Should I just give up on the idea of having kids?

I’ve always thought that eventually I’d have a kid or two. Back when I was 20, I kept saying “Oh, in five years I’ll have a kid.” I’m 31 now, and it just never seems to be the right time. Meanwhile, all my friends are doin’ it. I have at least one female friend who is not married and is just dyin’ to have a kid. She’s even thinking about just doing it on her own, she wants one that badly.

And me? I keep waiting for that magical moment that’s supposed to happen to all females, where all of a sudden, something clicks and pregnancy and infants start looking appealing. As it stands, the idea of being pregnant scares the shit out of me. I’ve finally gotten this body semi in-shape, I don’t want to screw it all up by being pregnant. Furthermore, infants do nothing for me. If anything, they repulse me. I’ve yet to see a newborn (even a picture of a newborn) that appeals to me. My first thought is “Yuk, it’s probably all dirty and full of germs.” My second thought is “I resent the burden of having to give pills to my cat twice a day. Breastfeeding? Changing diapers? Not for me, thank you very much.”

On the other hand, a six-year-old sounds pretty nice. A ten-year-old sounds even nicer. And adult children when I’m old seems very, very nice. I see how much pleasure my parents get out of their adult children, and I’d kind of like to have that to look forward to in my dotage.

Mr. Athena is somewhat divided on the issue. He was married previous to hooking up with me, and they were never, ever, ever going to have kids. He claims that it was mostly her idea, but still, he’s not clamoring to spawn. He’s not 100% against it, either. We both worry about having to be so responsible, and doing something that takes up so much of our lives. We’re your typical DINK types - we spend too much money, take nice vacations, etc. etc.

I’ve never really seriously contemplated never having a kid. I’ve always assumed at one point I’d start wanting one. I’m getting older, though, and it still isn’t happening. So what to do? Take the plunge, get through the pregnancy/infancy thing, and hope that I like it more than I think? Decide never to have any of the little buggers? I never hear parents say that they regret having kids, but then again, who would admit such a thing even if deep down they did feel that way?

I figger I’m doing the intelligent, logical thing, and throwing this question out to a pile of virtual strangers in the hopes that someone will beat some sense into me.

is adoption not an option? that way you can skip the messy baby stages and get right to the 6 year old or so.

anyhow. I have several friends (couples) who are childless, they seem content with their choice. if you and hubby are happy w/o kids, why should you let some ‘shouldn’t I want kids’ mean more than the fact you’re happy w/status quo?

So the question is “I don’t really feel an overwhelming urge to have children. Should I do it anyway?”

My personal opinion - if neither you nor your husband feel the need to have children, why would you procreate?
[li]Because everyone else does - obviously not a very convincing reason.[/li][li]Because I might regret it later - people that have children might very well regret their decision too. You might regret more the fact that you gave up travelling or whatever it is you do instead.[/li][li]Because my parents/siblings/friends keep on bugging me to reproduce. Even less valid a justification than the one mentioned in (A)[/li][li]It’s my duty to my ancestors and/or the human race. Poppycock! I think my duty to my ancestors is to live a happy productive life, and that can very well happen without children. My duty to the human race is to contribute something worthwhile to society, which obligation can also be fulfilled without having any children.[/li][/list]

Having children is an important responsibility that demands a lifelong commitment. Too many people enter it haphazardly or with the thought “this would be fun.” If you don’t plan on devoting a huge chunk of your time to raising/educating a child, don’t bother.

No, adoption really isn’t an option. Especially an older child. I know it’s callous of me, but the risk of adopting a six year old who has possible (probably?) been abused or at the very least, had no stable home for most of his/her life is not at all appealing. And adopting an infant when I can have one of my own just fine doesn’t seem right, either.

I guess what I’m worried about is suddenly deciding at age 45, post-childbearing age, that I really, really, really want kids. I figure I’ve got at least 7-8 years before I really have to make a decision, so I’d go ahead and start worrying about it now. Such is my personality.

Well here’s my story. We waited a looooong time. I was 35 when I got pregnant for the first time. So, I certainly understand the “never seems like the right time” feeling.

We knew we wanted kids eventually, but I didn’t particularly like other people’s children either, and felt hopelessly inept with babies.

