Monday, November 01, 2010

the baby question

I turned 40 last July. One of the many benefits of getting through your 30's is having a firmer grasp on knowing what you want out of your life and why you want it. Also, people are starting to get used to the way you are and not expecting you to make any big changes. For instance, if you've always been kind of a slacker with not much of a job, by the time you are 40, people will usually stop asking you when you are going to get a job.

Like all child-free people, I spent some of my 20's and most of my 30's explaining to people why my husband and I do not have a baby. To family, to friends, even to acquaintances and strangers I've justified, explained, and rationalized why I do not have a baby, do not want a baby, and am not planning on having a baby. Deciding to not have a baby is not seen as a legitimate choice in this culture. Or in any culture. This is especially true when you are happily married, educated, middle-class, and good with children. My husband, Andrew, and myself are all of the above. Kids love us. We love kids. We just don't want them living in our house.

The truth is, I've never wanted to have a child. I've always wanted to be an artist and live my life unburdened by having to raise another human being. I know that being an artist does not preclude having children, that there are people out there who do both. In fact, one of my closest friends and artist who I admire most has two children under the age of five, and she pulls off the parent/artist thing in a way that I find kind of magical. But that's not me, and that kind of balancing act is not something I want to try out and see if I could be good at it, too. The problem with becoming a parent is that even if you suck at it, you usually won't get fired, and if you don't like it, you can't really quit.

Our decision does not dim the hope of certain people. One time, I called a good friend with happy news. "Guess what?!" I said. "You're pregnant!" my friend said. Ummmm, no. I had been selected to go attend a workshop as a resident. "Ohhhh..." my friend said. We were both disappointed and slightly embarrassed for the other, her wishing I would get it together and get knocked up already, and me wishing she would get used to the fact that I am and will remain child-free.

I bring this subject up because it's a question everyone has to consider, whether or not to raise children. The cultural expectation that one should have a baby overrides many people's decision-making process around the question. I had another friend who didn't realize she did not want a baby until she married someone who didn't. It never occurred to her to question whether or not she wanted a child, she just thought she would because... well, because that's what you do. As I get older it's a question that comes up less and less, and it's a relief. There's very little support for people who don't want to have children, and the conversation around it is usually the same. Are you an artist with a baby or struggling with the baby question? I'm very interested in the journey people people go through when thinking about this decision. Post your thoughts here.

66 comments:

  1. Many years ago when I was a still in Art school it occurred to me that I may never be in a position to have a child and try to do art.
    In my humble opinion the world places way too much emphasis on childbearing and not nearly enough on child supporting.
    Most of the men I knew while in my 20's were "not ready" and probably would not have stuck it out.
    Thanks for saying what it really is like to be responsible enough to choose this path.
    I have many family with members with kids and I love them.

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  2. I am a ceramic artist who just turned 30 and has two children, 5 and 2. I was just asking myself the question, do I really want to have kids, when we accidently got pregnant. My husband and I had been planning to wait a few more years, at least. While having children has turned out to be mostly good for me, teaching me many lessons and forcing me to be more productive with the studio time I do have, I've often wondered if it's what I would have chosen, had things turned out differently. I think you are right, that it's something that just kind of happens to a lot of us before we've had the chance to really think it through. I try very hard not to be jealous of my peers in the ceramic field who are childless and can work all day. I love my kids, but they are all consuming. I'm now just a few years away from them both being in school full time and I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I do think kids are a gift, though, and like most things in life, even if it's not planned, it can turn out for good if you let it. But I do respect yours and other people's conscious choice to not have children.

    Thank you for your blog. It's inspired me and many of my friends who are working our way slowly up to full time potter. I appreciate your insightful, thoughtful posts. :)

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  3. i will be 40 in february...happily married for 13 years and we are childless by choice and for some reason...not much flack for it. perhaps they are all talking behind our backs..dunno.
    i have been a full time potter for 11 years and can't imagine, at this point, juggling kids and my career..i don't know how people do it. if people inquire i often tell them that i'm pretty sure the universe did not want me to have kids cause i would probably be that mom that forgets them in the car or at the store, or whatever. true.
    enjoy your day, whitney.

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  4. Hi! I'm thirty with no children and not married. (Dun,dun,dun!)

    I never wanted to get married or have children, but then people had to bring kids to art fairs. Damn them.

    If it happens, it happens. I would like a baby someday, but we will see.

    I don't like the pressure people put on others thought to conform to their standards of "normal." As long as you are happy who cares?

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  5. 33 here, with a long term partner and childless by choice.

    i like this part " We just don't want them living in our house."

    when i think about children my first thought is where the heck i would put that in our small house that is already occupied by music studios, art studios and dangerous poky tools with sharp points.

    somehow giving up part of my studio has never been quite enough of a motivation- well that and giving up 16 years of studio time.

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  6. I know I am still a youngin' but I think about this a lot. I'll be 27 next month, just finally graduating college next Spring and getting married in the summer. I think all the time do I want to have kids and more than I want to have them; I don't want to 'not' have them and regret it. I love kids and something about raising a kid with my fiancé gives me such wonderful feelings. That being said, sometimes I wish we didn't want them so badly as I see how they can really pull you away from your work. And work as an artist I must. This post and these comments however are making me realize I can wait... I don't have to have a kid right away and maybe better that I don't. Ugh...

    Again, Whitney, great thoughts and good for you sticking with your choice. I'm sorry you have to deal with people being stupid and not accepting your choices as valid sometimes.

    Also, if Josie's out there reading, I wonder what her thoughts on raising children and having a career are...

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  7. Whitney-

    So brave to bring the topic up and out in the open! I am 50 and have no children and I have taken a lot of flack for it over the years- A LOT.

    There was a time in my life when I was deseperate to have children, but the universe seemed to have other ideas...and what wisdom the universe has!! Looking back, my desire for a child was to fulfill an empty marriage- and I would have stayed in the marriage, I am sure,"happily" distracting myself from the bad relationship. Without the child, our marriage ran it's course in a mere 3 years.

