"It’s embarrassing to be such a cliché"
May 27, 2015 10:21 AM   Subscribe

 
Countdown to childless women getting forwarded this by their mothers on facebook in three....two....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:25 AM on May 27, 2015 [70 favorites]


... Thanks, Mom, for not being That Guy Mom.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:27 AM on May 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


I am not a big fan of Michelle Goldberg, but I still RTFA. And I am sure it isn't just me, but this is spot-on "believe me, child-free ladies, you don't know what you're missing" crap right here.

If having kids worked out for her, that is awesomesauce, but that isn't a smirk of condescension she has for younger women who don't want children. It is full-on smug face.
posted by Kitteh at 10:28 AM on May 27, 2015 [76 favorites]


I feel like using the word "breeding" is gross and disrespectful. Not unlike certain men/boys who refer to women as "females". Would you refer to your mother as a "breeder" in her presence?

I dunno, sorry if I'm offbase.

Also, people want to extract their dead children's sperm? I... uh..ok?
posted by selfnoise at 10:31 AM on May 27, 2015 [69 favorites]


Why do some people think that changing their minds on their personal life choices have anything to do with me?
posted by agregoli at 10:34 AM on May 27, 2015 [137 favorites]


Well, I think it takes some of the condescension out that she was a 'child-free' person herself, and changed her mind afterwards. She's not mocking other people who she can never understand - she's talking to your younger self.

This is a really great article, thanks for posting it - but I hope it doesn't overshadow the other great stuff. The article on fertility is amazing. It really is incredible that we know so little about fertility. Why?
posted by corb at 10:34 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also, people want to extract their dead children's sperm? I... uh..ok?

I am 99% certain this means, their adult children's sperm, presumably often, if not always, in concert with their late adult child's adult spouse wanting the same.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:34 AM on May 27, 2015


also thank you that second article is terrifying, I'm going to spend lunch hugging my womb and rocking to myself
posted by corb at 10:35 AM on May 27, 2015


It’s too painful to wonder what would have happened if that first gynaecologist had sat me down calmly and opened up some informative graphics to show how women’s fertility drastically declines with age – beginning at around 32, more rapidly after 37, then precipitously at 40. The way a doctor might explain to you the risk of smoking by showing you a picture of blackened lungs, or describe the effects fat has on arteries, often leading to heart attacks: simple medical facts, presented in an objective manner, without judgment or guilt or some hidden cultural agenda.
...
For a woman over 42, there’s only a 3.9 per cent chance that a live birth will result from an IVF cycle using her own, fresh eggs, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). A woman over 44 has just a 1.8 per cent chance of a live birth under the same scenario, according to the US National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Women using fresh donor eggs have about a 56.6 per cent chance of success per round for all ages.


Is this true?!?!
posted by hal_c_on at 10:37 AM on May 27, 2015


Why Egg Freezing Is an Impossible Choice - "I don’t want to surrender to a lottery. But will I regret not playing?"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:37 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


How about leaving condescension at the freaking door and not caring what other people do with their lives? I don't even get the ominous threats people make, silently or out loud to others about how they'll feel in the future. "Oh you'll see!" "oh you'll feel differently later!" I've never felt or told anyone that crap....let them live their life how they want.
posted by agregoli at 10:38 AM on May 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


(possibly I am misreading the source of your bafflement, selfnoise. apologies if so.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:39 AM on May 27, 2015


this is spot-on "believe me, child-free ladies, you don't know what you're missing" crap right here.

I didn't really get that. I thought she did quite a good job of making it about her and no one else's decision, and that she's not actually saying she was wrong when she was younger as having kids then would have been a different experience. She just had them when she was ready. I'm in a really ambivalent phase about kids for many reasons so I found it an interesting take. I'm 38 so I'm already over the hill by some metrics (like the second link) and I know FOMO is a big fault of mine in general, but reading about people who change their minds about having kids still leaves me feeling like it sounds like too much work.
posted by billiebee at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


Believe me, there has been many discussion of not wanting kids and having something done about it whilst young on the Blue, and there are a handful of folks who think that we're making a huge mistake by wanting control of our bodies and choosing not to have kids. At any age.
posted by Kitteh at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


“Will you please ask your readers the question: If you had it to do over again, would you have children?” they asked. She did, and received 10,000 responses. To her dismay, 70 percent answered no.

Has this data been duplicated in a more scientific venue? I'm curious to know if the results would be the same now. My instinct is that there is less pressure on people to have kids now--though there is still entirely too much pressure.
posted by chaiminda at 10:40 AM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


At some point, we decided that I’d go off the pill and see what happened.

This is fundamentally someone with whom I have nothing in common. I really dislike "indecision" represented this way, especially when we scorn this behavior in teenagers and other less-wealthy parents.
posted by Dashy at 10:41 AM on May 27, 2015 [32 favorites]


(possibly I am misreading the source of your bafflement, selfnoise. apologies if so.)

No, we're totally on the same page! Still sounds like the plot of a terrible straight to video SF movie starring Dolph Lundgren.
posted by selfnoise at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am surprised at how it is so rarely pointed out that there's a correlation between the amount of privilege someone enjoys and the likelihood that they'll choose to remain childless. At no time is this more evident than when people use the term 'breeders' to describe people who've chosen to reproduce.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:43 AM on May 27, 2015 [26 favorites]


Prospective Parent: "I'm going to have a baby!"
Me: "You're going to regret this decision when you're up at 2 in the morning scrubbing vomit and Magic Marker off the dog."
Prospective Parent: "But it's worth it!"
Me: "Maybe. But that doesn't make me any less right."
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Christ on a Crutch, that link is terrifying. I really wish I had known, oh, any of this, earlier, as apparently according to this I have like a year to come up with a casual ten grand to freeze my eggs.
posted by corb at 10:44 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is this true?!?!

Not true. Most of those stats are based on French birth records from 1670 to 1830, or "in other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment".
posted by rada at 10:45 AM on May 27, 2015 [46 favorites]


Yes, Dashy. That is spot on, definitely NOT "indecision."
posted by agregoli at 10:45 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Still sounds like the plot of a terrible straight to video SF movie starring Dolph Lundgren.

Somewhat agreed, as someone who just really fundamentally has not had the experience the author describes. But I do think I understand it intellectually--a sibling of mine (coincidentally the only one likely to want/have kids) underwent cancer treatment and my mother urged him to bank some of his sperm in the event of long-term infertility afterward. I guess I see the process mentioned in the article as being an extreme but analogous version of that. Especially if the dead person in question had been vocally extremely excited about having a kid someday, you know?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 10:48 AM on May 27, 2015


Most of those stats are based on French birth records from 1670 to 1830

Not the stats about IVF, I'm going to assume...
posted by XMLicious at 10:49 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


I really dislike "indecision" represented this way, especially when we scorn this behavior in teenagers and other less-wealthy parents.

I don't know, I think it's reasonable to get to a point where you'd be ok if a baby happened, but you're not going to take extraordinary steps to make it happen. I've had a couple of pairs of friends who weren't sure about parenting and decided to "leave it up to fate," one woman conceived and their son is quite the character. Another couple tried for a couple years, found out that hubby was infertile, decided not to pursue other routes and is happily childfree.

The trick to it is that you need to be in a maturity, financial, and emotional place to care for a child if one does happen -- because really, you are trying for a child if you *ahem* "pull the goalie." We disdain the behaviour in children and people who can't afford to have kids because it wouldn't be responsible for those people to have kids.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:51 AM on May 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


Worse, if I’m honest, when I hear younger women confidently describe how they’ll feel when they’re older, sometimes I feel a pinch of such condescension myself. Not because I think they’ll all necessarily want kids, or that they should have them, but because one tricky thing about your 20s is the need to make decisions for a future self whose desires are unknowable.

I wonder if she feels similar condescension for people who elect to have children in their 20s.
posted by almostmanda at 10:52 AM on May 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


Prospective Parent: "I'm going to have a baby!"
Me: "You're going to regret this decision when you're up at 2 in the morning scrubbing vomit and Magic Marker off the dog."
Prospective Parent: "But it's worth it!"
Me: "Maybe. But that doesn't make me any less right."


Why would you do this?
posted by chaiminda at 10:52 AM on May 27, 2015 [48 favorites]


My wife and I are both infertile and delighted that that is the case.

At the same time I'm very grateful that some of our friends have decided to have children. These are wonderful people and they make wonderful parents, putting the future in safe hands.

If someone truly were 50 / 50 about having children and honestly asked me for advice I'd lean against it. There are a lot of other things that get put on hold for both parents in a truly responsible family. That said, mostly when people have discussed this with me it is more a case of talk therapy, trying to help them understand what their choice is, and why it is right for them.
posted by poe at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's interesting to read this:

How about leaving condescension at the freaking door and not caring what other people do with their lives? I don't even get the ominous threats people make, silently or out loud to others about how they'll feel in the future. "Oh you'll see!" "oh you'll feel differently later!"

And then this:

Prospective Parent: "I'm going to have a baby!"
Me: "You're going to regret this decision when you're up at 2 in the morning scrubbing vomit and Magic Marker off the dog."
Prospective Parent: "But it's worth it!"
Me: "Maybe. But that doesn't make me any less right."


I agree generally that the world would be a lot better place with a lot less judgment and caring what other people do. On the other hand, if we didn't care what other people did, what would we snark about on the internet? I mean, sure, I could just judge silently, but then nobody gets to enjoy my snark.
posted by The World Famous at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah I don't really like the breeders thing. I hate "childless" as it sounds like pity (I'm childfree by choice, thanks, as are many of my friends), but "breeders" is pretty contemptuous even if it's tongue-in-cheek. I mean, dude, you're talking about my Mum...
posted by billiebee at 10:54 AM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm single, in my mid thirties, would like to have children with a partner some day, and doctors have started looking at me like I have three heads when i mention egg freezing/finding out more about my chances at having children. Because, see, I should just assume the ship has sailed or something, or I dunno. I don't have "woeful ignorance" I have gripping anxiety that's only exacerbated by doctors who act like it's some huge taboo, and friends and family who see it as a failure.
posted by sweetkid at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


It really is incredible that we know so little about fertility. Why?

For the same reason that tampon commercials are still focused on avoiding the "embarrassment" of having your period but male erectile dysfunction commercials are focused on how awesome men and their dicks are. Getting people to care about women's health issues is like bailing out the ocean with a thimble.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:57 AM on May 27, 2015 [93 favorites]


(Re "breeder": As I encountered the term, it was an eighties thing that the gays/lesbians used to refer to straight people - an insult from a time when being gay or lesbian was a lot more universally stigmatized than it is now and when, although some GLBTQ people had children from earlier relationships, it was very, very difficult to have children with a partner. The point being, it was very much an insult aimed at a powerful, dominant and often hateful group by a very marginalized group, and even then hardly a universally used term. I find it very jarring when used by straight people about other straight people specifically to insult them for having chosen to have children.)
posted by Frowner at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2015 [58 favorites]


I liked this article a lot and didn't find it condescending or smug at all. She likes having kids much more than she thought she would, and acknowledges that she likes having kids largely because of luck and privilege. It has to be okay for women to have complex and varied feelings and thoughts about motherhood, including enjoyment.

I also lol'd at the comment about mothers having societal privilege. I'm about done with that bullshit argument. It's simply not the case. Women deal with misogyny before AND after they have kids. It changes shape but by no means disappears or abates. The major positive social difference is that you automatically have something in common with a large number of women who are otherwise in different worlds. It can be nice to have common ground with other women that is about something other than sexism/harassment/assault.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:58 AM on May 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


Why would you do this?

Because everyone is terrible and should feel bad about how terrible they are.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:00 AM on May 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


Prospective Parent: "I'm going to have a baby!"
Me: "You're going to regret this decision when you're up at 2 in the morning scrubbing vomit and Magic Marker off the dog."
Prospective Parent: "But it's worth it!"
Me: "Maybe. But that doesn't make me any less right."

Why would you do this?

For the same reasons why people who are parents tell the childfree that they will regret the decision not to have kids. That reason is because they are assholes.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:00 AM on May 27, 2015 [37 favorites]


Re the second link:

1. I don't know if information about womens' age-related decline in fertility is "missing" from the public commons; wasn't there that big hue and cry a few years back about how doctors had announced that you were basically screwed if you hadn't had a kid by the age of 27? I remember it even made it onto the "Weekend Update" part of SNL that week.

2. However, I'm all for increasing women's access to information about anything and everything, just on general principle - so long as you respect the conclusion the woman herself draws from that information. I actually got something like this kind of talk from my doctor at age 26, due to some very different circumstances (I'd just had a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy, and she was telling me what was the what). She was fantastically supportive and nothing but straight-up factual, but the facts were that I was now probably only going to be fertile every other month and if I ever did want to have kids I was going to have to track my fertility using basal body temperatures and all that, and I just got this weird image of myself in a lab coat standing in a bathroom and having to keep a clipboard in there or something and thought "hell with it, I'll try to go the adoption route instead". I do acknowledge today that adoption isn't quite that easy either, but if I were ever to decide to have kids it would be the route I would choose; hearing that just underscored that I'm not entirely attached to the idea that any children would be genetically related to me.

But I only came to that conclusion after being presented with honest facts. And I'm all for people being presented with honest facts.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:03 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


I wonder if she feels similar condescension for people who elect to have children in their 20s.

She might, if she knew any. When I had a child in Manhattan at 25, I was repeatedly referred to as a young mother and was very obviously the youngest person in every waiting room and in the postpartum ward.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm childfree by choice. I made that choice as a teenager, and now that I'm a menopausal fiftysomething, I have no regrets. I know it helped that 1) my parents never pushed me to have kids and 2) I've always had enough childfree friends that I didn't feel beleaguered.

Something I liked about Goldberg's article is that she acknowledged how lucky she was - she established herself in a career that was portable and flexible, her husband is a full partner in parenting, and she has healthy, "easy" kids. I am sure she'd be singing a different tune if she had a checked-out husband, colicky and/or high-needs kids, and had to quit her career entirely. Luck and privilege really do factor into whether one enjoys motherhood or bitterly regrets it. I've said it before, but kids are the one decision where there are no take-backsies if things go wrong. There are no lemon laws for kids.