A few things:

  1. It really is different when the baby is your own. It’s trite, it’s corny, but it’s really, really true.

  2. The way we thought of it is: What do you want your family to be like in the long run? Any given stage in a child’s life is over so quickly it takes your breath away sometimes. My son just turned 2 and it seems like he was born yesterday. We just decided that being an eternal couple wasn’t enough for us.

  3. My experience with pregnancy was that I gained more respect for my body than ever. And, if you have a healthy, active pregnancy the weight you gain won’t be that significant.

  4. Yes, feeding and diapering can be tedious. But, doing things for someone you love is always worthwhile.

It’s a very personal decision, but there’s my 2 cents.

Athena, I can relate. While I always assumed I would have kids, I just couldn’t see myself as the responsible mom type. I was quite a sight in my youth and young-adulthood.

I was 32 when my son was born. I still don’t feel all that responsible, but I do what I need to do. Diapers aren’t fun, but they’re really not that bad (even the bad ones). I love my son, but I also love getting away with my husband while he’s at his grandma’s house!

Don’t have kids just because you might want them sometime later. Wait until it’s something you really want and them go for it!

Very eerie. I logged on tonight with the intent of starting a thread asking how old is too old to start a family. 35? 40? 45?

I am 32 and although my husband and I have repeatedly talked about having children it is always with the “someday” attached to it. We are unable to have children on our own so we need to actually plan when and how and where, with all the infertility issues that tag along with all of that. We’ve had all the tests done. I was given a prescription to make me ovulate. I never filled it. It made a baby all more real and possible and we decided it was not the right time.

I’ve often thought that maybe the reason we let time slip by, year after year, must be because deep down we really don’t want kids. Then I think about being 70 and having no adult children visiting me and no grandchildren to love and spoil and I think I really do want kids.

I, like you, have a very real fear of suddenly realizing at age 45 or 50 that I did want kids and now it’s too late. What will I do then?

It scares me that the older I get the more selfish of my time and freedom I seem to become. I like being able to get up and go whenever and wherever we feel like. I enjoy staying up till all hours of the night and sleeping in the next morning. I like deciding at 7pm that I don’t feel like cooking, again, and screw it, lets go out to eat.

I have no advice or opinions to share with you other than saying there are other women out there that do not automatically get those mommy-type feelings that tell them “It’s Time”.

Sometimes I think I really do want to have children and sometimes I think I really don’t. Sometimes I think I can live with not having them but am afraid that one day, when it’s too late, I will regret it terribly. Sometimes I know that I really, really do want a baby and I want it now. Then I remember that I am doing well to feed the dogs on some kind of regular basis and wonder what the hell am I thinking wanting to be all responsible for a child.

Sorry if this is long. Like I said, I was going to start a thread tonight on this very subject and you basically asked all the questions I’ve been wondering about, so I apologize if my post is long-winded.

Oh, and…

My mother. Often. Seriously.


I am looking 30 in the face and the question has occured to me too.
jawofech, I know how you feel.

see, for me, I do very much want to have kids, it’s always been a queston of when.

something has always come up, it seems.

we decided that we will try next year (after I graduate from school). but for us, we think the cut off age is 35. If it doesnt happen then, then perhaps adopt or not.

I don’t have an issue with couples that wait longer, I think its important for everyone to decide on their own. I just dont want to be 65 when my kid is graduating from high school.

originally posted by Bad News Baboon*
**I just dont want to be 65 when my kid is graduating from high school. **
That’s not so bad. My pal John’s dad was getting ready to retire when he got out of high school, and his dad was just as active as anyone else’s folks.

Athena, if you don’t want kids, don’t have kids. You may have twinges of regret later on, but so what? Many folks have the occasional regret.

I have several aunts and uncles (on both sides of the family) who never reproduced. Most of them are quite happy with the decision, and quite happy to spend time with me and Mrs. Barbarian.

As for a magic moment when <poof> you want kids, I’m not sure if that exists. Try hanging out with well-behaved infants on a regular basis.


It’s OK to not have kids. Really. It’s OK to have kids, not have kids, adopt kids, not adopt kids, whatever YOU decide is right. There’s no people shortage so it really, really is up to you and your husband. Do what is right for YOU.

I’m 43, childless, and quite content about it. In my twenties I became pregnant four times while married. I had three miscarriages and one tubal pregnancy. The marriage deteriorated & we divorced when I was 32. At that point, I did want a child, but only if I was in a stable relationship and financially able to not work for the first five years of the child’s life until s/he went to school.

