Why Would You . . .

Today as I write I’m fighting the urge to go get a bowl of chocolate chips and willing myself to stay here and finish this post so that I can get in some exercise before my two-year-old wakes up from his nap.  My four-month pregnant body craves what it doesn’t need and shirks what it does, however I still find myself awed by the life growing within me. This will be our third baby and though it’s coming a bit sooner than anticipated, Matt and I have wanted and planned on this child coming into our home.

Because my personal timetable included running a marathon in the fall, traveling home to see family for the holidays and THEN getting pregnant this little surprise has brought with it unexpected feelings. With our other two children Matt and I talked about wanting to conceive and when, trying, and then succeeding. Watching that positive line appear on the pregnancy test only brought delight. This time I initially felt shock and even a little resentment.

However, after a recent party with some friends we know from Matt’s grad class of actors I have realized how much I love being a mother, how excited I feel to welcome another amazing person into my life, how blessed to have the ability and opportunity. Any trace of resentment has disappeared (well mostly, maybe a little remains as I watch my husband and running partner get ready for the marathon, but that’s a post for another day.)

While pursuing his MFA in acting for three years the seventeen other students became like a surrogate family. The girls from the grad class try and get together every few months, and as an honorary member of said class, I go too. My first daughter came into our lives with one year of grad school to go, so the small class of actors shared in the anticipation of her arrival and the milestones of her first year. At the time only one other student was a mother and one other student was married.  As supportive and excited as they all were, none of them were jumping aboard this train anytime soon. It’s been over three years since graduation, and though we have been joined by many of the actors in the marriage department, no one else has children.  After announcing to these girls at the party that Matt and I are expecting a third they began to talk about another friend from the class who just said the other day she’s ready to marry her boyfriend and have a baby.

“Really?” asks another. “I thought she never would.”

Then someone else pipes in, “I have decided I really want to have a baby too.  Just one girl.”

And then the comment that really got me thinking, “I don’t understand why anybody would want to have children.  I mean, it takes over your life.  I like children, but why?”

The girl who just declared she wants to have one girl replies with, “Well I think I need to have a child to be able to experience life fully, especially as an artist, to go through what so many other women have experienced.”

“Not me,” says the other.

We were getting ready to part at this point. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. But it definitely got me thinking.  I love these girls.  They are amazing women; intelligent, beautiful people who would make wonderful mothers. It came as such a surprise that my friend actually did not plan on having children. And I started to think about why I initially wanted to have children. If I hadn’t been raised in an LDS home with the doctrine about family taught to me before I could even talk would I have found a desire to become a mother?  Would I have felt the need to justify that decision? How would my reasons have been different?

Being on the other side, already having become a mother I can think of many reasons why to do it.  But I’m really interested to hear if you mothers remember why you initially had children, and you non-mothers if you have the desire and why?  Is there reasoning behind it or does it come from a more organic place? Have you felt the need to justify your decisions and/or desires?  (And any fathers out there who read our blog, please respond to.)

20 thoughts on “Why Would You . . .

  1. Interesting post, Heather!

    Coming from the not-yet-mom category, I would say when I was a teen I wanted to have children “when I grow up” because they were so fun and cute. Now that I AM up, I see better that they are not always cute or fun, and do indeed take a lot of sacrifice . . . and patience . . . and I still want them.

    I don’t know if I can explain everything, so I’m not going to try. Two thoughts that quickly come to mind are 1) I need/want to have the motherhood experience to further progress; and 2) Family brings the greatest joy and fulfillment in life.

    Even with my more realistic view of parenthood, I still think kids are fun and a family with them will be fun. I have always enjoyed children of every age. Sometimes fears come and I think, “Can I really do it?” But my love of them always wins.

  2. P.S. Only once have I felt the need to justify my desires. A single friend once said something like, “Why don’t you just move out of Utah away from all the pressure to have kids and get on with your life.”

    Lovely.

    I did not justify my response. I couldn’t believe my ears.

  3. Having just seen your lovely children, Heather, you most certainly should continue to bring more people to this earth! They’re beautiful in so many ways.