    When I fell in true love, he was clear that he was done having children (he already had 1). So, I wondered- Love with this man or hoping (settling) for love with a man who wants children...? I made the wise choice to go with love of a wonderful man and I never looked back.

    In fact, the older I get the more I appreciate not having kids. So much work and dedication and exhaustion and emotion and time, and money, and....

    I have two fabulous neices and I work in a field where I have regular contact with kids- more than enough kid contact/energy for me :) It's a good life and I feel blessed.

    Because I don't have kids I can persue my interest in pottery and have the finances to support it. Someday it will be a full time passion for me.

    Thanks for being open about the topic-it's refreshing to say the least :)

    -Kathy

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  8. It never entered my mind NOT to have kids. I love kids, happily married (twice) and mom of 3 who are 21, 24 and 12. I've always been a full time, successful artist and have always been able to make "room for them in our house" and more importantly make time for them because of my work. Reading the post/comments it sounds like each person knows early on how they want to live their lives. But I would ask each of the "no kids by choice" people to step out of the now and picture yourself in the last chapter of your lives with no family to share that with...

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    1. But why do you want us to do that? What is your investment in other people having children? I assume I'll still have friends, and there will always be books.
      I'm absolutely cool with your choices; why can't you be cool with mine?

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  9. Okay, happily married -check. Both good with kids -check. Trying to work out a career in ceramics -check. Having my decision not to have kids repeatedly questioned? Double check.

    And people have some pretty interesting arguments for me to have children. I've been told that it's what nature and God both intended, and that it's my civic duty to produce intelligent citizens. I've even been told that my marriage is somehow invalid unless it produces children. And who will change our diapers when we're old and incontinent if we don't have children? I only hope that people put as much thought and energy into their own decision to have kids as they've put into our decision not to.

    Thanks for another interesting post Whitney. I always appreciate your candor.

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  10. oh...cindy...no offense, really, but suggesting that childless folk will have no family around them at the end of their lives is pretty naive and kind of mean. we have loads of family and friends and that is no argument to have babies--i'm sure you did not have them for that reason.
    i really don't want to bicker...i guess that just struck a nerve. i'm happy that you have had such a fulfilling life...carry on.

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  11. Such a great topic. It took my husband and me a long time to decide to have a child. At first we were firmly against it. We traveled, had careers, and enjoyed life. Then one day my husband confessed that he felt his biological clock ticking. I love kids, I just hadn't thought of myself as the patient, unselfish type. I like my sleep, my hobbies, and my free time. And I loved my husband and worried that we would have less time for one another with a child. After another year of consideration, we decided to have a child and she's amazing, wonderful, and has taught me the meaning of patience and selflessness. She was born with a rare neurological disorder and cannot care for herself. It has been difficult to be sure, but I'm SO glad that my husband and I took our time to really consider the proposition of raising a child before we jumped into it.

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  12. Great post, thank you.

    I am 30 years old, and have been happily married for nearly 5 years. We have a good income and own our home, but at this moment our lives are too busy for a child... we are very focused on building our futures, i.e. investments and careers.

    Somehow, our lack of children is something that our parents feel compelled to apologize for to other people, perfect strangers in fact. In fact, just this week an uncle posted a comment on fb bugging us to have kids. It became much worse when my sister in law had a baby. I feel like everyone is staring at my midsection all the time, or pressing me to hold babies that I'd rather not hold.

    Even though I'm basically responsible to provide retirement, nothing I accomplish could ever measure up to making a baby. And I do mean nothing. Publishing a book, getting a job I've been pursuing for 2 years, my husband's photography being published internationally - none of those things are a baby. It seems if it were up to our parents, we'd live under a freeway with 8 babies.

    People really are completely rude about babies. No one has ever stopped to think, what if we are trying and can't? It's not the case, but still, what if they are punching someone in the face with every mention?

    I don't know why people are so interested in seeing children born that they have no personal responsibility to afford or care for on a day to day basis.

    The whole thing makes me very angry and I'm grateful that you're willing to stand up for people about the fact that having kids is a choice not to be taken lightly.

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  13. Such great thoughts, thank you all for sharing, I'm so happy this topic has sparked such great conversation.

    Colleen, I think your experience is especially interesting, the idea of not only spending the time raising a child but a child who will not be able to take care of themselves in the future. And I don't think unselfishness is a prerequisite for having a child. We are all selfish in our own ways, that is simply the nature of being a human, though people who are child-free by choice are often accused of being extra selfish! I don't buy that one for a minute.

    And Cindy, I think it's great that you always knew you wanted children, I do have friends in the same position and they are quite happy with their choice. I picture my own future always surrounded by my family, the chosen and the given, and the children that they bring into the world. I don't see my husband and myself as ever being "alone" or not being able to share the last part of our lives with people we care about.

    Fear plays into any big decision, in this case, fear of being alone when you're old, fear of regretting not having the children, fear of not being taken care of, fear of being judged by god, family, or society. I think we can all pull out our own fears and take a good close look at them and see how motivated we are by our fears, and how they influence our decisions.

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  14. Bucketgirl, you have it way worse from your family than I do or ever did, but I understand what you are going through. I too have thought about people who ask and ask and may not know that you ARE trying. And the pain of not being able to conceive when you want to is immense, I know that from my friends. Someone once gave me a great response to people when you want them to stop asking about getting pregnant-- "we're practicing!"

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  15. many people make equally individual choices about this as it should be. I personally have never wanted to have kids, love'm and have questioned that in myself carefully and as I turned 40 more and more frequently. Thinking: I hope you thought it through carefully! and every time the answer has been: No I dont' want to do it. I've always told people I want to want to have kids, I just don't. I love other peoples, I'm happy sleeping late, or whatever pleasures my time allows me. I very seriously respect and love the choice of parenting which is why I if I'm certain of anything Its this: It should never be done with the desire to save a marriage, or not be lonely as an older person. It will if anything be an effort (i imagine) in selflessness, and so to choose it out of fear instead of love is something that has comforted me in my own choice on the matter.

