What you will learn: I talk about not being into kids, and then what it was like being surprised with pregnancy – and some of the most helpful things that helped me come to terms with it (and my personal hangups.)
Its fun being “that” person that didn’t want them and now wants three, ha ha ha. I hope you enjoy my honest article.
Reading Time: 5 minutes
When you get to your early 30s and start facing the reality of your biology and thinking about your future, you dive deep into your inner worlds of introspection. It’s difficult. And intensely private. Which is ironic, because whether you are going to have kids suddenly becomes everyone’s business at 30 and people start talking to you about it – or at least dropping hint bombs.
At 25 I started dreading the whole kids question because I wasn’t feeling it – and still was not into the idea at 30 when I got pregnant, so I took on a defensive shell.
First, Ask Yourself Honestly What “Story” Are You In?
Looking back I was a vocal member of the “I don’t like children” tribe. I always complained about kid photos on Facebook and even deleted a few people who were particularly enthusiastic. I feel awful about that now. I missed out on some really wonderful little peoples’ early lives because I was committed to this “I’m not into kids” story I had for myself. I rallied against events where there were infants or toddlers. I made a point of not going to baby showers. As I said, I feel awful about this now!
I had lots of hangups with parents – it seemed like everyone sat around and stared at the child rather than had adult conversation. I remember one Christmas everyone sat staring at this one child and nobody was having a conversation. I tried engaging someone in a topic totally unrelated to children and it circled back to children. At most events with children present, I would huddle with the guys and avoid baby / children talk. I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden nobody could talk about other things. But the guys weren’t as bad, so I stuck with them.
The quotes on motherhood didn’t make my fallopian tubes curl up into little swirly hearts and my ovaries pop. If I’m being honest, they made me throw up in my mouth a little. I just didn’t respond to the “overwhelming love” of a baby. I’m not a touchy feely type.
I prefer logic and evidence. I feel like I was in trouble right from the start, as the discussing of the benefits of children is very love-and emotion-oriented in our female world. In MBTI terms, there is a lot of F. I’m a T. I began wondering if that meant I was truly ill-equipped and a bad fit for being a parent.
I even made a point of avoiding babies. Every time I saw one swaddled up in a blanket it might as well have been a Sith Lord staring back at me with unseeing eyes. People who tried to get me into a conversation about families, babies and parenting were probably thwarted by my awkwardness and obvious discomfort.
As 28-29 approached, I realized biology would force some decisions.
How I Started Exploring the Question:
It was in secret. I would grab a coffee and sneak off to Chapters where I’d read books on whether or not to have kids, like Maybe Baby, which helped me because of the diversity of its entries (baby forums are NOT diverse in opinions.)
I also read a ton of those forum posts and got myself in too deep. I’m actually a bit disappointed that when you google significant questions around becoming a parent, forums are often the first results you get. They are not the most neutral place to go.
I also started a list of my hangups around having kids, and what fears and perceptions I had. One by one, I started chipping away at them and deconstructing them.
Take a Look at What You Are Googling
Did you know that counter-terrorism specialists can tell how far “radicalized” an individual is based on forensic analysis of their computer and what they have been googling? Turns out, our googling can reveal some powerful information.
“Should I have kids or not?” I cannot tell you how many times I typed these words into my chrome browser between 2010-2012. I also googled “What is so great about children” “the benefits of having children” and “the cons of having children” “do children make you less happy” and “why children suck” – I was genuinely on the fence about having children. Leaning toward no. My search terms changed the further I got into exploration. “Children ending career” “unhappiness and parenting” “are people happier with children” “will I sacrifice my career” “why I didn’t have kids.” “Why do women change when they have kids.” Those were some my later googles. You can see where I was at mentally.
This ambivalence was further intensified by my Facebook newsfeed. “20 (shit) things nobody told you about having children” or “5 things mothers regret” or “10 terrible things about giving birth which will traumatize you to read.” “Five biggest mistakes parents make.” These articles are “click bait” – exploiting fear because they know people will read them. It’s like the news. The news reports on sensational, scary things because people will watch those stories. Take a look at Today’s Parent Magazine and there will be some kind of element of fear parents have on the front cover. Go ahead. I guarantee it.
There’s also an awful lot of martyrdom and self sacrifice in the online dialogue around motherhood.
