Thursday, November 6, 2008

On Family

[Photo: content.answers.com]

Boy, is this an awkward topic.

As I work to unhinge myself from a life that no longer makes sense to me I am becoming aware of all sorts of new possibilities and opportunities. On the other hand, I am also questioning a great deal of what I have been conditioned to believe constitutes happiness in the first place. In some ways, this is sort of inherent in this process of simplification. To question the need for a 3,000 square foot house, the virtue of becoming trapped in a lucrative but unfulfilling job and even the merits of living a lifestyle full of unmitigated excess is to question your own assumptions about the very nature of happiness itself. In all the ways that matter, the old paradigm is dead. In its place is an urgency to question all assumptions about what truly makes a person happy.

Which brings me to the third rail of the voluntary simplicity movement: do you need to have kids to find happiness? More to the point, is procreation a prerequisite to happiness?

DEVIATING FROM “NORMAL”

When I first went to law school I felt like I was following the path of least resistance. The steps were pretty clear to me: finish law school, get a job, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. While I don’t think I had a very clear sense of why this seemed like the right path to take, in retrospect, this seemed like the right path precisely for the same reasons buying a huge house and coveting a high-paying, stressful job seems like the right path for so many other people. Our society conditions us to accept the “normal” path from the day we are born. To deviate from “normal” by choosing to forgo our right to procreation is to embrace the unknown and accept a life outside the mainstream. More importantly, choosing not to have children challenges the choices made by those who have found their own version of happiness in the realm of the “normal.”

This is not to say that there is anything inherently wrong with the “normal” path. Every day I surf my way through people’s blogs and I get a glimpse of what it would be like to have a family of my own. I won’t lie to you, my dear reader. There have been times when pictures of a family doing stuff together have left a heavy lump in my throat. I have seen myself in those pictures, holding something small and precious, something that can live on after I am gone.


BUT, IS HAVING KIDS REALLY FOR ME?

But, is having kids really for me? Believe it or not, there are a growing number of families that have chosen not to have kids in the first place. Some couples base their decision on ethical concerns (“having children only adds further stress to our natural resources…”); others don’t feel they will be good parents; still others see children as a threat to their financial and social independence (i.e., a child born today will cost a family anywhere from $130k to $260k).

All of these reasons resonate with me. The last two, in particular, brings up all sorts of conflicting emotions. I know that, at least for the foreseeable future, I would be a TERRIBLE father. I am still too selfish, too damaged, too quick to assuage my own needs at the expense of anyone, or anything else. Things are getting better every day, but this is a process that has to take its own deliberate course. I need time to heal. Right now, I just don’t have the time and/or energy for anything else.

I’m also weary of the strain having a family will have on my long-term plans. How can I travel the world when I have to be at home and do the responsible parent thing? How can I take months-long bike rides when there is a little one depending on my emotional and financial support at home? How can I embrace simplicity when the very act of becoming a parent seems anything but simple?

STOP YOUR WHINING, JACK!

“Stop your whining, Jack,” I tell myself. “Just be the best person you can and everything else will fall into place. In the end, you will know the answer.” That’s pretty good advice.

49 comments:

Jennifer F. said...

Oddly enough, I can relate to a lot of your thoughts -- a similar thought process is what led me to decide a while back that I didn't want kids (though, obviously, I changed my mind).

I'm also weary of the strain having a family will do to my long-term plans. How can I travel the world when I have to be at home and do the responsible parent thing?

I think that one of the reasons that everyone always raves about how transforming it is to have kids is that children make you realize that life isn't about you and what you feel like doing -- and you'll never find deep peace until you know that. For people like me (I seriously might be the most selfish person in the world) there's often no other way to learn that most important of lessons.

You don't have to have kids to realize that and find deep peace. It just depends on what your particular calling is. But I think that when you find the big answers you're looking for in life, you'll find that it has to do with letting go of your plans and serving others. That was my experience, anyway. :)

Anonymous said...

Things just fall into place, Jack. If you are meant to have a family that time will come. For right now, just let the universe work its way around you and put before you the path you are meant to take. You will find the way. Take care!

Kristina

three moons said...

Kids are not for everyone. I don't see anything selfish with that choice. There are wonderful, wonderful, things about having children, but there are wonderful things about not having them. It does change your life drastically. Of course, you can still travel and live simply with children-many people do it. It doesn't have to 'tie' you down like some people say, it just depends on the way you decide to parent and the person you choose to parent with.

The desire is important. The true desire. Knowing that you will be putting your needs second and being okay with that. If you're not okay with that- I don't think its selfish at all. imo, deciding to have children should come from a place of adding too, not needing to fulfill. Being a parent is hard. And it is amazing too.

these damn life decisions! Not the easiest thing to do, lol.

Jennoit said...