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  16. Artist with child here. I got married at the very young age of 23, we were married for 8 years, having a fine old time white water paddling, rock climbing, traveling, and then on a climbing trip in Canada, I got pregnant. I was an only child and never felt very motherly and we were fine without kids but we had one, she is 17 and my life is richer with her in it. She is my critic and my friend. She never was a kid living in our house, she was another human being who we treated with respect and that has made all the difference. My husband works for the Associated Press as a photojournalist and is gone all the time, I work in my studio and Wesley hangs out with us. It all works out pretty well, we are like three friends sharing our lives. You can see our Halloween picture on my blog today and see why we like having her around. But yeah, I got the "when are you going to have a baby" question for eight years and it drove me mad! You gotta do what's right for you, not everyone else:)

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  17. Great post! I'm only 26, but my friends are beginning to have kids and my husband and I have been married for a year and a half. We've made it clear that we are not even thinking about having children until we are 30, but that the likelihood after that is still very low. People don't seem to get it.

    I hate hearing that we'll be alone as we age. 1. No. 2. What a selfish reason to have kids! I love my parents, but as an only child I do worry about what will happen when they need help down the road. I helped care for my aging grandparents and learned early on how hard that is. That's not to say that kids SHOULDN'T care for their parents - it is just an awful thing to say.

    I do appreciate reading everyone's chiming in. My main fear is that I will be resolute until one day, age 45, when I regret the decision.

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  18. Obviously a sensitive, personal post and probably striking a nerve in many of us including Heidi H. Rarely do I comment twice but Heidi H. has forced my typing hand... posting that I am "pretty naive and kind of mean" is not at all the type of person I am. I've never been considered naive OR mean and felt I needed to clarify my comment of "the last chapter of your lives." My intent was that I feel there is a richness to living among your offspring, generations and a fulfillment that happens in experiencing the circle of life. And NEVER would I want myself or anyone to make a decision based on fear, especially the fear of loneliness. Whether you have children or not, being surrounded by people who love you, I feel, is what is important and in our lust for living our busy, daily lives we sometimes ignore that.

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  19. I'm one of those women who had 2 kids before I was old enough to even think about what I wanted from life. My Daughters were grown, in college and married by the time I turned 40. 40 was awesome, cause I finally had my freedom. However it was short lived, now I'm 48 and have 5 grandkids. I say good for you! Not having children is not a selfish thing, and don't ever let anyone tell you it is. Children deserve to be wanted and parents deserve to enjoy being parents.

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  20. Great post! I read through all the comments and finally thought I would share my experience.

    I am married (for more than 8 years) and in the beginning we were pestered from the get go! My dad brought it up on my wedding day! Then the next christmas, and then everytime I was out with family if I did not drink alcohol "knowing" glaces would past between who ever was present...

    It was really annoying because I have always wanted to have a child or children, but have a bad back injury that compromised my ability to carry a baby to term. I finally had to have a very gut wrenching talk with my mother-in-law telling her the situation and to ask her to quit bringing up the topic. She in turn spread the news to everyone else and now I am no longer bothered about it.

    Funny how so many people think it is their right to question and pester others about having children without ever thinking about how it may be recieved.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic :)

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  23. *LONG*So much to say, so little space(especially since I'm 42 with an almost 14 year old and a 10 year old(both boys,and a husband) NOW I'm considering a GIRL puppy.
    1stly, I NEVER judge anyone else because there are days that I wouldn't trade my life for any of yours and then there are days I WISH... (I married at 25,pregnant at 27.I was never really into kids)
    I was a fashion designer when I entered into the "baby thing" & I purposely started my own line thinking that would give me flexibility.What it gave me was a hole in my pocket.So that brings me to another point:
    At 35 weeks pregnant we had a huge scare that the baby was WAY too small(I was sliding along hating the physical aspect being pregnant ,leaving a job with a NICE pay check, stressing out burning through my saved money like kindling on this new business... running around like a chicken with her head cut off(3 car accidents, 2 not my fault)getting my samples and production made,closing the line when I had this partnership fall through,going back to freelancing to pay everyone back.
    When BAMM...
    The ultrasound to show the baby's position tells us the baby is rather small and NOW they want to do an Amnio and my my baby may "not be compatible with life" (always a favorite term...)So my water breaks 2 days later after I make deals with God and the devil to give me healthy baby.
    I was prepared to drop everything to take care of a child that may have been severely impaired...
    We were EXTREMELY lucky that our baby was 4 lbs and completely healthy.It turns out I had a wall down the middle of my uterus... as my son would say... TMI.
    Anyway,I adored my baby and would have either way but really hadn't considered how hugely your life can change with a child ESPECIALLY a child with special needs... this was not my fate but I sure became aware of that... as should every SCHMO who thinks there is no risk of such a situation as they POP 'em out.The saga continues and the artist in me battled & continues to battle, with me, my time and my commitments.My 2nd son came after infertility reared it's ugly head so I can commiserate with those individuals to a degree as well.
    I was poked prodded and "you know what-ed" until I was ready to break, about to give up before IVF and frankly we got lucky naturally.
    But NOW I had 2 children and the desire to create art(of some kind) only became MORE intense.Freelancing wasn't good anymore and I discovered clay...
    WHOOPS.
    My kids ARE in school(when they aren't at home sick, on vacation, on summer break, etc.) so I do get time... but being responsible for their lives of course takes time away even way they are not at home... all parents know this.
    I will say(and I expect someone to destroy me for this),MEN seem to be able to get away with both art and children much easier than the women ... Even when women work full time...there is something about being a mom that seems to rope us in deeper...and I for one want to come back as a MAN in my next life(I believe we have that opportunity)... possibly with no creative drive... just blissfully mellow... no worries of hair, body or clothes... but that's another story...
    Truthfully, I internally struggle a little bit every day BUT I do feel that this is the life I am meant to live...the struggle I am meant to have...whether I like it or not and my boys are QUITE AWESOME...It has become very clear that they are PEOPLE.We bring them into the world and help them prepare but their lives are really their own...And the "baby-thing" ends up being a blink and it's over. But,
    I definitely have moments of envy when I realize some of the sacrifices I have had to make to raise my kids. HOWEVER, I still think I made the right decision. For me.

