Read This If You’re Not Sure You Want Kids

“I could go either way”

Kris Gage
Kris Gage
Mar 31, 2018 · 14 min read
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You’re not alone — and uncertainty is higher among women than men

Women are not just delaying babies; they’re debating them altogether.

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There are a number of versions, but this one is Jake Calabrese

STEP 1: KNOW WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU

Religion

When I wrote about marriage, the biggest pushback I got was “religion.” So I’m just going to preemptively clarify:

Status in Society

If you value social norms, you’ll probably have kids. Because even as childlessness becomes more common, it still isn’t socially accepted.

STEP 2: REALLY UNDERSTAND REASONS

Fear of Regret

Many people have kids because they “don’t want to regret not having them”— or because others threaten they will.

We regret things we didn’t do more than the things we do

As Daniel Gilbert wrote in Stumbling on Happiness,

Fear — even fear of regret — is not a healthy motivator

Because:

Good decisions are made out of love, not fear

Move towards the things you want; don’t just avoid the things that scare you.

Some people do regret kids

They just don’t talk about it.

Fear of Loneliness

Someone once told me, “not having kids won’t keep you from getting old.”

Curiosity (“I just want to see…”)

…“how they’ll turn out,” “what they’ll look like,” “my partner as a parent,” etc.

“Happiness”

Fact: Kids don’t actually make us happier

Since the 1980s, at least two-dozen studies have shown that the quality of marriage decreases once the couple has kids. Studies also show that when kids leave the nest, parents are happier than any other time in their relationship.

“Meaning”

Many people cite their kids as the most meaningful part of their lives, but that doesn’t mean we should. Good parenting means honoring kids as their own people, with their own lives, whose “meaning” is entirely separate from ours — and vice versa.

Kids aren’t here to “fill your life”

They are not here to ease our existential anxiety or distract us from it, and even if we ascribe meaning to them, the responsibility still falls on us.


“I could go either way”

I tell partners: if you forced me to say yes or no right now, I’d say no. But I could see myself changing my mind.

  • I didn’t have a bad childhood. I mean, no worse than average. I think.
  • It’s not lack of money. I mean, not directly — though after years of student loans, I’m not exactly ecstatic about continuing to hemorrhage it.
  • But it’s not because I want to spend it on travel or cars or whatever.

LIKING kids — but not LOVING them

It’s sort of like being a cat or dog person

I like cats. But I prefer dogs.

I’d make a good parent

Tons of people feel this way. Though, of course, most of us are wrong, we all have our own reasons for warranting this belief, and mine is: I don’t glorify motherhood.

Work

Kids take work. (Never-ending and thankless work.)

I don’t see joy when I see children; I see work. I see the day to day realities. And not labors of love even, but work for what it is — years of thankless straining, work that hinges on having huge reserves of intrinsic motivation.

I like paid work

Not purely as a matter of income, but more importantly: having a bit of space and wherewithal in the economy.

Things I just don’t want to deal with:

1.) The emotional labor

Parenting takes a lot of work — way more than dressing your kid in a cute outfit and calling it a day. It takes conscious communication, patience, and consistency, and unfortunately not all people who become parents were ever equipped for the most important parts.

2.) The sheer amount of stuff

I just don’t want my life to be saturated with “kid shit.”

3.) Loss of sleep

It’s not that I sleep until 1 pm or anything — I’m a respectable human being with a normal sleep schedule, and I freaking love the morning hours — but I am very protective of my sleep. I once dated a bad snorer and it was borderline deal-breaker.

4.) Cooking

And neither does my partner. The idea of daily meal prep makes me feel bored out of my mind. And I hear most people agree, treating it as a necessary chore, but again — cost:benefit.

5.) Being interrupted

I hate being interrupted so much that when my little sister was a toddler and would bust into other people’s conversations mid-sentence with some kid shit, it was one of the few times I actively “mothered” her (“don’t do that — it’s rude.”)

6.) I don’t want to go to Disneyland

And I don’t want to be the asshole parent for feeling that way.

7.) Intellectual Atrophy

It takes a special kind of everyday saint to deal with all of the mind-numbing mundanity.

8.) Money

Do you know how much those little shits cost? A lot. Like, $250K+ a lot.

9.) Porn and/or drugs (the kid’s)

Future kids are going to see porn in kindergarten and I just don’t have the emotional wherewithal to fight the internet. And what happens when the kid gets into meth or heroin? What are you going to do with that?

10.) Health problems (the kid’s)

When considering a potential partner, I always ask myself: “how would he react if our kid had leukemia?” People always think of idealizations, but sometimes shit hits the fan.

Things I love that I’d be giving up:

The bike. Minimalism. Quiet. Sunday mornings poring over one or three of my many, many books… the bike.

You will have regrets either way

You can be happy either way

When to have kids

Two evaluators:

When what you value makes the payoffs worthwhile.

When you do so from a place of love, not fear.

So: what do you value?