Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tuesday Talk: Playing Devil's Advocate

When someone asks me So when are you and D having children? What rears up inside me isn't pretty... It's assumptive, presumptive and actually quite intrusive on my personal life to ask that question -- On the more rational side of things other hand, I also realize it's a normal question society asks and thus... I write this post --

To try and explain where I'm coming from without revealing my personal and painful past, I'll ask you to think of it like this:

Imagine you've been looking at life through a window and there was a point in your life you realized that the window you were looking out was painted... You don't ever forget the day you scratched the paint away, only to realize you'd never seen life for what it truly is.

This, in retrospect, is exactly what happened to me over 5 years ago and I haven't stopped "bucking the norms" since...

The hard part about it is that although I may have realized I was looking at a painting, it's not like I was able to immediately scratch away all the paint and see the truth of life on all levels right then and there. It takes time to decipher lies vs. truth, societal norms vs. personal choice, intruded opinions vs. inward convictions -- Having a baby clearly falls within the category of a major life decision that everyone seems to have an opinion about --

I distinctly remember when I joined MySpace there was a choice under the 'children' status that stated I don't want children -- At the time, I thought Well, that sounds really harsh... how can someone be so sure? Well... I don't want children and I'm finally at a place in my life where I can be comfortable saying it without the feeling that I'm saying something fundamentally wrong -- I've made too many life altering decisions based on fear of what people think or the what if I live to regret and I'm not going to bring a human soul into this world for those same reasons... It's too important --

When I tell people I really don't think I'm going to have children, these are some of the questions I get and these are my questions for you...

What if you regret not having children?

A: Wouldn't you regret messing your kids up b/c you knew you weren't meant to have them to begin with?

Q: What if you're lonely when you grow older?

What if your children leave you and never look back when they turn 18? Or what if something tragic happened and they died? Won't you also be lonely?

You. are. right. WHAT IF?!
This is the problem with What If questions... We. don't. know. -- As Mojito Maven said it so beautifully to me in an email... what I do know is today, right now and that's where I'm going to live my life... not in the future where I can't know for sure.

Have you ever thought of these questions?

Would it be OK if I believe my destiny/calling/purpose {however you say it} lies in authoring books, coaching people in need and speaking motivationally to wounded souls?

Why is it that people feel the need to convince someone they should have children? Where is that coming from and have you ever stopped to ask yourself that question?

What if I finally feel like I've just begun living and I don't want to turn around and raise another to live? Does that really make me selfish? Or just logical?

Could it be possible that there are people who aren't meant to have a child? If so, is it possible to allow them to choose that without everyone questioning whether or not they are selfish human beings?

What if I'm fully fulfilled just being married and living out my days with my spouse? Are you even able to allow yourself conceive that? Or has society truly convinced you it's just not right to not have children?

Why do you feel the need to "Pray for me" when I say I don't want children!? Do you think it's morally wrong?

Oh! The questions! I could go on, but I'm starting to bore myself -- I think you get my point.

Those who know me IRL can. not. believe. I wouldn't want to have children. I love children. I adore children. You see my love for Stellan and all things My Charming Kids. I write about my nieces and nephews. I love all things little, cute and vulnerable. Yet, after my fill, I love sending them home more.

I'm going to end with a story... I moved from my dad's home in FL to my mom's home in PA when I was 17 y/o. About a year into living with her we had a conversation that went a little bit like this:

Me: Why did you leave us?

Mom: I thought I loved someone else more.

Me: Do you regret it?

Mom: Of course I do, but we can't go back and change our past decisions.

Me: Do you ever regret having kids?

Mom: Of course not! I love you two kids more than anything in this world.

Me: OK, let me change my question. Do you think you were meant to have kids?

Mom: No. I don't think I was.

That was likely one of the most hurtful conversations I've ever had, yet actions have always spoken louder to me than words and my mom was never very present in my life growing up. She was committed to something else way more deeply than she was to having children. As an adult, I don't judge her passion or her desire to be committed to something. Yet, while I don't agree with her decision to choose those passions and desires above being a vital part of her children's lives, I can use her past decisions to see my future decisions more clearly.

