Thursday, May 13, 2010

Future Planning

I have been married for almost 4 years. My husband and I do not have children as of yet (should we decide to do so). We moved into our condo a few months before we got married. We like it, it’s nice, we don’t have to worry about taking care of a yard or shoveling snow, which is always helpful. But eventually we would like our own house, property, grass, snow and all. Some of my friends are still single, some married, one engaged, one of the verge of engagement. Only a select few have children.

In theory, I would like to have kids. It would be fun to watch them grow and to observe childhood from a different perspective, to have someone to depend on when we grow old. But sometimes I am not sure I want to deal with the all-nighters, the lack of sleep, the feedings, the diapers, the toys and other paraphernalia all over the house, all the stuff you need just to go somewhere. I have never felt the urge to have children. I know plenty of women who “ooo” and “ahhh” over babies. I have never been one of them. I enjoy babies, I like babies, I hold babies and play with them. But I do not fall all over myself just to get a peek at one. I do not look into carriages as they pass me. Maybe my biological clock is broken, or maybe it just hasn’t started ticking yet. I don’t know. I like children; I’m just not sure I want them.

I hear all the time about how great being a parent is, how it’s an experience like no other, how it’s the most important job you will ever have in life. I get that. I don’t doubt any of it. I see the relationship between parents and children all the time, and while I may not have first-hand experience, I can understand and appreciate it. I have two nieces and a nephew that I would give my life for (some may say that it’s not nearly the same thing – I’m not saying that it is, but it’s the closest experience I have to offer). And I love them dearly. That doesn’t mean I want, or should have, my own. I often wonder if I’d even be a good mother. I’m too anal to parent correctly. I’d yell at them for not using a coaster under their sippy cup. Their need for a diaper change would interfere with my to-do list. And the unplanned events that come with children – forget it! I’m just kidding, of course. These things would not be a problem in the long run – you do what you have to do. It’s just thinking about them that make me want to hide under the bed. Trust me when I say that having children would be a challenge to my type A, almost clinical OCD personality (though when is it not a challenge?) – just acquiring a husband was something I had to get used to, another person who moved things and didn’t put things in their place. It was tough but I have let some things go, believe it or not (he makes the bed every morning and I – no longer – complain about how it’s done). Seriously. Yet, I think having children would be the best thing to calm me down – I’d have no choice but to go with the flow. It’s kind of an oxymoron, but there you have it.

Right now, I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of those who are married and those who have children. My husband and I have been married long enough that people are always asking when (not if) we’re having children (though to be fair, there were some people who asked that a month after our wedding). And sometimes it feels like the natural next step, to have children. But that’s not reason enough to have them. Among our family, we are one of the only married couples without children. Sometimes when we’re with family (and sometimes with friends who have children), I feel I have nothing to offer to a conversation. Most of the time, the talk is about the children – how they’re doing in school, what they are involved in, what their next step is. Great! But what can I add to that? A story about how my cat tore up the carpet in one of his crazy fits, running up and down the stairs at mach speed? Or about how once he left the litter box too early and trailed a mess behind him? I don’t think so. It’s not that people alienate me in conversation. They just talk about what they know. And as is the case with my friends from work, when together, you talk shop, you talk about the thing that takes up a good portion of your time. And for most people at this stage in my life it’s their children, something I cannot contribute to.

Since there are loads of children in our family, the newest being only two months old, it’s hard not to think about the future and whether or not we want children. I’ll be 32 this year – not old, not old at all, still in my prime even. But let’s face it; I’m not getting any younger. And my husband is several years older than me. So realistically, in terms of age and medical issues, it’s something we need to address, or at least consider addressing, and soon.

I’m not a huge future planner. I do write down goals I want to achieve during the year and events that will take place in a few months or so. But I don’t necessarily consider them “future” planning, at least not in the way that some might. I don’t have a 5-year plan. In fact, there isn’t much I plan beyond a year’s time, and that’s even long-term for me. I’m more of a day-to-day planner. I spend a lot of today’s time planning for things tomorrow to make my day run smoothly. I plan a week ahead of time for things that need to get done and places I need to be. That’s about it. I have a friend who is more of a long-term planner – she strategically planned every one of her pregnancies for various reasons. She has a goal of where she would like to be in 5 years’ time. That’s how she rolls. We just have different personalities. But I also think that watching my father suffer from a long-term debilitating disease has contributed to my lack of future planning as well as my need to control as much as possible since there is so much in life that is uncontrollable. It’s hard to plan that far down the road when you don’t know in what direction that road will go.

And maybe that’s what scares me so much about being a parent – a lot of what comes with that is uncontrollable, unpredictable. In the beginning of the year, I wrote about my goals for 2010. To be a bit more specific, one of them is to let go of some of the fear that comes with the unpredictable. I have done some things that point me in the right direction, though I still have a long way to go. I take comfort in what I can plan for and am trying to roll with the rest of it, something I have had a hard time with in the past. I tend to hold on to things fast and furious and pray they don’t change.

As for having children, only time will tell. And I’m not going to rush that decision. Some believe it’s selfish to not have children. I think it’s worse to have children when you know you don’t want them just because it’s what you’re “supposed to do.” In time, I know that I will recognize my choice when my heart and feelings tell me that I’m ready to decide.

In the meantime, I will keep on planning for my future, if only day by day.

15 comments:

  1. It's very interesting to read your take on this. I'm 25, married, and dying to have kids (I sometimes try to steal them, but they don't fit into my career plans or finances at all! I have several married couple friends who have chosen not to have children and I'm always jealous of them. I plan a lot for the long term and so many of our choices are curtailed by the desire to have kids. For example, of our our married couple friends are currently buying a one bedroom apartment. Its a great market and a great time to buy, but we can't because buying a 2 or 3 bedroom is out of reach for us right now, and buying a one bedroom when we'll want to upgrade - possibly in as little as 2 or 3 years - seems silly. And forget about travel!