Some of those articles are hilarious to read now that I have kids but oh man were they rough when I was debating still. The internet is the worst resource / place for advice when you are debating a big decision, because only the “extreme” versions of either option go viral and make it to your social feeds.
Then, if I managed to find a good article, it was waaaaaaay too touchy feely squishy for me. No straightup, rational, clear headed assessments.
It was extremes: Dark foreboding articles inducing fear or gushing articles on feelings. I actually started trying to find mens’ blogs on the decision because I felt their writing would better fulfill my way of analyzing things.
My gut was 75% no, 25% yes. And getting pushed more toward the “No” every time I read an article about how challenging // isolating // terrible // painful // sacrificial being a parent is. I had my hangups about children and the more I read, the more North American online parenting culture made me feel like I would lose all of my life, self identity and ability to travel. WTF! Basically all of my fears compounded.
The Mistake I Made from the Start
My mistake was thinking that other people’s versions of parenthood would become my version of parenthood. On the internet, it’s clear that everybody wants you to do things the way they do things. Especially Moms. If you don’t do what they do, watch out!
Parenting / mom groups online are a microcosm of society, really – there is always in-group pressure from society at large – in any topic. The group wants you to be like them, do like them and think like them. If you don’t, you are an outsider. And that’s a scary path to take.
One of the BEST Things You Can Do is a Few Counselling or Therapy Sessions to Explore your Decisions and Feelings About Having Children and Becoming a Parent.
Working with a counsellor/therapist/psychologist/coach helps you deconstruct all of the “internalizing” you are doing in your attempts to “preview” being a parent, and figure out who you are in all of that external chatter. Which pieces you’d like to take up, and which you should ignore and throw out.
When I found out I was pregnant, I signed up for counselling.
Best thing I ever did.
By working with a Psychologist, I was able to :
-Understand exactly what my hangups were about being a parent
-What it was about having a child that would get me and my personality type excited – (because the talk that was out there wasn’t getting me excited.)
-The models of parenting I liked and didn’t like.
-Understanding our cultural background: The types of parenting that are subconsciously pushed on us by media, society at large, etc.
-Why and how I could create my own model of parenting.
-How to work with fear.
-How to embrace love and bonding.
-How to design a version of motherhood that worked for me and get clear on my values and what excites me.
6 sessions. Covered through my work’s professional assistance plan and insurance health plan. In hindsight, knowing what I got from it, I would have paid $200 per hour to do it. $1200 to revolutionize my thinking, come to peace with myself, and address my mindset was WELL worth it.
The Universe Has a Sense of Humour
It turns out, at the age of 30, my decision was made for me with a surprise pregnancy at the worst possible timing in terms of life events. My husband had just received word he was starting the Fire Department’s Intensive Training Academy, and my Mum had just received word that her terminal stage IV lung cancer had metastisized to the brain, greatly shortening our timeline. This is a big reason why I got my butt to a psychologist. That’s a lot of shit to deal with, and I knew it.
2013 I was taking care of the two most important people in my life. My intellectual capacity was maxed out helping with studying fire exam material and testing my husband. My emotional capacity was maxed out in caregiving for my mum. Layer onto that hyperemesis the entire pregnancy and it was a really, really shit time. I was the most enthusiastic parent-to-be you have EVER met.
But there’s something I need to tell you.
In 2013, I had my daughter, and then in 2015 I had my son. In 2016 I am sitting here telling you that I would have another in a heartbeat.
That is a RADICAL shift in my thinking, and in my life plans. So I want to bring to you the perspective of a “logical” type who has great respect for both paths. Life is damn great with kids, and it is damn great without. I was forced into the first option before I was ready, so this post is really great for people who have decided to just “go for it” despite fears and hangups.
So let’s get to the meat of this post.
What does a 32 year old female who loves her career, has a bazillion interests outside of family and parenting, and doesn’t strongly identify with the deep maternal “feels” of motherhood have to say, about not wanting kids then having them?
And what questions would I personally have wanted answered in a less cray-cray-way?
Am I happier with kids?
If I am being totally, 100% objective:
My answer is yes. I smile and laugh far, far, far more times in a day than I ever did before children. I experience the pure emotion of happiness, laughter and enthusiasm / engagement constantly throughout the day. I have more fun moments in a day than before I had children.