Michelle Goldberg changed her mind and is happy - good for her. I did not change my mind and am happy.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:04 AM on May 27, 2015 [41 favorites]


If you don't have a kid you are going to have to focus on yourself and your own little brain a lot more, and that can work out good or bad, it was mostly bad in my case.
posted by colie at 11:05 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


A few weeks ago, in the throes of a pretty significant heartbreak, I had a moment one afternoon where I was all like, "I should get a dog. NO WAIT I SHOULD HAVE A BABY!!!!! ...no, wait! I should start a workout routine that gives me Linda Hamilton arms!" And since I don't really want to own a dog in my tiny apartment, nor have I ever really wanted a baby, this was incredibly jarring for me. And then I talked it out with my best friend who has always wanted to be a mom and now spends her afternoons hiding from her children and counting the minutes until bedtime and she was like GIRL NO. And then I went out for an afternoon with a friend whose 5 week old was having a fussy day and some haggard old crone literally got in my friend's face and shouted at her about how she's a terrible mother who's ruining everyone else's day by forcing them to listen to a crying baby and I got 86'ed from that truly shitty museum for getting right back in that woman's face, and basically what I'm saying is that babies are cute and I love the kids in my life and kids in general are pretty okay and it's sometimes really fun to be around them, but... if I have a baby, the odds of me going to jail are obviously going to increase. Also there's the small matter of how having a child would financially destroy me in such a way that I would never recover, so... yeah. You always said you didn't want a baby and then you wanted one? That's nice. My mileage varies wildly.
posted by palomar at 11:05 AM on May 27, 2015 [58 favorites]


Why would you do this?

Why would anyone with kids tell a childless person that they'll regret not having kids?

Same reason.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:05 AM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Why would you do this?

Why would anyone with kids tell a childless person that they'll regret not having kids?

Same reason.


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.
posted by alexoscar at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


When I had a child in Manhattan at 25, I was repeatedly referred to as a young mother and was very obviously the youngest person in every waiting room and in the postpartum ward.

On the other side of the spectrum, when I was 35 and having my second child after four miscarriages, I was officially termed in the paperwork as an "elderly grandmultigravida / habitual aborter."

Moral of the story? Can't win for losing. Also ha ha ha women you're doing it wrong, maybe next time try being not a woman.
posted by KathrynT at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2015 [78 favorites]


Just remember that if you choose not to have a child, you might ruin your life, but if you choose to have a child, you might ruin both your life and your child's life.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:08 AM on May 27, 2015 [32 favorites]


I'm sure I've seen that on a greetings card...
posted by billiebee at 11:10 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yea, well, the more time I spend around my friends' kids the more I think I need to get my act together and figure out how it's going to happen for me before it's too late. I mean I thought I was headed toward a serious relationship as recently as three weeks ago.

I just the hate the way we keep yelling at women about this stuff, like the flakiness of lots of men is somehow never an issue.
posted by sweetkid at 11:10 AM on May 27, 2015 [36 favorites]


When I had a child in Manhattan at 25, I was repeatedly referred to as a young mother and was very obviously the youngest person in every waiting room and in the postpartum ward.

That's crazy! I'm from rural Missouri. Things are...very different there.
posted by almostmanda at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


This seems like the usual chorus around women's choices about their lives. Have a baby when you are 18-30--"you're too young! Your brain hasn't fully formed yet!" After 30--"Why did you wait so long?!"

On preview: Also ha ha ha women you're doing it wrong, maybe next time try being not a woman. KathrynT nails it.
posted by chaiminda at 11:11 AM on May 27, 2015 [19 favorites]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

That doesn't make it any less rude.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


"a WOMAN! did A THING! quick let's all tell her how she was WRONG!"

- ancient human proverb
posted by poffin boffin at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2015 [94 favorites]


AMEN sweetkid!
posted by Melismata at 11:14 AM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

People with kids have no idea whether or not they or anyone else would have regretted not having them.
posted by sparklemotion at 11:16 AM on May 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


I really do recommend being the 1st/only mother in your friend group, though! All of my friends are still happy to go out drinking with me, and we never have to talk about kids or coordinate babysitters. I will also get to be a big know it all when/if they do have kids!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:17 AM on May 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


That thing in the article about "needing faith shored up means something's going on" needled me a bit, because it seems to ignore very blithely the huuuuge range of things that can undermine your faith, many of which are not in any way a signal that your faith was invalid to begin. It was also the one part of the article where I felt like she veered away from the personal and more into the "yes, it's true, all women are lying to themselves, you think you know but you don't."

I've been child-free for as long as I've even known that women make babies (seriously, my mom was pregnant and was like, yeah kid, women make babies, and my 6 year old self was like FUCK THAT Y'ALL. or probably more accurately THAT SOUNDS LIKE BOOGERS, NO THANKS). I haven't really had any significant doubts about this being the right choice for me, despite approaching egg-death event horizon age.

However, just about everything I've ever encountered suggests that this is a path sown with bitterness and ruin. Is it *really* a sign that I don't mean what I say when I'm relieved to come across the few scraps of evidence that I might still qualify for happiness and humanity? That I'm pleased to have a partner who is as unenthusiastic about and ill-suited to parenting as I am myself, because I'm just glad I'll never have to make the heartbreaking choice some of my friends have, to leave a wonderful relationship because of the immovable kid object?

I can be grateful and happy for the support of people in similar situations, and feel my peace of mind restored by it, without invalidating my basic knowledge of my own life and self, right? Or is that just another thing women don't get to do because patriarchy... (no sarcasm. it really might be.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:17 AM on May 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


Every now and then I think I might like to have children if I could just have, like, a clever, literate eleven year old, who would enjoy playing Scrabble and dress-up and talking about the history and books I liked when I was that age. We could go to museums together and make up stories to act out. Maybe I could teach it to cook or play the piano. And then I think, "Yeah, it would be awesome because I'd have, like, a built-in catsitter for when I travel and stuff. They might even remember to water my fern for me! And sign for deliveries! Awesome!" And then I'm like, "This is why I'm not having kids."
posted by thivaia at 11:18 AM on May 27, 2015 [35 favorites]


All of my friends are still happy to go out drinking with me, and we never have to talk about kids or coordinate babysitters

it is true, you are the actual best at the lowkey mom game
posted by poffin boffin at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

But you only know what it was like in your life without kids before you had them, you don't know what that person's life is like without them. Also, you know what life is like with your kids, but not what life would be like with theirs. My sister's kids are the light of my life, funny and beautiful and smart and well-behaved, but I can't base my decision to have kids on someone else's family because my own kids might end up being hellmonsters that I want to "accidentally" leave behind in the supermarket.
posted by billiebee at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


coparenting is so overrated, though. If you have the money and can do it yourself, you can skip a lot of the crappiest parts of parenting #bitter #mybabyisadivorcee #gowatchbabymamarightnow
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:19 AM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


2nding thivaia that I would possibly reconsider my childfree status if I could be guaranteed to give birth to a baby that in every way other than size was identical to John Hodgman.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:20 AM on May 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


I just the hate the way we keep yelling at women about this stuff, like the flakiness of lots of men is somehow never an issue.

Well, it's getting to be less of an issue over time. I mean, there are more single parent households and the concept of nuclear family is relatively a recent one in human history.
posted by FJT at 11:21 AM on May 27, 2015


Lord, am I sick of the decision to have or not have kids being a cornerstone of the early 2000s narcissism of bourgeois, petty differences. Have them, don't have them - NOBODY who isn't a nosy, judgemental asshole that's better off avoided will care.

Seriously - if someone says word fucking one about your decision to have or not have kids, accept it as a red flag and NEVER TALK TO THEM AGAIN. You'll be better off (unless it's your mother, and maybe even then.)
posted by ryanshepard at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


Why did this need to be written? She changed her mind. Good for her. Some people don't. Good for them too. TL;DR: The world contains multitudes.
posted by dudemanlives at 11:23 AM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


Well, she writes for a living, and poking the parents vs. childfree hornet's nest that is the internet is probably a good way to get hits.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 11:25 AM on May 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


Ryansheperd, being a woman and black balling everyone who gets up in your business is a good way to starve to death

Also a good way to avoid gynecologists *rimshot*
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:27 AM on May 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


How does one go about never speaking to one's mother ever again? I'd like a protip on that.
posted by colie at 11:27 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

People with kids know exactly what it's like for THEM not to have kids. They don't know what it's like for anyone else.

I invariably have a lot of complicated feelings about articles like this, as a woman with no children largely because of the way my life has unfolded. I like my life, and I'm happy, but I get frustrated/sad/angry/depressed easily by anything that implies "being a parent taught me about the Real Joys Of Life".
posted by Kpele at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I just the hate the way we keep yelling at women about this stuff, like the flakiness of lots of men is somehow never an issue.

Well, it's getting to be less of an issue over time. I mean, there are more single parent households and the concept of nuclear family is relatively a recent one in human history.


It's bananas expensive to have a kid on your own like, on purpose.
posted by sweetkid at 11:28 AM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Ryansheperd, being a woman and black balling everyone who gets up in your business is a good way to starve to death

For real, I would say that grocery store clerks are the only people more preoccupied with my uterine status than my mother. Goddamn it people, not every woman who buys an ice cream and also some variety of salty or savory item is knocked up. Jesus h tapdancing christ, some of us are stoned.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:30 AM on May 27, 2015 [116 favorites]


If any store clerk ever commented on what I was buying other than to say "oh, is that good? i've been meaning to try it" or something else nonjudgmental I would probably slap them with a wet lettuce leaf and demand satisfaction
posted by poffin boffin at 11:32 AM on May 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


a cashier once commented on the price of a bottle of wine I was buying and told me there were cheaper ones but it's ok because the doctor removed it successfully
posted by billiebee at 11:37 AM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I feel like articles like this are just going to further perpetuate the problem of young women not being able to get voluntary sterilization from their doctors. Previously.
posted by kmz at 11:38 AM on May 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


[A few comments removed. Fine to have personal opinions about the nature of clickbait or so on, but if you want to talk about it as a site thing that's more for Metatalk than for here.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:47 AM on May 27, 2015


I would hope that many people would consider not having children as nothing more or less than a kindness to their potential children, and this includes those who fervently WANT children. Personally, I believe having children is the most reckless thing people do in their entire lives. You might turn out to be as good a parent as you imagine yourself, but just as easily may have loosed a ticking time-bomb into the midst of humanity that you have absolutely no control over.
posted by ackptui at 11:51 AM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I remember once trying to look up statistics on the relationship between age and male fertility and genetic defects. The field is virtually ignored. The vast majority of studies focusing on fertility and genetic defects focus solely on the contribution of the mother, not the father. Yet another example of how deep the cultural obsession with women's bodies and motherhood goes.
posted by schroedinger at 12:02 PM on May 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

No, not really. That is, they know what their life was like up until they had kids. They don't know what my life was like without kids; they don't know what their lives will be like with kids, and they don't know what their lives would have been like without kids. And these are all things you need to know before you can make any meaningful comments about whether the decision to have or not have kids is, ultimately a good one for any particular person or couple.

I am always amazed by the people who make the "but what if you change your mind when it's too late" argument. Nobody ever seems to apply it to the people who DO decide to have kids. What if your kids reach their teens and you think "on the whole, my life would have been better if I'd just stayed childless?" I think that thought experiment never occurs to people because they know that that's a thought they will simply nver allow themselves to entertain--or, at least, admit to entertaining. Because, oh Christ, once you do, how on earth do you deal with it? But it seems to me, from the outside, that there are lots and lots and lots of families which aren't net sources of pleasure and happiness to each other. And I know, from the inside and from the outside, that there are lots of childless couples who lead rich, fulfilling lives and never regret their decision to remain childless.

I think, in general, this is an area where it's best just to say "this is the choice that made sense to me" and to shut the damn hell up about other people's lives and other people's decisions which you cannot possibly make a fully informed judgment about.
posted by yoink at 12:05 PM on May 27, 2015 [32 favorites]


I wish it wasn't so verboten for a person to change their mind. People change their minds given the presence of new information, learning new things about themselves, changes in the environment, etc. Just because someone is an adult doesn't mean that their mind is made up 100% with that first lifestyle declaration upon coming of age. I mean, your first declaration might really be the one that you carry with you till the grave, but it shouldn't be frowned upon or even remarked upon if it isn't. People change their minds. It happens. It happens because we are people and not stone tablets that can be marked for life.

What would I be like if I never grew, evolved, or changed my mind since I legally became an adult? I'd probably be living in a teepee and making hemp bracelets for a living (really great ones, because I would have had about 15 years to hone my skills), convinced that communal living was the way to be and Phish was the best goddamned band on the planet. I'm really, really glad that I was that person but hell if I want to be that person forever.
posted by Elly Vortex at 12:06 PM on May 27, 2015 [30 favorites]


IIRC, I remember reading something yoinks ago that genetic defects and etc via the father occur in higher numbers after late 30s. But man, that was years ago and I have no idea where I ran across that.
posted by Kitteh at 12:07 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nobody ever seems to apply it to the people who DO decide to have kids.

People in these very comments are doing that! Rest assured, no one is free from the unceasing judgement of people who know better than them.
posted by chaiminda at 12:09 PM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


It's not a big deal for a person to change their mind, though. The reason so many of us buckle against going "Well OF COURSE people change their minds about things, it's part of the process of growing and evolving as a human being" is that this is exactly why medical practitioners deny us the right to control our own reproductive choices.
posted by erratic meatsack at 12:11 PM on May 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


I never change my mind about anything. Well, maybe sometimes I do. I may need to rethink that.
posted by The World Famous at 12:13 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't know if information about womens' age-related decline in fertility is "missing" from the public commons; wasn't there that big hue and cry a few years back about how doctors had announced that you were basically screwed if you hadn't had a kid by the age of 27?

Hyperbolic articles that we are terrible aren't missing, but scientific studies and real evidence about precisely how much it declines, and when those of us who want children should make choices if we want certain outcomes, yeah that stuff is missing as hell.
posted by corb at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The thing is, we all might change our minds about big life choices. I wish I had gone on the Oxford Semester in college because I surmise that it would have set me on a much more fulfilling and respected career path. I could have - I qualified - but for stupid reasons, I didn't. I wish I'd gone to the fancy college that admitted me that I turned down for political reasons. If I'd done one of those two things, I would quite possibly have a much, much different, more economically secure life and a massively less frustrating job.

Regrets, I've had a few, right? That's life. "You'll regret [having/not having] children"....well, quite possibly. And that's the human condition. Other people can't massage that away and it's annoying when they try.
posted by Frowner at 12:15 PM on May 27, 2015 [31 favorites]


I like my life, and I'm happy, but I get frustrated/sad/angry/depressed easily by anything that implies "being a parent taught me about the Real Joys Of Life".

I honestly feel like people who write things like that are trying to convince themselves that parenting is the most joyful thing in the world, and feel guilty because they know that it's actually scary as fuck and are feeling pressured not to admit it.

Raising kids was the most hair-raising thing I've ever done, and I am grateful to have gotten them both to legal adulthood in one piece.