In my mid thirties I became “unintentionally” pregnant. I was prepared to do whatever it took to have & care for the child as a single mother, but had another miscarriage. I had even worked out roughly when the birthday would be (mid-March), picked out possible names…that one hurt.

Since then, there has been no room in my life for a child, and I don’t think its fair to be a single mother as a choice. I’ve been through several periods of real sadness that I have no children, because I think I would have been an excellent mother.

However, I realise that I have a lot of the selfish luxuries of being childless…I can travel, go out at night on a whim or spend weekends kayaking or camping without worrying about anything more than making sure the dogsitter comes by to feed & walk my dogs if they can’t come along. I adore my nephew & am hoping for more babies from my siblings! My sister & her husband tried for several years (IVF) to have children. They finally adopted a 16 month old boy. He is almost 3 now & my sister is finally five months pregnant & absolutely delighted. She is also exhausted much of the time; phone conversations are difficult because she has to keep running around after Ittai to make sure he’s not putting CDs down the toilet or ingesting household cleaners. She really looks forward to his afternoon naps!

If you & Mr Athena are not really committed to having a child, don’t. If you do, there will I am sure be times that you regret your choice, no matter how much you love the kid. Not everyone must have children, even if all your friends are doing it. And hey…at 31, you still have plenty of time. My sister became pregnant at 39, and I have a friend who had her first child at 44. Most of my female friends are childless by choice, and none of us has truly regretted it.

Athena, like you’ve been told, do what’s right for you. Kids, no kids, adopt, foster, mentor, volunteer at some kid-related organization: there are no right answers. Just right for you answers.

Do you have any nieces and nephews? Neighborhood kids you can stand? Cousins with kids?

My wife and I have 2 kids. Whoopee for us! My older sister and her husband knew when they got married they were not going to have kids. Whoopee for them! (They have more, and nicer, vacations.) My little brother and his wife were undecided. Maybe kids, maybe not. They decided not. My little sister and her husband are still talking about it. It goes back and forth.

As a parent, the Party Line is: Oh yeah, kids are WONDERFULL! Have a passel of them yourself and see.

Pound out a few, and see if you like 'em. If they don’t work out, sell 'em off at a profit. Everyone wins.

Wring and Arnold and all the subsequent posters here make a fine point, with which I agree completely, about only havin’ babies if you’re sure you want them and are ready to deal fairly and affectionately with 'em at every stage of development.

…I also think you should go ahead and do it. I like to see Smart People Like Us Here at The Straight Dope passing on the genes, as opposed to most of the meatheads on the planet.

(My wife’s old college roomie – a tenured English professor at Columbia, specializing in Reformation drama, with degrees from Yale, Princeton, and Oxford – just had her first child, a happy and healthy little girl, about a month ago…at age 42. She’d been wanting a baby for years, but just got around to it. She’s doing great, and is handling her new life much more efficiently than she would have at 20.)

Athena. Girlfriend. Sister. I soooo understand where you’re coming from. I can’t wait to meet you IRL one of these days.

First, my opinion. Do not have children to conform to society or family pressure. It’s not their life, it’s your’s. Wait until you know the time is right for you, if ever.

Now, my story. I do want children. I think. Someday. I’m 33 now and I can feel that pressure of the childbearing years slipping away, so to speak. And honestly, I’m like you: babies (newborns) don’t do much for me. Now my 4-year old niece: she’s a ball. She’s much more fun now that she’s started to get her own personality and such.

My husband isn’t sure if he ever wants them, but he’s also 4 years younger than I am. Society does put an incredible amount of pressure on us to procreate though. If you don’t have children and especially if you don’t want children, you are looked upon with suspicion and/or pity, depending on the circumstances.

The weird part is that I want to be pregnant for some strange reason. I want to experience that part of a woman’s life. However, right now, I’m none too sure I want the results of the pregnancy. Ah, life. Isn’t it a b**** sometimes?

When GrizzWife and I started our journey on becoming parents, we used the following credo…

“No Regrets”

We knew that, whatever decision we made was going to be well thought out and right for us. Circumstances may changes, but we promised ourselves that we would not look back and say “we should have done this…” or “we shouldn’t have done that…” We weren’t going to allow ourselves to be caught up in self-pity in the future by wishing a decision that we’d made some time in the past hadn’t been made.
My advice - adopt this credo. And use it to help you live happily whatever your decision may be.

