I hear a lot of millennials who are either married or in committed relationships questioning the need or the sense in having children. Generations past, people didn’t think about things like that: babies just happened, like a two-day snowstorm or a power outage (coincidentally, two events that often result in the conception of children).
Nowadays, the growing tendency is to overthink everything, and the decision to have children is no exception. Here are my thoughts on five common concerns I’ve heard expressed:
- Having kids is too expensive. Well, yes it does cost a lot. But so do a lot of things that won’t outlast you, like the latest iPhone or a trip to Tahiti.
- Pregnancy will ruin my body. I wouldn’t say “ruin” exactly; more like remodel.
- Kids really tie you down. So does anything you own that requires payments or getting a pet (unless it’s a rat – you can just let that sucker loose in your basement and it will take care of itself). The point is, things or even an affectionate pet won’t give you hugs and kisses, or make you a birthday card covered with so much glitter that if it catches sunlight it could blind the orbiting space station.
- Childbirth is painful. I don’t have any snappy comeback for that one, except thank God for drugs.
- I’ll lose my freedom. A carefree lifestyle of partying, clubbing and spur-of-the-moment vacations will most likely go by the wayside after you have kids, unless you plan on being a terrible parent. But Nature has an answer for that. The older you get, and especially after you have kids, the less energy and interest you’ll have in partying, clubbing and taking spur-of-the-moment vacations. So, problem solved.
While I’d never try to convince an unwilling person to have a child (there are sadly already far too many unwanted children) here are five reasons to make the lifelong investment of having children, if you’re mulling it over:
- It’s a chance for a do-over. Raising kids gives you a chance to relive your own childhood, and maybe even rewrite the script. Your parents never took you camping? You can make it a point to camp with your kids. (Of course, you may find that your kids hate camping, the same way your parents did, but that’s another story.)
- You’ll see that magic is real. Participating in the growth of a child is a truly magical experience, and I don’t use that description lightly. Even the stunts in the Harry Potter stories seem pretty tame compared to the phenomenon of watching tiny human beings, in a mere two years, transform from a state of complete helplessness into little people who can smile, laugh, walk, talk, and say no like they mean it.
- You can be the star of a real-life drama. No two childbirth stories are alike, and you have the right to embroider yours as much as you want to after your child is born. What may be a routine hospital procedure can become an epic tale of courage and nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thriller if you tell it right. Just don’t share your highly embellished story to a young woman who hasn’t had kids yet. You may spook her, and her mother or mother-in-law won’t thank you for it.
- You’ll get members-only benefits. Having children grants you an automatic entry to the biggest and yet most exclusive club in the world: parenthood. There’s no secret handshake, but on some level parents automatically understand each other, and what we all must go through for the sake of our children. All moms, whether they’re world leaders or housekeepers, have something in common, as do all dads who’re doing their best to raise kids in a world that often doesn’t support their efforts or affirm their sacrifices.
That’s four. Now, here’s the fifth and the best, which I’ve saved for last:
You won’t appreciate this reason until you’ve guided your kids through childhood and past the shoals of adolescence to the point where they’re ready to become parents themselves.
Being a grandparent allows you to experience the miracle of life all over again, without the full burden of parental responsibility. Grandchildren are a wonderful reward for all the years you spent parenting – the sleepless nights and apprehensive days, the worry and the joys that go hand-in-hand with raising a family.
Trust me on this. And it’s worth noting that you can’t be a grandparent unless you’ve been a parent. That’s an absolute prerequisite.
Many of us would reverse that order if we could – being a grandparent is way more fun than being a parent– but that’s impossible. And that’s just as well. I don’t think you can really appreciate grandchildren without having raised children first. It’s a layering of experience that can’t be duplicated or short-cut.
So here’s my admittedly unsolicited advice. If you’re considering having kids and are in a position to do so, make two lists, pro and con. Don’t be surprised if the cons outnumber the pros. Then rip up both your lists and have kids anyway. (A snowy night with no power may help things along.)
Don’t overthink it. It’s the only way you’ll get a shot at becoming a grandparent.
What about you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the pros and cons of having kids.