Love your life. Don't let articles like that ruin your day!
posted by MissySedai at 12:18 PM on May 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


I love being a parent more than I ever could have imagined I would. I was ambivalent about it, leaning towards inclined not to become one. I would have had a very happy life if I had not become one.

I didn't find the article to be condescending at all, or to be telling people that being a parent is s00perawesome - only that she loved it and had her priorities changed by it and recognized her good fortune.
posted by phearlez at 12:24 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I honestly feel like people who write things like that are trying to convince themselves that parenting is the most joyful thing in the world, and feel guilty because they know that it's actually scary as fuck and are feeling pressured not to admit it.

Could this pressure come from an American or modern cultural assumption that parents have to do it on their own? Just comparing my own experience growing up in the US to my cousins growing up in the home country. They had (and still have) this extended family that can help pitch in and watch the kids or go out to dinner as a group. While for me, it was mostly just me and my parents.
posted by FJT at 12:30 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd love to see Ms. Goldberg come back in 12 or so years and let us know if she still loves being a mom now that her kids are tweens/teens. There are parents who like their kids when they are young, cute, and docile, but when the kids get older and start becoming more autonomous and self-willed, the bloom leaves the rose pretty rapidly. When Nebraska's newly enacted safe-haven law failed to specify "infants only," parents abandoned their teens in droves. At least those parents didn't send their teens to a horrible "wilderness camp."

I think it's a good thing, and progress, that childfree is even presented as an option for women, and that the Pill and IUDs are available. There are plenty of people who should not have children; but at least more people are going into the process clear-eyed.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 12:32 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


1. It's interesting how the decision to have/not have children is framed almost in exclusively individualist terms when children are so important to the health of a community/society.

2. All of this seems like it could be viewed as an actual evolutionary psychology experiment: Will the introduction of effective, widespread birth control eventually lead to populations with a greater psychological urge to choose to reproduce, as a desire for sex alone becomes less effective at encouraging reproduction?
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Regrets, I've had a few, right? That's life. "You'll regret [having/not having] children"....well, quite possibly. And that's the human condition.

Frowner nails it, as far as I'm concerned. Back when I was mulling this baby-or-not issue, there came a moment when I realized that whichever choice I made, there would be times when I would regret it, and times when I'd know I'd done the right thing, and I could never know which would be "better" and that life is like that all the time. Every so often I think about the amazing kid I might have had, and I think about the life I did have instead, and I think I made the right choice, but I'd probably think the same if I'd had a kid.

(I also realized not long ago that if I'd had a baby at the point when my bio clock was clanging, that baby would now be exactly the age of Tom Hiddleston. Which causes me cognitive dissonance on a number of levels.)
posted by Kat Allison at 12:34 PM on May 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them

Only in the same sense that they know exactly what it's like to be a kid or a teenager.

Which, judging from how parents almost universally end up perplexed, confused, and exasperated by totally normal behavior from their kids and teenagers, which you would think they remember from their own lives, can be summarized neatly as:

Not at all.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2015 [16 favorites]


growing older only made me feel more a steely and immovable determination to never, ever, ever have kids. the very thought still physically sickens me to this day, a horrible cornered feeling of anger and nausea and loathing and just naked blank horror. if someone was like "hello i am the law and i require you to bear and/or raise a child" i would murder them without hesitation and then flee to start a new life under an assumed name. if i had been forced to carry either of my unwanted and unplanned pregnancies to term i can't even begin to imagine the many and varied and lifelong ways i would have ruined my kids' lives, not to mention my own.

so yeah i really want to travel back in time and just punch right in the throat everyone who condescendingly told me i'd change my mind in the future.

AND NOW IM FREE FOREVER HA HA
posted by poffin boffin at 12:38 PM on May 27, 2015 [44 favorites]


My wife and I are in our early 50s and child free. Neither of us have ever had anyone judge us or say, really, anything to us about this choice. Either we hang around people who are much less judgemental than many of the people referenced in this thread, or maybe we just don't see people very much.

Either way, I appreciate people not bothering us about our private choices.
posted by crazylegs at 12:40 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


and in the present day i obvsly want to viciously throatpunch anyone who enacts or supports legislation which would make it more difficult or impossible for any woman to terminate any pregnancy at any time for any reason. i also want to throatpunch anyone who enacts or supports legislation which takes away or limits rights or food/financial assistance to any woman who already has kids.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:40 PM on May 27, 2015 [23 favorites]


When Nebraska's newly enacted safe-haven law failed to specify "infants only," parents abandoned their teens in droves.

This is really irrelevant to this particular issue. The "droves" was in fact thirty-four, in a state with a population of 1,882,000. And it was more reflective of the fact that people in crisis had no other recourse, or were just kind of kooky. These weren't people who had stopped caring for parenting because the kids were no longer "docile" (and if you think it takes till 11+ for that period to come HAHAHAHAHAHAH) they were folks the safety net had completely failed who now had access to another avenue.

The fact that the state's course of action was to plug this "loophole" rather than provide services to help these desperate people should tell you something about the condition of their government support.
posted by phearlez at 12:41 PM on May 27, 2015 [28 favorites]


I am inventing a new term for this. I'm going to call it "distended navel gazing." As an American woman I revel and am incredibly grateful for the fact that me and my peers remain in control of our bodies and our lives. I am vigilant and concerned about every threat to those freedoms and it feels real and scary. Every day I wake up and I reaffirm the life I live in. I don't have children, at 38, I won't have children. In most ways I am confident that I chose this, and in many other ways, I realize that this reality chose me. Like all of our realities. Your average 38 year old middle class privileged white woman with children lives by the same platitude. I honestly do not understand all of this emotional energy expended toward trying to make women "see the light" on either side of this equation. I can't think of a thing more personal, and anybody who thinks they know my path better than me is so obviously wrong that I'm embarrassed for them when they write about it or say it out loud in public.
posted by pazazygeek at 12:42 PM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Realistically, I don't care if you chose to have kids or not, or really even why. Just please don't be insufferable.
posted by Nanukthedog at 12:44 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


When I had a child in Manhattan at 25, I was repeatedly referred to as a young mother and was very obviously the youngest person in every waiting room and in the postpartum ward.

Someone I know had her first child in England at around 26 (in late 70s) and was considered a geriatric pregnancy, then moved to Canada, had her second child about 2 years later, and was one of the youngest patients.

I have no kids, want no kids, like other kids, and feel neither pride nor shame in this.
posted by jeather at 12:50 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed. It's fine to have strong personal preferences about your own life, but let's skip the blanket declarations about other people being either ignorant or selfish.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:11 PM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


AND NOW IM FREE FOREVER HA HA

Note to self: when the revolution comes and I'm God-Emperor of 'Merka, forcibly adopt several cheerfully earnest evangelical 12-year-olds to poffin boffin.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:12 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's just incomprehensible to me that a person might want to change their mind about having kids.

The next thing you know, people will be changing careers, moving from city to city like vagabonds, deciding they've married the wrong person and getting divorced... It'll be anarchy.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:12 PM on May 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


Rod, Todd, and poffin boffin

Coming this fall to ABC Family
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:14 PM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


only if you want to see a bunch of sad 12 year olds waiting out on the curb for the trash pickup
posted by poffin boffin at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2015 [14 favorites]


And the flipside to my earlier comment is: no one ever knows for sure what they want to do for a living, where they want to live, or who they want to marry when they're young. Except of course, for the people who do.... the many, many, many people who do. Some folks may suppose they know some of these things and be wrong about that. But it's mostly the kids-or-no-kids one that people make a sport of judging people on and mostly just with women... which probably says more about how we treat women in this world than it does about the desire to have kids.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:19 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


a cashier once commented on the price of a bottle of wine I was buying and told me there were cheaper ones but it's ok because the doctor removed it successfully

A census taker once tried to test me.
posted by theorique at 1:21 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Except of course, for the people who do.... the many, many, many people who do.

Me, my whole life has gone according to plan.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:25 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


What it comes down to for me is potential regret about not having kids is a terrible reason to have kids. People should have kids because they like the idea. Not liking the idea should be the end of the conversation (if in fact the conversation should even have started).

I think this is where I acknowledge men have this easier, for reasons of both biology and sociology. I think we legitimately do have more time to decide (in the biological sense) and there's less pressure put on us by relatives and friends. Close friends have asked me if I want kids one day, and no one has ever even asked me twice when I said no the first time.

Hell, even actual regret is not a good reason to have kids. I experience quite a bit of that on a regular basis when I think about how my particular branch of my family tree will likely end with me. But that's still a terrible reason to have kids, so avoiding the potential for regret seems like an even worse reason.

Yet this seems to be one of the primary ways pressure has been put on female friends in my life, by their family and friends: "one day you'll regret it if you don't." Well, yeah, you might, but... so?
posted by FishBike at 1:41 PM on May 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


I don't know if it's getting older but one thing I've been thinking about recently is not so much missing out on kids, but on grandkids. Every grandparent I know loves the hell out of their grandkids and they seem to give them much more pleasure than their own family did (obviously, I guess, because the pressure's off not to fuck them up). If I could skip the 20 odd years of raising humans and get to the part where they have children for me to love and fuss over and hand back at the end of the day then I could get on board.
posted by billiebee at 1:53 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


As someone in the same general age bracket as Goldberg, I really enjoyed this piece for the very relatable, friendly mocking of her 27-year-old self who thought she had all of life's questions figured out.

Not that this in any way excuses rude "Oh, you'll change your mind" comments regarding women's reproductive choices, but lord knows I could fill a book with things I was 100% sure about in my mid-20s that I see differently now that I'm in my early 40s.
posted by The Gooch at 2:40 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


This was published in the Life section of New York Magazine, you say?
posted by Nevin at 2:43 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


only if you want to see a bunch of sad 12 year olds waiting out on the curb for the trash pickup

What if they were twelve day old baby emus?
posted by corb at 2:53 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not true. Most of those stats are based on French birth records from 1670 to 1830, or "in other words, millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment".

This point, down to the reference to French birth records, is specifically addressed in the link.

I also am not sure how French birth records in the 17th and 18th century could possibly address what hal_c_on asked about which is the success rates of IVF. Which didn't exist for hundreds of years after the 17th century.
posted by Justinian at 2:54 PM on May 27, 2015


FWIW Wikipedia has a pretty good summary of the data on fertility and age, including the French records and more recent information. Fertility starts dropping significantly around 35 (but is still pretty high), quickly in the late 30s, and precipitously into the 40s.
posted by Justinian at 2:56 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


only if you want to see a bunch of sad 12 year olds waiting out on the curb for the trash pickup

That's pretty much what driving through suburbia during summer vacation looks like anyway.
posted by maryr at 3:12 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sometimes life goes well. Sometimes it doesn't. I regret a lot of stuff. I have regretted things that I have come later to decide that all that regret was silly and things seem to be going okay after all. I have done things which should have been a fantastic idea that turned out to be terrible, and vice versa. Not having children does not render your life free of sleep disturbances and vomit. Having children does not guarantee adequate care in your old age. Starting early doesn't guarantee you can have healthy biological children. Starting late doesn't guarantee you can't. I doubt people who claim they will NEVER EVER want children when they're quite young, but I also doubt people who claim they'll never regret having them. Existing now is not a guarantee of continued existence... and life's stability only goes downhill from there.

Potential regret is not a good reason to do something. Confidence that you will always want the exact same things you do right now is not a good reason to do something, either. There are probably very few good reasons for anything. Mostly, you will be fine.

Just, whatever you do, don't go to law school. That one will haunt you.
posted by Sequence at 3:27 PM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Still waiting on Michelle Goldberg to change her mind about things that affect people other than herself.
posted by Corinth at 3:59 PM on May 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I turn 39 this year, and I actually regret the time, expense, and faith I put into going to grad school way way way more than I regret not having had kids. I didn't want kids twenty years ago, and I don't want them now. My main point of bitterness about this is that when I was in my early twenties I asked a doctor about getting my tubes tied and he said the HMO wouldn't do it unless i was at least 35 and had already had one child -- the doctor said I was too young to know what I wanted or didn't want. This HMO covered vasectomies 100%.
posted by mirepoix at 4:06 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


This HMO covered vasectomies 100%

If it comforts you, it looks like most HMOs - certainly mine, at least - don't cover fertility treatments either, certainly not freezing eggs/IVF.
posted by corb at 4:09 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the fact that there's zero path to getting tubal ligation unless you meet criteria like "over 35 and with one child" is SO BUNK it's not even funny -- i.e. even making someone jump through the hoops of seeing a therapist is at least more fair. I don't think the vasectomy thing is as easy as "snip, snip, no questions asked," but I'm sure it's easier. I have heard that the success rate for vasectomy reversal is much higher than for tubal ligation though, although I wonder if the ubiquity of the procedures and the disparity of funding for research for women's health vs. men's health has anything to do with that.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:14 PM on May 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


I have a reasonably healthy set of regrets but I will soon be entering my 40s not the least bit upset about having been sterilized $WAY_TOO_YOUNG_TO_KNOW. The choice made sense then, it makes sense now, and all the lovely nieces and nephews and godchildren and so forth I've acquired in the meantime haven't changed this an iota.

But hey, enjoy your new kids! They're swell.
posted by ead at 4:36 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Which, judging from how parents almost universally end up perplexed, confused, and exasperated by totally normal behavior from their kids and teenagers, which you would think they remember from their own lives, can be summarized neatly as:

Not at all.


Don't even get me started. Part of this phenomenon, I lay squarely at the feet of the dozens of "parenting books" that parents get shoved at them, all purporting to be The One True Way to Rear Perfect Children. Parents are under tremendous pressure to be perfect in every way, lest some asshole pop up to holler that they're doing it wrong, and call CPS on them.

I used to teach high school. I knew what was coming. Didn't make it any less exasperating to live with until they turned back into people again.

Could this pressure come from an American or modern cultural assumption that parents have to do it on their own?

I think you're on to something here. I had a pretty communal style upbringing after I moved in with my grandparents, with various Aunts, Uncles, cousins, and even my Great-Grandma within a mile radius of home. We were always all up in each others' business, puttering around each others' houses, helping out where needed. When the husband and I became parents, we were pretty much the "safe house" in the neighborhood - all of the Monsters' friends were welcome, any time, day or night. (They still are.) Snow days always found me with a full house! So many of the Extra Kids' parents were completely overwhelmed, they felt like they had to be responsible for everything. There's a sort of "bootstrap" mentality in the US, if you ask for help with your kids, you must suck as a parent. Which is bullshit. We all swapped babysitting and homework help and sometimes just all gathered in one place to shoot the shit and watch the kids run around like crazy things, and it just made the whole shebang so much more manageable. Certainly, it was better than taking sides in the fucking "Mommy Wars".
posted by MissySedai at 4:38 PM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


Universal, in depth sex education, and then medical study of women, as important players. Last year, was it last year "they" realized some women have a prostate, or prostate tissue? To my understanding there is one doctor, a researcher who is studying the womb, one, the first studies of this kind. This question why are women so ignorant of their reproductive system, the whole issue has been in a closet, under a rug forever, probably to prevent understanding that might lead to a lower birth rate in this MLM addicted system we live in. This is not to mention the faux virginity women are expected to forward, and the innocence factor we were expected to act out. You really can't believe the lectures some OB / Gyns give, epecially if they are religiously biased.