Just as I can objectively see that my mom likely shouldn't have had children, I'm able to remove myself from my subjective view of my life and see that I'm not meant to be a mother... I'm meant to do other things with my life and I'm thankful for the opportunity to fulfill what my truest of purpose is without accepting the guilt society places on those who choose not to have kids.

One thing I must say before I step off my soap box -- I don't believe my opinions are truth -- they are just that... my opinions -- So if you have a different opinion, it doesn't mean I'm right/wrong or you're right/wrong... it means we differ on the matter at hand and just as I respect your opinion, I ask that you respect mine and not be rude in your comments... I totally welcome controversial thoughts and challenging questions... but I really want you to think about why you're saying or asking what you are -- Come on... give me your best shot :)

p.s. -- D and I are taking all precautions not to get pregnant, but if we do... it will be a clear sign that it was meant to be and while it won't change my controversial thoughts said above... I will be forever a mother and thank God for the privilege of it --


Mojito Maven said...

you already know how i feel about this...*HUGS*

lmt1073 said...

You know, as a mother to three and a foster mother to three, I can completely understand where you are coming from. Being a parent is an option, not a requirement of being an adult. Forgive me for being harsh, but screw what society thinks you should do! Live your life the way you want and be happy knowing you made the right decisions for yourself.

More power to ya!!!

lmt1073 said...

Oh yea, and if you ever just wanna spoil some kids, I'll send a couple your way for a few days... ha ha!

Alexis said...

Hi there,

First, let me say that I commend your honesty. I could not agree with you more that it should never be assumed that a couple will just have children - and the "when are you" question is inappropriate, akin to "What will your new last name be?" (maybe I'm not changing it!) -- it's just overly traditional.

The only thing I'll say is just to keep an open mind. I don't know how old you are and don't read often enough to venture a guess - but I felt the same way as you in my twenties. I had a career that I was focused on and my life fulfilled - I didn't have a desire to be a parent and didn't recognize it as my path. Then something changed - maybe it really was hormones or maybe it was just that I fell so much more deeply in love with my husband that the next thing that "just made sense" was to love him in a new way, through a baby of ours. Either way, my perspective completely flipped the script. All I'm saying is don't run off and get your tubes tied, you may not always feel the same way.

But if you do - congratulations on making the right decision for your life. People often bring babies into the world for silly reasons and it is fantastic that someone can be mature enough to recognize when that's not the right path for them.

Prep-E Girl said...

Thank you for being so honest. It takes a lot of guts to do so!

I ponder the same sorts of thoughts/questions that you posted up here. The biggest ones being: if I choose not to have children - how am I being selfish? (Personally, I think it's pretty self-less to choose not to have them if you know that's what's best for you - how is having a child for the sole sake of reproduction really not selfish in itself? Don't get me wrong - I think if you WANT a child for the right reasons, then there's nothing selfish about it.)

Anyway - thanks for the honesty. Know you're not alone out there. I'm kind of sitting on the fence about the whole issue, personally - but, it's nice to know that there truly are people on BOTH sides (of that fence)...


Cookie Crums said...

I have to say I find myself asking friends "are you having children?".... I dont' mean it to be invasive...just curious. IF their answer is "not having them"...my response is to shrug my shoulders and say "not everyone does"

Having a child is a difficult job that lasts a lifetime. Some are meant to be parents and some are not....I think those that try to push their beliefs onto others have serious issues and need to worry about their own lives. That's why the Good Lord gave us brians and souls....to think and believe in what is best for each individual.

Mary Teresa said...

I think you are a brave woman for being honest about it. I think that you summed it up wonderfully in saying that you love children. Children are a blessing, yours or someone else's and it's ok if you don't have any of your own, since it gives you extra love to give to those that need it. Try for kids don't try for kids, it's all up to you. My problem with the subject is when people make the choice to...fornicate...and yet are surprised when bam they end up pregnant. Well, that is how babies are made and it is always a chance of happening.

I think I just sort of rambled, but I think you've got the right of it and the right in sharing it with others. My first baby is on the way and it is something I wouldn't change for the world.

Ace said...

I don't have a question. Just wanted to say that I agree. I do think some people just aren't made to be parents and there's nothing wrong with that! I sometimes wonder about myself! I love my kids, but Good Lord I can't wait until bedtime every day.