Yes my days are punctuated with frustration, anger, sadness and these versions are more intense than when I had them pre-kids, but they are by far the minority in my emotional range. I would not say those emotions occur more if I was to sit down and chart every day. The pro emotions outweigh the negative by far. I am a positive person who creates her own reality, and it continued with kids; that wasn’t affected. However, not every parent would agree with me.
Did I feel the Bond?
Not straightaway with my daughter. I did not feel the overwhelming love, so I was highly skeptical of this concept. However, it kicked in around with her when she was 4 months old. My son, instant.
I have a feeling I may be flamed for this in the comments, but I WISH someone had explained this to me in these terms: If you have ever owned a puppy or kitten, you know you are just overwhelmed by the cuteness and mega obsessed? Your own kid does that to you. It is called the kitten effect. It’s like having a puppy or a kitten that NEVER grows up into a dog or cat. Yes, THAT awesome! You just look at your kid and the “aawwwwww” takes over. That is most of my day. However there are moments of suck. But remember, overall great, small punctuations of suck.
Did I change once I had kids?
In terms of my personality? No. I’m still social. I’m still me. I still leave the house and do fun interesting things, with fun interesting people, that have nothing to do with children. When I am kid free, my conversations try to remain kid free too. That’s my thang.
I am still just as motivated to wear makeup, go to the gym, do social things. It takes me about 15-20 extra minutes to plan events logistically because I plan for the kids’ care.
If anything, it improved me a bit. I’m more in touch with my feelings, more empathetic and warm overall. It also boosted my motivation to go do fun things. I’m an ENTP – so my “thing” as a parent is defined as letting them explore / adventure / learn. This is perfect. I have THREE buddies to explore the world with now.
Did Kids Make Me Broke?
Nah. People bitch a lot about the cost of diapers, wipes and food. It will cost you $150 a month-ish. But my perspective is this: Why bitch about something you need to help a human being survive? Just get over it. I broke down the cost of diapers and you know what, I am VERY happy paying 25 cents each diaper to not have my kid poo on me and approx. $1 to feed him each time.
Did having kids ruin chances for international travel? (Because that is NOT cool)
International travel is a BIG DEAL to me. Guess what? We did 6 flights in the first year of our daughter’s life. Because it is a big deal to me. Here’s the interesting thing, too. Because we had to plan logistics and our activities a bit more, we did more activities and cool things on our trips than we did when it was just us two, husband and wife. The best trip back to England (out of 15-20 trips in my life time) was in 2013 with a 6 month old. NO jokes. Having a little one requires you to commit and follow through and plan things out. You see more, do more, experience more, you just modify the geographical range of your explorations and have a home base to work from. The rest, no problem.
Did this impact my career?
No. If you want your job back, in Canada the law is such that you will be given your job back. In fact, my work ethic, motivation and enjoyment of my job has greatly increased. It provides a nice counter balance to the new additional areas of my life (parenting.)
Sitting alone at a computer with a coffee, once seen as mundane, is pleasurable now. In fact, I think a new mum is one of the best employees a company can have. They are productivity goddesses IMHO. I also stress less about minor things at work and handle everything with a positive can-do attitude.
Did my lifestyle change?
I still workout. I still see friends, I still wear makeup and decent clothes. I still have goals, ambitions, passions. I do all of this because I still want to! My old lifestyle is still there. And I have a second awesome lifestyle layered on top of it. I italicized that. Layered on top. My old life style is there. With a cherry on top. It didn’t go anywhere.
I have three iCalendars on my iPhone: 1.) “My Life” 2.) Childcare, and 3.) Ideas for events around town for the kids But you must proactively work on this. It’s far too easy to let a few things slip and default to letting your partner go out instead of you.
Am I more stressed out?
No. Parenting and maternity leave is a different (and refreshing) pace of life. You live 100% in the present moment. There’s no time for past or future, you’re just dealing with now. Granted, the now is usually involving keeping a small, uncoordinated human alive.
Lots of time feeding a baby – but reframe it – It’s 20 minutes of built-in meditation time every day, when close my eyes, sit in a quiet room and I rock a sleepy baby to sleep.
When do you have time in your old life to close your eyes, chill and rock slowly back and forth in a chair?
