Last week Isabella and I were in the car together, and she was in the back seat because I don’t let her sit in the front. I don’t think I’m ready to have a front seat companion and even though she's eleven, she's probably not even big enough. My general rule has always been, no talking in the car. It’s my sanctuary or something. The rule started when Isabella was a toddler. She was basically born talking and since I’m a fairly quiet person who is extremely sensitive to noise, it just made sense that everyone should cease talking for at least ten minutes on the drive to the library, or the grocery store. So, it’s worked all of these years. My kids look at books or we listen to an audiobook, sit in silence, or very rarely, listen to music. But then over the last year I’ve realized I should probably allow talking because that’s supposed to be a good time for parents to bond with their kids or something like that.
With the ban on talking lifted, it meant on this particular day that I got to hear about Meth and how it destroys your body and could very easily blow up your house if you try to make the drug. Noted. So far sixth grade has been most beneficial for learning all about drugs and alcohol in health class. I don’t think she’s learned anything else. And as I was listening to the riveting facts regarding Meth, I thought, why do people have kids? I mean, really, what is the reason? This also gives you a window into the weird thoughts in my brain.
When you sign up to have kids, you also sign up to be in a perpetual state of exhaustion, give them all of your money, put stress on your marriage, have stretch marks in places you didn’t even know you could have stretch marks, and thanks to birth, lose your ability to hold your pee. So why on earth do millions of people sign up for this? And why do the people with kids get confused when other people don’t want kids?
I actually don’t have an answer. I googled: “why do people have kids” and it led me down the rabbit hole that is the internet, citing reasons like, “to give and receive unconditional love” and “fix the mistakes of their parents”. First of all, Isaac doesn’t even tell me he loves me back. When I drop him off at school I say, “have a fun day! I love you!” and he says, “bye, Charley!” and runs to the building. He also doesn’t hug me, so the whole love things is definitely not a good reason to have a kid. Secondly, you might fix the mistakes of your own parents but you are surely going to make a million of your own mistakes, so that’s a horribly selfish reason to bring a human into the world.
I got pregnant with Isabella when I was in my last year of college (which was actually my fifth year of college). Before that I had a surprise pregnancy and before that, I wasn’t planning to ever have kids. I know, crazy turn of events. Doesn't make sense to me either, but something weird happens to the brain when you read those two lines on a positive pregnancy test. For me, after the panic dissipated, I thought what power my body had to hold and grow a life. And then I immediately fell in love. I am completely aware that it may not be this way for everyone, but with our first pregnancy that came and went so quickly, I fell in love, plain and simple. And though my miscarriage was extremely early, apparently these days it’s called a “chemical pregnancy” which seems so cruel, I felt like a mom, instantly. Because what does a mom do: protect, grow, love, nourish...whether you’re newly pregnant or the mother of three...and as I had a miscarriage, I felt I’d failed at all of those things.
From that point it seemed only natural to me that I would want to get pregnant again. I desperately wanted that life inside of me again. So I did, and I graduated from college about a month before Isabella was born. Two years later I still wasn't interested in having a second baby. I loved Isabella so deeply (and still do, obviously) that I couldn’t imagine having another child and thought we were perfect with just Isabella. But after some convincing, I told Walter he had two months and if I didn’t get pregnant one of those two months we were done. I got pregnant the first month. And of course, I fell in love.
But all of this still doesn’t the answer the question: why do people have kids. I mean, I didn’t have any good reasons to have children or get pregnant while I was still in college and planning to follow the path to become and English Professor.
So I thought about it some more and I came up with a few reasons:
- Once they’re old enough, they can get stuff for you so you don’t have to get up and do it yourself. This is assuming they can actually find what you ask for, so this isn’t always beneficial since kids are born blind and I'm not entirely sure that the male species ever recovers their sight. Literally, my kids can’t find something that’s right in front of them.
- They provide an excellent source of entertainment. Kids are basically a built in entertainment system. From the first sound they make you’re just in awe that they could do anything so wonderful as that little coo.
- They say ridiculously adorable things. Like last week when we were at a store and Isaac said, “hey Isabella, when we get outside, do you want to play that game where we try not to step on the cracks?” Obviously Isabella rolled her eyes and said, “no, I don’t want to play that game” in a disgusted voice, but she’s 11 and has been kidnapped temporarily by monsters that I assume will return her loving self when she’s about twenty.
- Hypothetically, they’ll take care of you when you’re old. This is assuming you don’t screw up their childhood.
- Even though I tell the people in my house if they say, “mom” one more time I’m going to change my name or explode, I still love it.
- Now that they’re older we can actually do fun things like play games that I actually enjoy and have real conversations...about meth.
This list is not conclusive and I don't pretend that it comes close to answering the main question.
I never had a strong pull to be a mother. In my mind it’s hard to believe we actually signed up for this job. Kids manage to drain you physically and mentally, every single day. They are literally the neediest creatures on the planet and always need food. But we get up every morning (and for many of you, multiple times each night) and do it all over again, pray we get it right, and love them as deeply as one can possibly love another.