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  26. I notice there aren't any guys commenting here, interesting!
    I came back for another read. I looked at the photo of me and my daughter that I have posted on my blog and thought again about your post. The young woman that I am looking at is a really good friend of mine and I wouldn't have her if I had decided not to have a "baby". The baby part was not my favorite, I hated being pregnant, babies are boring, but this girl that I have now, oh man! I just couldn't find a better friend. She is honest with me, she loves me unconditionally and she keeps me in the right place mentally. She loves that I am an artist and helps me every way she can to keep being one. My life is so much richer because of the experiences I have had with her, places I went that I may have not gone to without her, and now she is in a band and I have that experience with her and her band mates that I probably would have missed. I have to say, she brings a lot to our lives......

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  27. I just love this post.
    I just turned 31, but I've been married for 5 years and we've been asked that question since day 1.
    We.do.not.want.

    I'm kind of happy to know that it lessens as you get older.

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  28. I just read my post and it sounded kind of like I hate being a Mom and Grammy. My Girls are now 29 &30 there isn't a day that goes by that we don't gab it up. My Grandkids have my heart wraped around them so tight they probably can't breath.
    I think the point that I was trying to make in my previous post is that.. It's just crap when someone trys makes you feel like your selfish for enjoying the freedom of being kid free.
    Cindy

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  29. Since Tracey made the comment that no guys were responding...I'll give it a go. I normally wouldn't read this far down a post, but this issue is tough. We're a couple that struggled first to decide if we wanted to have kids, then gave it a try and found out we can't (without fighting nature).

    We constantly get asked about it, my wife taking way more heat than me. After years, I've resorted to telling the truth. Why no kids...because we can't...silence. It's like someone died. In a society so focused on children, we need to remember to have compassion for all people and stop judging how other choose or not choose how to live their lives.
    Interesting posts

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  30. Hi Cindy, I've never thought you to be a mean or naive person, but thank you for taking the time to clarify your thoughts.

    Tracey I would say that you are very lucky to have such a wonderful relationship with your child and that having a child has worked so well with your lifestyle. I have friends who seem to handle it with the same easiness and grace, and others that don't, but the thing they both have in common is a LOT of attention, work, and dedication to raising their children. If only everyone could have your result!

    And Judi I do agree that men do have a slightly different role in child rearing, and aren't expected to do as much in some ways when we think about society at large. However, all the men in my life who are fathers are definitely pulling their weight in the child raising and are expected by their partners to make the same level of sacrifice that the women do. But I live in the Bay Area which I do think has different cultural norms when it comes the traditional family stuff.

    I think for people who do have children, it's normal to have doubts at times, or wonder what could have been different if you did not have children. But that discussion rarely comes up because I think women are made to feel so guilty if they confess to any ambivalence around their children, which is ridiculous! And I think it also makes people very uncomfortable to think of our mothers taking another path and choosing not to have children-- yikes! But then I think people have such an unrealistic expectation of motherhood when these things are not discussed openly. But that's ANOTHER discussion altogether.

    Mike, thanks for your comment, the truth in your case is a real conversation killer for sure! But I also think that if people are going to ask, they need to be ready to hear something like that.

    I would like to hear from some more men. I think often we set aside what men want from family and focus more on women since we do carry the babies! But the choice for men can be just as hard and fraught with the same difficulties.

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  31. Wow, great topic! So many comments and so interesting! I can relate to almost every post in one way or another.
    We've been happily married for 13 years and we are child free and I expect us to remain so (we're 38). There was a time when I was so desperate for a child it was eating me up, but it just didn't happen for us. In the end it was actually less painful to make the decision to go without than to go through the "am I? Aren't I?" every month. So I suppose we decided to be child free for the sake of my sanity. There were other reasons too, including health. What hurts me most is when people presume I'm not maternal or don't like kids.
    I'd just like to add that making a concious decision to remain child free is often the most selfless decision of all.

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  32. Whitney- I totally admire you for doing what is best for you. Western culture has so many strange hang ups but hopefully someday things will change and there won't be such an emphasis on procreating.

    Judi- Woman, I was putting Hunter to bed while reading your post and crying. Seriously, who cries reading a ceramic blog? <-- this sap.

    You're amazing and I'm so happy both your boys are happy and healthy. Totally hear you on the somehow men manage to do the job/homelife (can I add social life? yea my husband finds a way to go surfing and golfing all the time too) thing. Moms are just a different creature.

    I struggle to get into the studio 3-4hrs a week with my 11 month old, with everyone asking me when we are having a 2nd child. (that's a fun question too) For now, I'll enjoy being envious of the full time potter and take this time to slow down and learn something from my kid. (Since having him my work was forced to slow down and infinitely more meaningful and better crafted than before)

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  33. what a great read. thanks for bringing the topic to light. I'm a mother of a 2 yr old, that was a surprise. My husband was ready for kids long before me. I cried, in a bad way, when i found out. I figured it would be the end of the career i was trying to build. I was definitely one of those people that really questioned how a child would fit into my life. I wasn't good with kids, i think they smelled my fear. And even now with my own kid, i love him to bits, but other peoples kids...still not in me to be that maternal. Every day is a struggle for balance in my life between raising my child and working. He stays at home with me as we can't afford child care. But even through that struggle for balance, i know without a doubt that for me, i couldn't have lived my life without him. i know for a fact that i learn more for him everyday than that which i teach him. most importantly to live in the moment. this has in some ways helped me to stress less about how to achieve my career goals and instead deal with the here and now rather than what i should be doing for the future. A huge impact of becoming a mom has made it's way into my figurative work in a way that i feel makes the work stronger and more relevant. I would not have gone down certain conceptual paths otherwise. He is my best friend, my someday apprentice (at 2 he already asks to help with glazing) and my muse. I pictured a fulfilled life without him. I'm sure it would have been. But with him here it is fulfilled in a different way. There is no right or wrong answer. Just different choices we all have to make. My respect to all of the strong women and men who have added to this discussion. Stand behind your decisions. you only live once. do it the way you want to!