    Not growing up in an LDS family, I always wanted children, always thought of being a mommy. I babysat all the time and just loved mothering.

    Then I became a LDS and the desire was still there. It didn’t really change from before, I didn’t have a new and improved desire for children. Yes, I might of had a bigger picture of the purpose of families and might have felt more pressure to have children but my desire to be a mother did not become more pronounced b/c I was LDS.

    Interestingly enough, now that I’m married, I have no desire for children. . .ha! Maybe it’s a combination of my job or seeing the taxing nature of parenthood, but never in a million years did I think I would be 30 without children and not have a desire to have them any time soon!

    I have moments of guilt, like I’m not a good Mormon or what if I never want children, will I be a second class Mormon forever? Will I be missing out on huge blessings from Heavenly Father because I don’t have children? Then I just hope that if Heavenly Father wants me to be a mother, in the literal sense, then my desire for motherhood will come. We’ll see. . .

  4. Hi Heather! Good post. I think and consider my reasons for having children (and more children) regularly. Although, I live in Utah, where there are often more than a few children per family, I feel pressure from family (especially my non-lds family), my health care providers, and the ‘natural man’ side of me, to cut it off at 3 children. I hear statements like, “three children is more than enough”, or “just because you are a Mormon doesn’t mean you need to have a large family”, and “you need to consider your age and health, another child may not be wise”. In many respects they are right. Three children are more than enough. I know that I am not less of a woman or less of a Latter Day Saint because I will not have 8 children like my mother. And it is true that my track record isn’t so hot with pregnancies and deliveries, and I am so not in my ‘peak’ childbearing years. Yet,there are a few reasons I consider and yearn for another child, they are the same reasons I initially wanted children. I need my children, and perhaps another one, to teach me how to love. I am no where near the woman I want to be, but my children are helping me get there day by day. I remember coming home from a mission and feeling lost because I loved the feeling I had while serving of doing some of the most important work there was. When I am pregnant, rocking my babies, teaching a child, or just loving them, I again feel that mantel of the most important job. One last reason for wanting another child is, I don’t want to have regrets. Soon my time will be up. There will not be the possibility to bear another child. I don’t want to regret choosing to not have one because of selfish reasons. I could use some more sleep and my body could use a break but it is such a short season. I believe I would regret not having one more baby.
    I was excited to read on Nate’s blog that you were posting today Heather. Love to read your thoughts.

  5. I should state that all of the reasons I listed for having children are actually ‘selfish’ reasons. Maybe someday I will reach a more selfless understanding.

  6. I’ve seen both ends of this. I’m currently watching a friend go through a pregnancy that could likely kill her, and she has almost died with each of her children. I always wonder, why on earth is she doing this AGAIN!? But I’ve also seen old friends of mine who I find out don’t ever want to have children.

    All I can gather from my personal experiences is that we are all responsible to be accountable before God, and I don’t have to get involved to make sure that happens. It’s going to happen, and happily I don’t have to add my judgment too.

    I never ever ever ever ever ever wanted kids until I had one. Now, I have five. Go figure.

  7. For me, I think it has something to do with perfecting the generations and hope.

    Kelly, I think you are right that you’ll be blessed with the desire when the time is right, I’ve had friends go through the same emotions.

    Heather, I think you keep procreating to keep the saltine cracker cooperation in business. It’s very selfless of you. Yay for number 3!

  8. I didn’t feel the need to justify myself to others with the first one or two, but I have gotton many “Why would yous” as our family has gotton larger. For me the why’s are deep and personal and it’s awkward to try to explain them in passing. Internally, motherhood has never been logical for me. I remember before we had children thinking things like “Babies are cute, but I just can’t see myself going to kids’ soccer games for fun. Motherhood must not be for me.” That was logic. Then something deeper and at once far above and beyond me took over. That prompting– something spiritual or something profoundly organic or a a little of each– was as powerful with number 5 as with the earlier children, and that’s the part I find difficult to explain to people who still seem to view parenthood in terms of logic.

