Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You have to have kids

No. No you don't.  And it's quite possible that maybe you shouldn't.  You aren't a horrible person if you don't want to.  People, this is my mantra!  I have to tell myself these things all the time.  Because, while I REALLY love exactly three of the world's children, most of the kids out there drive me bananas.  I am not a patient person, and I am what some psychologists would call "hypersensitive."  I do not like loud noise, crowds, bright lights, strong smells, or being touched very much.  I can be very affectionate when I want to be but, when I am not feeling it, you can't touch this.  I am also pretty far on the introvert extreme.  I likes me some alone time and I get all sorts of batty if I don't have LOTS of time (and blissful golden silence) for introspection.  It's not my impression that parents get a lot of privacy.

I don't buy for one second that "when they are your kids, it's different."  I know several people who genuinely do not cope well with the stresses of parenthood.   These people get really aggravated and completely lose their emotional shit in front of their kids on a regular basis.  I don't think that can be good for the kids.  It certainly isn't demonstrating healthy ways of dealing with stress. Do these people love their kids?  Of course.  Do they regret having them?  Sometimes.  Might they be happier in their day-to-day lives without kids? Almost certainly.  Should they have considered more carefully their own personalities and tendencies and ability to parent calmly before having kids?  Damn-straight.  I for one am really glad I've had other reasons to put off having kids as long as I have because I've had a lot of time to think about it, and get to know myself, and I'm just not so sure that I wouldn't be one of those people going ape-shit-banana-wonkers in front of my kids.  At the very least, I know that I would need to work on some things, have some coping mechanisms and some serious support in place before I could decide to have kids.  And, I know that it wouldn't be in the best interests of my hypothetical children to have motherhood be my full-time gig.  (That whole SAHM thing is a myth for another time.) 

I know it's not JUST the LDS upbringing (and my mom) that makes me feel pressure to have kids.  In fact, just yesterday, a very well-meaning person who knows me, ermmmm, not so well, kinda recommended to me that I should have kids to "glue" my marriage together.  If kids were to be the only "glue" holding my marriage together, I wouldn't want that marriage anyway.  Am I right?  My point is, I get the pressure from other places in society as well, admittedly. 

But, it made me wonder how many LDS marriages really are only glued together by children?  It might just be the LDS people I know, but I see a lot of young, LDS people getting married way too soon, in the temple, and getting divorced very quickly (often meeting, dating, getting engaged, getting married, and getting divorced all in the span of one year).  And, I am wondering if the pulpit-pressure to start families immediately rather than postponing until incredibly selfish things - like getting educations and establishing financial security - are completed, is the Church's way of trying to keep the divorce rate lower than the national average.  Get em' sealed and overburdened with responsibility while they are very young and naive, and you've pretty much trapped them in the church.  Especially if you can get them reliant on church welfare to support their young families for a few years.

Now, I want to touch briefly on the loudest message I heard in YWs and for the brief time that I tolerated Relief Society.  From The Family: A Proclamation To The World
"By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children."

I was told no less than once each Sunday and often during mid-week activities that I was innately nurturing.  Not always, but occasionally, in those exact words.  The message was that women were put on this earth to bear children, and are divinely destined for motherhood, and all are therefore endowed with some deeply spiritually nurturing nature and maternal instinct.  This message caused me more inner turmoil than anything else I heard in Church because I never felt that nurturing instinct until I was about 26 and long out of religion.  Before then, I had never wanted to me a mother at all.  If the most critical and divine purpose for my existence was to be a mother, then why, I wondered, had my Heavenly Father neglected to install the most important software on my OS.  I felt defective and hurt and angry.  It seemed like too cruel a test. One more reason I doubted an infallible, loving God's existence.   

People who know me well might call me out on that last paragraph and say that I was always nurturing.  But, I didn't feel it.  Babies especially made me extremely anxious until my first nephew was born.   As I mentioned earlier, I am really only comfortable with a few kids who all happen to have about 25% DNA content in common with me. While I recognize that I do have some innate nurturing tendencies, I attribute those solely to biological, genetic, and evolutionary adaptation to ensure survival of the species.  So there.