    thank you.

    oh and here's a great read for those who either through fate or choice have children:
    http://www.rdog.com.au/main.php?id=dividedheart

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  34. OK... one quick add since I already made a mess of the comments... long story... it kept saying that it was too long/error but kept posting unknown to me,sorry gang.
    I just want to clarify that my husband in and has always been great/hands on with the kids... maybe more than me at times BUT it's like the organization falls on me and perhaps it is traditional... a whole other thing occurs when the major breadwinner dynamic shifts... I could go on for days... not to worry... I will not...
    I will say that Carole is pointing us in the right direction...I read The Divided Heart and it is really helpful to see the type of scenario that can occur with kids...
    I hate that the women who choose not to have children or raise children are made to feel selfish. That's ridiculous. (Insert my gutter mouth here) There are some crazy chiquitas I know who are raising kids and I just hope those kids weather the storm... You are all really wonderful. This is what makes the internet completely important.

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  35. Wow, such a great read. Thanks for the inspiration, Whitney!
    I have 2 boys, both by happy accident with the man of my life. Thankfully we were together for about 7 years before our 1st son, just 1 year after finishing my ceramics degree at Art School. In retrospect I'm really glad not to have been fully immersed in my career before having kids. I think I would have had a harder time trying to keep my career up to a certain standard that I had set for myself if I had kids mid-career. For me the timing of having my kids right out of school made me ever the more determined to come back to ceramics and see if I could really make a go of it. Between the determination, a supportive and active parenting spouse and some helpful family members, I've managed to get to this year with both the kids in school.
    I think the discussion around choosing to have/not to have a child, and what motivates people to have/not to have children is so intensely personal. The reasons for and against are all there. One just has to look at a dysfunctional family unit to know that just having kids isn't good enough. They do require time, love, care and attention. But then most close relationships in life need to be nurtured to work well. I think when you open your heart up to someone else it's always a risky venture, but it was one I was willing to make with my kids. So far I've been well rewarded.

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  36. jesus whitney, you do have a knack. so since the men are under-represented, i'll give it a go. first i'd like to commiserate with the childless as i didn't find out that i would be a dad until the ripening age of 47 and tomorrow my daughter will be 6. i suffered years, mostly with my ex-wife, explaining why we didn't have children and arguing also about whether we wanted children. in retrospect, i actually believe that i or even we sensed, maybe subconsciously, that we would not be a competent couple to be parents. anyway, i was usually pissed at "breeders'" questions about why, why, why are you childless. of course, like many of my current childless friends, i was sure i had a good handle on what it would be like to be a parent and i was definitely leaning away from it. then i became a dad and realized that i was completely wrong about what i knew (about something that i knew nothing about) but i was still frightened that my life was over and mostly i knew that the time would fly (she's gonna be 6 tomorrow) and that in the blink of an eye, she'd be 20 and that would mean i'd be 67... shit, 67. (even though i hear 67 is the new 63, whatever). well, i have to admit that i was wrong in so many ways that this comment box will not accommodate.

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  37. the stuff (shite) that everyone warned me about was mostly untrue and the stuff they never told me about, they couldn't have because they didn't know. i was prepared and curious and actually anticipated being consumed with an unfathomable love for this little person, yet at the same time, completely unprepared for this little person to find me a perfect human being and have a reciprocal unfathomable love for me. yeah, i know, wait til she's a teenager and i fully expect i'll get my payback then because it's in the genes. i'm off track a bit i guess. as far as being a potter, i wasn't one before i was a dad. my decision to be a potter was a result of finding out that i would soon be a dad. my rationale was that if i didn't do it before the actual birth, that it would never be the right time and i would never be a potter so in a strange sort of way, my daughter allowed me to be a potter or forced me to be a potter, whatever, but i am one and i probably would still be dreaming about it if i hadn't become a dad. the first couple years were an absolute bitch when it came to scheduling work time but i sincerely think it was a small price to pay. now i have a studio mate who loves to sit next to me while i'm working, have some earl grey, draw and play air guitar to dad's musical selections. i cannot believe how lucky i am. i would also like to admit that i don't think it would have been remotely similar if i had had a child when i was younger. to sum up... two things, first, i think not having children is a reasonable and, if considering the imminent fate of the species and the planet, a wise choice. i do worry constantly about whether my child will live a life that includes the anarchic horrors of our imaginations. second, deciding what your life will be like with a child is futile. there's only one way to know and that's to have one and my experience is that it is the best thing that's ever happened to me.

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  38. Jim! Dude! Well said.

    I know that my choice to not have a child means that there are certain things I will never get to experience, and you have outlined some of the things I will miss very well. I love your point about not knowing what you didn't know what you NOW know as a parent, I hear that all the time from my friends. I truly believe there is no way to emotionally prepare for parenthood, you are truly flying blind in some ways.

    Thanks for the man words. Any more men out there?

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  39. I truly respect the decision not to have a child. There are too many people in this world as it is. And being a parent is really difficult at times. And I think it's probably easier for an artist to decide not to be a parent -- the artistic life is so creative that maybe that need to create a baby is not so powerful.

    The only thing that I think is sad is that those women (and men) who decide not to be a mom or dad miss one of the sweetest loves there is. The love a mom has for her child is the purest most unconditional love I have known. It's a love I feel can not not be experienced in any other way.

    I am 60 and have a nineteen year old adopted son. It was a conscious decision to parent and very difficult to adopt. I was in the labor room when he was born and he has brought me (and his dad) immeasurable joy.

    Yes, there were times when I would rather have been in my studio than parent -- but that has never out weighed the wonderful love and relationship I have with my son.

