I gave birth to two children. I wanted them and I had them. I’d have three if the stars had been aligned a little better.
There was a time — throughout my twenties and into my early thirties that I thought I would not have children. My husband and I were a child-free/less couple for a decade and when I think back on that time it was fine. We were fine. We would have been fine had we not had children. However, the minute I was given the go-ahead to have children, my life changed completely. Pampers commercials made me quiver with anticipation. When we had our first child we were so smitten we tried (and were successful) for a second before the first was a year old.
I know people with no children either by choice or not by choice. I know people with one child. I know lots of people with two or three children. I know people with many children. I know people who adopted children. I know women who had children on their own. I know same-sex parents. None of these people should be judged, especially based on the decisions they made or didn’t make regarding offspring.
Last night, after writing an emotional comment on Indigo Bunting’s blog post, I thought about why this topic makes me so emotional. I think it goes way back to an episode of All in the Family in which Mike and Gloria proclaim they’ll never have children because of overpopulation. This was the first time I’d heard of this concept and it upset me. I wanted to grow up and have children, but I didn’t want to be a cause of overpopulation.
I have felt a lot of guilt in my role as mother*. I felt guilt when I worked when my daughter was an infant. I felt guilt when I didn’t work when my son was an infant. I felt guilt when I read books for pleasure instead of taking the children to the park. I felt guilt for going back to work when my son was a toddler. I felt guilt for what I fed them and then what I didn’t feed them. (you get the idea) I didn’t, however, feel guilt for having them in the first place — overpopulation be damned.
I try really hard to be non-judgmental. I try to remember that everyone has a secret history. I rarely ask questions of anyone except the best of friends questions that might be considered personal — especially regarding children.
So the idea that people who have children are selfish upsets me — perhaps akin to what someone who didn’t have children feel when they’re called selfish. It goes both ways.
While writing this and thinking about the posts that inspired it — I kept remembering two sayings I’ve thought about concerning parenthood. One was a teeshirt I saw in a card and gift store (incidentally the one in which went into labor with my second child) that I thought was funny. It had a drawing of a woman with a shocked look on her face. Under the drawing was a quote: “Oh no! I forgot to have children!” I remember a heated discussion I had with a friend (who had two children — I might have had one at the time — or none) about the saying. She was appalled and could not figure out why I thought it was funny.
The second is a Brian Andreas print/saying that I gave my mother for Christmas one year — shortly after we had our first child. It goes something like this: “There are lives I can imagine without children, but none of them have the same laughter and noise.” I always felt bad that my Aunt Ginny had to see that whenever she visited my mom’s house — she always wanted children, but she and Uncle Jack never did.
*I’ve never used this phrase to exclude people who are not mothers. To me, it just means in my life as a mother as opposed to when I was not a mother.