So anyhow, a teenhood friend crossed paths when I was in my late fourties, "YOU had CHILDREN?" was his comment.
posted by Oyéah at 4:49 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd have kids if I didn't know that I'd have to take on the majority of the physical and emotional hit. And man, I have heard too many women have to be totally brave through their pregnancies and feel so alone because lots of dads don't get the toll it takes and are more defensive than empathetic.

One of my friends is really happily married and even she confided in me, while heavily pregnant, that she didn't think her husband, who really loves her a lot, really understood how difficult it would be once the baby came, even though he was excited about having a baby. She's someone who is amazing, does everything, is an ER doctor to boot, and also cool as a cucumber. I've never heard her worry about anything.

And having read the Baby Bumps section of Reddit, man, there are a lot of women out there justifying their partners' poor behavior.

Plus I can't caffeine. I'll be asleep for nine months.
posted by discopolo at 4:54 PM on May 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


I'm generally kind of interested in why people make the choices that they do but I'm often puzzled by declarations of "I'll never ever do that thing". even with what seems like a clearly thought out rationale. I mean I'm not the same person I was at 27 and when I look back I'm not always sure I would've made the same choices now as I did at 27. Maybe I'm to some extent a 'let me see what happens and then I'll decide' sort but declarations like the one in the article and her previous ones on this topic seem fairly pointless to me in the controversy they generate. Having children is such a personal decision and so much dependent on your circumstances at the time.
posted by bluesky43 at 4:55 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I love parenting and am very grateful to have been able to have kids with the person of my choosing at the time of my choosing. I'm also extremely grateful that there are people who choose not to have kids of their own. Parenting is a big job and takes many hands and my happily childfree friends are a huge help. They are full of love and share it with the children in their lives without having their own. I think that's a beautiful thing.

I wish fertility was something women were given unbiased nonjudgemental information about by their health care providers. Both for purposes of having a baby or preventing a baby. Knowledge is power.
posted by annekate at 5:09 PM on May 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

Nooooope. This is the same argument people make about how married people perfectly understand your single life and you know nothing about their married life. Believe me, being single at 40 is nothing like being single at 20 for all kinds of reasons, and having no kids at 20 is different from having no kids at 40 either. If you've never been that person, in that place, at that time, you're just guessing based on a variety of inputs, whether you have different kids or no kids. Which is what we all do with each other's lives when we try to be empathetic, which is great, and what we all do with each other's lives when we're judging, which is less great.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:16 PM on May 27, 2015 [24 favorites]


I think I'd have have been aritificially
inseminated if I had it to do again. Kids were fine. Love my grown kids to bits. Love my grand-kids too.
Being married wasn't fun. That's putting it kindly.
Mr. Roquette and I are too old to have children. It's nice to only have to think of each other.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 5:20 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I only even asked about the egg freezing/fertility workup from a new doctor because a friend of mine, also in her mid thirties, is recently married and doing IVF because she found out her chances are small because of various issues. She has been encouraging me to go just find out regardless of relationship status, especially because I'm right around the prime time for freezing.

I went to a new doctor to discuss how I needed some more anti anxiety medicine because of my recent breakup and the doctor was like...well...people don't usually ask about that kind of thing unless they're in a relationship. She was super reluctant to give me any information. It's like, well, I was in a relationship two days ago so if it was two days ago would you give me some information?

It's just like...this is why it pisses me off when people are like "women don't know anything about this stuff, they put it off, they're wishing or whatever." I realistically want to understand what my chances are at this point. I have a bazillion friends my age and older having kids like, right now, but they have husbands so that sets me a little farther back. Because I would like a relationship and a partner to be a part of the whole deal. I want the whole deal, and I've put significant time investment in a ton of failed relationships to try to get it.

But no matter what information I have, after I've fought for it, I still have to go up against the whole thing of dating men anywhere from 30-50 who think they have all the time in the world. But all the pressure is on women. It's insane.
posted by sweetkid at 5:31 PM on May 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


Even if you have a partner, doctors are paternalistic about it. When I went in asking about my fertility, they were like 'well, I'm not sure it would be optimal for you to get pregnant right now, because of other health concerns.' Well, your fucking paternalism has been noted, now will you tell me what I goddamn want to know, because I am going to try to have a baby with or without you but would prefer my doctor were actually on my side?
posted by corb at 5:36 PM on May 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


I still have to go up against the whole thing of dating men anywhere from 30-50 who think they have all the time in the world.

I have some research and articles I could point you to that describes how sperm quality declines with age. But it's not 1st date talk.

I've had dates with guys who have been so forthright with wanting to get married and have kids that it has scared me off. Like, dude, I don't even know you and you don't know me and you feel entitled to inform me that you're essentially looking for an incubator for your spawn or rando coparent? Man, they haven't even taken our drink order yet. Dang. Not sure how some folks are socialized to be so weird, so devoid of being normal, and so gross & unromantic.
posted by discopolo at 5:48 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I have some research and articles I could point you to that describes how sperm quality declines with age. But it's not 1st date talk.


Yeah, that doesn't matter. They don't care. And yea I hear you, people are like "date older" and then guys in their mid 40s are showing me pictures of their nieces and talking about how their second bedroom would be great for a nursery. On a first date. It's these crazy extremes.
posted by sweetkid at 5:53 PM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


So anyhow, a teenhood friend crossed paths when I was in my late fourties, "YOU had CHILDREN?" was his comment.

Did you kick him square in the junk? What an ass.

but declarations like the one in the article and her previous ones on this topic seem fairly pointless to me in the controversy they generate.

"Controversy" sure seems mild to me, considering all the ink spilled and pixels burned on the topic, usually in grossly inflammatory language on both sides. Yipes.

Have 'em. Don't have 'em. Either way, you don't owe anyone any explanations, and you're perfectly justified in telling people to STFU and mind their own business and OMG were you raised by wolves when they start pressuring you either way. Don't be the asshole who gets all up in someone else's grill about their VERY PERSONAL decision to spawn or not. Ain't yer bidniz. I will point and laugh at you if you carry on about "breeders", I will point and laugh at you if you carry on about how people who don't have children are "selfish".

I've always told my friends that if they had kids and needed a hand, I would be there for them. And if they found that they were not at all thrilled with two pink lines and needed someone to hold their hand at the clinic and bring them a heating pad and a half gallon of ice cream after, I would do that, too. It takes too much effort to be all Judgey McDisapprovingpants.
posted by MissySedai at 6:22 PM on May 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think "breeders" is kinda funny and I always have its queer-outsider origins in mind when I hear it. It does read weirdly coming from certain people who are otherwise squarely in the status quo, but modern parenting is such an alien place to me that it just feels like some kind of dystopian breeding ground, and the term makes sense. I know, I know, "not all parents."
posted by mirepoix at 6:45 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


" I started worrying that it was an intellectual loss to go through life without experiencing something so fundamental to so many people’s existence. " That resonates with me.
posted by Miko at 7:29 PM on May 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't know if it's getting older but one thing I've been thinking about recently is not so much missing out on kids, but on grandkids. Every grandparent I know loves the hell out of their grandkids and they seem to give them much more pleasure than their own family did (obviously, I guess, because the pressure's off not to fuck them up).

One of my grandfathers remarried when I was a kid, and my step-grandmother always talked about how happy she was to have skipped straight to having grandchildren without needing to bother with children. I don't know how serious she was, but it always made me feel cherished and valued.

For whatever reason, people are serious jackasses on the topic of fertility and having kids. I avoid the conversations when I can and try to not let it get under my skin when it's unavoidable.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:37 PM on May 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Wow, a lot of critics. I'd just like everyone to remember that even if you don't like the article now, you may come to like it later. So don't make fun of people who feel differently about it, and most importantly: don't prevent yourself from enjoying the article later. Keep the tab open; in a few years you might come back to it and find that it's the best, most fulfilling article you've ever read.

You'll thank me for this one day.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:01 PM on May 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


When I found I could not have children, I focused on living my life differently and having goals which I could only have and achieve without being responsible for children.

I didn't hate the article; there was definitely some smugness there, but there are many many worse articles out there- mostly lightly hidden parables about how motherhood opens you up to the True Well of Purpose and is the only way for a woman out of permanent state of childhood.

I really don't get it. I don't get why we can't validate the importance of good parenting without creating a cult in its honor.
posted by frumiousb at 10:04 PM on May 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


the other day I told my dad that I was super glad that he liked the Twitter robots I'm building because they're the closest he's ever gonna get to grandchildren. then, after I made 2 more robots, I got an email from my mom telling me to "keep pumping out those grandbabies"
posted by NoraReed at 10:30 PM on May 27, 2015 [30 favorites]


Do those who rail about how unfair it is that they are judged for not having children really believe that if you DO have kids people leave you alone? Seriously, once you have a child you are judged for how many children you choose to have, how you choose the raise them, choosing to go in to the workforce or stay at home, what you choose to feed them, how you choose to educate them etc. etc. Add to that you are now judged not just for your choices but for the behaviour of your child/ren, up to and including when they are adults. And these judgements are made by family, people you know, absolute strangers.

It is not that 'people commenting on my choice not to have children' is rude and unfair, it is 'people commenting on my choice' is suckful. As various people have said above, if you are woman people are going to tell you you are doing it wrong. If you are a mother, you are probably going to also be told your child is doing it wrong too. Mothers don't get it easier, we just get the same grief in a different flavour.
posted by Megami at 10:36 PM on May 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


" What if your kids reach their teens and you think "on the whole, my life would have been better if I'd just stayed childless?"

I have a friend who says that. Shouldn't have married the guy she did, shouldn't have had kids with him, both kids came out disabled and the second child is even more disabled than the first. She knew she shouldn't have done all of that and caved in. Her life has been very hard.

"Me, my whole life has gone according to plan.
posted by the man of twists and turns "


Eponysterical!

Like, dude, I don't even know you and you don't know me and you feel entitled to inform me that you're essentially looking for an incubator for your spawn or rando coparent? Man, they haven't even taken our drink order yet. Dang. Not sure how some folks are socialized to be so weird, so devoid of being normal, and so gross & unromantic.

I hate to say it, but that's The Thing To Do once you are over 22. (Yeah, I learned that the hard way.) You have to establish EARLY if you are for sure on one side or the other. It's creepy, sure, but better to weed them out ASAP rather than "getting to know them" and being unpleasantly surprised/"You'll change your mind!"-ed later.

One of my grandfathers remarried when I was a kid, and my step-grandmother always talked about how happy she was to have skipped straight to having grandchildren without needing to bother with children.

My shrink says that too!

That I'm pleased to have a partner who is as unenthusiastic about and ill-suited to parenting as I am myself, because I'm just glad I'll never have to make the heartbreaking choice some of my friends have, to leave a wonderful relationship because of the immovable kid object?

One of the wonderful things about being old-ish and permanently single and hopelessly never gonna get a date with someone I like again is thinking, "Thank gawd I will never have to have That Talk again." Because the last relationship I had, I just fell into it (this is why I say find out ASAP now), and then surprise, he wants them and surprise, I don't, and he claimed he'd go along with it, and then kept insisting I'd change my mind, and then he turned out to be infertile....Ugh, never want to have this talk again, never gonna have to as long as I stay single. Woot. What a relief to not get nagged as much about this shit as everyone else because it's obvious I'll never catch another man before 42.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:51 PM on May 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


This isn't just about people commenting on your choices. It's about them deliberately acting as gatekeepers to prevent those of us who are confident that we will never want to have biological children from making medical decisions about our own bodies to prevent us from having children when those same choices are available to cis men without the sexist, paternalistic bullshit that women get when they want to make the choice to permanently make themselves unable to have children. (This is especially shitty for women who, for whatever reason, aren't able to use the standard forms of birth control.)
posted by NoraReed at 10:53 PM on May 27, 2015 [26 favorites]


Funny weird side note: once you're sterile and plainly comfortable about it publicly, all sorts of parents secretly confide in you that they wish they'd not had kids.

I absolutely did not expect this to happen. I mostly like kids!
posted by ead at 11:21 PM on May 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have a very wise, older friend who has one (awesome) son to whom she is an awesome mother. She told me years ago that while she completely and unconditionally loves her son, and can't imagine her life without him now, her life would also have been just fine if she'd never had kids.

I wish more people were willing to acknowledge that.

I am childfree and am very happy with that decision 99% of the time. I never really had the "MUST REPRODUCE" urge, and while I like kids OK, I also like my life as it is, and I always figured that if I was ambivalent about it, I shouldn't have a kid.
posted by biscotti at 3:13 AM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Could not get past the blatant sexism at the beginning of NYT fertility columnist Amy Klein's piece (the 3rd link here): "I found a female ob/gyn, whom I believed would be more sensitive than a man... I’d been in the woman’s office for about 10 minutes and it felt like she was being… well, kind of a bitch." Ouch, so much dogwhistle there.
posted by hush at 3:15 AM on May 28, 2015


I'd have kids if I didn't know that I'd have to take on the majority of the physical and emotional hit. And man, I have heard too many women have to be totally brave through their pregnancies and feel so alone because lots of dads don't get the toll it takes and are more defensive than empathetic.

Majority? MAJORITY?? Yeah, I guess 99.99% is a majority.

Anyway, I used to be in the "you'll regret it!" camp (what can I say, I was young) until I actually had a kid, and now I am really supportive of childfree people. Good on you! I'm also more than a little jealous, but we've already established that parental regret is taboo so I never say that out loud.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 4:23 AM on May 28, 2015 [7 favorites]


I continually remain flabbergasted that having children is still so majoritarily seen as being a choice. As in I've read every comment here and no one's pointed out another huge reason that assuming stuff about people who don't have kids is wrong: maybe they can't. Yeah, that tall willowy 25-year-old woman with child-bearing hips (I am referring to my 25-year-old self here), welp, endometriosis destroyed her ovaries when she was a teen, so spout off all you want at her about her "choices", shame that "life can be a shitshow" didn't occur to you as another possibility.

