What Scares Me About Having Kids (It’s Not the Kids)

As my husband and I approach our seventh year together and our second wedding anniversary, we are fielding more and more “when will the babies come?” questions from friends and family. They have led to a few late night, not-so-serious baby discussions between us, but in all honesty, we are still really enjoying living child-free. Sorry, beautiful sisters of mine. You can put away your basal thermometers.

After we got married, some of my husband’s friends teased him that my baby fever would immediately kick in and I’d be begging for his offspring. To my surprise and his relief, the exact opposite has happened. I feel so very content with our life together that I often get scared of adding another human into the mix. Especially one who is so demanding, irrational, and always mysteriously sticky.

But what scares me most about having a child is not the sudden, daunting responsibility, the sleepless nights, or even the finger painting with poopy diapers. What scares me most is myself. Rather, who I’ll become.

To be completely candid– I’m scared of becoming a bitter, self-absorbed, miserable person. How could I not be? So often I’ll ask a mother how parenthood is, or even how she is doing in general, and her response is negative, complete with eye rolls and heavy sighs. Is this simply out of habit, it’s just the “go to” answer for parents, or is it genuinely how she feels most of the time as a mom? The knee-jerk negativity is usually followed by something like, “but it’s the most rewarding job in the world and I love it!”, but I often wonder who she is trying to convince?

There are entire websites, blogs, support groups, books, and forums dedicated to women who need a place to vent about how gruesome motherhood can be. There is no disputing that it is an insanely challenging job and these women deserve and need to vent, share, and commiserate– but the constant complaining in conversations and undertones of “you just don’t understand because you don’t have kids” makes me scared to have kids. I don’t want to become that person. It actually terrifies me because I wonder if it is something I can even avoid? And nobody is ever allowed to talk about these concerns or feelings because it seems cruel, judgmental, and ignorant. Especially coming from someone who doesn’t have kids. But here I go anyway, already feeling the evil glares from moms around the world.

Can I have children and answer people honestly and positively when they ask how I like being a mom, or how my day is going? Is being a mom so overwhelming that all you can think or talk about is how tired and frustrated you are, or are so many complaining simply because it’s the “thing to do”? After all, they have learned this behavior from the moms they associate with, maybe even their own mothers. I feel like in today’s society, an attitude has developed where it’s almost cool to be miserable, and the more a person talks about how bad their kids are and how stressful their lives are, the more empowered they feel. It’s not just about venting anymore, it’s a focal point of every conversation and interaction. It becomes an identity. And this isn’t exclusive to just parents– the same can be said about people who hate their jobs, appearances, spouses, or fill in the blank. Why do we feel like our importance is directly related to how busy and miserable we are? Are we perpetuating our misery by talking about it so much, instead of taking steps to make our misery more manageable?

I’d like to believe so– that would actually give me some hope. It would let me know that with some perspective, a good support system, and healthy outlets (read: a way to get frequent breaks from my children), I am not destined to be an angry, bitter mom someday. I do know several women who don’t fit into the “miserable mom” category, and they give me hope. They inspire me. They respark my interest in becoming a mother. Even when they are sobbing, screaming, and miserable because of their hellion children, they are good mothers and I enjoy being there for them and giving them an ear to vent to. I realize that I cannot possibly understand what they are going through, and I admire their courage and patience– even when they feel they are at their worst. Everyone has bad days/weeks/months and I can only imagine that as a mother, they are especially upsetting because your life is essentially controlled by a child who you just can’t control or satisfy at times. This post is not about them– it’s about the mom’s who make a lifestyle out of incessant complaining, judging other mothers, and putting people down.

