November 02, 2006

The Parenthood Lobby at Work

A guy with the screen name BigBoy went on the Yahoo! Answers site a couple of months ago and made the following post:

"Is it normal to be scared before trying for a baby? I love my wife to bits and really want to have kids but am really concerned about starting a family. I have no idea about what parenting is about and am worried my life will be boring after we have kids. Having seen some of my friends lives turned upside down after them giving birth I'm not 100% sure its right for me! Can I have some experienced and constructive comments wife wants to start trying in the new year and although I have talked about my worries with her many many times she seems very confident everything will be great!"
Thirty four people responded. The majority of the respondents were parents. They posted a version of "don’t worry, fear’s normal. Parenting can be tough but it will be fine, you’ll love it." Only one response suggested that he not start a family unless both of them were sure they wanted to.

No one addressed BigBoy’s concern that parenthood might not be right for him. Perhaps they did not because his wife is obviously interested in having a child. Yet, this lobbying behavior disturbs me. I recall the many instances when parents poo-pooed my assertion that I did not have a maternal instinct, saying "it’s different when their yours." Also, it appeared that he didn’t have much say in the decision, that his wife was dismissing his concerns too, which saddens me.

In the course of my research on The Childless by Choice Project, I have interviewed many childfree couples who started out thinking they would be parents until they sat down and really thought about it, and one or both asked, "Should we, really?"

Personally, I don’t advocate that people remain childfree. It was the right choice for me but I don’t assume it will be the right choice for Bigboy. However, if I would have had the opportunity to respond to this man’s appeal, I would have suggested that he take the time to have an honest dialogue with his wife.
A good place to start is to ask, "Why do we want to have kids? Examine the motives. Ask, "Who is influencing the decision?" Address all the fears and articulate all the hopes around parenthood. Just talk.

Parenthood is too big an undertaking to go into reluctantly, or without a plan on how you might manage the changes to the relationship that where identified in the parent’s responses to Bigboy’s question. Maybe if there was a plan or an articulation of what they might expect as parents, the fear would disappear. Or maybe not.

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Anonymous said...

The results of the poll are interesting. A while back and out of curiousity for reactions, I posted the question on Yahoo answers, "Should a woman have a baby to please her husband?" The majority of the answers I got said it should be something both people want, not one person pleasing another or being pressured by another.

I wish I had seen BigBoy's post, so I could've added my two cents. It sounds like they really need to explore why they think they want kids. I think the fear is a sign that there are misgivings or issues that need discussing. I have heard of cases of people finding out they don't like being parents. It would be sad if they had a child and discovered parenting wasn't for them after all.

Anonymous said...

Ooh I had a great aunt who said when I met the right man I would have a baby just to please him. Hmm is THAT why she had her seven?

I think it is sad what happened with BigBoy and hope he doesn't make a big mistake and regret it.

Anonymous said...

Oh and P.S. I DID meet the "right man" and no I DIDN'T have a baby to please him - he didn't want one EITHER!

Robin said...

I think there is always a reason for fear and it should be considered although my therapist told me if you wait until you're ready to have children then you never will. I don't know it's a tough decision to make and one I think a lot of thought and discussion should be put into.

It's like marriage, I've always thought it was weird people had "cold feet" because it seems if you do there is a valid reason for it. I don't have 1 single fear of getting married, not one. I do however have a million fears of having children which is the main reason I am childfree right now.

alpahgirl said...

"When in doubt, don't"

Regardless of BigBoy's fears, they need to be addressed. He might also want to look at the following:
-Is this decision based on internal or external factors?
-Is his wife wanting a child in order to please her church/friends/in-laws/culture?
-Does his wife want a child because she loves babies, or because she would enjoy all stages of a child's development?
-What is at the root of BigBoy's fears?

Most people put more thought into what type of car they will buy than they do regarding the parenting decision. We have 6.8 billion people and counting; something's gotta change, people.

Teri said...

Dear Anonymous -- You are too funny, but we have to read all three anonymous posts to figure out if it is one person posting or three, anonymously!

Just for the record, and I love it that you are having fun here and participating, you do not have to sign up for anything to select a blog handled (pseudonym) and leave a comment. Example, when I leave a comment on another blogger's site, sometimes I just leave it as the Purple Woman.

If you select Other under "Choose an identity" you can be a different person each time, and still be anonymous. See? It's easy!

Anne said...

About 2 years after I got married, I started wanting kids. But my husband wisely said, 'Let's Wait'. He even challenged me to think about the reasons why I wanted them (along the lines of alphagirl's wisdom).

When women push their husbands into having kids before they are ready, everyone suffers. The fathers are abmivelant and resentful that the kids have taken their freedom and their best friend (ie. the wife) away from them. And that's just the beginning.

We've had 10 years to think through our reasons for wanting kids and during that time we have enjoyed our 'childfree' status, the camraderie of mateship (think Aussie definition) and freedom to do what we want and accomplish what we believe in. And so now that we are expecting, we're both on the same page. I'm glad that by husband had the balls to stand up to my early 'cluckiness'. And I hope that BigBoy gets a chance to voice his needs without being steamrolled by wife and society.

(I wrote 'childfree' because for us, we always wanted kids someday and we hoped it would be temporary - even though we enjoyed the years of being Just The Two of Us. It's not to minimize or judge the Childfree lifestyle that Purple Women have chosen.)

AthenaMarina/Anonymous said...

Anonymous because I can't remember my password to log in (AthenaMarina) But I will get a new login. :-) Glad I'm gett'n a chuckle from ya!

Teri said...

Hello Anne - How is life Down Under, er, or should I say in Thailand? Bloggin is good therapy for the expat blues! Thanks for sharing your journey to parenthood, which began with childfreedom.

You touch on something I have suspected, that in truth, even parents may identify with being childfree at some point. As our culture encourages more people to "think it over" and not just reproduce, more childfreedom will be enjoyed as the best choice in contemplated. And, yes sometimes people change their minds. That's okay too!

Life is a rich journey and there are often surprises along the road.