The difference is that people with kids know exactly what it's like not to have them, but not the other way around.

Once again. Assumptions. They can be extremely short-sighted. Babysitters, nannies, family members who take care of your kids while you're on a long vacation, these can be people without children. They can get a very good idea of what it's like to have children by, yes, interacting with children.

As it so happens I always wanted kids, babysat for years (including taking care of a 6-year-old and 2-year-old 12 hours a day for two full summers, so yeah they were a year older the second summer) to be Absolutely Sure I wanted them, moved to Europe in part (not the only reason) so I knew that if I became single for whatever reason there would be a social safety net for me AND my children, also there's real maternity leave, and... Oh shit, life strikes. Large ovarian cyst twists and bursts, I find myself in a Finnish hospital with a doctor saying (paraphrase of the essential): "there's a lot of damage to your ovaries. Have you had pain since puberty? Yeah? It seems to be years of damage. So much we nearly removed them. You'll probably never have kids, but we left them just in case."

Even giving my long-term desire for them, I always understood people who don't want kids. Even more so when I babysat. I had Red Cross certification, something they did back then, for infant care, so I sat actual babies too. Taking care of the two in summer was really trying at times, but I found them adorable. Yet I could also wholly comprehend those who didn't. I'm really glad for that, because it's a large part of what made discovering my probable infertility easier to accept.

Anyway. Yeah. Life is what it is. If it is about choices, well, if a person is comfortable with their choices, that's the essential thing. Not all of us have the luxury of choice.
posted by fraula at 5:40 AM on May 28, 2015 [16 favorites]


I don't even get the ominous threats people make, silently or out loud to others about how they'll feel in the future.

Judgment is fun! Being smug is fun! Reigning in your natural inclination to be judgmental and smug is not fun. Small children have manners and values hammered into them (share share share, be gentle be gentle be gentle, don't run around the grocery store commenting on how much hair people have on their heads), and right around the age when it starts to get complex, the teaching is over. There should be a required manners class in all high school and/or college curricula. Today's Lesson: Things That Are None of Your Business and How Not To Talk About Them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:51 AM on May 28, 2015 [17 favorites]


Kids! now with free cognitive dissonance!
posted by srboisvert at 6:00 AM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


AMEN Fraula!
posted by Melismata at 8:24 AM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm really pro-choice, and I'm serious about choice. Want kids? as long as you care for them, none of my business. Don't want kids? None of my business. Doctors who try to manage young women's reproductive choices, denying them sterilization, should be reminded that having a child can kill you. Not having a child may end up being decision you regret, or are unsure about, but it doesn't kill you. There are an awful lot of people on the planet, one or two or nineteen fewer is not a bad thing.

Ms. Goldberg is remarkably self-involved. Remarkably.
posted by theora55 at 9:28 AM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


[Several comments deleted. Hi, we can have a thread where we don't blanket declare people to be smug assholes just because they are on the other side of the kids/no-kids fence from us. That thread is one we should try to have.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:13 AM on May 28, 2015 [8 favorites]


we've already established that parental regret is taboo so I never say that out loud.

And what a shame it is. All of the parents that I'm close friends with have at one point (if not more than once) expressed the fear that they might have made a mistake. Usually this comes during a very stressful time with their kiddo, and it's a completely human emotion, there's nothing bad or wrong about it, it just IS. It's a feeling, not a fact, but so often these parents will voice this feeling and then immediately slide into mortification -- oh my god how could i, i'm the worst person ever, what kind of monster has those kinds of feelings about their child, et cetera. It's really awful to see my friends beat themselves up over a perfectly understandable and legitimate expression of their own frustration and doubt, when those feelings are so incredibly common that I flat out do not believe any parent that claims they've never felt that way even once.

I wish more people would be open about their doubts and frustrations. I think it would make it easier on other parents to realize that they're not alone and everyone else isn't a perfect paragon of parental virtue 24/7.
posted by palomar at 10:47 AM on May 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


I flat out do not believe any parent that claims they've never felt that way even once.

Then you're just not listening.

I regret taking so long to leave my daughter's shitbag father. I regret not taking her and running and not telling him I was even pregnant. I regret leaving her with shitty babysitters when I was poor. I regret being poor. I regret - sometimes deeply - being too poor to afford good babysitters such that I could go out more during my younger years. I regret having poor mental health from circumstances having nothing to do with her. But I don't regret her. So yes, there are lots of my life circumstances around my kid that I regret - but that is extremely different from regretting having your children. Because what's the choice there? For them not to have been born? And that's intolerable once you love them.

And I think that's the thing that is also so deep into a lot of this. How much of these supposed 'parental regrets' are regrets about being forced into this nuclear family role that has nothing to do with your kid themselves and everything to do with our current societal structure? How many of these regrets are about not being wealthy enough to afford certain kinds of childcare, or to continue the lifestyle once you have it because of financial concerns?
posted by corb at 10:56 AM on May 28, 2015 [9 favorites]


And that's one thing where I do feel sympathy for the childfree who feel guilt tripped. Because who the fuck doesn't want nice food and good vacations and fun activities and a nice home? I have a kid and still want those.
posted by corb at 11:00 AM on May 28, 2015


And that's one thing where I do feel sympathy for the childfree who feel guilt tripped. Because who the fuck doesn't want nice food and good vacations and fun activities and a nice home? I have a kid and still want those.

The most enraging conversation I have ever had was with a parent who, in the comfort of her clean, beautiful, enormous custom kitchen in her extremely expensive house, kept insisting that my childfree status was just based on not wanting to give up my nice things.

And I was like "WHAT NICE THINGS, ASSHOLE? I don't own a house! I live in a shitty studio apartment in a so-so neighborhood. I sleep on a mattress on the floor and have no retirement fund or health insurance. You are the one with the nice things in this conversation. I am just trying to hang on for dear life."
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2015 [21 favorites]


And that's one thing where I do feel sympathy for the childfree who feel guilt tripped. Because who the fuck doesn't want nice food and good vacations and fun activities and a nice home? I have a kid and still want those.

Or, honestly, "not to have to struggle to take kids on the bus because I can't afford a car; not to have to figure out how to make it on one salary because I'm never going to make more money than childcare costs and I'm unlikely to partner with anyone who does, so one of us would have to stay home; not to have even _more_ deferred maintenance on the house"...childfree life isn't all European travel and Whole Foods.
posted by Frowner at 11:11 AM on May 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


...childfree life isn't all European travel and Whole Foods.

Bingo - I only just last week had a rare chance to play the smug-single-person card (as a joke) when a Facebook friend said something about how "I can't believe that I actually succumbed to McDonald's Drive Thru" because she was too busy taking the kids to band practice and cheerleader tryouts and yadda yadda, and I teased that I always had time for a homecooked meal because it was just for me, neener neener.

But I'd trade that in and go all Supersize Me if I could just get at the vacations this chick has, I'll tell you what.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:16 AM on May 28, 2015


Yeah, here's the thing: none of the parents I know have ever once said they regret their child. Reading that into what I said is incredibly uncharitable at best. Try harder, do better.
posted by palomar at 12:10 PM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


Agreed, far fewer (well, a couple, but far fewer) parents have voiced the "I wish I didn't have $THIS_KID" opinion to me. Rather, they express abstractly that maybe they should have stopped 1-2 kids short of where they wound up. There are actually pretty robust demographic surveys about this. People want fewer kids than they have, usually, until they're down to about 2-and-a-bit kids (depending on country), where they consider it "about right". A lot of OECD countries are statistically below their stated ideal and a lot of non-OECD/"developing" countries are above their ideal.

But there's a lot of variation in each population. Depending on life history, access to birth control, family/religious/social norms around how many kids you're "expected" to have, birth control failures, multiple marriages with different partners who "want their own kids", etc. you have a fair number of people in any given population who consider one or more their children to have been either unwanted at the time or a mistake in retrospect.
posted by ead at 1:05 PM on May 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Every now and then I think I might like to have children if I could just have, like, a clever, literate eleven year old, who would enjoy playing Scrabble and dress-up and talking about the history and books I liked when I was that age. We could go to museums together and make up stories to act out. Maybe I could teach it to cook or play the piano. And then I think, "Yeah, it would be awesome because I'd have, like, a built-in catsitter for when I travel and stuff. They might even remember to water my fern for me! And sign for deliveries! Awesome!" And then I'm like, "This is why I'm not having kids."

I have one of those! (Except he's now 12.) Honestly? It's kind of amazing.

Look, bottom line: Every choice has an opportunity cost. By choosing to have children, you forego the benefits you could have experienced by remaining child-free; and by choosing to remain child-free, you forego the benefits you could have experienced by having children. You make the choice that's right for you (those who don't have the choice made for them, that is). But it isn't all-regret-all-the-time either way. I love the hell out of my kids, and wouldn't change a thing, but at the same time, I sometimes miss being able to go out to a movie (a grown-up movie) at a moment's notice, that sort of thing.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 1:30 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


...childfree life isn't all European travel and Whole Foods.

No shit. Did you know that we childfree folks don't, like, get credits on our taxes for them?
posted by Melismata at 2:30 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


yeah but we also don't have to feed and clothe and medicate and house and support a horribly demanding selfish helpless creature for 18 long unbearable years. there is no tax break on earth worth that kind of commitment.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:44 PM on May 28, 2015 [10 favorites]


The tax break is bullshit. It only lets you deduct a fraction of your actual childcare costs, much less even the tiniest fraction of your actual dependent expenses. I promise you, no one is getting rich by making babies and getting tax breaks.
posted by corb at 2:47 PM on May 28, 2015 [5 favorites]


This honest, thoughtful, article has come at an interesting time for me.

When i was young and then all the way into my late 20s I desperately wanted children. Then a significant life change plus a couple of really bad relationships turned my burning desire to ambivalence.

I met my now husband when i was 38. Ambivalence turned into a desire to have a child with him. We started trying to conceive two years ago. A year ago we sought assistance and we've just finished our fourth unsuccessful ivf cycle. Looks like a significant proportion of that lack of success is due to age.

In my mid thirties, whilst I was in one of those bad relationships, I sought info about freezing eggs. I was put off by the expense and the doctor's assertion that "my career could wait, my fertility wouldn't and that if I wanted a child I should go home and ask my boyfriend to make me pregnant".

Now that we find ourselves in this situation I'm wondering if I should have frozen my eggs all those years ago. And you know what? I can't regret that. I made the decision at the time based on reasoning that felt sound to me then, I can't regret it now. And do I regret not trying earlier? Not one little bit. I shudder at the thought of having children with those men. That's something I would have regretted far more than not meeting my husband who is the man for me. I will be devastated if we don't have children. But after the grief is over i still have him and our life together.

So sometimes we change our minds and sometimes we have our minds changed for us by circumstances.
posted by prettypretty at 3:56 PM on May 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Mothers don't get it easier, we just get the same grief in a different flavour.

My favorite is "Aren't you going to try for a girl?"

I am nearly 45. Elder Monster is 23, Younger Monster is 19. Why the FUCK would I want to go through all that again NOW? I wanted 2 kids. I got 2 kids. But I should feel bad because I don't have a girl.

(I DO, in fact, have a girl. Her name is Zoe, and she's a Pit Bull. 2 human kids, 2 canine kids. I'm all set.)
posted by MissySedai at 5:13 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Every choice has an opportunity cost.

That seems like a very fair, realistic way to sum it all up.
posted by Miko at 7:22 PM on May 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


The most enraging conversation I have ever had was with a parent who, in the comfort of her clean, beautiful, enormous custom kitchen in her extremely expensive house, kept insisting that my childfree status was just based on not wanting to give up my nice things.

I am so sorry that happened to you. That is, as the man said, fucked up and bullshit.

If you want to point me at her and pull the trigger, I'll happily go make her miserable.
posted by MissySedai at 8:31 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really, really don't understand what the first two links have to do with the second two links, other than that they are both about the conception of children.

The first two links are about a woman who didn't want kids, then changed her mind and conceived two children naturally with basically no effort whatsoever.

The second two links are about how women who want children are waiting to have them and ending up having trouble conceiving and the medical reasons for that.

And we're basically having two different conversations in this thread: one about the decision to have children (the first two links) and a second about older prospective parents and fertility issues. There have been very few comments that tied the two issues together.

I don't have kids. Maybe that's why I don't understand. But I actually can't understand how these two issues are supposed to be related to one another. Unless the topic is "mental and physical issues surrounding decisions to have or not have children." Which seems awfully broad.

I mention all of this not to shit on the thread, but rather to say that I actually sort of resent these two issues being lumped together. As someone who has decided (at least so far. I also haven't ruled out becoming a professional athlete or moving to Asia, but I haven't decided to do those things yet either.) not to have biological children, I sort of resent that "women's decisions about childbearing" is considered to be a single topic. I think that it both belittles the choices of people who decide not to have kids ("if you think you don't want kids, you should read this article about geriatric maternity so that you'll know what you're in for if/when you change your mind") and shames women who are struggling with infertility ("here, read this article about a woman who spent her entire 20s thinking she didn't want kids, because even though you've wanted kids your whole life and only waited until now because your life circumstances made it difficult or impossible for you to have kids until now, we're just going to say that you're infertile now because you chose to wait, just like this lady with the two easily, naturally conceived kids waited"). These are not the same conversation, and it reduces both issues to try to talk about them both at once as if they're one thing.
posted by decathecting at 8:57 PM on May 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Weirdly, among all the stuff discussed previously in this thread (about which I'm more aware than most men, I think) one thing that underscored to me just how messed-up our culture is about women and procreation is my cultural experience as a middle-aged man who's never had children but has always wanted to. It's been a desire/sorrow for me for years now -- at 50, that ship sailed long ago and now I'm just mostly sad about it. Because I've always loved kids, I'm good with kids, and, frankly, I've got all these strong possibly-not-gender-conforming nurturing instincts and what I secretly always have wanted to be was a mom.

So, that said, what's remarkable is just how completely indifferent and clueless our culture is with regard to a man in my situation who feels as I do. I've never once been able to talk about how I feel about this where I've felt that the other person wasn't completely unempathic about it, like I'm an alien, basically. People will feign some understanding but, mostly, it's like there's just no cultural context. Whereas, in contrast, middle-aged childfree women are just expected to regret not having children, there's this powerful cultural judgment that somehow they've wasted their lives.