  9. Heather, great post.

    Angie, that’s where I’m at too. There’s a knowing, with me, on a deep level, that I need to have at least one more child. I don’t know beyond the next one–one baby at a time–but I know our family is missing someone. And I know it in my core.

  10. I used to want kids–an even number so everyone would have a ride buddy at Disneyland–but every year the desire to have kids wanes a little. I think most of it is a psychological game I play with myself. If I tell myself that I don’t want kids, it softens the blow that the real reason I probably won’t have kids of my own is that IF I ever get married, I’ll simply be too old to have children.

    But even as I try to convince myself that I don’t want kids of my own, I know “resistance is futile.” There have been a handful of students in my teaching career who I really cared about a great deal–almost as if they were my own (or at least related to me somehow)–and I can’t help but think how much more love I would feel for a child who was mine.

  11. Being the eldest of 5 children, LDS and single, I knew from an early age that I wanted children. I came from a big family and always thought I’d have plenty of time to have the big family I always wanted. As time seems to pass be by a lot faster than I’m wanting it to, fear and slight panic have begun to sneak into my thoughts. I always knew I wanted to be a mother, I just never gave a whole lot of thought into who would ‘father’ these children I so desperately wanted. I’d like to think I still have a shot at motherhood, but I’m not holding my breath. Why do I want children? Listen to a child laugh, have a child hug and kiss you and watch one as they fall asleep in your arms. Knowing that this ‘being’ has so much lying ahead of them (yes good and bad) give me so much hope for for our future and theirs.

  12. I didn’t grow up wanting to be a mom.

    I did not like kids.

    Babies were not interesting.

    Children hampered your independence and were a lot of work.

    I wanted to “do something” with my life.

    I knew that I would probably be a mom, but it wasn’t a personal goal. Even if I did have kids, I’d want as few as possible.

    I knew that I was supposed to, but I didn’t want to.

    I got married. I was practically kicking against the pricks. Then, in a very personal experience, I knew we were supposed to have children. We started trying, albeit reluctantly, and we couldn’t get pregnant. Infertility blessed me with the desire to have children. A few years later we conceived.

    I had my first and fell in love. I knew about the hard work, the intensity, but I didn’t know how much I’d like motherhood.

    I LOVED it.

    I didn’t know that babies were fun.

    I didn’t realize that children would make you a better person.

    I wish I could have a dozen.

    I didn’t want to be independent, I wanted to be interdependent.

    I know how those girls feel.

    I can’t wait until they find how wrong they were.

  13. kelly–your words definitely sounded familiar to me. growing up, i always thought that i would have kids, just cuz that’s just what everyone did. i didn’t really give it much thought. once i was married, i started getting very nervous and wondered if i really did want to take the plunge. so many of my friends went ga-ga whenever they would see babies and i was NEVER that way. i never even liked babysitting as a teenager and gave it up just as soon as i could find another way to make money. i worried that i would be a horrible mother. basically what it came down to is that i just had to trust that because it was part of the plan, that it would all work out. i don’t know that a huge desire to have kids ever came, but i did notice that i started being less weirded out when someone would ask if i would hold their baby!

    martha– i feel the same way about having more kids. you said, “I don’t want to have regrets. Soon my time will be up. There will not be the possibility to bear another child. I don’t want to regret choosing to not have one because of selfish reasons. I could use some more sleep and my body could use a break but it is such a short season. I believe I would regret not having one more baby.” hearing someone else say that made me feel more validated for having those feelings. my two children are almost exactly two years apart and after i had my second, i told myself that i was going to take a longer break before the next one. since i had gotten pregnant the month after i stopped nursing, i had been either nursing or pregnant for 45 months straight! now my youngest is 2 1/2, so i’ve had a good 1 1/2 years where my body has just been mine. i know i want at least one more, but the longer i wait, the harder it gets to actually go through with it. thank you, martha, for reminding me that i do NOT want to have any regrets. if i can just keep my eye on the big picture, the short term tradeoffs definitely seem worth it.

    motherhood is definitely hard, as anyone i’m sure would agree with, but i honestly cannot imagine a life without children. i think for about 10 years or so, it might be okay, but i can’t even begin to think about how empty my life would seem without the joy that children bring and the experiences that i get to share with them. i love being a wife, but what if i was just that? think about all the stages of life that come with being a mother: pregnancy, mother of a baby, mother of a toddler, mother of a preschooler, mother of an elementary student, mother of a tween, mother of a teenager, mother of an adult/college student, mother of a married child, mother-in-law, grandmother. life as only a wife would seem pretty stagnant to me without all those changes! i truly am excited about every new phase! i am not trying to be critical of anyone else, but for ME, i love the challenges and changes that come with motherhood!

