Children – To have or not to have?

My friend is 28 years old, happily married and living a fulfilling life in London as a lawyer in a top firm. She brings in a substantial salary, which, coupled with her husband’s city wages affords her a life of holidays, meals out, regular haircuts and the odd trip to the day spa (when she can take the time out from her demanding job). My friend is fairly happy, although admits to taking drugs on a daily basis to cope with the stress of her job.

And now, having been married for a couple of years, and heading towards her thirties, she and her husband are thinking about having kids or, more to the point, NOT having kids.

We met up during her week off from work, which she’s taken “to have a bit of time out”. The first thing that strikes me is how well

A smiling baby lying in a soft cot (furniture).
Image via Wikipedia

dressed she is, with make-up and expensive looking shoes. I hand her the baby to hold while I make a cup of tea for us both. She is at first enthusiastic about holding baby, throwing him into the air and jiggling him around. Baby, although enthralled at getting some attention, promptly reproduces the contents of his feed from five minutes ago. She is not impressed with being covered in baby sick and thrusts the baby back at me. “These are my work clothes!”

She talks about how she doesn’t understand why people have babies. I start to try and convince her why people do it, why I did it and actually I find it is difficult to explain. The whole conversation makes me question why I had my two children and actually, why anyone goes and does ‘it’ – the baby thing.

Why ruin a good life, a beautiful thing, a life where you can have what you want when you want it. A life where you can go out at night, see friends and have a proper conversation, not interrupted by children nagging for another biscuit. A life where there is time to pluck eyebrows and shave legs and go for haircuts and have highlights.

A life where you can go to work, full-time, and not have to compromise career hopes or have to arrange childcare just so you can leave the house on your own. A life where conversations revolve around subjects other than nappies, sleep deprivation and toddler tantrums. A life where a sex life is something to enjoy and not just to fit in when you’ve got time (and energy).

I could go on and list many more aspects of the Good Life – life before children. But there must be another side to the argument. Why do 80% of the world’s population produce offspring. They can’t all be the result of a drunken night of passion. Surely there is some aspect of reasoning and decision making that results in so many couples and individuals having kids?

The truth is I know entirely why people have children because I have two myself. I have two gorgeous beautiful divine creations that can make me laugh, cry and groan with frustration all in the space of a few minutes. And although I’ve been through the mill with my experience of bringing up my children thus far, I wouldn’t change it for anything. (Although I wouldn’t mind having a bit more money, some nice clothes, the odd day at a spa, and a holiday in the Caribbean!)

What do you think?

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  • Morag Gaherty

    As a mother myself, the one topic I am unable to broach with my best friend is her lack of children. Because I know she always wanted them from her twenties, but just never found the relationship in which to have them. So she chose to become the career woman instead and is very successful at that. I can very much see her in your depiction of your friend, though: in theory they like the idea of a little baby to play with, but not if it messes up their smart clothes or lifestyle. :)

    Interestingly, from when we were younger, it was always me who had no thought of having children. I am not maternal by nature, though my late husband always was – very much so. We were married for about 7 years before we had our first son – my own parents stayed quiet on the subject, as they did not know whether the issue was about fertility or not wanting kids, but my in laws regularly quizzed us on when we were going to provide them with grandchildren. Sigh!

    Anyway, I was ambivalent but my husband was keen, so we ended up having two boys, two years apart. From the beginning, I stayed at home, though I ran a successful internet business. And equally, Daddy did all the Mummy-type stuff: if they needed to wake a parent in the night, the boys knew it was never to be me!

    I love my children, and they are a joy to be with, though we will never have the kind of mumsy relationship that so many of my friends have with their children. It’s just the way we are. On the other hand, my boys are both independent and self-reliant, and that bodes very well for their future.

  • LynnTulip

    I’m thinking carefully how I reply ;)

    I had my own children [two daughters] close in age when I was under 25, married and although I enjoyed my job – it was just that a job at the time and I was more than happy to stay at home and be a mother for the first few years.

    Having children brought another dimension to our marriage, probably more than one if I am honest. We shared responsibilities and roles, sleepless nights, messy homesteads and multiple joy in watching their development into real little people.

    Now grown up, these two girls continue to give me endless joy, sleepless nights and my own homestead is still messy and I see them as independent young assertive women both successful in what they do.

    I can’t remember if we consciously decided on the planned number 1, but I was delighted when no 2 was on the way. I cannot imagine my life without my children.

  • Suhad Jarrar

    i share similar story with Lynn. i had my three when i was 23. as i was young i didnt plan or not plan them, it just happend. i graduated from university with a degree and two of them, the third followed soon after. they gave me all the joy and worry in the world but i cant imagine my life without them. they are the centre of my life, the most loved creatures in my world. i live for them and every thing i do i do it for them very happily. i advice my precious daughters not to have many children, i think one child makes you a parent and that is fulfilling enough.

    very honestly, and i hope if my beloved daughters read this they wouldnt misunderstood it, if i am to be given the choice again i would not have children. it is an overwhelming responsibilty emotionally, mentally, physically and financially. i would enjoy my life as a career woman and enjoy my neices and nephews (occassionally). but they are here i wish them the best in life. i am very proud of how they developed into independent successful kind women and they never cease in making me proud of them. its worth having them after all.

