and letting them see how happy they make me. On the other hand, the waiting might become hard as I age, and if they choose differently I might find myself incredulous. What do you mean you’d rather sleep in than spend an early morning hour snuggled up with a baby on each side? In theory I respect the right of others to choose differently than I do, but in practice it might be hard when it comes to the most important people in my life. Here’s hoping I do a good job of showing them how much joy they bring me.