You Give Less of a Fuck About Daily Minutiae
I have to decide what’s worth a battle and what is not. I give less of a fuck about many, many things I cared a lot about before kids. I care about keeping a small human alive and mostly meltdown free. Much more clarity and insight.
When you hear dialogue about parents freaking out at their kids / being stressed I think it’s misleading. If you see / read about parents melting down, argueing, etc. I would say it’s not about stress, it’s about emotional intensity in the moment meeting some level of unpreparedness or “off-ness” in the parent – for whatever reason, be it fatigue, everything happening at once, or hanger. It’s not just a kid melting down that sucks, it has to be paired with you being a little off, too. If you engage in self-care, the kid will meltdown but you are in a better place to cope and what from what, in coaching, we call “gentle irreverence.”
I wouldn’t say that it is about your life being more stressful. It’s just that you deal with a human who is a ball of pure emotion and sometimes you absorb it, and sometimes you are super tired / hungry / impatient so it kind of explodes in your face. And it lasts maybe 10 minutes. Then it’s over. I’ve had hangry fights in foreign countries with my husband, too. And there were no kids involved. Because we were both off and faced with an unexpected situation or thrown off.
Did you lose your identity?
Eff no, and every article I read makes me feel like I am either going to change into a resentful & tired Mum, or hyper-driven helicopter parent whose life revolves around the kid and completing amazing feats of domestic goddess-ness. It’s just so extreme. There’s no medium place in the “examples” online.
Seek out people who share the same values as yours and are living a lifestyle you aspire to. Stop reading/following/listening to all of the other stuff.
The various “parental identities” are in your face all the time. Filter it.
But What About the First 3 Months?
Pre-child identities do take a back seat in the 4th trimester (first 3 months) it’s honestly just figuring out this extra layer on your life and you’re super whacked. But it begins to come back gradually.
You do hear the bad stories that put you off: Your self identity and confidence can fade away. It will happen if you intentionally work at it. And that’s why I started the GML.
I fight hard (sometimes it involves real fights too!) to maintain a sense of self outside of parenting, hence my restless pursuit of other hobbies and prioritizing time for myself. This includes gym time, blog writing time, jewellery making time, friends time and just straight up “fuck off and leave me alone” time. Aka nap time.
If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this blog article it is this.
THE BIGGEST LIE ABOUT HAVING KIDS IS THAT YOU “LOSE” YOUR OLD LIFE.
THE BIGGEST TRUTH ABOUT HAVING KIDS IS THAT YOU ADD A NEW “LAYER” ONTO YOUR OLD LIFE. YOUR OLD LIFE IS STILL THERE IF YOU WANT IT TO BE.
AND YOU GET TO DECIDE EXACTLY WHAT THAT NEW LAYER WILL BE LIKE.
Do you like children overall now?
Yes, yes I do! I’m a pretty rational logical person. Having a kid actually taught me to be less of a robot and “feel” more. I’m grateful to all the little people in my life for that.
I’m 1000% less awkward around them. But I still like sitting and having adult conversation about non-children things, while the children run around and entertain themselves. Again, not for everybody – but that’s how I roll.
Obviously, I don’t like feeling the lows – like sadness or fear or frustration. But that doesn’t happen more than it did pre-kids because I work hard on self-care so that I can handle those moments with gentle irreverence.
Kids opened up joy, happiness, all that squishy stuff. But I still don’t really hang out in that “domain.”
Lululemon has a *controversial* quote on their manifesto that goes a bit like this “Children are the orgasm of life; you do not know how awesome they are until you have one.”
This people is the absolute, 100% truth. I’m honestly glad the universe derailed my no-children plans. No regrets here. So glad it happened for me.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford.
If you love your life sans children, cool. Awesome. Rock it! Have a fucking amazing life, because you will! I think there are so many people with AMAZING talents and things to share with the world, who really need to focus on that in their life path. And I’m so glad more people have the courage to say no to kids and follow their gift and share it. I am a HUGE supporter of these women.
If you are debating children. Cool. Awesome. Take a risk and step into the unknown if you fancy. Have a fucking amazing life, because you will! And all that talk about “reliving your childhood” is everything people say it will be. 🙂
I, “don’t like children” Carina, am sitting here in my lounge with a huge coffee, on 5 hours of sleep, with a toddler and a baby, telling you I love it. And I’d have another. Whaaaaaaaat?