Reasons to Not Have Kids (By Someone Who Has Them!)
My first baby was a surprise.
It didn't matter that we didn't exactly plan for her; what mattered is that my whole life, my whole twenty-three years leading up to the nauseous day that I found out she existed had ached for her. I really wanted her even though I knew that becoming a mother would mean a lot of shifting and adjusting, the half of which I couldn't have understood as I stared at two pink lines like a bridge across a sea of pee.
I'd always known that someday, sooner or later, I would become a mother.
And here I am, five years, nearly to the day, from that moment and I now have two kids—plus a puppy and some other living creatures that I have to keep alive including a slew of houseplants that are honestly in questionable territory right now. And I'm very happy. I'm very tired, but I'm very happy, just like I had thought I'd be.
Indeed, I'm one of the more than a million millennials per year who choose to become a mother, according to the Pew Research Center. Still, something I hear a lot from my millennial counterparts, who are nearing or past the big 3-0 nowadays, is that they're not sure they ever want to have kids. It's something that I actually understand better now that I am a mom than I did before I became one. Being a mom is no joke.
If you're debating whether or not you want kids, here are some totally legit reasons you might want to hold off or say no to having kids altogether.
Kids Are Messy
Before I became a mom, like all good millennials, I lived in the upstairs level of my parents' home.
I kept it tidy with a daily and weekly cleaning routine. Likewise, I regularly organized the files on my computer, washed my (used) Cadillac once a week and spent my Friday nights debating fabric softener scents at the store.
I was so devoted to order that I spent my working hours filing library materials according to the Dewey decimal system and kept my nerdy library-girl wardrobe color coded (I'm serious).
Then my baby arrived and I'm pretty sure, looking back, she had undiagnosed reflux. That girl puked all over everything all of the time and my carefully curated world came crashing down around me. As the years have gone by, the laundry has steadily piled up, I step on stray Legos at least twice a day and my tiny walk-in closet is a mess of wherever I can stuff my half-folded clothing.
I'm not saying that having naturally tidy tendencies mixed with heavy neuroticism is a good reason not to have kids. I'm saying that it's a valid reason, along with others, to consider how many, if any, kids you really want breaking you down to the point where you have to buy sofa slipcovers, which I did last week.
Motherhood Expectations Have Changed
When I was growing up my mom was a stay-at-home mom.
That's it. She stayed at home and she took care of my brother and I. I'm not saying that's it like, "Wow, how lazy." I'm saying that as the stay-at-home parent she was able to 100% focus on caring for my brother and me while our dad worked. And that was cool, we stayed afloat. I had a couple of friends who had two working parents so I'm not trying to get down on 90's parent as say that ALL of them were able to have a strictly-stay-at-home parent, but it wasn't as common and nowadays the one-parent-working-only thing isn't an option for myself or the majority of my peers.
It's 2018 and according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's living wage calculator, a family with two adults and two children (like my family) in my county must make $23.93 per hour to stay above the poverty and minimum wage threshold. That means that my husband and I both have to work. But guess what? Our children are both under age five, which means it's too early to send them to school which means we need childcare.
Oh, but guess what else? According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average monthly cost for childcare in Michigan, where I live, is $564 a month per kid. I have two. That's more than our monthly mortgage
Which means my husband is currently working two jobs out of the home while I stay home with our kids and work from here earning a part-time income which equates, after childcare costs, to the same amount I would be bringing home with a full-time out-of-home job with my high school diploma. Additionally, I'm also a part-time college student because eventually, I'd like to be able to provide more for my kids than I do now as the cost of living inevitably rises.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because knowing that motherhood, even with a working partner, is not the linear journey it may have been 20 years ago (for some) is a reasonable thing to consider when choosing when or if to have kids. Nowadays, having kids doesn't just mean you have a cute pair of kids to tote to mommy-and-me play dates. It can mean taking on a handful of other roles as well to provide for those kids.
Having Kids Means Not Getting Enough Sleep
A lot of moms will tell you that they sleep juuuuuuuuust fiiiiiiiiiine with their perfect baby.
Those moms are not the norm. Most babies don't sleep through the night and when they do, you just end up waking every thirty minutes to check their breathing anyway. As my kids have grown, they sleep much better than they once did but my quality of sleep still varies a lot. Some nights they sleep through the night in their own bed while I dream away in mine. Other nights though, like last night, my kids take turns waking up from bad dreams while I give up altogether on sleep and peruse Instagram, wondering how I can get bright eyes like the Glossier models without spending $40 on concealer. It turns out the way to do that is to get enough sleep.
Which I do not. And neither will you if you have kids.
Think about that.
Having Kids Is Mentally Tiring
It's weird to talk about parenting in the context of trying to help some internet strangers decide if they really do not want kids and in doing that I'm holding back on telling you all of the beautiful parts of parenthood. Literally any parent out there, even the really bad ones, are quick to tell you those things, and I'm sure you already know the list by heart - they make simple moments feel more special, they give life a "deeper" meaning, they give you an excuse to buy Teddy Grahams, etc. etc.