And best wishes to you both.

Good replies, all.

cher3: Thanks for re-iterating the whole “when it’s yours it’s different” thing. I strongly suspect that’s true. I also like the “what do you want your family to be like in the long run?” question. Thing is, when I think about that question, I can’t imagine not having at least one kid in the picture. I have a large family, and it’s very close. I just can’t imagine not having kids in the long run, but at the same time I can’t imagine having them in the short run!

EJsGirl: The problem is, I can see going through my whole life wanting kids “someday” but not wanting them now. It’s sort of like getting in shape - I sure WANT to be in shape and lose ten pounds, but getting off my butt to exercise RIGHT NOW is not always easy. However, sometimes putting the work in now, even when it’s not very appealing, is worth it in the long run. Once I have a 6 year old (or even a 4 year old) I know I’ll be happy.

jawofetch: Nice to know that there’s others out there who feel like me. Sheesh - I have a cat who needs to be pilled twice a day, and man-o-man that puts a cramp in taking off for the weekend on a moment’s notice! It’s times like these that I question whether the responsibility is really for me. Maybe we can keep yakking and eventually come to some conclusions!

Baboon, Barbarian, and Broomstick: I guess I’m leaning towards thinking I do want kids, just not now. I wish I were a man, and had no time limit. And yes, there just never seems to be the “right” time.

Carina42: Thanks for the reminder that I still have lots of time to think about this. I worry sometimes that having a kid at 40 would be impossible. I guess it’s not - just harder, maybe.

Rue: But that’s the PROBLEM!! How do I KNOW what’s right for me?!? I do have a neices and nephews, and I think they’re the coolest thing in existance. But they’re all past that infancy stage, too. They were icky and boring when they were little.

Uke: Damn, I agree with you on the passing along the genetics thing. Mr. Athena and I are the picture of intelligence, and yes, the world would be a worse place if we didn’t procreate. I have no doubts we’d be pretty good parents, too.

BunnyGirl: Yup, we should get together sometime. Pregnancy, to me, is a a scary thing, but I figure it’s something to experience. I mean, I tend to be the kind of person who goes “Oh, you did THAT? and it was FUN? it was COOL? OK, I gotta do it.” and having kids sort of fits in there. A lot of people think it’s the best thing in the world, so why would I NOT want to do it? Hmmmm…

Another issue I haven’t mentioned is that Mr. Athena is gettin’ up there in the years. I’m 31, so I have plenty o’ time. But Mr. Athena just turned 44, so even if we have a kid now he’s looking at having a twenty year old in his 60’s. He’s a spritely 44 - no one believes him when he says how old he is - but 44 nevertheless.

We talked about stuff last night, and he was actually more sane and open about it than I expected. He just said something like “Hey, we don’t have to do it now. We’ll move up to da UP, get settled in, and have a kid in 2 or 3 years. No big deal.”

Another factor - Life couldn’t be better for me having kids. In a year, I’ll be living in the same town as my vast family, and my mother’s one dream in life is for me to move back there and have a kid. She’s flat out told me she will practically raise the little bugger on her own if I want her to. So I have a built in babysitter who will take the kid at the drop of a hat anytime I want. I have no reason to doubt this - my neice and nephew are at her house all the time. She’s a great influence, after all, she raise me, and how much better can you get? (hehee).

Also, I’ll almost certainly be able to be a stay home mother if I want. Regardless of if we spawn or not, I’m not going to have a “real” job once we move. I’m hoping to either figure out something to do cooking-related (small catering business? Teach classes?) or continue to be a computer jockey via the internet. So I’ll have plenty o’ time to change diapers and make home movies of the larvae.

OK, I’ve blabbed long enough. Continue plotting out my life, fellow dopers.

I’m reminded of an old joke/story about another life choice: “If you want to be a writer, then buy yourself a beret and go sit in a coffeehouse. If you want to write, then write.”

IMO, having kids ONLY because you think you should or because you think you might regret it later is a bad idea. Also misguided is the reason that “My kids will keep me company/take care of me when I’m old.” There are no guarantees. You could outlive your kids, or their lives might take them far away, or they might not be in your life when you’re old. They might need YOU to take care of THEM or their offspring.