I don’t operate well on less than 7 hours of sleep. I like to stay in bed on weekends and watch Netflix. I like to eat my food when it’s hot, and preferably not standing over the kitchen sink. I like to come home after a long day of work and not think about what nutrition and care a tiny, immobile human needs in order to stay alive.  I’m scared of becoming resentful. I’m scared that I won’t know how to be one of those moms I so admire, the ones who struggle and have rough days, but are generally pretty happy and embrace motherhood for all that it is. And they enjoy it– the highs and the lows. I’m scared that having a child will change my life so drastically that I won’t recognize myself anymore, and I’ll turn into that woman who constantly reminds people in every capacity how hard and horrible her life is with kids. But don’t worry, it’s the best job ever and incredibly rewarding.

19 thoughts on “What Scares Me About Having Kids (It’s Not the Kids)

  1. My wife of 30 odd years had a six year old when we met who just turned 39 two days ago, so I am not without children in my life. For that matter I’m the second of seven children so kids in diapers doesn’t hold any mystery for me either. Then there are the thousands of middle schoolers I have taught over the years who were also part of my life. But I’ve kept my genes to myself and I have to say .. I’m not the least bit sorry.

    I have a great relationship having married a real friend as engaged in her career as I’ve been in mine. Having our lives revolve around each other for the past bunch of years has not been a hardship. We have a good time together. It is appreciated by my stepson that we don’t need taking care of though we do appreciate his company and intersect several times a year. What we don’t do is pine in misery for his call. He approves.

    If there is one thing the world is not short on it is human beings. We pretty darned special but, you know, too much of anything is pretty nearly always a bad thing. I hate to think we have to put every square inch of arable land into production to feed our hordes at the expense of wildlife having a place to call home. That actually bothers me. I find a planet filled with diverse species ever so much more beautiful and wondrous. I hate to think of us as an out of control germ exhausting its petri dish.

    Having a kid is a life altering experience. Everyone having a kid or kids would be a planet altering experience of an intensely undesirable kind. Not having a kid is a different experience. It throws you back on yourself and requires that you develop a more well rounded life. That can be a pretty good life experience too.

  2. One final point and I apologize for sounding preachy. I’ve read in a number of blogs (okay just 2 others) written by women who appear to be at your stage in life, in marriage, in family planning. They both mentioned how much they love their partner and who felt jealous of (?) or selfish of their love and their time together alone. I really think that is so important and I envy young couples their exclusivity. We were married for 5 years before our son was born. And while we boh traveled a lot and she never came home before 9 pm when she wasn’t on the road I do recall a level of freedom that we are only now reclaiming 22 years later. But…at least with respect to the issue of love, creating together a new human being who unconditionally accepts and loves you is an exponential boost to your feelings about each other. Of course you may have to curtail the spontaneous kitchen floor sex and games of nude twister in the living room but we all have to make sacrifices. Just think of it as a preventive measure against psychological counseling for your offspring when they reach adolescence.

    • You’re not preachy at all. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy reading your comments.

      I have wondered how that feels– creating a tiny human that is a perfect (or sometimes not so perfect) mixture of you and your spouse. That is one of the things I’m most excited about. I am madly, deeply in love with my husband and the idea of creating a mini him (with a little bit of me mixed in) is so exciting. I have wondered if it makes you fall in love with your spouse over again, having this little baby to care for. I know it gets really complicated when sleepless nights, shared responsibilities, and raging hormones come into the picture and it’s definitely not picture perfect, but it is an experience I can’t wait to have.

      LOL at the preventive measure against psychological counseling. My parents always used to joke about that when they would make a parenting “oops.” They’d say, “just add it to her future therapy fund.” Hey, I should have asked about that fund when I did several years of counseling a few years ago, haha!

  3. complaining as an identity .. I think this has become an identity of many, not just moms, but people in general. I think it’s good to be real about our feeling, but I also think it is of the utmost important to see what we do have a be thankful. a thankful heart, a privilege mentality, imagine if we lived life with a privileged mentality, we wouldn’t complain or become impatient while standing in line for food we are thankful to have. I definitely see this in the class room at UNCG. I’d say there is a deeper heart issue of, “if I complain I will get 1) people’s affection 2) their attention and isn’t that what Humans desire? Love and attention. I believe those that are thankful and have joy live because they recognize the beauty there is in life, “the depth of my thankfulness is the height of my joy.”

