October 29, 2009

The Kids Shaped Spleen Hole Inside Me

Posted in Family, fertility, kids, Mother, mothering, Parent, sexuality tagged , , , , , at 9:52 am by Eostre

ella and me

Me holding my wonderful niece when she was just over a month old

There are few things in my life that I am absolutely sure of right now. One of them is that I don’t want kids. This is a fairly new thing. For most of my life I thought I wanted kids, not because I really did, but because I didn’t know it was okay to not want them. During this past year, when I finally figured this out, it was a major revelation for me. I think I can look to that discovery as a turning point in my recent life, a shift from the person I was to the person I am becoming. I don’t know why this realization has taken on such importance for me, but in my mind I have tied the me who wanted kids to the me who was stuck trying to fulfill what I thought a Good Christian Girl was supposed to be. Sure, I wanted a career too, but I definitely (even if I didn’t admit it) wanted a husband and family too. It was what I was supposed to want, and it was what I was taught I had to have to be valuable.

Like so many things from my Evangelical past, the idea that I should want kids (and a husband) has been kind of hard to shake. Even now, when I know that that is something I don’t want, I still feel guilt over those feelings. So many people think that not wanting kids is unnatural, somehow, for a woman. I mean, it’s not that I am not maternal, and I do really like kids (at least for a set period of time), and I am, usually, a very loving person who likes to take care of people. I have a 13-year-old nephew and a 7-month-old niece both of whom I love to distraction, but I am content being an aunt and not a mother.

I refuse to be defined by my past and where I come from. Yes, I am still dragging a huge net full of baggage behind me, but I am shedding it, piece by piece. And realizing that I don’t want kids was a huge step. I do not want to live the life that someone else thinks I should, I have tried that and it doesn’t work. I am figuring out who I am and what that means, and realizing that I don’t want kids was like finding a part of myself and fitting it inside me, like a missing spleen; one more piece to fill up the new me after I have emptied out the old. I’m not sure of much right now, but every new thing I figure out is a treasure, and knowing that I don’t want kids puts me one step closer to knowing who I am, and what I do want, and that is invaluable to me.

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October 25, 2009

Having Children Young: Reflections on the Mormon Directive

Posted in Family, kids, mothering at 9:55 pm by Gaia

baby A, 2 days old

baby A, 2 days old

Three months ago, I gave birth to my second child. A girl this time. Though a bit sleep deprived and stressed out about how to care for both her and my 3 year old son, I’m absolutely thrilled to have her, as is my husband. Getting her involved several unpleasant trips to the fertility clinic, so we feel terribly lucky that it all worked out so well.

Having this baby has made me ponder Mormon Church leaders’ directives to not postpone having children. This advice (command?) never made much of an impact on me as a young married woman. I waited six years after my marriage to begin our family. I was almost 29, and I was always glad I waited, though my husband would have been happy to begin our family sooner. By the time I had my son, I really wanted a baby. I was ready. I would have struggled and had a much harder time with motherhood and marriage if I had had him a year or two into our marriage.

While my experience with postponing my family has definitely been an overall good one, I now appreciate, more than ever before, the idea of not waiting too long to begin. I had problems getting pregnant at 30. If I had waited until I was 38, it could have been that much harder, I imagine. Having experienced some infertility, I now ironically find myself tentatively advising my friends who are in their 30’s and getting married to not wait too long before trying to get pregnant, if they know for sure that they do want children eventually.

While my appreciation for this directive to not postpone families has grown because of my own experience with infertility, I am left wondering just why there continues to be an emphasis on having children young. Mormon Relief Society President Julie Beck’s 2007 ‘Mothers Who Know’ talk reinforces the idea. She states:

“President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels.”

I don’t know if she meant the second half of her sentence to explain the first half – i.e. that couples should not postpone children because children are our greatest jewels. But if she did, one can easily argue that children can still be our greatest jewels (I’m uncomfortable with that metaphor, but I’ll go with it), whether one gives birth to them in one’s thirties or one’s twenties.

The Kimball talk Beck references, “To the Mothers In Zion” gives additional hints as to why he implored young people to not put off having children. He seems to associate having children young with having many children, since he spends a bit of time talking about the joys of large families.

With the decrease in emphasis on having large families, however, I am left wondering if there are other, often unspoken reasons for Mormon leaders’ continuing emphasis on having children early into the marriage. Here are a few possible reasons I’ve come up with.

1) having children young might keep fragile young marriages together, as couples are given additional incentives to try to work through their problems.