Saskia said...

Firstly I wanted to say a big THANK YOU for sharing this with us all. I think it must have been difficult to write such an honest post.

I totally agree with you that people assume far too much. I cringe every time I hear someone ask "when will you be having children then?" Not only is it no one else's business, it may be a seriously painful subject - what if, unbeknown to everyone, that person has been trying to get pregnant for years and hasn't been successful?

I commend you for saying that you do not want children. Everyone in your position definitely should not have to justify this choice on a regular basis.

Saskia x

Jordan said...

This is a question that I never, ever ask anyone because it is something that I myself can not fully answer. I just don't know. I too love kiddos, but I have not felt that tug to have any of my own. Thank God my husband is on board...for now. I know he wants kids someday.

And I do feel selfish, but mostly it's because I know that my mother is desparately awaiting grandbabies. But, a child is just not something you can return if it doesn't fit.

Great post! It probably hits home for more of us than you think!

Lindsey said...

What a great post!!! Love your honesty!

Erin said...

Thanks for being honest...

I have always thought that I wanted to be a mother and still do but if you read my last blog post...I nearly FA-REAKED the other day about it. It took looking at the "friends" on my Facebook that seem to all be drinking the same water for me to realize that I still do want to have children just not right now... I don't want to have kids just because everyone else at the moment is...I will when I am good and ready...thankyouverymuch. As much as you hear people judging others for not wanting to have kids...I hear people with their "questions and opinions" as to when we are going to have kids and the opinions when I say Im not sure when but not right now. I don't just want to have kids because it is just the next thing to do in life...MYOB!

Great post Anna...keep 'em coming!

Mrs. G said...

Great post! Props for your honesty and for being able to put your thoughts down in words! I don't think there is anything wrong with not having kids and salute you for knowing that about yourself!

Adventures in Newlywed said...

Having children is a very personal decision...and if all of the "very religious folks" who say that we were put on this earth to procreate really did their homework they would see that God actually ordained some people (re: several of the disciples) to remain SINGLE (as in not even married, let alone children!). God made us unique individuals, some of us are good at teaching, some are meant to be missionaries...I could go on, but you get the point. We have the freedom to change our mind, make decisions, and THINK independently - that's why we are human. As long as you and your husband agree on whether or not to have children, it's nobody else's business. Sorry, end of rant :)

Always Pretty in Pink said...

I love your honesty. :)

This sounds so weird, but I feel the same way.

Everyone who knows me thinks I'll be such a great mom. I love kids. I was even going to school to be an elementary school teacher. Also, I work in a bakery and I have several children that always come visit me, and such. Even some of their moms have talked about what a great mom I am going to be.

But I think I am meant to be an awesome aunt. If my sisters have kids, I would love it. But I don't think I am meant to be a mom.

My aunt got pregnant while she was on the pill. Three different times, while on three different kinds. And, yes she always took it when she was supposed to. I guess she was just meant to be a mom. Sometimes, I wish something like that would happen to me. Just so I wouldn't have to worry about whether or not we should have kids, or when.

Sometimes, I do feel kind of guilty about not wanting kids though. Especially when I read someone's blog, who is trying really hard to get pregnant.

Krystyn said...

I think it's great that you know what you want or in this case, don't want, and you aren't afraid to tell people.

I completely agree that there are some people that aren't meant to be mothers (that is not meant to be ugly) and then there are some that are.

I don't remember a time in my life that I didn't want kids...so everybody is different.

At the same time, I know I'm guilty of asking friends when they are going to have kids, but usually it's after they ask me when I'm going to have another one (hello, I have a 6 month old); or worse, when they ask me when I'm going to try for a boy!

And, your love for kids can easily be shared with kids that aren't your own (I'm sure you know this); big brother, big sister, tutoring, mentoring, etc.

*sara* said...

Good for you for writing this post! I completely agree that not everyone is cut out to be a parent and if you and your husband agree that you don't want children, people should respect that. I am just as confident that I was meant to be a mother (someday) as you are that you weren't. However, we're not quite ready yet and the "when are you having kids" question drives me crazy! It is mostly because it is a very personal decision and I don't want a gazillion people breathing down my back, asking if we're pregnant yet when we do decide to try. What if we can't get pregnant we end up having fertility issues? I wouldn't be able to handle that and the pressure and questions.