    Its a decision only you and your husband can make. There are many child-free communities online that you can check out if you are interested. And if you change your mind later, you can always adopt. Adoption is a great option, and one that I wish was less overlooked.

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  2. There are some great musings in here. Up front I'll say I have three adult children, none of them "planned". When you said you were 32 and not getting any younger I giggled. My sister didn't meet the man of her dreams until she was six years older than you and had her first child at 39. Her husband is ten years older than her. I get very tired of people who seem to think it is their business whether you have children or not. I hope you will listen to your own heart and let the children come (or not) when they are ready.

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  3. You won't regret having a child. We only have the one but he is the source of great happiness, and he's now 23 years old!

    You go through different phases when having kids, you make new friends, but you tend to only be known as mother or father of x not by your real name, but you get used to that!!

    The only bit of advice I have is to take your time, make sure you are in tip top health before you decide to have children because they can be quite draining in the first year or so.. but it gets better the older they get.

    And just think... you can by the Family Organiser pack for your Filofax.... what better reason do you need....

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  4. Thank you all for the support and advice. It's just something that's been on my mind lately. I know I wouldn't regret having kids, but I know that I might regret NOT having them later in life. I don't feel pressured to have them or anything, but it's making the actual decision that's stressing me out - choosing that big of an event. If it happened unplanned of course I would roll with it - but the decision will have been made for me, which at this point might just be easier for me. =)

    Steve - you made me laugh and made my morning! Thanks. But don't think I haven't thought about how my planner would need to change! How could I not?

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  5. I liked to read your detailed post on this subject! May I just comment on one little thing? You mentioned you think you wouldn't be able "to parent correctly". Now, that made me laugh. There is no such thing as "correct parenting". You are also a product of your own upbringing, and despite all efforts this will rub off on your kids as wll. You know what is so great about kids? They don't care if you're a perfect parent, they love you the way you are and they are always loyal. Obviously, my kids have not yet reached puberty, it'll be a blast to read this back in a few years from now ;-)
    As for planning: kids can't be planned. Even if you want them, you have to wait and see if you'll actually have them. And they don't care about booked holidays and stuff, they just come when the time is right.

    Whatever you decide, it should be your own personal decision. It's nobody's business but yours. And as long as you go by what your heart tells you, you'll always make the right decision!

    Jotje (mother of 4, aged 9, 7, 5 and 3 ;-))

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  6. Jotje - Thanks for your comment! Some of what I said in the post is meant to be tongue in cheek, the comment about correct parenting being one of them. I'm glad I made you chuckle. =) Now that a few days have passed since I posted this, I can see how clear it is through my writing how I tend to over-analyze everything. And that is where most of my irrational "fears" come from. If I just went with the flow in life and don't think too much about things, I wouldn't think of all the ways something could go wrong and therefore wouldn't be so fearful. It's a never-ending cycle. But one I have to laugh about, otherwise I'd drive myself crazy thinking about how ridiculous it all is (see what I mean about the cycle?).

    And God bless you for having 4 kids under 10 - whew! I'd love to see what your planner looks like! ;)

    Thanks to everyone for indulging me on my slight stray from planner talk.

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  7. Sorry if I'm a bit late commenting on your post.

    For me, having kids is a big no-no. I am over 30, and have been happily not-married to my boyfriend for over 5 years. Luckily, he also doesn't want kids.
    The reasons for not wanting to have children is quite simply: I don't like them. I can't stand their screaming, yelling, how they smell, etc.
    And I know that it isn't always like that, but still, it's not something I want to experience.
    On the other hand, I also find poor starving and suffering children the worst part of our world.
    So for me, if I'd ever want to actually give my life up for another human being, I would definitely adopt a child. At least that way I'd be giving the chance to one that's already there, rather than bring one more mouth to feed, when there are so many starving out there.
    For the past years I have also had to deal with family asking me why on earth I didn't want to do what was 'natural' and 'expected' of me. That is what really pisses me off, people always believing that merely because you're a woman, your mission in life is to pop babies out!
    I guess after they see how my face changes whenever I'm around a kid, they finally understand and instead, ask me about my cats!
    Those are my kids to me ;)

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  8. Oni - I had to laugh at some of what you wrote, mainly because I have had many of the same thoughts at different times. I work in a public building, so you can imagine some of the things I see and hear. And I too have had to defend my choice to not (as of yet) have children, thankfully not from family, but rather from random people I know. Whether I choose to have children or not, I agree that people assuming you will and believing you should because it's what you're "supposed to do" just irritates me.

    Personally, I would love to hear more about your cats - I can totally relate to that! =)

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  9. Oni, I totally agree with you! I could never love any child as much as I love my cats!

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  10. Amazing post about your thoughts behind what is said to be "normal" and what you for yourself feell about it. I read it with high interest and am able to absolutly follow your road. But I'm male. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Thank you, Mirko. It's good to know that I'm not alone in this area.

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  12. People always talk and gossip about anyone who's "out of the ordinary". I have the same experience, but from the other side. With four kids I don't fit the "normal family picture" and I have a complete collection of totally stupid comments, even - or especially - by total strangers! LOL
    I say, live life according to your own rules. At least ONE person will be happy and pleased with it: yourself!

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  13. Oh Kanalt thanks for sharing this link with me! I hadn't really discovered the blogosphere when you wrote this article in early 2010 and I had definitely not started blogging myself either. I totally understand everything you are saying as I too am going through all of the same experiences.
    It is nice to know that I am not alone. I shall link to this in my post.

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  14. Thanks, CP. It's good to know that at least one other person understands where I am coming from. ;)

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