But with the intention of helping you weigh the reality of life with kids vs. life without kids, I'm going to be straight with you that you have never been as exhausted as I am right now writing this article. I don't mean to condescend you, I did a lot of tiring things before I had my kids and I know that you do too. I pulled all-nighters to meet deadlines, I stayed on the phone until 2 AM chit chattin' with boyfriends. I used to routinely exercise.
My point is that for the past hour, I've been writing and researching this article on about five hours of broken up sleep with one of my children repeatedly saying, "Look at this horse" to which I must add it's a unicorn. IT'S A UNICORN NOT A HORSE AND I SAW IT. I SAW IT SO MANY TIMES.
Everything Takes Longer When You Have Kids
And I don't just mean getting out the door. I mean everything. Here's a short list of things that take me much longer to accomplish now as opposed to before I had children:
- Getting in the car. Getting out the door takes 45 minutes. But getting in the car takes like, just as long because it's two car seats vs. two kids who don't want to get in said car seats even though it's negative ten with the windchill.
- My education. People, I'm about to turn 29, and I'm still three classes away from my associate's degree. Omg.
- Making dinner. When I'm in the kitchen, my kids see this as a perfect time to put on a live-action performance of Disney's Frozen of which I'm fully expected to watch. While I cut onions.
- Getting in the shower. It's 3:35 PM, and I still haven't hopped in because breakfast, second breakfast, third breakfast because they forgot to eat second breakfast, their bath, naps, lunch, second lunch because first lunch wasn't good enough...
On the bright side, living slower has really refined my patience over the last few years. And lowered my standards.
Having Kids Leaves Less Time for the Other People and Things That You Love
This includes yourself, which you probably already knew. When you have kids, it's not that the people you love or the things you love to do become less important to you or that you won't ever get to enjoy them again. It's just that you have to prioritize the person you brought into this world who had no say in the matter versus everything else. In my own life, from my partner to my oldest friends and hobbies, I spend far less time on them than I do with my children (at least at this preschool age).
For me, it's been worth it. But if you're already on the fence about having kids it may be a deciding factor.
Kids Ground You. Literally. You Have to Kind of Stay Put.
For me, this was never a problem because I'm a total hermit and don't really like to travel. But the handful of times that I have since I've had my children have been a total trip and not in a good way. Traveling and moving around with kids is doable, but it's also a ton of work. If you're a nomad, you have to ask yourself if you'd be okay slowing the pace a bit or leaving your kids behind to travel, whether for work or pleasure.
They're Kind of Expensive
The cost of parenting really depends on your lifestyle and how many kids you choose to have but for perspective, we live a pretty modest lifestyle and have only two children and things are fairly comfortable but there's also no excess of money to be found. What could once be ignored before we had children, like the cost of holidays and Disney themed fruit snacks have suddenly come to the forefront of our budget.
Kids Don't Automatically Just Love You, but You Still Owe Them Your Love
OBVIOUS, I KNOW.
But it's still jarring the first couple of years to realize that more than they love you, your kids need you. They need you to wake up in the morning and make them breakfast, they need you to change their diapers, then teach them how to not need diapers. They need you make a routine, to read them stories, to say no to stupid TV shows and apps. They need you to stick up for them on the playground (yeah, no, I'm that parent), to actually take them to the playground. They need you to hold them when they get shots and blood work even though you have a severe blood and needle phobia.
They need you to work hard and pay the bills on time and cut up broccoli because it's good for their bones. They need you to explain why it's good for their bones. They need you to listen to their stories, their tantrums, and tears. They need you to take care of yourself when you're really tired and don't feel like you the energy to.
They need you to be patient with them and say "I love you" even when they've spent the day telling you everything you did wrong, from the color of their cup to the outfit you picked out for them to wear.
And they need all of this from you, who must constantly remember that you're not sacrificing anything from them. You actually owe it to them, since you're the one who brought them into existence. They need you because you decided you needed them.
You Don't Want Kids
Some of you have read this and you're still like, "Mmmm, still not convinced I don't want to embark on this journey of wiping conditioner-art off the bathroom walls." To you, I would say you want kids. If there's even a shadow of desire in your heart holding you back from deciding an absolute than at some point you're probably going to want to do this parenthood thing and though there'll be trying days, it really is worth every effort if you want them.
To the rest of you who've read this while wincing through each paragraph—it's okay to not want kids simply because you don't want kids. Be true to yourself in that and quit second guessing it just because your aunt keeps asking you about it. You won't be missing out on some irreplaceable experience by avoiding parenthood because it's not an experience that everyone wants. Just like some of you have probably bungee-jumped or enjoy haunted houses or going to the gym, those are experiences I don't want to have and my life is not less worthwhile because I choose not to do them.
Okay, I probably do need to go to the gym, but, whatever.
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© 2018 Kierstin Gunsberg