Anyway, good for you for knowing what you want (or don't want in this case) and not letting society pressure you into it!

O.M.G. said...

Are you kidding?! How can you not want kids!?

I'm just teasing. Is that what you were expecting for comments?
Really, it looks like you struck a chord in people and many (including me) are very appreciative of your "coming out" and being honest. I think we do need to be aware of the personal questions we ask each other yet not be afraid to share our deep, dark thoughts and musings. Having children almost seems like a past-time for people these days. Something cute to dress up and dote on. But RAISING a person totally different event. Rock on, girl!

Cole said...

I commend your honesty! Do what's right for you - not what society expects from you.

Wifey said...

Kudos to you for getting on your soapbox and speaking your truth. Even bigger kudos for living it.

Winks & Smiles,

Doula Saint said...

I just want to know when I can ship my kids off to visit their favorite aunt and uncle!! :D

Love you, sis!

Ashley said...

I think its awesome that you did this post - controversial or not! I will be honest and say that I am on the other end of that and want to have children badly but I can also completely respect your opinion and decision to live the way that is best for you!

Good for you for writing this though!

Miss E said...

As always, you bring up great issues that not everyone openly talks about. Being married for 3 years, I get questions about the kid thing ALL. THE. TIME. While I know that people are trying to be nice, I do feel like it is an invasion of my privacy.

I agree that some people have other callings in life than to be parents. There's nothing wrong with that - to each his own - the importance when all is said and done is the impact you made on others lives. Be it children, friends, spouse, family. You have touched many lives through your work and your writing. The world is already a better place with you in it.

Thank you for the honesty and candor of your post.

Miss E xoxo

LucieP said...

I love your posts

Le said...

Um, excuse me. Can I ask a favor? Can I borrow your soapbox and give you a large platform instead?? Seriously -this needed to be said ---put out there in cyberworld and good for you for doing it. Asking someone about the kids (unless you know them VERY well) is an invasion of privacy for sure, and it used to bug the heck outta me.
It runs on the same track as getting your big ol' preggo belly felt up by stangers in the grocery store ...but I digress. LOL
Props for speaking your heart and mind.

TheLabRat said...

I just said this in another blog but it deserves reiteration hear because you kind of touch on it when you ask why people feel compelled to get us non-kid having types to have kids. Inevitably when someone asks me WHEN I'm having kids (and kudos to whomever upthread asks their friends IF instead) and I inform them that I am crazy Aunt Mouse to all kids but not going to have any of my own, the conversation goes down the same path. "Having kids made me a better person." To me this reeks of subconscious con man tricks; you try to use basic psychology to get someone to make the same choice you did. ANd I have to ask, how convinced are you it made you a better person?

Put another way; the parent doth protest too much methinks.

Ching said...

Fantastic post. My husband and I have been together 10 years and we've gotten this since the day we got married. I think that the "I will pray for you" bugs me the most.

My husband asked his father, "Why should I have children?" His response was, "You're married. It's expected of you." This seems to be the typical thought process for everyone. Nevermind what is right for you as a couple.

Thank you so much for this post. After being made to feel so abnormal and unnatural, it is refreshing to find other like-minded couples. Maybe we're not so strange after all. LOL.

Anonymous said...

It's so interesting that it's considered "brave" to say you ("you" understood, that is) don't want children.

Why? Why should that be an act of bravery? Why is it assumed women are only "normal" if they want kids, and "abnormal" or rebellious if they don't?

I understand this is the way it is, that saying, "NOOOO! I mean, no, thank you," is considered poor form (for a woman), but good god, it's just one person's personal life choice. What I do with my uterus is no more anyone's business than what I do with my vagina. You don't hear people asking, "Did you have sex last night?"

I wish it were more common to ask, "Why are you having children?" When it comes to children, it seems far more people put thought into not having them than they put into having them. And it's the ones about to be born that should have parents who, when possible, have figured out how to pay for, care for, raise, and rear them.