I’ve been thinking a lot about the subject of kids lately, trying to come to terms with the fact that more than half of the people I went to either grammar school, high school or college with are now parents and I’m nowhere near the task. Arguably I’m more “ahead of that game” than an unmarried, otherwise single, counterpart I suppose, but mentally I’m no further ahead than I was when I graduate college. Obviously many personal factors contribute to this: 1) adjusting to a new country 2) analysis of the disadvantages thrown at mothers in the workforce, specifically in this country and 3) trying to have a couple’s life prior to the kiddo scenario, considering I married at a much later age. All of the above are important factors to consider prior to embarking on the role of a lifetime (i.e. parenthood), the most pressing of all, to me, is the stunted career I’ll have if I don’t play my cards right.
Then today I came across yet another variable to this ever-present “Maybe Kids … yes…no….when….what” library of questions. This article published earlier this month in New York Magazine entitled “All Joy and No Fun. Why parents hate parenting.” And before half the readers of this blog jump to defend the institution of kids and parenting, let me clarify that I am neither bashing, nor supporting this article. What I am doing is adding it to my database of “food for thought on” and “things to consider before.” Besides, there’s some great writing to be found in this article and it seems very well supported, siting numerous studies and books that speak into the subject of happiness, kids, relationships and parenting. I’m never one to pass up a good read and just because the subject is laced with controversy only makes me love it more (hence, I’m promoting your reading of it.)
It’s surprising to read that one study after another shows that having kids DOES NOT make women, men and couples happier. In fact, as far as couple’s are concerned, marital satisfaction takes a tumble once kids are born (though parents of babies and toddlers will be happy to know that this satisfaction increases between your kid’s ages of 6-12 … then plummets again when they’re teenagers – go figure.) Yeah, as a species it makes sense that we want to procreate, pass our genes on, contribute to a legacy, etc, etc but as individuals, this article really challenges the notion of whether as PEOPLE, cultural and social people, it ever makes sense to have kids.
And what’s the main reason behind the unpleasant view on parenting itself? We’ve become robots of perfection, buckling under the pressure of “not good enough” and transferring it on to the kids! In January I posted this, describing the competitive landscape of where I lived in California and this is exactly the kind of stuff that makes being a parent intolerable. This article states that before urbanization, kids were considered an asset to economic growth since they worked the farmland next to you or worked in the shop/small family business owned by the parents. Their existence had a purpose that propelled the entire family forward. Nowadays, children are not regarded in the same capacity, seen more so as “subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed” in order to promote the creation of supreme beings by the skillful hands of the parents. It’s not enough to have the big house, fancy car and European family trips – your kids need to be the personification of success just as the yacht might be.
Sounds like a lot of pressure to me. No wonder parents are stressed out and no wonder kids are stressed out. I’ve seen it first hand (and this article mentions it as well), but kids these days are over-scheduled. Can you believe such a notion? And to think that I had hours and hours of free time to play and pretend and cut coupons out of the newspaper so that I could play bank … with myself.
Geez, what a disadvantage I’ve created waiting this long to have kids. I’ve chosen to work on me, my career, my education, my life and now when I have kids, I’ll know exactly what I’m missing when I can’t focus on all of the aforementioned points. It’s different when young adults leave their parents house and shortly thereafter become parents. Chances are they haven’t had much time to notice what they’ll be missing once they do have kids.
Incidentally, when I finished reading this article it immediately occurred to me to Google the exact same phrase/notion in Spanish, specifically searching Chilean websites. I came across a lot of articles on the INABILITY to have kids, an article on couples choosing pets over kids (from a site called “Conciencia Animal” or “Animal Consciousness,” an article on a woman who dated a guy forever who didn’t want to have kids and who then ended up having kids with the woman he had a relationship with after her … and finally, at the very bottom of the first Google page, an article from Cosmo (hardly a Chilean publication) speaking to the notion of “So what if I don’t want kids?” In this very quick search (and I cannot stress enough how very quickly this search occurred), I did come across an article from a newspaper from the South of Chile called “Diario El Sur” where the writer speaks about the “dilemma” associated with the decision of having kids or not and how three entities affect this decision one way or another: 1) dedication to one’s career, 2) the “voice” of the Church, 3) contraception. But the best article I came across on Chilean sites (again, in my ever-so-quick search) talks about how the decision to have fewer kids is an active decision by educated adults who wish to focus on responsible parenting. Blogs, of course, provide a wealth of varying opinions on the matter and this one speaks quite candidly on the stance of “not wanting to be a mother someday.” Still, I have to say that the majority of the articles that come up when I Google “Tener hijos hace feliz?” or “Having kids makes one happy?” are about infertility, lower birth rates and selfish individuals. Check it out and see for yourself!
Just for the record folks, I’m not anti having kids. In fact, I’ve made reference to my relatively pro stance on the matter in the past. I do, however, find it quite interesting that the reality is SO different than what the marketers want you to believe. Parenting, in short, seems to kind of suck.
The Nestle’s, Proctor & Gamble’s and milk companies of this world (among so many other consumer products companies that exist), want you to believe that being a mom is the best job you’ll ever have … that’s the only way they’ll get you to buy that product that will FOR SURE prove to all the other parents that you’re the world’s best mom (or dad!) These companies market their products by speaking to the “proud parent” in all of you: you want your kids whites to be whiter than all the rest, right? Buy Tide! You want your kids to grow up with the healthiest bones so they can kick the goal at the last minute and win that soccer game, right? Then buy the yogurt! We build strong bones! The marketing to the inner proud parent is endless and so it’s NO WONDER (in my opinion) that one can barely find material on NOT having kids here in Chile. After all, in reference to my blog last week, the proud parent can be ABC1 or D – here is a motivating factor (to purchase a product) that doesn’t discriminate.
Anyway, I’m all over the place today and feel that I’ve covered many topics. I’d like to take this opportunity to focus my thoughts and note that my feelings can best be described by one of Charlotte York’s finer moments in Sex and the City, where she’s arguing with Miranda on her decision to quit her job in order to focus on being a wife. Whether you agree with Miranda on how socially acceptable doing that ultimately is, Charlotte has a point when she yells:
That’s all we really want.