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  40. Your post comes after I spent the weekend pampering my husband who had a vasectomy on Friday, literally sealing our no-child decision. Just chiming in as a 38 year-old, married for 4, together for 8 potter who never ever wanted to have kids, and never changed my mind. I used to say my biological clock had no batteries. I ended multiple relationships because of differences over the child decision. I respect and appreciate good parents who love their children and parenthood, and just ask for the same respect for my choice (dozens of reasons) in return. Thanks for the post Whitney!

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  41. One of the reasons I'm such a late bloomer (grad student at age 44) is because I became a parent. I wasn't supposed to have any children...infertility issues... and one day boom out of the blue, totally unexpected, I have this little baby girl. She's now almost 13 and one of the greatest joys (and sometimes stress) of my life, but having her definitely put life as I knew it on hold. Now that she's older, I have more time to pursue the activities and interests I put on hold - but like Judi said, it's around her schedule to some degree.

    As an aside, as a mom to an only child, I've been accused of being selfish for only having 1 by people who have no knowledge of my infertility issues. Sometimes, you can't win...

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  42. Cynthia I too have struggled with infertility issues for the past 5 years.
    I have actually found this to cause a roadblock in my life as an Artist. Having tried for a while to make a go of it, I have had to have a real money making job because infertility treatment is very expensive and sometimes being an Artist is not that profitable.

    We have finally had success with IVF and are now expecting twins. My life is about to change in such a huge way but I am hoping that it will open up another side of my creativity. Sure I will probably never be able to make a living as an Artist but I hope to bring my kids up in a creative atmosphere.

    I know how much I have been asked in the last 5 years about when we were going to have kids and most of the time I wanted to say - none of your business - because that question hurt a lot. I can't imagine having to explain for another 10 years that I don't want children.

    Why does anybody feel that they have the right to ask that question, it is ok for anybody to be curious about anything but sometimes it is rude to ask. Even if you they do ask do they have to be so insistent that their choice is better than yours?

    I completely support those who have chosen not to have kids - it is not for everybody.

    Ok that is just my little rant.

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  43. I'm 36 ,I've always been an artist and for a while the idea of having kids was appealing to me .It seemed that I will just have to make sure this little person is safe and happy and the rest of my life will be pretty much unchanged.Nothing prepared me for what happened when I really had my child. Years later my studio time is just a couple of uninterrupted hours tops,I used to spend weeks in there.I changed the way I work ,can't listen to the same music or watch the same movies I used to ,I spend countless hours in activities that bore me deeply with people I have nothing in common except for the fact that we breed at the same time, most of my artist friends deserted me.I love my child with the same passion I used to love my work and she has become my work .
    Whenever I meet a talented artist I offer unwanted advice like: don't get married,have no kids and it's not because I don't see the beauty of having a family but because I think that having a family will force you to make a choice.In family with kids no matter how equal things are divided someone will have to become the support system and if you're a woman ,it's more likely it will be you.The same people that ask;"why don't you have a child ?" will ask: "why don't you spend more time taking care of your child ?"

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  44. I am a 30 year old married mother of a not quite 2 year old with another on the way. I have wanted babies since I was a baby. Not having babies was never an option for me. I agree with you, Whitney, *my* personal choice is very much validated by society, but to choose otherwise....well obviously there must be something wrong, right?

    I know mothers who are mothers purely because they are women. One in particular had 2 children to keep her husband happy and she is now divorced and raising a special needs child. All because no one ever told her otherwise. I'll never forget her telling me "I wish someone had told me I didn't have to have kids".

    I think your post is inspiring and powerful. It's funny how women can have whatever career they want, be Prime Ministers, world leaders, CEOs of multi million dollar companies, but how dare we try and have a choice as to whether or not to use our uterus.

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  45. Hi Alma, I think your words hit on my deepest fears about having a child and why I've chosen not to. Though I have to say that I also have felt abandoned by my friends who have children because suddenly they think they can only hang out with other parents (who they may have nothing in common with and do not like) to entertain their child while they socialize. I don't understand this at all, and I do have a few friends who refuse the "playdate" thing. It's a drag to pretty much feel like you've lost your friends when the get knocked up, my internal response to the "I'm pregnant!" news is "It was nice knowing you!" Not because I don't like hanging out with kids, I actually do, but because parents seem to become so insular, their world so limited that there's no room for child-free people like me anymore.

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    1. My best advice to people who don't have children, is that if you can strike a balance between family dinners where everyone is included and kid-free evenings where the parents can relax, you're more likely to preserve the friendship. (Including two couples with children who can play together and two couples without children is ideal in my opinion. You want to keep the adult-to-child ratio high to prevent insurrection)

      Sometimes it is easier to be around people who aren't going to bat an eyelash if your kid runs into the room with no clothes on or they spit a half-chewed bite out on their plate.

      We work very hard at teaching our son to be considerate of others but he is still a child and he doesn't always show it. So having friends with kids is nice, or at least friends who have been around lots of kids and don't think that children can be magically controlled with an on/off switch when they're misbehaving or noisy.

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  46. A big moment for me was being near the end of my 20's and having a friend who was in her 40's say she had nothing against children, it was just something she hadn't done. I don't think it had occurred to me before then that I had a choice. Now I am 48 with no children and quite happy about it. My parents both had kids because it was the thing to do at the time. My mother never seemed to really like children or their needs and my father just vanished. I'm glad to have been able to go in the direction I chose.

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  47. man this is one of those epic conversations which has turned out to be a great read......on which of course i have nothing to say :)) cheers ang

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  48. It's funny, I always knew I had a choice, but that just freaked me out even more. I mean it's not like choosing what to wear that day! What if it doesn't "suit" you? (And I mean that in a completely unselfish way, more like what if you can't cope?) And that has got to be damaging to the child. If I was a parent, I would want to be a perfect parent, which I know I can't be.
    I really wanted to fall pregnant accidentally, so that if I fluffed it up (parenting) it wasn't my fault. Turns out I couldn't even fall deliberately! But as painful as it was at the time, I really think that being child free is the best course for us after all. We're just not in a position to give our best because we both have health problems.
    In a way I'm glad that I'm able to tell people we can't have kids, because people swallow that easier. When I was just too ill to manage, that wasn't a good enough excuse. People actually suggested that I might feel better if I had a child to care for! But where would those people be if I didn't?