    Just thought I’d put in my two cents 🙂

    • You are exactly right– it’s like it’s trendy and cool to complaint nowadays! I mean I’ve definitely been guilty of it too, but I hope I’m never the person that is known as the “constant whiner.”

      You’re right too about realizing how much we have to be thankful for, and that gives a lot of perspective. I’m sure it’s how you feel every time you come back from Guatemala– wondering HOW people can complain about such trivial things. All those “first world problems.”

      Loved your thoughts, Kate. Thank you! And don’t worry, I’ll make you an aunt (again) someday for sure 🙂

  4. I feel you, girl. I am constantly pressured by my mother-in-law. “When are you having kids? I hope I’m still around when it happens.” It drives me nuts and it’s so rude.
    I am not ready. You are obviously not ready and that’s ok. I’ve been married almost a year and I enjoy being selfish at the moment. I enjoy spending money on clothing and going out to eat at fancy places.
    I knew the moment I was ready for marriage. I like to think I’ll know when I’m ready for kids.
    Just because other people are negative about raising children doesn’t mean that’s how you’ll be. You’ll be great when the time comes. I don’t think having children ruins anyone’s life unless they let it. It’s all about perspective.

    • Yeah that would piss me off too. I get she wants grandkids but SHE is not the one who will be raising the little terrors– YOU are! It is rude, you’re right.

      I love your thoughts, that the way you knew you were ready for marriage, you’ll also know you’re ready for kids. The more I think about it, the more I feel confident that the same will happen to me. My husband and I dated for 4 years before I knew I was ready for marriage, which is a lot longer than many couples date these days. I knew I loved him all along and knew we’d probably end up together, but something just caused me to wait. And then BAM, I was so ready. So yes, I’m definitely hoping that will happen for babies too. Thank you for that!

      And you’re also right, I wrote below to someone else, but I think the parents who let kids ruin their lives would find a way to be miserable kids or no kids. That’s an important thing to remember. A counselor I used to see laughed in my face when I said “I wish I didn’t have food allergies, I wouldn’t have any anxiety!!” He made me realize that I will ALWAYS find something to be anxious about, it’s just my personality, so I may as well realize that, accept it, and embrace it.

      Thanks for your thoughts, really good insight!

  5. I am also feeling like this lately! I want kids…I think? But I’m also terrified it will be awful and change my life for the worse and I’ll be bad at it and…Especially when I can look at our life and see how wonderful it is to just be married and take up whatever home improvement projects we want to, or see friends. And the money we’d save!

    I always assumed I’d be a mother. There has never been a part of me that has doubted my want to become a mother until it started getting real. And now? I want to put it off until that “I’m sure I can handle this” day comes, which I’m fairly sure never will…

    • Yep I definitely understand. And the days where I have to scrounge in the cupboards for food b/c we have no groceries until payday– I”m like HOW WOULD I FEED MY CHILD?!!?! If only I could breastfeed for 18 years, think of the money you’d save! Kidding. That’s gross.

      ANYWAY– I’m the same exact way. I’ve wanted kids my entire life and originally wanted to have all of them by the time I was 25. Then the older I get the more I’m like ohhh wow how far back can I push this thing?! Glad to hear I’m not the only one 🙂 I think one day we will wake up and just have this moment of clarity that we are ready. I’m hoping so anyway.

  6. Okay, Courtney. Be prepared for the onslaught. Or maybe not.

    The subset of women (and men?) who blog about their days in its agonizing minutiae are likely on the higher end of the self-obsessed spectrum. So while trolling their sites you can’t help but be overwhelmed by their self pity. On the other hand, as a 55 year old just now reaping the benefits of a somewhat empty nest, I can say the tiredness and misery is relatively short lived. Moreover, the joys far outweigh the frustrations etc. I think you already know that. Or likely suspect as much.