I don't have kids now but whether or not we should attempt to become parents is an issue I think about regularly. I'm 35. Presumably at some point I will no longer have the choice. Maybe I'll be the adoptive type. That said, I agree with threemoons - you can still travel and live simply with children, you just have to make the determined choice and effort to do that.

Anonymous said...

“Just be the best person you can" -- Good Advice

"and everything else will fall into place" -- Bad Advice

Bad things do happen to good people!

Being the best person you can is just common sense. But, everything else will not necessarily just fall in place because you are good.

You still have to make the right decisions. These are decisions outside of being the best person you can. Also, the right decision for you now, may not be the best decision for you 10 years down the road.

You have to keep actively involved in the direction of your own life. And I think that is what you are doing now.

Jerry Critter said...

Sorry, Jack. The above anonymous comment is from me.

Teresa said...

Hmmm...Jack, I'm sure you would make a great father. Just the fact that you are thinking about it ahead of time puts you far ahead of many soon-to-be fathers out there. You'll have a child when u r ready and he/she will be a blessing. Until then....READ MORE PAULO!!! Don't stop at the Alchemist. I started with that one too, and although its his most famous book, it is by far not his best. I've read ALL of his books. My favorites are The Devil and Ms. Prym and By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept.
Teresa
sailingsimplicity.com

Miss Scorpio said...

Jack, I can relate on some level to the emotional turmoil you’re experiencing. You have tried to follow “the plan” society laid out for you. And how’s that working? Not exactly you’re cup of tea, right? So take a different path. Once you find whatever it is that brings you peace, I believe it will all work itself out. You’ll have that eureka moment making everything crystal clear. In the meantime, nobody said you can’t practice. :)

Watcher said...

Hi Jack, been reading your blog for a few weeks, enjoying it, and (like a good book) looking forward to see how it turns out!

Re: kids. The world’s not running out of people; there’s no obligation you should feel to reproduce. But I’ll mention one benefit of having kids that I think is significant but overlooked: kids force you to be mentally flexible, and therefore, in a way, keep you young. I’m convinced there are 2 important “flexibility-transition” points for most people after age 30. First, if a man or woman gets much past 35-40 without getting married, they lose a measure of flexibility- they become more set in their routines, beliefs, likes & dislikes. Think about single 45 year-old friends you have, and how much harder it is to set them up than it is your single 25 year-old friends. The 2nd transition point is if married couples get much past 45-50 without having kids, they become inflexible in a different way- set in their beliefs, their household, their mealtimes, vacations- almost like healthy, good-looking senior citizens.

Kids force you to be flexible, they continually challenge and disrupt your assumptions, beliefs and biases. I don’t know if this makes sense; maybe it’s something you can only “get” through the experience (I’m mid-40’s, 3 kids.)

-Alex
http://www.watchingtheworldwakeup.blogspot.com/

a square peg said...

it sounds to me like you may be putting the cart before the horse, here. from what i've read of your life thus far (and correct me if i'm wrong), you aren't even in a stable relationship with a woman. unless your dream involves being a single dad, right now it's a non-issue.

live your life, and, as jerry critter said, make good choices. just because you don't think you're ready for kids now doesn't mean you never will be. and honestly, if we all waited until we were mature enough, most people would never have kids (although many would argue that would be a good thing). having kids actually helps you grow in ways you could never imagine. and the very fact that you think that you'd be a terrible father means that probably you'd be a pretty good father -- lousy dads don't sit around and consider how good a father they are. finally, as far as the "cost" issue, that may be true, i have no idea, but keep in mind that $130-260k doesn't come all at once. and it isn't like you're just throwing money away on mp3s or dvds or dinners at fancy restaurants. it's a human life we're talking about here. the things you receive from being a parent can't be measured in dollars. not everything worthwhile is simple. long-term plans can be adjusted. be careful in your quest not to make simplicity a god. simplicity should serve you, and your happiness, your growth, your passions, not the other way around.

but again, i think you're getting waaay ahead of yourself here. you don't have to make this decision today.

Amanda said...

Am in complete agreement with the cart-before-the-horse comment, but still think this is a fun discussion topic! :)

I have many thoughts, in no particular order:

* The world has too many people, period. Americans use way more than their fair share of natural resources. Therefore you choosing not to procreate, while odd by mainstream American standards, is completely justifiable on a global level.

* I used to think that people should only have kids if they really, really wanted them. This probably had something to do with finding out in high school that the only reason my dad had children was because "it's just something you do". Granted, at the time hearing that (he was very, very depressed at the time, and I was unreasonably confrontational as a teenager, so it's all good now) broke my heart. But then again, my siblings and I turned out pretty awesome even without the most enthusiastic of fathers. (And when he was enthusiastic, he was very enthusiastic, so it all came out in the wash.)

* Having children does not mean staying put or living extravagantly. We gallivanted around Eastern Europe for my entire adolescence (ages 12-18) while my father pursued his dream of singing. My parents made sure we went to school and learned the local languages, and we were sublimely broke all of the time. It was amazing. It made me a much better person than I would have been had we stayed in their small hometown in the South or in the NYC suburb I was nearly raised in.