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  49. I am an artist and 29 and had a baby a little over a year ago. I love my daughter to bits and love the challenges that come with being a parent but after running around a toddler all day I don't have much energy for art-making and that definitely makes my soul ache a bit.

    I have accepted this for the time being but am looking forward to hitting the studio again very soon and excited about the changes coming to my work.

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  50. My husband and I consciously waited almost 10 years to have kids for many reasons. One of which was to allow me time and space to develop my career as an artist and to set up a situation in which I could work and stay home to raise our children. Before we had kids, I think we both had an idealized image of what this would look like: me creating in the studio with the door open while the kids played harmoniously in the back yard, insert chirping birdies..obviously, this exact situation isn't reality, but some studio time is- it's just different.

    Guthrie is almost 2 and a half and Sammy is almost 10 months old. Work time has to be flexible: sometimes I'm in the studio with the monitor on while the boys are napping, at preschool a few hours a week or at night. There are a lot of pieces waiting under plastic, but they get finished...just over much longer periods of time. We live away from our families, but grandparents are happy to come for a visit to help while I go out of town to teach a workshop. It's hard to be away from the boys, but reenergizing for my clay heart. My husband is incredibly incredibly supportive, but also wants me to cut back on commitments at times. It's just all about finding a balance that works.

    What does suffer (for me) as a result of not being fully focused on clay? 1.)Experimentation. I have tossed around the idea of changing clay body or glaze surfaces for some time but just haven't had the time to fully explore this. New forms take much longer to refine now and sometimes I give up on something sooner than I would have before kiddos. 2.)Sometimes I feel on the outskirts of the clay field. I often don't take the time to keep up on all the clay publications/blogs/symposiums/etc., and this sometimes leaves me feeling less relevant.

    Overall, I love being a mama potter and respect the personal decisions that people make about whether or not to have children themselves. My boys are hilarious and wonderful. My husband and I recently have been discussing "seasons" of our life and how we are currently in a time that is really focused on our boys and creating experiences for them (and, in turn, us).

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  51. Well, imagine what happens to a couple that is happily childless AND UNMARRIED. So many embarassing situations explaining why I do not want to get married. I am fourty-seven now, and they have not stopped bugging me about it.

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  52. My husband and I waited a long time to have kids until we were really sure we were ready for them in our lives. We now have a 3.5 year old and just had our second baby who is now 2 months (I'm 38). It has been really hard to keep my art business running while parenting and I've had to make big sacrifices on both fronts, but I'm overall happy with the way it's working out. One thing I've been surprised about is the reaction from other artists who don't have kids. During both of my pregnancies I felt like I was constantly being asked, "Oh, so then you'll quit your business, then, right?" I found this really frustrating that people would assume that I would just throw away a career I am passionate about and have spent years building into something fruitful just because I decide to have kids. You don't assume that people in other careers will just give that up when kids come along. It's not like it was just a hobby I was doing until something better came along. I think we all are just doing the best we can to be genuine to ourselves and the kinds of families and careers we want and need to respect each others choices, even if they're different than our own! Thanks for bringing up this lively topic :-)

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  53. I admire your view. I have a sister who feels the same- and I see the struggle that she goes through on a daily basis with people always second guessing her very clear decision/ opinion. I personally wish there were more people like you (and my sister) who realize that parneting should be something you do because you really want to- not because you feel obligated and expected to do. Well said! I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog today- I'm adding you onto my blog roll!

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  54. I have wanted kids since I was like, 12, but after 5 years of trying (and hearing all the soul-piercing questions along the way)against all odds we had a boy when I was 30. Then "surprise" got pregnant again 15 months later.
    Since neither of my kids EVER slept through the night or napped, I didn't either... for about 7 years. Even though I was often incapable of carrying on adult conversation, I was happy.
    A word of warning to devoted moms. Try not to make the mistake I did. My kids are 15 and 17 and this year for the first time I allowed myself the crazy luxury of a painting trip with the group I'm in...3 days and 4 nights away.
    I don't know what the hell took me so long, the house did not burn down in my absence. (Although I wasn't worried about that cos I changed all the smoke alarm batteries before I left.)
    This experience really opened my eyes to the fact that making time for ourselves benefits everyone.
    Whitney, I love and appreciate your blog, and your lack of judgement.

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  55. Comments from another guy...

    I'm a pretty lucky guy. At 52 now, with 3 stepchildren, I had always wanted children while in my 20's and 30's. Never really gave a thought to the idea of figuring a work/life balance, just figured it would work out as it works out. Over the years, I've seen most friends and acquaintances doing exactly that, working it all out. Some are great parents, some seem a bit daft. But they all work it out.

    I've always thought that it's best in life to do the best you can, and I gather most here are interested in doing that with their work. My guess is that for those of you who want or have have children will do or are doing pretty much that: the best you can.

    Anyway, as mentioned about my luck is that in spite of spending time looking for someone to have children with, I ended up marrying the woman who I loved from the start. (she had 3 children already and able to have no more when we met). Becoming a part of a ready-made family has been one of the biggest joys in my life; I can now hardly conceive of having children, my stepchildren were and are a true gift of Life.

    To close out these rambling thoughts to address one of the main topics here...that of your friends/family/children asking you when you'll have children. I find now that as my stepchildren are in their 20's and 30, I'd be a happy guy should one/all have children. However, I've never pushed the topic, although my daughter will bring up the idea of "maybe having a baby sometime in the future". So, I'd love having grandchildren but know it's not my place to push or even drop hints. Que sera sera.