My point isn't really a "poor me" thing because although this does suck for me, I enjoy so much other vast amounts of relative privilege, especially with regard to everything involving procreation and sexual health, that in relative terms it's not that important. What is important, though, is how much this confirms how radically asymmetric this stuff is, how much our culture equates being a woman with being a parent and judges women on that basis. The scope and weight of this is incredible -- from physician paternalism, contraceptive research and availability, abortion, social expectations about women having children and negative judgments when they do not, to all the other amazing judgmentalism in our culture surrounding mothers and children -- including between women themselves -- about parenting choices. Meanwhile, men aren't pressured into having children, their choices aren't routinely scrutinized by their doctors, fathers who do minimal amounts of actual parenting work are stupidly lauded as heroes, father's aren't constantly scrutinized for their parenting decisions the way that mothers are, and there's not really a cultural context for a man regretting not being a parent (while, in contrast, there's not really a cultural acceptance of the idea that a childfree woman wouldn't have such regrets). I'm glad that our culture isn't so much in the 50s nuclear family model with the relatively extreme gender roles and expectations, but, even so, it's not as if it's really that much improved. There's still a vast asymmetry of expectations and agency.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:44 PM on May 28, 2015 [12 favorites]


That's a really good point. There's nearly something considered suspect about men who really want children, like there's something "off". And I don't think I've ever heard anyone say of an older childfree man "poor him, I bet he regrets it" whereas I've definitely heard "Oh she never had kids? Why?" or "How sad". I'm not sure if it's something to do with the idea that men can have children at any age so there never seems to be a moment when it's considered too late for them, whereas when you get to mid-thirties as a woman people are like "tick-tock amirite?" And you're right, in society there is no real acknowledgement of the sadness that a man might feel if he never gets to be a parent. I'm glad you brought that voice into the discussion.

fathers who do minimal amounts of actual parenting work are stupidly lauded as heroes

That also really stood out to me. One of my cousins has 5 kids and my Mum was talking one day about her husband and how he was so good with the new baby because he's really helpful and changes nappies and gets up in the night to do feeds and whatever. Yeah, well it's half his and she has five bloody children - it's his job to help out, he shouldn't get a medal for it.
posted by billiebee at 2:24 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Giving metals to dudes who perform at a basic level of decency is practically an industry, though
posted by NoraReed at 3:43 AM on May 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Literally.
posted by billiebee at 3:53 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


kill me now
posted by NoraReed at 4:23 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that's tremendously annoying. Whenever my wife is out for an evening, some a-hole will say, "Oh, your husband is babysitting?"

No, I'm PARENTING.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 7:20 AM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


men can have children at any age so there never seems to be a moment when it's considered too late for them

I think this actually has a lot to do with it. And it's a sad asymmetry, but a real one. For instance, I am probably about in the waning days of my fertility and feel sad that I have not had children. It will be a hard potentiality to let go, even if there was never a moment I leapt at it with all my energy. Meanwhile, many of my male friends of my own age and older are finally having their first children (with wives who are younger). They were able to wait until they were ready and felt well supported and mature enough to be a good provider and parent. I would have, until recently, been taking dramatic risks with my financial and emotional health. I'm definitely envious that they can keep this choice open for so long, where biology forces us to close it out.

The Puritans used to prefer marriages between early 20something women and mid-30something men for this reason. The men were established in a career and could provide a financial foundation, the women had a lot of childbearing ahead of them. It's not a crazy idea, but our society is no longer so tightly organized, and love rarely entered into it. It's an idea that worked because of patriarchy and biology. In our world of love marriage, economic struggle and free choice, that doesn't line up so well for all of us.
posted by Miko at 7:32 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have some first hand experience of the low expectations put on fathers. When my son was 3 I took him on a trip, just the two of us, from SoCal to NorCal to attend my nephew's brit milah. I was really surprised at the number of people who pulled me aside to compliment me, in absolute amazement that I could put my son in a car seat, throw on a DVD for him, and make sure he ate some food at some point along the way. Even with a toddler in tow, I was the one who felt infantilized.
posted by The Gooch at 7:47 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe of interest here - Lena Olin, who runs the "Everything Changes" newsletter at the Awl, asked her readers yesterday for anonymous responses about whether they plan to have kids, or have any regrets about the choices they've made in that department. She's compiling the responses in a Google doc and highlighting some of them here. It's an interesting cross-section of many of the things we've been discussing here.
posted by Stacey at 7:55 AM on May 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


Thanks for the link Stacey, there are some really interesting anecdotes. The one that resonated with me was the woman saying she was so worried about her cat's surgery that she realised she couldn't cope with the anxiety if it was her kid (paraphrase). I took my niece to the park last year when she was about 4 and she played on the swings with a kid she didn't know who was about 8, and said "this is my new friend". About half an hour later she saw her again and was saying "do you want to play?" and the girl just looked at her and then ran away from her, and the wee'un was chasing her saying "but why don't you want to play with me?" and then she came over and asked "why doesn't she want to play with me?" I swear I nearly broke down with the hurt of her rejection. I was saying "don't worry love, sometimes people play with you for a little while but then they want to do something else blah blah blah" when what I really wanted to do was grab the girl and say "how dare you not want to play with this adorable creature you MONSTER!" I realised then I probably couldn't take the million times your heart hurts for your kids.
posted by billiebee at 8:06 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


And you're right, in society there is no real acknowledgement of the sadness that a man might feel if he never gets to be a parent. I'm glad you brought that voice into the discussion.

It doesn't help that we expect so little of men with regards to parenting. An average man who didn't get to be a parent wasn't doing the 20% of the hard work (and career sacrifice and and and) he'd have shouldered if he'd been a parent. Feeling too sorry for a man who I did not know to be better than average feels a bit like feeling bad some woman didn't have more work to do.

I think our shitty cultural attitude about male entitlement to female attention plays in here as well. You didn't get to become a dad? Must have been because you were such a crap prospect that you couldn't land a mate; an obvious indicator that you weren't good enough to deserve to procreate anyway.

Yglesias wrote for Vox a few weeks ago about the excessive praise men get for parenting.
posted by phearlez at 8:29 AM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


And you're right, in society there is no real acknowledgement of the sadness that a man might feel if he never gets to be a parent. I'm glad you brought that voice into the discussion.

Just wanted to nth this, I really appreciated that comment. For whatever it's worth thanks IF.
posted by sweetkid at 8:34 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I experience quite a bit of that on a regular basis when I think about how my particular branch of my family tree will likely end with me. But that's still a terrible reason to have kids, so avoiding the potential for regret seems like an even worse reason.

Why is wanting your family tree to continue a bad reason to have kids? That's pretty much the reason why most people do it, right? - i.e. to make your family line and legacy propagate forward into the future. At the very least, it seems no worse than other reasons that are commonly cited for having children.
posted by theorique at 8:56 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


So here's something that just struck me, and I wanted to share. I think there's been a great shift in what is publicly acceptable for parents to talk about. Until (seemingly) very recently, it was completely verboten to talk about the shitty parts of parenting. Over the past few years, it has become more and more socially acceptable to talk about the bad stuff -- the loneliness, the lack of sleep, the mess, etc. This has been tremendously freeing to a lot of parents (stay-at-home-moms in particular) who felt isolated and felt like failures because they didn't fit whatever they felt a mom was supposed to be like. So, this sort of honesty has basically been a Good Thing.

But the downside is that I think a lot of people without children have formed the opinion that having children is 100% Bummer All the Time. That as soon as you have kids, you are slaves to little irrational monsters for 18 years, never get to go to parties, just an endless existence of diapers and playdates and judgment.

There's some of that, to be sure, but the reality is more nuanced. We have a great time with our kids, and without our kids. When my son was 4, my wife and I took a week's vacation to London (semi-subsidized by work). We still spend adult-time with our child-free friends. We still go to movies and on dates. The only trick is you have to have good, trustworthy babysitters (or grandparents), and the ability to plan ahead. We have been very lucky in that regard.

I'm not suggesting that this should make you want to have children -- that's your business and none of mine. I'm just saying that if your view of having kids is "omg it sounds unspeakably awful", I just wanted to point out that it doesn't have to be.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 9:15 AM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm just saying that if your view of having kids is "omg it sounds unspeakably awful", I just wanted to point out that it doesn't have to be.

I suspect the degree of awfulness corresponds to how much someone actually wants kids, though. For someone who doesn't like or want children is going to find the bad parts much worse than someone who gets more joy out of the good parts and so can contextualize the bad parts differently.
posted by jaguar at 9:43 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Until (seemingly) very recently, it was completely verboten to talk about the shitty parts of parenting.

I think that was an anomaly, though. It was verboten from the 80s through the oughts, but I think it was pretty common during the 1970s. Parental eye-rolling about the irritations, costs, and hassles of children was familiar enough to me growing up, despite knowing I and my friends were loved.

I wonder if there was some combination of elements that contributed to the suppression of negative perceptions of parenting during that time. For instance, working women with the relatively new ability to advance to high career levels could not complain about family because if they appeared to find it a negative, they were not being successful at 'having it all.' Women who chose not to work outside the home could not complain about it because they would be attacked for their 'selfish' choice to stay home and concentrate on child-rearing. The ascendancy of the religious right positioned children as an uncomplicated good. I'm just spitballing here, but I think the idea that you can't speak ill of parenting (though it's a thread from the early nineteenth century onward) was really amplified over that 30-year period but was not a consistent dominant attitude during most of the 20th century.
posted by Miko at 9:48 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


THis seems germane: I've heard the author of this book All Joy and No Fun: The Paradoxes of Modern Parenthood on the radio and she had some wise things to say.
posted by Miko at 9:49 AM on May 29, 2015


Miko, those are excellent points. I think the whole "having it all" narrative (which is making a resurgence with stuff like "Lean In") can be pretty harmful to both mothers and fathers alike.

I imagine that it comes in waves, however. While you're probably right about the 70s (my mom certainly complained plenty), I can't imagine moms in the 1950s saying anything negative about motherhood (although that may have been a decorum thing more than anything).
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:04 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine moms in the 1950s saying anything negative about motherhood (although that may have been a decorum thing more than anything).

That was also the "Back home, ladies!" push to get women back out of the workforce after WWII, when there was pressure for women to embrace all things domestic.
posted by jaguar at 10:11 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine moms in the 1950s saying anything negative about motherhood (although that may have been a decorum thing more than anything).

And that's exactly how The Feminine Mystique happened.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


The other thing is--and I'm hitting another taboo here--some kids are just a lot more pleasant and a lot easier than others. One very well might get a difficult kid who is simply not very rewarding to parent, or who doesn't become rewarding until they're 25. Babysitters won't watch them, schools kick them out, you have to take mental health breaks from them multiple times a day. It's not some kind of crazy rare thing. We all had kids like that in our classes or our neighborhoods growing up. And it can really, really suck.

Having a kid is a big crap shoot, and frankly I think that people should act as though they will have one of the more difficult kids when they decide whether to have kids.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:26 AM on May 29, 2015 [9 favorites]


Parental eye-rolling about the irritations, costs, and hassles of children was familiar enough to me growing up, despite knowing I and my friends were loved.

Same here. I think -- hear me out, this is going to sound weird -- but I think the easy availability of safe, effective birth control has changed the narrative and expectations around parenting a lot. Back when children were a natural and pretty much inevitable consequence of regular sexual availability, there was sort of a cultural understanding that yes of course you loved them and loved parenting them and etc but Christing FUCK the little assholes can get on one's nerves, right? and maybe it would be better if little George hadn't been born quite _exactly_ at that time and sometimes there are an AWFUL LOT OF YOU ALL RIGHT HERE RIGHT NOW GO AWAY AND DON'T COME BACK UNTIL MOMMY'S FOREHEAD VEIN STOPS TWITCHING.

But now, it's perfectly easy to only have children on purpose. (For the most part, and given certain amounts of economic power, &c. There are outliers to be sure.) And so there's this notion now that one should only have children when you are ready and prepared for them, and when you can give them the best of everything under all circumstances -- just getting by with just good enough isn't acceptable any more, because if you can't make your own organic baby food / exclusively breastfeed and co-sleep and babywear / afford Montessori preschool / control your kids so they'll always be well behaved in public / stay at home with your children / practice Positive Parenting and never yell / provide them with enriching extra-curricular activities / teach them a second language / buy them a car / pay for their college education / etc, why did you even bother having them? The presence of a viable alternative to parenthood has placed incredible pressure on parents (mostly on mothers) to treat every child like a precious and amazing gift whose presence you should be humbled to be in every day and whose spirit you should thirst to nurture and support, because otherwise, you fucked it up by choosing to be a parent at all. Let your kids eat hot dogs and tater tots for dinner while watching a movie? Clearly you're a lazy slattern who just wanted children so you could be the center of attention. I exaggerate, but wow, not by much.

It's not good for parents, and honestly, I think it's not good for children. Not every moment has to be perfect and joyful, not every experience has to be enriching and nurturing. Sometimes, good enough is good enough. Sometimes parenthood is about wishing your kids would shut the fuck up for long enough to let you complete a thought and doing what it takes to make that happen, up to and including opening up a bag of potato chips and pressing the "play all episodes" button on Teen Titans Go on the TiVo. That doesn't make me a shitty, uninvolved, uncaring mother.
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on May 29, 2015 [25 favorites]


Having a kid is a big crap shoot, and frankly I think that people should act as though they will have one of the more difficult kids when they decide whether to have kids.

Yeah, just try convincing more than a fraction of parents that 10% of their kid's fate is out of their control. Some of that is classism but there's also a real first world difficulty with things being immune to our ability to control their outcome.
posted by phearlez at 10:53 AM on May 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


KathrynT, I wish I could favorite your comment several more times. Like everything in life, parenting includes good and bad moments, and times when you do right by them and times when you don't. I have no qualms about hot dogs and tots in front of the TV for dinner, and I don't care who wants to judge me for it.

(Thankfully, I friggin' love Teen Titans Go. And tater tots, for that matter.)
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:57 AM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why is wanting your family tree to continue a bad reason to have kids? That's pretty much the reason why most people do it, right? - i.e. to make your family line and legacy propagate forward into the future. At the very least, it seems no worse than other reasons that are commonly cited for having children.

I hope that's not the reason why most parents choose to have children. I hope they do so because they like the idea of having a child in their life to love, and like the thought of raising a child to become a successful adult. None of that currently appeals to me. I don't have a kid-shaped hole in my life that I want to fill.

What I have is this kind of sad feeling that my part of my family's story is going to say THE END at some point. It's a sort of sentimental thing I guess. That does not seem like a problem I ought to solve by having children that I otherwise wouldn't want, which is all I meant by saying it's a terrible reason to have kids. If there were other reasons I wanted them, solving that problem would be a nice side benefit, if that makes sense?
posted by FishBike at 11:27 AM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Every human family's "line" will die out eventually. Nothing is forever, and all that. And who knows anything personal about their grandparents more than a few generations removed? I also hope those who want kids have a bigger reason for having them.