Do you have a burning desire to actually perform all the tasks involved in raising a child? Change diapers, wipe tears, deal with toddler and teenage tantrums, pick up toys again and again, teach kindness and the alphabet, give up meaningful sleep, deal with peer pressure and rebellion, clean the carpet, hear your kid scream “I hate you!,” do triple the laundry you do now, and so on and on? When you don’t have kids, it’s easy to forget that there’s more to the job than bouncing the kid on your knee. In your mental image of being a parent, is your child always a perfect little bundle, or are you prepared to handle a child with disabilities? Physical, mental, emotional, developmental? What if your own health or financial situation changes? The child will still depend on YOU.

Passing on your intelligent genes? Bah. Another external and irrelevant reason. Even geniuses can have dumb (or mentally disabled) children. (Or on the flip side, can you handle a prodigy? Our friends have two of them. The older one attends a special, expensive GT school. He’s a real handful. It’s a mixed blessing.) The age thing? We’re in the same boat. I’m 34 and Mr. S is already creaky at 45. Never mind having a 20-year-old at age 65 – is Mr. A ready, willing, and able to chase a toddler around when he’s 47?

Mr. S and I are committed to NOT having children. (No duh.) But even with my total lack of maternal instinct, even I am occasionally lulled into thinking about what it would be like to have kids. It’s so easy to be lured by the romantic image of being surrounded by loving, cute, smart, obedient children. But then my friend’s cute but evil three-year-old goes into one of her famous tantrums, and I’m reminded how grateful I am that I don’t have to deal with her 24 hours a day, and that my house is always quiet and usually clean. Having a kid would turn our nice peaceful household upside-down. I like things the way they are, thanks.

Kudos to folks who take on the massive and important responsibility of parenting, and do it well. But kudos also to those who recognize that it’s not for them, and refrain from reproducing for its own sake. IMO, if you’re seriously waffling, that’s a sign.

Childless couples

My FIL is in his late 70s, making him 44 years older than his oldest child (my wife), and it’s not a bad thing. The key is “will he have the energy to keep up”, not “how old is he?”.

Trust me, ‘Stay-At-Home-Mom’ or ‘Working-Mom’, you’ll find the time. It’s amazing how much time you find once you’ve got a child in your life. Things like diapers quickly become a non-issue when your child is the one making the mess.

Don’t take the above as suggesting that you must have children, 'cause there are other ways to get your ‘kid fix’. I personally think that childless couples that contribute to the lives of other people’s children are pretty d*mn cool, and you get the bonus of not having to wake-up early on a weekend when junior decides to blast the Cartoon Network at top volume.

I’m torn on this issue.

To give you some background on where I’m coming from… Myself, I never really planned on having kids. My break down goes this way. Child #1 - careless on my bc pills. Child #2 - because I already had a child, didn’t want to raise an only child. Planned this one. Child #3 - took my bc pills faithfully. Don’t know what happened. Child #4 - changed my birth control methods. People, the sponge does not work well!.

Before I had kids, I was never good with them. I’d never spent much time with them, and frankly, they made me nervous. When I had my first, I had no idea how to even get him dressed to take him home. It was a long journey to get from being completely incompetant to being able to change a diaper in .3 seconds.

My first thought is that if you don’t want kids, don’t have them! I see too many people who obviously don’t want to be parents, yet had kids anyway. I respect people who make the decision with a lot of thought. It does change your life, and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

On the other hand, I LOVE being a parent, and I never thought I would! Despite my rough start, all of my friends agree that I am a really good parent (I use my friends opinion because I hate to brag solely on my own behalf, plus I’m a little biased when it comes to me). All that stuff I dreaded? Well, cher3 had it right on the nose when she said it’s different when you have your own. I thought I loved pretty deep, but it was nothing compared to the way I love my kids. It’s hard work, but it’s more rewarding than I could have imagined. I’d hate to see someone decide not to have kids for the same reasons I (originally) didn’t want kids. I would have missed out on so much.

On the other hand, if you really don’t think you’re ready, and you may resent your children, then don’t have them.

But if you don’t resent them, it may be the best decision you’ve ever made.

Uh. See? I’m torn.

I think a lot of it comes down to not having kids to fill an emotional need in your life. Have a child because you feel like you have so much to share, you want to fill a need in someone elses life.