  14. p.s. about the justification, I had to justify having more than one child to my mother-in-law.

    She honestly told us not to have kids. When we had her only grandchild she was thrilled, but told us not to have anymore. When we had the second, she was equally thrilled. She couldn’t be more in love with them.

    I hope I can show her that having children doesn’t have to be as emotionally painful as her children were to her. Maybe, as cjane said, our babies will perfect what the last generation was unable to accomplish.

  15. I think that our doctrine led me to have children. I was scared to do it, and had three a lot faster than I personally would have ever planned, but they came when heaven wanted them to, and now that we are at a point where we can’t have any more, I’m so grateful that the Lord is smarter than I am and they came when they did. Wisdom and order can come into play with God’s will (as I have learned through hard personal experience), but obedience to the commandment is sometimes a leap of faith, as CJane talked about yesterday.

  16. For me, I wanted them. I needed them. My body wanted to carry them and birth them. It was just pure moments of being a woman and doing what I felt like my body was meant to do. All my body parts suddenly became so utilitarian and useful and empowered!

    Our number three was a surprise (or came quicker) too, Heather. I had a tough time reconciling being pregnant with my ideal time line and yet still… felt like that was what my body was supposed to do.

    Congratulations to you again! You were glowing when I saw you early on, and I bet you’re still glowing!

  17. Thanks to so many of you who have shared your thoughts and experiences. Kelly, when the time is right, you’ll want them again. You just told me you wanted Cole . . .so. :-)

    Leo, thanks for your sincerity in sharing. One of the things I thought about as I was trying to remember what I thought before I actually became a mother was that ache in my heart to just love someone unselfhishly, and sure Martha, maybe it’s selfish in the end, kind of like King Benjamin’s whole speech about unprofitable servants, but I imagine it’s the closest we’ll get to reaching our potential. We do give a lot and sacrifice a lot, but what we are given in return so far outweighs it that you just can’t actually surrender much.

    Meredith, part of my initial resentment with this pregnancy was the whole, hey this is my body, it’s working hard enough just caring for children, I don’t want to be carrying one again. But it is amazing, and kind of like what Angie said, “Then something deeper and at once far above and beyond me took over. That prompting– something spiritual or something profoundly organic or a little of each,” that hard to explain feeling in your heart, or your gut or both that you just know and you take a leap of faith, like Indiana, and cjane.

    Thanks again for taking to time to think and share. I hope that my friends do get to understand eventually how wrong they were Azucar. And Brooke, I wouldn’t say I’m glowing, but growing, yes. Our ultrasound appointment is next week, so maybe we’ll know if it’s a boy or a girl in just a few short days.

  18. The main reason I want to have kids is because everything else in my life seems so pointless in comparison. I like my job, and I do get satisfaction out of it, but it pales in comparison to making motherhood and the management of our home and our family my full-time career. I want to put my time and energy into something that I, and those I love most, can reap the benefits of.

  19. I don’t know that anyone will read down this far…but, for what it’s worth, I don’t think that the decision to have children is always a rational one. Some people know that they love kids and enjoy being with them, and that’s great, but there are LOTS of people who don’t feel that way, and yet- they still have kids! Even people who aren’t members of the Church. I think there must be something in us pushing us to do something that we won’t know we always wanted to do until we’ve already done it.

  20. Why do people assume that one is selfish for not having children.
    and
    Very generous for having lots. It doesn’t compute with me.

    We decided not to have children not because we don’t like children, in fact just the opposite.

    The world’s population is growing at a staggering rate…..

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