Me, the reasons are too long to list, but mostly, I just don't want to have kids. Not interested in the same way I am not interested in learning to snowboard or changing my career to cattle rancher. Or a million other things I'm not compelled to do. Totally normal to feel that way, in my book.
posted by agregoli at 11:32 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ben Trismegistus, thank you so much for this great comment. This is an especially upsetting topic for me as the parent of a child on the autism spectrum. I so frequently sense an attitude from people where if you claim that raising a special needs child is a horrible, soul-crushing, life ruining, regrettable experience, well, you're just being brutally honest, man. But dare suggest that you get any sense of pleasure or joy out of raising your special needs child and the assumption is that you are either outright lying or just deluding yourself.
posted by The Gooch at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks, The Gooch. I understand where you're coming from. I have good friends who have two autistic boys who are 15 and 18 (and a 12 year old daughter), and the boys are completely delightful, intelligent, charming kids who are great to be around, and the parents are happy and fun.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 12:01 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I absolutely don't think it's stupid or bad to have children to keep your family line alive. It is a profound motivator, and often the reason that people try to conceive themselves before they look to adoption.
posted by Miko at 6:05 PM on May 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


Frankly, I don't think that there is any good reason to have a child. It is a huge risk that you are taking not only with your life, but with someone else's life.

So given that the reasoning likely does not change the outcome much, as long as you are reasonably sure that you are capable of caring for a child in a humane way, I don't think that the reasoning matters.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 6:17 PM on May 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


I kind of feel guilty at ending the family line too. Except dear god, I don't think there should be another me in the world. That is a terrible, terrible idea and I wouldn't want to put a kid through what I went through just by being me and female and weird and not fitting in in the world.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:25 PM on May 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


I absolutely don't think it's stupid or bad to have children to keep your family line alive.

Good thing no one said that then.
posted by agregoli at 7:31 PM on May 29, 2015


No one said it explicitly. Some said they hoped that weren't the only reason. I'm here to say that even if it were the only reason to have a family, it would be an acceptable reason. It is a meaningful thing to many people. And if we think it's a bad thing to critique other people's reasons to have/not have children, then that applies to this reason as well.
posted by Miko at 7:42 PM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


I so frequently sense an attitude from people where if you claim that raising a special needs child is a horrible, soul-crushing, life ruining, regrettable experience, well, you're just being brutally honest, man. But dare suggest that you get any sense of pleasure or joy out of raising your special needs child and the assumption is that you are either outright lying or just deluding yourself.

This so much. I feel like having an autistic child is playing the parenting game on a higher difficulty level, but it's not the endless parade of doom that some people say it is. There are so many good times.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:03 PM on May 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm here to say that even if it were the only reason to have a family, it would be an acceptable reason. It is a meaningful thing to many people.

But isn't it the height of hubris? To say "My genetic information is of such value, distinct from that of all other humans, that it deserves to be promulgated and preserved"? How can anyone with even a modicum of introspection say that with a straight face?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:14 AM on May 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


*snerk* This reminds me of a time I went to visit my brother and sister-in-law before they were married. She had stepped into the kitchen to wash a couple dishes while my brother and I talked.

And suddenly he started in on this whole speech about how he was planning on definitely having kids - and he had this whole geneological/patriarchal justification for it. It was all about "the family name", and how our surname wasn't that common, and he couldn't assume that I would keep my name if I ever got married and had kids, and so it was pretty much on him to keep the family name going....

And he went on and on like that for a good two minutes, and I just sat there, slackjawed, becuase I had never heard him talk about this before and I was just stunned into confusion wondering what in the HELL had got him thinking like this.

But anyway, after a couple minutes, my sister-in-law leaned into the room and said, "Uh, sweetie? My family usually has girls. You sure that's gonna work?"

And he shut up and I didn't stop laughing for a minute and a half.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 AM on May 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


When I consider this reason for having kids it's not so much my genetic material that I think about passing on, but more the fact that countless of my ancestors lived and died and passed on their genes only for me to get to a point in time where I cut the branch off. In some ways that feels weirdly selfish.
posted by billiebee at 5:31 AM on May 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


But anyway, after a couple minutes, my sister-in-law leaned into the room and said, "Uh, sweetie? My family usually has girls. You sure that's gonna work?"

She sounds confused about which parent's gametes actually determine the baby's sex.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:19 AM on May 30, 2015 [4 favorites]


The other thing is that this argument about your genes not being special really extends to any number of things. For example as relatively well off people who live in The United States or another similarly developed country, we use an insane amount of resources just to keep ourselves alive. We're really not all that hot. So basically if you choose to stay alive, you don't really have that much to say about the hubris of those people who make other people in order to replace them.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:41 AM on May 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


To say "My genetic information is of such value, distinct from that of all other humans, that it deserves to be promulgated and preserved"? How can anyone with even a modicum of introspection say that with a straight face?

This is an extremely uncharitable projection, so I'd challenge you to see whether you can counter-formulate your argument in order to find a more prosocial motivation for this. I certainly think this consideration can apply very meaningfully to people from historically oppressed ethnicities and cultural groups, as it does in many ways for me. For me it is also a sense of my ancestors' effort and labor to get me and my family to this point where we are much more able to contribute to the common good, as billiebee mentions, as well as the hope that I can give my already-existing extended family members their own unique set of family relationships on which to depend as they go through life long after I'm gone. (One sad thing about not having children: I understood what it meant to not be a mother, but not quite what it meant to not be a certain set of relationships, ever, in my life. It means if I don't have any children, I will not be a grandmother or great-grandmother, either, and if my siblings don't have kids, I won't be an aunt or great-aunt, and there won't be any siblings, or any young cousins, for my other cousins and their children to have as "family" going forward, and as I have gone through life I realize that there this can become a very important source of meaning and support).

This is one of those things where we could have a stupid pissing contest about whether folks think this is a worthy motivation or not, but I'd encourage us all not to belittle anyone's motivation; if you think it's wrong to belittle the motivation of people who do not want children, it's also wrong to assume the worst of people who do. If everyone's motivation for having children had to come up for review and approval before we support them as parents, we'd have a fairly awful society. The important part is not what prompts people to have/not have children; the important part is their behavior once they are parents or community members of those children.
posted by Miko at 8:44 AM on May 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


She sounds confused about which parent's gametes actually determine the baby's sex.

Or she sounds knowledgeable about the influence of the egg on which sperm gets selected.
posted by jeather at 9:10 AM on May 30, 2015 [7 favorites]


if you think it's wrong to belittle the motivation of people who do not want children, it's also wrong to assume the worst of people who do. If everyone's motivation for having children had to come up for review and approval before we support them as parents, we'd have a fairly awful society. The important part is not what prompts people to have/not have children; the important part is their behavior once they are parents or community members of those children.

On the one hand, I totally agree about not assuming the worst of people. On the other hand, the decisions to have and not to have children are meaningfully different, because one of them involves a separate human being who won't be able to look out for themselves for several years. Absent an extinction-level population shortage, there's no valid reason to care about someone else's decision not to have children. But there can be good reasons to care about someone's decision to have children, including the motivations for it, because particular kinds of horrible motivations lead to horrible or nonexistent parenting (I'm thinking here of someone I met who said he wanted to "spread his seed" as much as possible).

Which isn't to say that we should scrutinize the motivations of prospective parents in general. I agree that we shouldn't. But some problematic motivations warrant pushback.
posted by heisenberg at 10:07 AM on May 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


I don't criticize peoples' decisions to have children, but I do think the Earth has too many people already and that the idea of "cutting off an ancestral line" is based purely on ego.
posted by rhizome at 10:18 AM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]



She sounds confused about which parent's gametes actually determine the baby's sex.


Wow, you must be real fun at parties.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on May 30, 2015 [5 favorites]


the idea of "cutting off an ancestral line" is based purely on ego.

While wanting to have a family to love is not? Wanting to be a mom or dad is not? These are selfless, altruistic endeavors undertaken in the face of great cost and risk solely for the betterment of humanity?

some problematic motivations warrant pushback

Only if you're committed to being intrusive. And the argument is specious - "pushback" is a purely interpersonal thing, not a form of activism. Being an jerk about people's private reproductive decisions is not the most effective way to control global population levels. If you care so greatly about it, there are many things you can do as a donor and volunteer that will make a far bigger difference than passing judgment on other people - especially those who you lack understanding and compassion for to begin with.
posted by Miko at 1:45 PM on May 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


Miko, I'm not sure if I'm misreading your comment or if you're misreading mine, but I'm baffled as to why you seem to be calling me an intrusive jerk who lacks understanding and compassion for other people (or who wants to control population levels, which is not something I've ever been remotely concerned about).

My point was that the decision to have kids, and the motivations for that decision, shouldn't be completely immune from scrutiny in all situations (the way that, IMO, the decision not to have kids, and the motivations for that decision, should be completely immune from scrutiny).

So for example, if someone tells me (in interpersonal conversation) that they have a seriously troubling motivation for having kids, I'm going to push back against that - with understanding and compassion, I hope, but with real concern for the well-being of the children that they might have.

In contrast, if someone tells me that they've decided not to have kids, regardless of their motivations, there's no valid reason to push back against that, ever.
posted by heisenberg at 4:18 PM on May 30, 2015


[Comment removed; telling people you think their opinions are intrusive is fine, but threatening to break a foot off in their ass not so much.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:32 PM on May 30, 2015


"Passing on my family line" is inextricably intertwined with "propagating my race."
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 6:39 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Comment removed; telling people you think their opinions are intrusive is fine, but threatening to break a foot off in their ass not so much.]

I would like to make it 100% clear that whoever made such a comment, it was not me.

My point was that the decision to have kids, and the motivations for that decision, shouldn't be completely immune from scrutiny in all situations (the way that, IMO, the decision not to have kids, and the motivations for that decision, should be completely immune from scrutiny).

It is a reproductive decision, and it should be immune from scrutiny. Your personal morality has absolutely nothing to do with my own decisions about whether and why to have children. Your ideas on this are just totally irrelevant. Your keeping your opinion to yourself is what reproductive freedom looks like. If you want to tackle overpopulation as a social issue, nothing is stopping you from funding or becoming involved as an advocate with a zero-population-growth organization. If you're concerned about family pyschological health and ensuring that every child is loved and cared for, you can certainly get involved in any number of family support and mental health causes. But when it comes to asking for review over whether and why I choose to have a child, you have seriously overstepped your area of responsibility. That is intrusive.

"Passing on my family line" is inextricably intertwined with "propagating my race."

So?

I have a number of Native friends, for instance, whose cultures and language groups have been thinning for decades. It is important to many of them to propagate their 'race,' by which I suppose you mean ethnicity.
posted by Miko at 6:51 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't have kids, I don't want kids, and the comments that assume interrogating and "pushing back" on individual's reasons for wanting kids is a positive are striking me as extremely intrusive, as well. Interfering with other individual people's reproductive choices is not your job, unless you're one of the people reproducing, a healthcare provider being consulted about the reproductive choice, or a confidante being explicitly asked for advice. As Miko said, if it's a political issue for you (and this is "generic you"), work to make the choices you like more attractive to people making those decisions, not to insert yourself where you don't belong.

This is a situation where interfering in, or denigrating, individual choice is problematic, given a whole raft of historical and current issues regarding who gets support to reproduce and who does not. Working on a broader political/social-justice level avoids that, mostly.
posted by jaguar at 7:13 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I also agree that the thought of "pushing back" against someone's choice to have kids seemed repugnant.

I will add, though, that my realizing that has made me examine my thoughts about the Quiverfull thread.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:15 PM on May 30, 2015


Your keeping your opinion to yourself is what reproductive freedom looks like.

At all times, in all contexts? Example: A family member was married to a guy with a serious cocaine problem, among other issues, and the marriage was troubled. She told another family member that she was thinking about having a baby to save their marriage. That person gently suggested that she might consider counseling or some other means of improving the relationship instead of, or at least before, having a kid. Do you see that conversation as inconsistent with reproductive freedom?

My own view is that respectful conversations of that sort, among people who have chosen to have that conversation with each other, are perfectly fine. But just to be perfectly clear, I'm not interested in "asking for review over whether and why [you] choose to have a child," because yes that would certainly be an overstep.

On preview, Jaguar, "a confidante being explicitly asked for advice" is pretty close to the situation I had in mind.
posted by heisenberg at 7:22 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


Part of where I'm coming from is that my mom hates kids - vocally and intensely - and I wish someone close to her would have had a gently-pushing-back type of conversation with her at some point.
posted by heisenberg at 7:29 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


I have a number of Native friends, for instance, whose cultures and language groups have been thinning for decades. It is important to many of them to propagate their 'race,' by which I suppose you mean ethnicity.

I meant to say race, I see a fuzzy distinction at best between race/ethnicity, you just end up with weird shit like on the census "American Indian" is a race but "Hispanic" is an ethnicity. Previously you mentioned "It is a profound motivator, and often the reason that people try to conceive themselves before they look to adoption," indicating the importance of the biological side of the biocultural race/ethnicity construct, so I said race which carries that connotation.

I have heard White people with the "family line" motivation often enough, in which case I think it can be seen as more problematic.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:45 PM on May 30, 2015


She told another family member that she was thinking about having a baby to save their marriage.

She confided in someone and invited their view. That's a personal situation in which a woman was are using their own agency to make decisions about their own reproduction. If someone comes to you and asks what to do about a pregnancy, it would be compassionate of you to consider their situation and offer an opinion. Outside of that kind of interaction, your opinions about others' reproduction are neither asked for nor welcome.

I wish someone close to her would have had a gently-pushing-back type of conversation with her at some point.

I'm sorry.

my realizing that has made me examine my thoughts about the Quiverfull thread.

Yeah, that's an interesting point. Basically, I would never take the stance that people who want oodles of children shouldn't have them. I have objections to Quiverfull, but they're really not about number of children, they're about the subsuming of personal responsibility to a hierarchical family structure.
posted by Miko at 7:49 PM on May 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


you just end up with weird shit like on the census "American Indian" is a race but "Hispanic" is an ethnicity

Well, we know that race is a socially constructed set of categories, so we don't need to revert to the word. Hispanic is a language group, btw, not an ethnicity or a race.