2.) encouraging women to not postpone children often prevents them from establishing themselves in the workforce, thus making the gender role division that Church leaders advocate more likely.

3) since Church leaders see having children as such a huge factor in character and personal development, they think that the earlier one starts, the better a person he or she can become.

Personally, I don’t find these three to be persuasive reasons to have children young. (And in fact, regarding the first two, I actually find them potentially damaging.)

However, the older I get, the more I do understand that having children young is not necessarily a recipe for disaster. I like to think of my friend who had her babies at 22 and 24. Having done the stay at home mom thing for the first few years of her kids’ lives, she’s now in her late thirties and is one year away from completing her Ph.D. Certainly there are many ways to conduct a successful life. And children, whether they come early or late, don’t mean the end of studying, learning, and moving forward professionally.

October 21, 2009

Hello, I am a Hairy Red Demon (Or, I don’t want kids.)

Posted in fertility, kids, mothering tagged , , at 4:10 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

This may be the one area where I fit the image of what people reductively think is feminist. I am 28 (or 29 on Friday) and I’ve just never wanted them. Among my core group of women friends, for the first time in my life, I don’t want to back down and offer the required add-on: “But maybe I’ll want them later on in life” because the ratio of 3:4 of no-babies to yes-plz. is pretty good. But I still walk the streets of dating and strangers with a mild level of trepidation and guilt.

The assumptions are the following:

1. I don’t know what I’m talking about, and some day I will change my mind.

2. I am a mean, selfish, scary poophead.

3. I am a delusional feminist who just hates men and keeps her uterus all to herself. (Once my at the time bf said, “Just give me your uterus: that’s all I want” in discussing what he needed to get back together with me.)

4. I hate kids.

5. I’m trying to make a point.

6. I will be lonely as I get older and I won’t have many people to love.

Many guys begin to date me, and I always feel the duty, when I see those sparkly luvbunnies hoping around in their eyes, to inform (warn?) them of my position on the matter. And the response, after initial shock/weeping, is a knowing smile. Gently they say, “That’s okay. Kids aren’t all that important to me”, only to follow that statement up with a cute story: “You know, my good friend [name] didn’t want kids for the longest time, but. . . .”

But I love kids. I would much rather play with them during holidays than have boring conversations sitting with the adults. Granted, I have an irrational fear of holding (and dropping) babies (they are slippery, okay?). But I just have never had the desire to have any of my own. I haven’t really put too much thought into it. Much like I’ve never put too much thought into becoming a firefighter. I mean, I respect firefighters, and I am sure glad they are around, and if a calendar of sexy men in uniform should happen my way, I will look, but the thought of becoming one barely crossed my mind. It’s kind of the same with birthing children.

I guess I AM selfish though. I have all these things I want to do, experience, give, take care of, mother, love. . . and choosing those things for me, means selfishly not choosing others. But that is a part of life. In the mothering category,  I am good at listening. I’m good at telling people that they are truly beautiful (I never lie), consoling a friend, helping those I love figure out tough decisions, and just generally being around when someone feels sad or wants to celebrate something they feel good about. And for me, that is a way I mother, even in my selfishness.

I hope that I won’t be lonely. I want to get married to my best friend and romantic love I can lust and laugh with. I want to continue to be more in love with my girlfriends and family each day, showing me how to love by their own love. I want to have a house full of people I take care of, maybe single mothers who need a helping hand, a community college student abandoned by her family, my friends if they lose their job, and of course a man I commit my life too, party guests, other couples, maybe (MAYBE) animals (my roommate shall not believe this). =) For me, it seems a little paranoid to have children because I won’t be lonely, because I’ll have someone to take care of me. If I would have kids, I would hope there would be some other reason. For me, I can’t personally think of any.

I love when people have babies or want them. I’m so happy when I hear of my friends having babies they want, and my heart absolutely breaks when I hear of my friends not able to have the children they want just yet (but they will get them, I know). Pregnant women are incredibly beautiful. And little babies are cute. I love the differences among our group, and we can celebrate each other even when our lives desire different things.

So, I don’t think I’m not wanting kids for a particular reason. I’m the most un-feminist feminist that could possibly exist if your idea of a feminist is what it is in most people’s minds. My tendencies, personality, etc. really has nothing to do with anyone, but me. I can’t explain it. It’s like the way I like peppermint and chocolate ice cream or I like being on stage, or I like to spend most of my life in school. It’s just who I am and what I do. I don’t think more growing up/falling in love, etc. is really going to make this hairy red monster adore orange sherbet or firefighting. It doesn’t really happen that way.