  • Sarah Arrow

    The only one of mine that was planned, was my youngest. The middle one was born at the beginning of September and I decided that I would have the next one as quick as possible so that they could be in the same school year together. Hubby was less keen, so she arrived in October instead of the August!

    I never planned to have kids, but wouldn’t swap them for anything.

  • Lauren

    Thanks so much for your comments Morag.

    Independent and self-reliant boys are a gift to any would-be daughter-in-laws to be – I know as my husband is just one of those rare types! It is one of the things I most admire about my mother-in-law.

    Like you, I never thought much about having children when I was younger, and it was my sister who was always good with babies. Yet when the time came, I had an overwhelming desire to have a child. I am very very fortunate that my husband and I didn’t have any problems having either children, but know that the question ‘to have or not to have?’ isn’t even an option for some individuals or couples.

  • Anon

    Reading this article and all of your comments just further confirms my own thoughts that the decision is an entirely personal one, that there is no one right answer and that it’s the biggest decision you’ll ever make (if you get to make it that is!)

    Unfortunately you only get one go at this life (or only one that we will remember anyway) and while I would want two bites of the cherry, one with kids and one without, it’s just not an option.

    I’m in my early thirties, male, married and without an entourage…. Yet! At the moment the one largest factor in my decision to have children is the fact that I think I’ll regret it if I don’t. And because I don’t have that burning desire and listening to all your comments, I realize that the most important thing to me is that before I have them I need to be mentally prepared to give up all those nice things Lauren talks about. Yes you can still have them to an extent, but they’re going to be few and far between, so it’s going to be no good mourning their loss. What I’m hoping and preying for (although I’m not religious…!) is that my whole construct of this world and what priorities I have will change beyond all recognition once we’re blessed with little ones, so that they truly become the centre of my world and therefore make the loss all the more bearable ! It’s a leap of faith and one that I’m only just lumbering up for. Wish me luck!

  • Anonymous

    Do you think you have a very different perspective now though, than when you were actually in the baby phase?

  • Anonymous

    I agree that one child can definitely be enough, and although I have two, and wouldn’t do anything to change the fact I have my gorgeous second child, I do think that there are lots of advantages to sticking at just the one… especially if you are able to bring that child up in a community of other similar aged children, or cousins etc.

  • Anonymous

    I knew one lady who had three in the same school year – one born in september and twins born in August. Definitely one way of getting it all over and done with very quickly!

  • LynnTulip

    I remember the highs and the lows about having children; but am glad that I had them so young. I think it would have been a different case if I had continued working and developing a career and started planning a family in my 30′s.

    For women today there are so many more pressures and I think being a younger grand parent is a better option.

  • Anonymous

    My sister always says I have it easy as I get to see her experience things first, make the mistakes and then I have a more informed choice. We regularly talk about the To have or not to have kids debate. Depending on what day she has had does she tell me to have them or not!

    I wish I had the burning desire to have them, I thought I would and did as a child but now I don’t, I’m not worried about what I will have to give up and I’m ready for my house to become chaos and for sleepless nights, what I’m not sure I’m ready for is the worry of actually having them and all that it brings.

    I don’t want to have children just so I have someone to look after me when I’m older nor just so I can see what me and my husband will look like, however intrigued I am of that, I want children to create a home and a family which I think that is what life is all about, however if I can’t have children I think I ll be ok with that and would want to be a very or more involved with my niece and nephew and give my sister that well earned break she deserves. I suppose I’m lucky to think like that, as I know for some women not being able to have them is not a choice they would like to make.

    I am worried how becoming a mum will affect my career, I ve worked hard over the last 10 years to get to where I am and although I could do with a change of pace, i said change not slower pace! it’s a hard thing to give up when you have worked so hard to get there. Is that selfish? Maybe my job defines who I am and so not being it and becoming a mum throws me into the unknown.

    i worry about the world they are coming into and want to bring them into it for the right reasons. Do we need more children when there are so many without parents already?

    Anyway I know there is no right anwser and it’s down to personal choice and biology, all I do know is being a mum is the hardest job there is and i admire all mums out there especially my mum and sister xxx

  • Anonymous

    You are right, it is such a personal decision, and what might be the right decision for some people, isn’t necessarily right for others.

    In my mind, the most challenging and time consuming part of bringing up children is having very young children – and that part is of course only for a short time, especially if you have only one child, or have children close together. So if you do end up mourning the loss of any freedom… just think, it is only for a season. Before long, they grow up and gradually you’ll have your own time, energy and space back.

    I can’t believe you don’t have experience of having children already as it sounds like you are totally clued up about what to expect, and you sound very ready to make the decision. Wish I had been as mature as you sound!

    Wishing you lots of luck with whichever path you choose.


  • Anonymous

    Why do you think it is a better option to be a younger grandparent?

  • LynnTulip

    More energy, more in touch although it is a conundrum having to balance support/seeing the grandchildren and working.

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