Inevitably the first question people ask when they see
the title of my book is, "Well, what's the answer? Why have kids?” It's a
tough question, because the answer has changed along the way.
When I started to write Why Have Kids?, I was just
six months pregnant--glowing but naive. I thought I had it all figured out:
the crib we were going to buy, the child care arrangement that would ensure my
husband and I equally shared parenting responsibilities, and the
midwife-assisted birth I hoped would go smoothly and without medical
But my best laid plans fell apart when I got critically
ill in my 28th week of pregnancy, forcing me to deliver my daughter Layla
early in order to save my life.
My parenting dreams fell apart and I spent the
first two months of new motherhood watching my baby in an incubator, sitting
vigil and hoping each day would be a good one.
My dashed parental expectations are extreme, but they’re
hardly unique. Mothers and fathers across the U.S. are finding that the reality
rarely stacks up to our idealized vision of parenting.
Maybe it’s that we had trouble breastfeeding, or that our
job has no maternity leave policy. Maybe the all-encompassing sense of love and
joy you were told you’d feel when a new baby arrives wasn’t quite as intense as
you’d expected. Whatever it is, it hurts.
For me, it was that parenting was supposed to be the
happiest thing in my life, but the relationship that was said to bring the
most joy mostly felt like anxiety and shame that I wasn’t doing enough. Those
feelings faded as Layla grew stronger, but I never quite forgave myself for not
feeling that overwhelming new mom joy I had always heard about.
The number one reason American parents give for why they
want children is for the "joy” of it. Since having Layla, I've realized
that's wrong, we can't have kids for the joy of it. It’s too lofty an
expectation, and wanting one little person to fill you with happiness just
Parenting doesn’t always make us happy, but who ever
said it was supposed to? There’s nothing wrong with having complicated feelings
about our kids. Parenting is a complicated, nuanced relationship! So it’s not
important that we have an answer to, “Why have kids?" The important thing is that we’re talking