    I've always thought that the meaning of Life, as in Life In General, is to create More Life. This isn't looking at it from an individual, just across the world, Life just moves ahead finding ways to create more Life. So, I'm never too surprised when people ask they question of "when/why/will", it's as much Life itself wondering what the answer to that question is.

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  56. Whitney, thanks for this post. My husband of 4 years and I are struggling with this question as we speak. I am 37 and feel, still, ambivalent about having kids. The pressure - particularly from family and friends - has intensified to the point that I abhor family gatherings or big family-oriented parties. When people ask if we have kids and I say, "no," I typically get looks of either soft pity or profound confusion. I often feel that I can't express my ambivalence to friends as it implies some sort of judgment of their choices, which it's not. I just wish there was a more socially acceptable outlet to talk about how difficult this choice is for some of us - thanks for providing one

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  57. You are so right. This culture does not support the concept that a woman might not what a child. I have known for a long time, since my late teens that I did not want to have a child. I have absolutely no maternal instincts or drive. I still get the occasional question, if I have kids and why not since I don't. I have the legitimate excuse of having cancer 5 times since I was 20 so having children turned out to be a bad Idea from my own health standpoint, but I usually only go there if someone can't accept that I just don't want children. Today at 47 when around babies I am a little more interested at looking at them but not the least in holding one or playing with it. They are something I just don't comprehend. I am happily married. Before even dating my husband I had finally figured out why I dated losers and broken men. So I mad sure this man was a happy, productive human being and above all didn't want children. I have never regretted my decision. I just wish I didn't have to defend it. Thank you for such an open and needed commentary, and of course sharing your wonderful clay creations.

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  58. Finally! It is so great to hear others think like me. I'm 31 now, not married and no plans for kids. I get so sick of when are you going to get married ?? I have dated the same guy for almost 12 years now and I keep getting so when are you going to get married and have kids. No one seems to accept or understand thats not in my plans. I love my dogs and cat as kids and I find they are very demanding for my time. I love my freedom.. and have other priorities in life..

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  59. I'm reading this a couple months after it was written, but wanted to chime in and say thanks to you Whitney for approaching this prickly topic.

    I''m a married, 30 -year-old artist with no kids, by choice. I've been married 7 years and we were dogged by well-meaning questions about kids for the first 5. Now, everyone seems to be giving up! I just tell them my parole officer doesn't think it's a good idea... :)

    Seriously though, I've never wanted children either, but I grew up thinking I would develop that desire. It hasn't shown up yet, and unless it does, I won't do it. Sure, I worry about whether anyone will care for me when I'm old or incapable, but I can't let that fear keep me from living my life the way I want to. I know what it feels like to want something, REALLY want something, and I just don't have that for kids. Thanks for making me feel a bit better about that.

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  61. I have been an artist through my whole life; got the child prodigy status as a kid, travelled the world and now own my mural company in my early 30's. I think that having children is a drive for creation and creation does not necessarily imply "procreation". I have always found that my urge to create is able to be satisfied through creation of art. Being honest and loyal to my life's path, having kids would be a complete way to ruin my life in this case, especially when there is no biological urge to procreate, not to mention I am an intense thinker and i can't think myself out of the problems I have with men when there are so few worth considering for fatherhood and a serious partnership to begin with... So I just hope everyone is honest to themselves first and foremost, that way we can at least reduce the incidents of half-hearted, un-intended, half-assed therefore neglectful or even abusive parenting disasters...

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  62. Yeah, it is so nice to know there are others out there like me. Happily married, educated, middle class and an artist. I recently turned 50 and now it is not when but why didn't you have kids. Oh well. I am happy with my decision and am enjoying life to the fullest. I am enjoying your blog and your work is beautiful.

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  63. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  64. Whoa, this is such an old post but I can't resist commenting anyway.

    I have a small child. I also have a creative business that I run from home. It's ... interesting, struggling to balance everything.

    My husband and I talked about children before we got married and decided we would talk about it at the three year mark. On our third anniversary, we were still not ready, so we said we would talk about it at five years. A couple of months from our fifth anniversary the decision was made for us when I was feeling horrible for no reason and took a pregnancy test. I was feeling horrible because I was pregnant! Surprise.

    I love my son so much. I really do. He is so funny, and wonderful, and just thinking about him brings a huge smile to my face. I don't regret his existence. I wouldn't go back and change it. However, we are not planning on having any more children. I suffered from severe postpartum depression and my decision to quit my job and start a home business so I could stay home with him was a very difficult one for me.

    I rarely have the time I truly want to create since often the times I'm in the "mood" are during the day when I am tending to his needs first. I truly do love children and enjoy my kid. I do believe that anybody who has a child will fall in love with their child. But not necessarily with being a parent. The thought of starting the process of sleepless nights over again with another newborn is just not appealing, though I love babies. I make a fuss over any babies I see and love to hold and play with other people's babies and children. This does not make me want any more. I do not have an irresistable longing that comes over me for another baby whenever I see an adorable soft little infant.

    I enjoy that my son is potty-trained, can make himself a peanut butter sandwich, and have an articulate conversation. And (most of the time) he acts nicely civilized. So no seconds for me, thank you! I was asked so often whether we were having children before he was born, and people looked at me like I was a horrible person when I explained that we were not planning to ever have children. Now that I have a kid, that question has been replaced with "He's getting a little old. Isn't it time for a sibling? You don't want there to be too much space between children," and the looks have not changed when I say I'm never planning to have any more. The bottom line is that it's a personal decision and it's nobody's business.

    It's better to just borrow nieces and nephews and friends' children to enjoy and take to Disneyland and make cupcakes and play at the park than to have a child and THEN discover that 90% of parenting is cleaning up toys and messes and bodily fluids, constant correction and guidance and endless worrying over your child's health and development. Being an auntie is definitely more FUN than being a mother. And when the kid is sugared up and tired, you return it to its parents and go home to put your feet up in blessed peace.

    I really feel like I need to reiterate how much I adore my kid and have enjoyed ever stage of his life. LOL I promise.

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