I'm poking at your statement intentionally. It makes you uncomfortable if white people want to continue their genetic line, but it shouldn't if you also accept that people of other backgrounds find it important to continue a genetic line. For many people, family history is important and gives life a great deal of meaning. It is important to me who I descended from - to me, those people weren't generic historical actors, faceless white puppets bobbing around in past ages - they were my family. They represented historical trajectories, forms of endurance, stories of determination, and legacies of love that mean something to me. When I return to the places on earth that they came from, I will feel something special and be amazed and honored that they worked so hard to create the life I had. All of that is meaningful. It is not rational in the Spockian sense, but it is the stuff human meaning is made from. It's not trivial, it's not shallow, and it's not terrible in and of itself. We can all agree that there can be intersections of genetics and power that cause serious problems in human history, but those things occur within a much wider context in which people's senses of themselves as one point on a line of people, whether Cantonese or Irish or Jewish or Apache or Laotian or Croation, connects them to ways of making meaning about their existence that might reasonably make them wish to continue the legacy their ancstors left them by reproducing. In fact, if we deplore the actions of those who sought to make genetics equate with power by elevating some ethnicities above others, we should then counter that narrowing impulse by celebrating and advocating for ever greater human biodiversity, which means seeking to continue as many human lines of descendancy as possible.

It's also worth nothing that continuing a genetic line does not necessarily require maintaining any kind of racial/ethnic purity. You can continue your own line even in reproducing with someone who has an entirely different genetic background. These are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
posted by Miko at 7:58 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Outside of that kind of interaction, your opinions about others' reproduction are neither asked for nor welcome.

I agree with this, and never meant to imply otherwise.
posted by heisenberg at 8:48 PM on May 30, 2015


When I consider this reason for having kids it's not so much my genetic material that I think about passing on, but more the fact that countless of my ancestors lived and died and passed on their genes only for me to get to a point in time where I cut the branch off. In some ways that feels weirdly selfish.

Hypothetically, if you had kids and could contemplate their future lives long after your demise, would you care whether great-great-great-grandchild #34 had kids? Or would you find more pleasure in knowing that she was happy?

One of the things I like about having researched my family history is realising that I'm at the point of a whole pyramid of people who (by and large, mostly) loved their kids and wanted them to be happy. You're almost certainly not the only person bearing the genes of your ancestors, but you're the only person who can live your own life.

N.B. I have kids, they make me very happy, but that's me. I wouldn't accept advice from anyone else on the subject unless it came with free babysitting and a college fund.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:15 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


would you care whether great-great-great-grandchild #34 had kids? Or would you find more pleasure in knowing that she was happy?

Well, engaging this as a hypothetical question, if I am interested in generating happiness the best option is to have more kids and hope they have more kids, because taken as a sum over time, that's very likely to produce more happy moments and happy individuals than is pinning all hopes for your progeny's happiness on one arbitrary individual in the offspring.

(The hypothetical also assumes happiness can be seen as the goal of life, but many people do see it that way, so I'll let that be)/
posted by Miko at 6:44 AM on May 31, 2015


Well, engaging this as a hypothetical question, if I am interested in generating happiness the best option is to have more kids and hope they have more kids, because taken as a sum over time, that's very likely to produce more happy moments and happy individuals than is pinning all hopes for your progeny's happiness on one arbitrary individual in the offspring.

"Taken as a sum" don't you have to add up all the happiness AND unhappiness of the entire line of descent (all your children, and their children, and their children's children etc.)? The larger the group the more that's likely to tend towards whatever the human average of happiness is, so by definition it can't be a happiness-maximization strategy. The model you're actually working on is the lottery-ticket model ("if I have a large set of descendents, then one of them is likely to be happy--and I'll gladly sacrifice the unhappy losers so as to contemplate the single improbably happy winner").

All of which, though, is to accept the notion that simply by having children you are in some way "generating" their happiness/unhappiness--which seems a dubious proposition. Certainly you can't be happy unless you exist, but mere existence cannot, in itself, be said to be "happiness." Happiness has to do with the nature of the experiences we undergo during our existence. If everybody on the planet chose to maximize their opportunities for reproduction so as to maximize the opportunities for happiness of their descendents the predictable outcome would be a general lowering of average happiness because of problems of overcrowding, depleted resources etc.
posted by yoink at 7:44 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


When I consider this reason for having kids it's not so much my genetic material that I think about passing on, but more the fact that countless of my ancestors lived and died and passed on their genes only for me to get to a point in time where I cut the branch off. In some ways that feels weirdly selfish.

That's definitely a factor in the whole "family line" or "family name" arguments. When you start thinking in a genealogical or generational sense, you realize that "your life" is something that was handed down from generations past who probably faced tougher and less certain lives in their time. And maybe that creates a certain emotional force that perhaps you ought to be one of those family-tree-people to others down the line.

A person certainly can choose to have no kids for reasons good or bad. Historically, generations of independent men (soldiers, explorers, sailors, priests) lived and died without passing on their genes. Same thing with women (spinsters, nuns). But if you have the opportunity and means nowadays, choosing to avoid children is a more active decision for some people than it has been in the past.
posted by theorique at 7:47 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Very much so, theorique. I'm acutely aware that I'm the first generation of women in my family to be able to exercise choice in the matter of reproduction. (Up to a point - abortion is illegal where I live.) As Irish Catholics my grandmothers had 15 live births between them. My mothers' generation had to rely on the rhythm method. That I was able to go on the pill at 17, and have remained childfree by choice, is a privilege that I am very conscious of. So that is something I balance against the idea that ending my particular line feels like somehow disregarding the lives of those who came before me. My sister has children so the "family line" won't die with me, but sometimes I envision my hypothetical children as the link between the past members of my family and the future ones, and I feel a sense of loss that I'm not allowing that future to exist. It might not be logical but it's a feeling so I'm accepting that it's as valid as any other. Being even able to have a discussion about it is something the women before me would probably have found incredible.
posted by billiebee at 8:29 AM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


billiebee: Very true. Sometimes I forget that while "The Pill" has been around during my whole lifetime, it's only been a couple of generations since it was invented. Back in our grandparents' day, children were something that "just happened", sometimes more frequently than expected, or well in excess of what people could comfortably afford. Society and culture are still understanding and integrating this invention - it's only been just over 50 years.
posted by theorique at 9:19 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, engaging this as a hypothetical question, if I am interested in generating happiness the best option is to have more kids and hope they have more kids, because taken as a sum over time, that's very likely to produce more happy moments and happy individuals than is pinning all hopes for your progeny's happiness on one arbitrary individual in the offspring.

You're making the a priori assumption that happiness even exists. If that which we call "happiness" is only the null state in the absence of suffering, then it is our moral duty to reduce suffering as much as possible. As suffering is inevitable in life, and as only those who live can suffer, it becomes unethical to create beings who are doomed to experience suffering.
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:59 AM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think that's kind of a Western dualistic mindset though, that happiness is the absence of suffering and that suffering is to be avoided. In my own life I've probably learned and grown as a human more from my "suffering" (which of course is relative) than my joys, and my happinesses (is that a word?) have been true experiences in their own right and not merely the absence of pain. I'm not sure it's unethical to create a person who will experience being human, with all that encompasses.
posted by billiebee at 11:59 AM on May 31, 2015


If that which we call "suffering" is only the null state in the absence of happiness, then it is our moral duty to increase happiness as much as possible. As only those who live can be happy, it becomes unethical to fail to create beings who have the opportunity to experience happiness.

This exchange has been today's Sophistry Minute, brought to you by Thrasymachus, Inc.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:18 PM on May 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hispanic is a language group, btw, not an ethnicity or a race.

It is completely unnecessary for you to dismiss other historically oppressed racial or ethnic/cultural groups in the process of talking about how you want to continue your own historically oppressed familial/ethnic group - which is actually a laudable aim, which is why I am so surprised to see this raising its ugly head in your post.
posted by corb at 12:20 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


"It is completely unnecessary for you to dismiss other historically oppressed racial or ethnic/cultural groups in the process of talking..."

That wasn't what she was doing. It was an annoying bit of "not even wrong" pedantry, but it wasn't a dismissal of an oppressed group.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:50 PM on May 31, 2015


If that which we call "suffering" is only the null state in the absence of happiness, then it is our moral duty to increase happiness as much as possible. As only those who live can be happy, it becomes unethical to fail to create beings who have the opportunity to experience happiness.

Right. So what we have here is a completely insoluble impasse. And I ask you, in a universe where life has meaning, could completely insoluble impasses even exist?
posted by Faint of Butt at 12:51 PM on May 31, 2015


"Right. So what we have here is a completely insoluble impasse. And I ask you, in a universe where life has meaning, could completely insoluble impasses even exist?"

If life has no meaning, then there wouldn't be an insoluble impasse, as it would be impossible to differentiate between "happiness" and "suffering". Therefore, as we do have this insoluble impasse, and we exist, the universe has meaning. As this insoluble impasse nevertheless requires a resolution (because a universe that demands a contradiction as a moral condition would be meaningless), and only a metaphysical resolution -- the grace of God -- can meet this requirement, therefore because we exist and the universe has meaning, God exists.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:13 PM on May 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


It was an annoying bit of "not even wrong" pedantry, but it wasn't a dismissal of an oppressed group.

It is when you're stepping in the middle of a hotly disputed contentious issue in the middle of something totally unrelated. Like, I recognize that people outside the community may not be aware of this, but it's a huge issue that the US government is counting Hispanic as an ethnicity on the census and not a race, and forcing people to racially identify outside of Hispanic in order to access govenrment services. It's a form of erasure, and to see yet another form of erasure like that in thread is really jarring and unpleasant.
posted by corb at 1:32 PM on May 31, 2015


I read her comment as saying, "You mean Latin@." It's still inaccurate - Hispanic and Latin@ are names for ethnolinguistic groups and are not, as I understand it, synonymous - but I don't think Miko meant, "Pah, that's not even an ethnicity."
(I think it's interesting (in the bad sense) the way both terms erase indigeneity. But that's a digression for sure.)
posted by gingerest at 3:24 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: impossible to differentiate between "happiness" and "suffering"
posted by maryr at 3:40 PM on May 31, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Continuing the family line" type arguments for having kids always sounds like a tinge of "fear of death" to me. Which isn't right or wrong, I'm making no value judgment. I think people often find it easier to accept leaving the world when their kids will go on.
posted by agregoli at 5:54 PM on May 31, 2015


I don't think Miko meant, "Pah, that's not even an ethnicity."

Of course I didn't.
posted by Miko at 7:30 PM on May 31, 2015 [3 favorites]


We all get to fear death, whether we have kids or not. There is a big difference in terms of your potential for being remembered, sure. But I'm not sure having kids staves this off. I have witnessed fewer people more heartbroken than those who had to leave their children in early death. I am not sure their parenthood was a consolation.
posted by Miko at 7:36 PM on May 31, 2015


My point is that the *act* of having children sometimes appears to be a pallative against death.

I don't worry about being remembered. None of us will be, in only a few generations.
posted by agregoli at 8:24 PM on May 31, 2015


Oh, okay, thanks for the clarification gingerest. Yeah, that's lots better and not really hackleraising.
posted by corb at 9:45 PM on May 31, 2015


As only those who live can be happy, it becomes unethical to fail to create beings who have the opportunity to experience happiness.

You probably shoudn't google "roko's basilisk".
posted by theorique at 7:04 AM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


Three things concerning "ancestry":

1. The other group of people I get comments from, when I mention being sterile, are the people who tell me that it's a real shame because the world needs more of my kind of people. Perhaps a quarter or a third of everyone I talk to. People are racist as shit, and I do not think this is actually a defensible reason to have kids. I will tell them that.

2. Virtually everyone I discuss ancestry with doesn't understand how it works. Like they abstractly accept that genetic material is halved-and-mixed at each generation, that they only have 1/8 their great-grandparents' genetic material, that each of their great granchildren will only have 1/8 theirs, that their 32nd-great-grandparents that they care so much about propagating the "line" of currently has millions and millions of people with exactly as much of their genetic inheritance mixed in to them as you, carrying the "name". But because of the linear continuity of family names they just cling to this notion of a "family line" as though it exists. No matter how I put the facts, they immediately forget them and go back to believing in a fantasy as soon as the conversation's over.

3. Uniform patrilineal family names are a really rare/novel thing as well. Lots of cultures don't have or use them, lots of cultures were recently forced into them by modern states. IOW lots of cultures have or had naming systems that acknowledge that more than 1 or 2 generations of ancestry disappears into a hazy mix of "everyone is an equal part-relative of everyone else". The obsession with "lines" is totally artificial.
posted by ead at 10:23 AM on June 1, 2015 [6 favorites]


Good points, ead. This is what I mean about this imagining that something of yourself (in this case genetics, no matter how diluted), will go on...some people being overly concerned with that strike me as using it as a mental resistance to death.
posted by agregoli at 12:28 PM on June 1, 2015


> Every now and then I think I might like to have children if I could just have, like, a clever, literate eleven year old, who would enjoy playing Scrabble and dress-up and talking about the history and books I liked when I was that age. We could go to museums together and make up stories to act out. Maybe I could teach it to cook or play the piano

Here you go.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:29 PM on June 1, 2015 [2 favorites]


The whole "genetic line thing is racist" thing is so odd to me. I'm second generation Indian American, my parents came from India, and whether or not I have children with an ethnically Indian person the idea that the American branch of my family could just die out is not appealing to me, especially given the tiny amount of Indian Americans we have here and how much our developing culture, mostly driven by people my age who were the "first wave" after heavy quotas were lifted.

The idea that someone would say to my face that it's a racist notion that I'd like to have my own half or entirely ethnically Indian children (I'm not even 100% myself), or just something that comes from my family, that made a huge effort to be here, is really repellent to me.
posted by sweetkid at 9:30 PM on June 1, 2015 [3 favorites]


The other group of people I get comments from, when I mention being sterile, are the people who tell me that it's a real shame because the world needs more of my kind of people. Perhaps a quarter or a third of everyone I talk to. People are racist as shit, and I do not think this is actually a defensible reason to have kids. I will tell them that.

I'm not sure why it's necessarily racist. Maybe if they said "we need more of YOUR_RACE and less of those inferior OTHER_RACE people, so you need to step up and have kids", I can certainly get why that is racist. But in the absence of that, someone might be just giving you a compliment on your intelligence, or good habits, or kindness, which would be passed on to children.

The idea that someone would say to my face that it's a racist notion that I'd like to have my own half or entirely ethnically Indian children (I'm not even 100% myself), or just something that comes from my family, that made a huge effort to be here, is really repellent to me.

It's pretty typical for people to look for their own traits in their children - to "want their children to look like them". Again, this is hardly a racist notion.
posted by theorique at 5:38 AM on June 2, 2015 [2 favorites]


[A few comments deleted. I get that people feel strongly, but this needs to not get personal in here. The point about "don't judge" has been made, folks have said they don't intend to be judging, let's allow this exchange to rest there.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:47 AM on June 2, 2015


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