The good, the bad, the in between and the now to consider
I don’t like children. They’re needy, manipulative and incredibly demanding—“Mom, I’m thirsty,” “I’m hungry,” “I want morning cartoons, turn on the TV.” Never in a million years did I think I would have one of my own. But here I am, with a grade schooler whom I love and adore, and whom I also dislike depending on the basis and level of the tantrum thrown. Make no mistake, I am mother, not a convert. In the few seconds the thought of having another child enters my mind, it dissipates just as, if not twice as fast.
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is made to have children. The urge comes naturally to some, to others it doesn’t come at all and that’s fine. So if you’re 100% sure you want kids or don’t want them, spare yourself from this conversation and exit this page. But if you’re still debating whether or not to have one or a brood, especially during this time, stay. You don’t have to agree with me; I’m not trying to convince you anyway. We’re just having a friendly exchange on feeling unsure about having children because it’s completely valid.
Why do people have children anyway?
I’ve come across several articles that say that there are good and bad reasons to want to have kids. I’m not about to judge you for that; feeling uncertain about this particular issue already invites raised eyebrows and questions—a lot of questions. So let me just share with you common reasons why people have children:
You got pregnant by accident. Well I did, but made a conscious decision to, with or without a husband or partner, keep the child because I felt that I was ready for the responsibility and I could financially sustain another human being. Now if for you, you don’t feel that you’re ready and that you aren’t financially able, please ask for help before you make a decision. Having kids is a lifetime commitment; it’s not something you can opt out of when you’re tired or a responsibility you can pass on to others just because they’d agree to do so.
Under pressure? The more pressure you and your other half put on yourselves on the subject of babies, the harder it is likely to happen. Just ask my cousin who’s been trying for years. They’ve done in vitro fertilization to speed things along, but it was only when they stopped trying that they got pregnant. Want another example? My dentist and her husband have been feeling the pressure from her in-laws to make children. It took them two, three years—or when they stopped beating themselves up for not getting pregnant immediately that they were finally blessed with, pause for effect, fraternal twins!
Kids will make you happy. Sure, they can, but children aren’t the be-all and end-all of happiness. Dozens of studies show that the quality of marriages or relationships decrease after children. But more importantly, it’s not our kids' jobs to fill the void in our lives; neither is it their duty to distract us from our existential woes.
Children add meaning to one’s life. See above. Also, while children can add value to our lives, we are primarily responsible for them and not the other way around. Besides, not having kids doesn’t equate to meaninglessness.
You just want to see what your kids would look like. Guys, children aren’t science experiments. They are their own people and not extensions of ourselves or a means to resuscitate our broken dreams. If you’re very curious as to what you and your partner’s children could potentially look like, there are apps for that.
Fear of being alone. We all felt and will feel alone at some point in our lives; a relationship that has gone awry, the death of a loved one, a health crisis that forces us to stay apart. But loneliness is part of what makes us human and having kids cannot save us from that feeling. They will grow up and will want to leave the nest to start their own lives.
Why do people not want to have children?
Surprisingly, according to several surveys in the past three years, more men (about 80%) want to be a father. Meanwhile, fewer women (70%) want to have kids and this might be because we’re now learning that we don’t have to, that we are allowed to have opinions and that we actually have a choice in life, be it about having children or getting married. Because ultimately, the decision (as well as the responsibility and or consequences) is ours to make. So below, we take a look at common considerations or hesitations people have:
Children are expensive. They really are; from the time they are in your belly up until a few years after college graduation (because you still need to help them get on their feet). There’s healthcare, emergency situations, education and the day to day or basic needs to think about. We’re not even talking about birthday parties, christenings (if you’re religious) and gifts (theirs and their friends) yet. Let me share with a few entries from my budget tracker:
Childbirth, delivery (caesarian) and hospitalization, P250,000+
Doctor checkups and vaccinations per visit (starts monthly in the first 2 or 3 years), P3,500
Dental (starts at 1 or 2 years), P3,500+ every 6 months, but comes with a free toothbrush
Playschool (COMPLETELY OPTIONAL), starts at P85,000+
K12 Education, starts at P75,000+ for grade school, exclusive of extracurriculars and materials. Big name private and progressive schools start at P200,000 a year, exclusive of other fees
Milk, diapers, nannies are still not included.
You don’t love mess. Have you ever seen a young family travel, whether to the beach or the mall? There’s a giant diaper bag to carry around, an insulated bag for breastmilk or baby bottles, a stroller and a bunch of other crap. Have you been to their home for a surprise visit? For sure you would’ve spotted a baby bouncer, a baby walker, a baby mat, stacks of milk boxes and diapers, and soft and wooden toys or Lego pieces (99 and more) all over the floor. As a parent, you either stress yourself out or just succumb to the fact that this is what life looks like right now.
Sleep, it’s important to you. Relax, I’m trying to be funny. Sleep is important to everyone, but being a parent means countless sleepless nights depending on the age, needs and lifestyle patterns of your child. You have to feed the baby, change the baby, burp the baby, put the baby back to sleep, especially when they’ve woken up from a night terror or a bad dream, the baby wet the bed, the baby needs to pee, the baby can’t sleep. All this and more doesn’t happen in a linear timeline. Sometimes kids are just tired and they fall asleep before dinner time, which means the little zombie will wake up at an ungodly hour to ask for food or milk.
There’s a lot you will have to give up and you will never be the same person you were pre-children. Your priorities will change when you have kids even if you don’t want them to. It just happens naturally. I’ve always been a career-oriented person bent on being the best at what I do. Now I just do the best I can and make sure I have time to spend with my son because he is my first priority. Social life? I have none and this might be by choice because work, chores and taking care of my family are all that I can handle right now. Vices? I still have that bottle of wine my partner’s sister gifted me from last month. It’s probably already stale. Sex? It’s been two months of no action and that’s not because we don’t want to; parenting is exhausting.
Circumstances. On a more serious note, there are circumstances to consider. The current legal system in the country, your rights to your child as a single parent, a modern family, a mother, a father, a caretaker when a relationship doesn’t work out or your partner passes on, the current political climate, the state of public healthcare and education, and the threat of coronavirus. It just doesn’t sound favorable, at least if you ask me. The world will never be perfect but I’d at least like to bring another human being into it at a more auspicious time. The youth is the future but the foundation will still need to come from us.
So, all things considered, have you decided on whether or not you want children? I don’t think I or anyone can help you tbh. But hopefully the good, the bad and everything in between we talked about will encourage you to ask these hard, sometimes uncomfortable questions. Because as I’ve said before, once the kids come, you're in for a lifelong commitment.
Art Matthew Fetalver