Once in a while, someone will ask Erin or me if we’re planning to have kids. When we say no, I already know what response we’re going to get. Our peers, and the few friends who don’t already know where we stand, will usually ask why not, and we’ll have a nice chat about it. But among parents, older relatives, and older co-workers, the response is almost always the same: “Well, we’ll see.”
First off, if you think you know the answer already, then why did you bother asking? And second, why do people seem to think they already know what we want to do with our lives? It’s true that most people grow up, get hitched, and make babies—that’s the norm. Pretty much anyone asking us about kids followed that route themselves, and I don’t fault them for expecting that we would too: as the ones bucking the trend, it’s on us to explain why, I suppose. I have no problem explaining why we don’t want to have kids, but it’s really frustrating to do so to someone who doesn’t consider me adult enough to be capable of making decisions about how I want to live my life, and who I want to live it with.
When I was born, my dad was 26—about a year and a half older than I am now. Mom was only 23, a year younger than I am. They had already been married for over 2 years. The way I see it, they were no more qualified to make such decisions at that point than I am now.
It’s not hard to see why people expect us to have kids. Like I said before, most people get married with plans to start procreating soon after. A lot of people grow up expecting that they’ll do the same, and looking forward to it (or so I assume). I, too, always assumed I’d be a dad someday. I looked forward to having a son to play catch with, teaching him how to fix stuff like my dad did, and seeing him graduate from college.1
But that’s all I saw. I saw myself as a parent almost as if you might in a movie about someone’s life—just the highlights, really. My vision of parenting was about 90 minutes in a comfy seat with air conditioning and a tub of popcorn. I never thought about the 18 years, minimum, of effort that would go into it. I didn’t consider the late nights up with a screaming baby, the incredible financial burden of a child, or the fact that I am decidedly unqualified to be responsible for a tiny helpless person. I never wanted any of that. I just wanted to be able to look back, late in my life, and watch the highlight reel.
I was 23 when I met Erin, and getting married and having kids started to look like an actual possibility. I had never seriously dated anyone before, so I never really had to think about it, and I just carried on with my unexamined assumptions. Once we started talking about it, and once I took the time to really think about it, I realized that it was the first time I had stopped to think about it, and really, I didn’t want to have anything to do with that whole mess.
I could change my mind. I could decide, after five or ten years, that I actually do want to be a father. I could also decide that Hitler was right all along. I’m a realist, so I don’t deny that I could change my mind, but it’s a pretty slim chance. So I suppose they’re right: we will see. I wouldn’t start buying baby clothes for us, though.
1 Aside: I could never have daughters. Having been a teenaged boy once myself, there’s no way I could have a daughter without becoming the violently overprotective father that threatens to emasculate every punk kid that looks at her. (return)