In contrast to the message that motherhood was the most sacred and divine of Gods gifts to women, there is this troubling part of scripture (probably my least favorite).  

Genesis 3:3-6 KJV (emphasis mine)
3But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
 4And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
 5For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
 6And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

The punishment for this disobedient desire for knowledge and wisdom can be found in verse 16.

16Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.

To me, this reads that marriage and motherhood (and childbirth) are God's punishment, meant to make women sorrowful, not a sacred gift.

Lest you think I mean to crap all over parenthood let me say, I am sure that parenthood is beautiful and amazing and deeply "spiritual" in some ways.  I think this can be true even if, like all forms of love, it is primarily a hormonally-derived attachment to ones children that creates these human emotions around it.  And to me, that is not less miraculous.  But, then as a scientist, I don't find science and nature cold or empty.  Rather,  I find it extremely inspiring.  I just don't think parenthood is for everyone and I think it is detrimental to individuals and families for the church to push marriage and parenthood (especially on people who are very young) who might not be ready or of the right disposition.  It might not be for me.  And, I am okay with that now.  Not so much when I was told it WAS for me non-stop.


  1. My first child was accident, conceived during a time when I thought I would burn in hell if I ended the pregnancy. Otherwise, I probably would not have children. It's not infrequently that I wish I didn't have children, and I don't think that makes me a bad mother. I think that makes me an honest mother. I love them, but I don't get nearly enough alone time, and here I am trying to start a career and finding that no one wants to hire me because I've spent the last six years changing diapers and reading stories instead of getting "real" work experience.

    Nope, absolutely nothing wrong with not having kids.

  2. Thanks, Leah! I really appreciate your candor. So few mothers will admit that they have regrets or even thoughts about what they might have done had they not had children.

  3. Oh, i say it all the time: i shouldn't have had kids. I love the three i have, but acknowledge they would be better off with a more "motherly" mother. And i would've been better off alone. I do my best to mother them and teach them the things i think they should know, but by the end of EVERY day, i'm exhausted and frustrated and in dire need of some ME time. My OS is missing a few vital programs, too, i'm afraid.

    You are an amazing writer, my friend!

  4. Awww. Thanks. I'm so glad I internet-met you!

  5. I have a good friend who is 2 years younger than you & I. She is very adamant about not wanting kids. Her and her hub both agree. But lately all she talks about is having kids (even though she claims she still doesn't want any). She even remarked to me that 'maybe we should just have kids before its too late and might regret it later'. What?! Unfortunately I think all the pressures of society (and mother and mother-in-law) are actually getting to her! I think it's perfectly fine that she (or anyone else) chooses to not reproduce. It's also OK to go back and forth with the idea....but don't let society and ignorant fools be the ones to sway your decision. Eek!

  6. Yeah, I worry about regretting it if I don't have them now and change my mind later. But, if I don't feel up to it now, I can't do it. Right?

    It seems there are potential regrets to be had either way. For now, I think I'd rather have the freedom to travel and pursue whatever crazy career options I choose.

  7. I admire people who can live without kids. I'm like the Duggar mom--kids are like candy to me... Yummy, sweet and addicting. If I had the energy, I'd have 5 more! Yes, sometimes they drive me nuts, but more often than not, I lavish them with love and kisses and enjoy watching the cute things they do. I love them. But that's me. :-)

  8. "But, it made me wonder how many LDS marriages really are only glued together by children? And, I am wondering if the pulpit-pressure to start families immediately rather than postponing until incredibly selfish things - like getting educations and establishing financial security - are completed, is the Church's way of trying to keep the divorce rate lower than the national average. Get em' sealed and overburdened with responsibility while they are very young and naive, and you've pretty much trapped them in the church"

    OMG that's my life! Married at 18 to an RM at BYU then kid, kid, kid, kid. No education for me and no way to support myself even if I could extract myself from my marriage without my kids hating me. An apostate life of quiet desperation.