One of the reasons I was always ambivalent about having kids is the mixed feelings I have towards my own parents. I’m not sure if the details really matter; I’m probably not unusual in feeling love and disgust, pride and disappointment, gratitude and fury towards the two people who raised me. The time I spend with them is fun but also painful and it always seems a little “off”.
My question is whether that’s inevitable. Is that just the cost of being a parent, being eventually despised/loved?
I suspect that the key thing my parents could have done differently that would have affected my feelings towards them for life would be to live their own lives better. If they’d ever had their shit together it would have changed the whole playing field. They’re good people, but their lives are a mess and they’re not especially happy.
You are never prepared for being a parent. Sometimes you are going to royally screw up, and sometimes you are going to hit the nail squarely on the head.
You can look to your parents to learn what NOT to do. Yes, your kids will hate you sometimes. And sometimes you will hate your kids. But the bottom line is, if you had it to do over again, would you have them again?
If the answer is yes, then you’re doing something right.
There is no easy answer. But if you’re ambivalent, then don’t have kids right now. Have you thought about talking to your folks, or getting some counseling?
I don’t think that your feelings about your parents are unusual…most of us probably know exactly what our parents could have done differently to be better at parenting. Of course, our parents also know exactly what WE could do differently to be better kids or better citizens or whatever as well.
I think that’s just human nature–to be able to see everyone else’s flaws in a much clearer light than we see our own. Otherwise, we’d all be a lot more depresssed.
None of us will be perfect parents. A few of us will be excellent (but won’t know it until our kids are adults), a few of us will be very good (same thing), and most of us are just shooting for Good Enough. Parenting, unfortunately, means sometimes making your kids really, really angry or unhappy, because the job of parenting entails making sure your kids are safe, healthy, educated, and responsible, and those qualities are just not nearly as much fun in the attaining as, say, a nice tan on a Daytona beach.
I want my kids to be happy and healthy in the world. It sure sounds simple enough, but in reality, it takes a lot of work to get someone to that point sometimes. If they end up happy and healthy, then I’ve pretty much done my job, I think.
You don’t mention your age, but perhaps your decision will become a little clearer to you as you get older. There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to not have children, and you have every right to make that decision for yourself.
I had an extremely iffy relationship with my parents, but I think I can safely say (and I’ll find out quickly if I’m wrong, since my daughter’s on here, too) that my relationship with my own kids is infinitely better.
They’ve even told me once or twice that I was <gasp shudder> right about a few things once upon a time.
Not everybody wants to have kids or should have kids. I’ve known people who I thought would be great parents turn out to be terrible ones, and people who you’d least expect to be good parents to be great ones, and some people are best with no kids at all. Just don’t base your having children entirely on your relationship with your own parents; it is possible for one generation to learn from the previous one’s mistakes and move forward.
And in the meantime, listen to your own words. Live your own life well, and then if and when the time comes, you’ll have a far better idea of whether you should have kids or not. But in any case, you’ll be happy with yourself!
fessie, I can unreservedly say that my mother should have never had kids (and she had 5 of them!) My parents were not good parents, and my childhood sucked. When I got pregnant for the first time at the age of 25 (unplanned pregnancy), it took me about 2 minutes to figure out that I wanted to keep the baby, not have an abortion or give it up for adoption. It didn’t take me much longer to make being a good parent a primary goal. However, deciding that you want to parent differently from how your parents did it is not enough! Imagine if you were taking a road trip, and all you decided is “well, I know I don’t want to go to Florida”. All well and fine, but where do you want to go, and how are you going to get there? IOW, don’t just decide how you don’t want to parent; figure out how you do want to parent, and how you are going to carry that out. FWIW, I now have three kids, and feel I’m doing a pretty good job of raising them.
Best of luck!
Thanks for your input, Dopers, I knew there’d be some interesting thoughts. norinew your remark about deciding what I want to do really reasonated with me.
It’s amazing how much the whole posting/reading process creates clarity. I can see that my issues w/my parents have a lot to do with some serious problems that they have, problems that are way beyond the pale - my mom’s numerous suicide attempts and hospitalizations, my father’s chronic unemployment and depression. So that gives the whole issue a different context that I didn’t explain at first b/c I wasn’t sure whether or not it was germaine. Clearly it is.
I think most of us spent too much time watching Brady Bunch and Father Knows Best. Parents are people too and are human. If worrying about being a bad parent makes you question having kids then you probably shouldn’t. Not because you will be a bad parent but because being a parent involves a tremendous amount of guilty. You always wonder if you should have done something differently. The truth is you should love your kids and try to do a good job and realize you aren’t perfect.
Parenting is the only job in the world that is done entirely by amateurs. With the very best of loving intentions there has never been a parent in the world who didn’t screw up royally at some point or other. When you become an adult you start to realize that not only were your parents NOT the godlike beings you thought they were when you were 4, and NOT the monsters you thought they were when you were 14, they were just flawed individuals doing the best they could with what they had. In the best of situations, they loved you anyway, and you learn to love them all the more. (In the worst of cases, abusive parents are sick and pitiable, of course, but this is not what you are going to be!)
The fact that you worry about being a good enough parent, IMO is a reasonable indicator that you have a good chance of being one.
Another thing that might set your mind at ease: There is some thought nowadays that parents are not as responsible as we once thought they were for how their children turn out. Take a look at the book The NURTURE ASSUMPTION: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do by Judith Harris. Whether you end up agreeing with the book’s premise or not, it will give you some ideas to think about, and may assuage any guilt you may be anticipating!
Excellent suggestions, thank you so much! Dopers rule!
I should have explained that I’m already pregnant, 9 weeks along. And I just found out this morning that I’m carrying twins!!! TWINS!! It’s a two-fer!!! Apparently that’s not unusual in moms over 35. So if I sound overly emotional & intense on the whole subject, hormones might be part of why.
While it is indeed normal to be somewhat ambivelent about your parents - regardless of whether your parents were the Cleavers or the anti-Cleavers - having children of your own will really change how you see them.
You’ll begin to wonder how your parents managed to keep you and themselves alive - especially when you consider the baggage they were carrying. You being to admire that you were regularly fed and bathed. You begin to wonder how they managed to ever make ends meet.
The resentment you have towards them for never having enough (affection, patience, money, time) turns into awe that they had as much as they did.
And your children will feel the same way about you (once they outgrow the “mom is god” stage and move to the “mom is clueless stage”). Until they have children. When you realize your parents were human - and that raising a kid is a damn hard job for someone who is only human.
(Watch the hormones. Sounds like depression may run in your family and the “baby blues” may hit you hard - especially with the demands of twins. If you haven’t mentioned your families mental history to your OB, do so now. From experience, PPD can knock you for one hell of a loop.)
Wow! I was 38 when I had my last one. At the time of my pregnancy, a friend of mine said “you know, twins aren’t uncommon when you’re over 35. What will you do if you have twins?” I told her I would have to decide which one to sell on ebay!
BTW, the friend who asked me that question had actually had twins (they were grown by the time I had my youngest), and she did fine. I believe you will, too. And, you’ve got lots of Doper moms to go to for advice, anytime of the day or night!
“There is no way to be a perfect mother, but there are a million ways to be a good one”