Should I have kids...or not?
The Kid Decision
Two weeks ago, we published a collection of resources and stories on egg freezing (check it out here). We seemed to hit a nerve, as we received an outpouring of thoughts on egg freezing and the larger process of controlling the decision to have children. This week, we’re going to discuss that decision in more detail—let’s dive in.
I’ve also been confused about when people know whether they want children or not, and I’ve written about not feeling particularly maternal before. Some things I’m curious about:
Is there a so-called “motherhood switch?”
How do you financially plan for a child?
If you have children, was there a moment when you decided you were ready?
If you conceived accidentally, how do you feel about the decision now?
Have you always known that you don’t want kids? If so, how did you make that decision?
Before we go any further, this conversation is about deciding to have/not have children, and not about your body's ability to have them. That is a totally different conversation and a heartbreaking one for many.
Another thing to call out—this conversation, even in hypothetical form, pits parents against non-parents. As Meghan Daum, the author of Selfish, Shallow and Self Absorbed puts it—”The parents] are self-sacrificing and mature, the [non-parents] are overgrown teenagers living large on piles of disposable income.” But of course, in most cases, this is simply not true. There are many ways to be a non-parent, much like there are many ways to be a parent. Gaining exposure to the stories on both sides is the only way to make this conversation less taboo.
I currently haven’t decided if I want children, nor have I actively decided that I don’t want them, so my contribution to this conversation is presenting two theories backed by history and research. First up, a quick internet browse will tell you that “maternal instinct” is a social construct, and its prominence in social discourse only arose around the gendered division of labor that came about after the Industrial Revolution. Coincidentally, this is also when having children started to be branded as “sacred.” Hmmm.
Second, evolutionary biologists Lonnie Aarssen and Stephanie Altman have talked about their theory that women might inherit the urge to have children, genetically speaking (wild, I know). As humans, we’re anxious about disappearing and children are often seen as a means to leave a legacy. But Aarssen and Altman think that, historically, “Men controlled women’s reproduction, thanks to a lack of good birth control. Thus, for millennia, women often had only one choice for making a lasting impact: reproduction. What’s more, most had to reproduce, even if they didn’t want to.” Aarssen and Altman go on to suggest that women might have passed down a “weak parenting drive” that essentially laid dormant until the modern age. “Now that women have more rights and opportunities, the descendants of these reluctant mothers are foregoing making babies in order to make art, write books, start nonprofits and businesses, and pursue other non-kid accomplishments.” Some of today’s women “inherited genes from female ancestors who were not attracted to a life goal involving motherhood, but were nevertheless forced to endure it. Their descendants then—many women alive today—can now freely realize the lifestyle and life course goals that their maternal ancestors wished for, but were denied because of patriarchal subjugation.” Aarssen said it’s possible that the choice to be “childlessness” really is genetic, and in coming decades, the child-free movement will fizzle. Childless women simply won’t pass their genes along (!!!).
Let’s talk about this. I’d love to hear from you in this week’s Diem Doc—How do you decide to have children? For people who struggled with the decision and decided to have kids, what's your advice for someone trying to figure out the right course? Is there anything you wish someone had told you (good or bad)? For those who struggled with the decision and decided NOT to have kids, what's your advice for someone trying to figure out the right decision for them? How do you deal with the inappropriate societal shock around your decision? Perhaps there’s something else that comes up for you when you think about this question. In any case, let’s get the conversation started. I can’t wait to read your thoughts.
What burning question is keeping you up at night?
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What We’re Reading…
👏 Jennifer Anniston has nothing to hide (Allure)
From last week’s Diem Doc on Founder Confessions…
Question: Are you ever scared of failing? The stakes seem so high when you start your own company.
Founder Answer: I am constantly scared of failing. I think it’s one of my greatest weaknesses but I just heard something that I’ve learned and interalized about failing put into the best sentence/thought ever. ‘Failure is an event, not a person.’ Failure is something that happens - whether good or bad, it can hurt and it can suck and you can mourn the event; you can cry; you can feel pain. But at the end of the day, it’s not you. What is you, what defines you, is how you act afterwards. What did you learn from it? What did you learn about others and about yourself? How can you grow and change now that you’ve run into an obstacle? That is what matters.
Read more and contribute, here.
Till next time,