    I don’t envy you as woman because I am sure I would have exploded at the fifteenth (or maybe the third) person who asked me about my baby making plans some 23 years ago. Surely some folks would ask out of love and concern. Others are just plain fucking nosey. Or is it nosy? (Both seem to pass the spell check test.)

    Some parents don’t want to extol the virtues of parenthood to those without kids because maybe they feel as though they are bragging or are being condescending or don’t want to come off as if they have it all. They may actually respect the fact that you don’t have kids and don’t know or want to pry into why you don’t have any. So they take the safe route and complain. I know we used to commiserate with other couples whose pregnancies etc. corresponded back in the 1990s.

    You are correct in your fears that your lives would change somewhat dramatically. How could they not? As technology grows you will be able to binge watch the next generation Netflix in 20 years as we do now. We still have careers and travel and commitments that keep us from doing what we want to do they are just not our kids. Except of course when we do parents’ weekend at Pitt where are two youngest go right now.

    I was looking at a photo yesterday that was taken during the late summer/early fall in the Pocono mountains with my son. He was probably 3 or 4 months old and it was taken at the moment that he first started laughing. We are nose to nose and we are both busting a gut in laughter. The framed photo was on a shelf in my study and I really hadn’t looked at it in years. I remember how tired we all were and how we never ever thought we’d ever get a good night’s sleep again. Right now I don’t give a shit. Because that photo made me cry. I loved him so much at that moment. And that, Courtney, is worth all the crap you have to put up with in rearing a child.

    • I did worry about angry mothers revolting, but so far, no hate! I hesitated posting this because I didn’t want to ruffle too many feathers, but then realized I’d be interested in reading the input from people who it DOES piss off, as well as the ones who may agree with me. In addition to the comments here, I’ve had a lot of good dialogue with people, both moms and non-moms, and am really thankful for their insight!

      Your comment made me cry, actually. I really thank you for taking the time to type out your opinion and experiences. I think the reason I ultimately decided to post this was in hopes of getting some feedback that would help me realize that it’s okay to have these fears, it’s normal to worry about your life changing and resenting your kids, but most importantly, it’s all worth it. And to ignore the parents who are miserable 24/7 because they would find a way to make themselves miserable anyway, kids or no kids.

      Your last paragraph, le sigh. Just beautiful. Thank you again, Mike.

  7. Amen sister. My husband and I have had VERY similar conversations. Are we being too selfish? And why are we being judged so harshly by our friends when we suggest that we don’t want kids (at least for now), and they so desperately do.

    • No judgement here Ali, no judgement here! I think obviously there are pros and cons to both sides (I can say that as a parent of two, very young and vibrant children).

      Are there days where I resent my children? Yes But, the weird thing is, at the end of the day, even if my kids have been just terrors…I still miss them when they are asleep and I want to go in to their rooms and just stare at them. Every day I look at my teammate, I mean husband, and I say, can you believe we did this? And his answer is always the same, not at all. As I’m actually typing this, my husband just called to me from upstairs…”Hey Charlotte, you gotta come up here and see Hailey”—it’s 11:25pm so she’s asleep. I had more to say, but I’m gonna go look at my babies and pray they don’t wake up haha!!!!

      • That’s encouraging to read, Charlotte! You and Alex are amazing parents– the ones who inspire me and make me want to have kids of my own. Granted, I’m a little worried I won’t love my kids as much as I love Liam and Hailey. Is that a problem??? 🙂 Thank you for being such an encouragement and one of the most natural, patient, and wonderful mothers I’ve ever seen.

    • Nope– I think not having kids when you’re not ready/don’t want them at all is the LEAST selfish thing you can do. It’s stupid to have kids because of outside pressure– they aren’t the ones who will have to raise them! That’s a bummer that your friends are judging you when you say you don’t want kids for now. Thankfully I haven’t experienced that, that would piss me off.

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