* I never wanted to have children, ever. This was most likely because my childhood was so tumultuous, and I was convinced that I was damaged, sensitive, and way too fickle to ever devote myself to other human beings. But in my early twenties I accidentally settled down in a small town in rural New England and have spent the past several years intensively sorting out my life (therapy works for me, thank goodness!). During the past year I realized I had become happy without knowing it, become rooted somewhere, and developed a sense of self that is tied to a place that eluded me during all those years gallivanting. Now I find myself so in love with the world: I got to live everywhere and do everything, and then I got to stay in one place and really get to know people, and suddenly everything feels right. And there's so much love in my heart for everything and everyone that the only thing I can think to do with it is to have children. Not right now, but someday. Hopefully soon-ish. I am so entertained at finding this desire within myself. I never saw it coming!

Funny how things turn out. You'll be fine. You're on an amazing journey! Thanks for sharing it with us all.

Marissa said...

On the one hand, kids are sort of proverbial lighthouse that can guide you to the simple things in life. After all, how often do you see adults sitting on the ground staring at a caterpillar as it slowly makes its way across a sidewalk? Or entertaining themselves for hours with just their imaginations? On the other hand, kids poop and smell weird.

Miles To Go Before I Sleep...... said...

Hmmmm....

The normal deviation: I think we touched on this before...(as in man = education = job = wife = children = work = retire = BORING) and we had discussion about this so all done there :-)

Kids: Hmmmm again. I suppose there's a lot to talk about here but somethings that pop into my head are...

*Age* your age can have a lot to do with this aspect. I had mine young. John had his young. We gave up a large part of our lives when they were young. And now, we get to have a small part of it back with out causeing "bonding issues" or "parenting problems". I'm 28, he's 26, and we get to go and enjoy our lives now, knowing we can and do take care of our children.... then again, I sometimes feel I may have missed a lot of the "maturing process" in my early adulthood. I spent my early twenties devoted to 3 children, and I forgot about myself.... this (according to Erikson which I admire and believe his developmental stages of growth) could have something to do with me sittin' here at 28, not knowing who I am or where I'm going. And then I think the other way, would I have been better later? Who knows....

*Finacial* I have never looked at this as strain. Kids may cost a lot but so does our general cost of living. I just increased the budget and learned how to shop better the more children I had.

*Global Impact* No, we are not obligated to repopulate :-) However, if the proper steps are taken, your child doesn't have to be a large global strain.... my kids shared bath water, rewear clothes, recycle, etc. We try to NOT impact the earth as much as possible.

*Freedom* I touched a little bit on this with age but as for traveling... yes, it can be done depending on your determination. I'm sorry I never did this when they were really young because to do it now would change their whole world... My children had a large life change once all ready and I don't feel I could do this again to them at this time... At this point in their lives, I feel they need a sense of home, a sense that I'm still mommy, and I'm not going anywhere.... I know that doesn't make sense, but you know me... think about it :-)

And lastly, Jerry Critter :-) "everything will fall into place-- bad advice, bad things happen to good people!"

Yes, bad things DO happen to good people. Sometimes though, if you are being the best person you can.... this doesn't have to impact a person in such a negative way... Through the bad, sometimes things do fall into place, and sometimes it's a place that you feel is EXACTLY where you should be, sometimes it can make you an even better person then you were trying to be :-) (that wasn't negative towards anyone, just my opinion from experience)

K... well... good luck... don't think too hard about it. Just go with each day and eventually either you'll figure it out, or it'll jump up and bite you in the ass :-)

Dana

familyonbikes said...

Boy, can I relate!! There was a time when I was adamant that I would not have kids - NEVER, EVER!! Not me!! Uh uh!!

But somehow... things changed. I changed. And I started thinking maybe.... maybe....

My twins were born when I was 37 years old and I am sooooo happy that I had them!! That being said, any earlier would have been too early. I wasnt ready then.

But I take issue with the idea that you can't have kids and travel on your bike and live simply. Traveling simply on our bikes is the best thing we've ever done as a family - and I believe it's great for the kids! And us too!

Nancy
www.familyonbikes.org

Andy Guo said...

The above anonymous comment is from me.

http://gwb-chinese.blogspot.com/

Heather's Moving Castle said...

At least you have put some thought into it! I think men who don't have kids make really great fill-ins for kids who are neglected by their own parents. Whatever happens it will all work out. Most of us are too selfish to have kids. LOL.

Don't spend too much time thinking about it. Just take care of your for awhile. Maybe after you have a few years of freedom you should revisit this decision.

And like others have said, having kids doesn't have to tie you down to one place. It just depends on the way you decide to parent and your partner's/wife (whatever) lifestyle choices. Anything is possible! Get a good bike trailer and off you go! You may have to stop a lot until they are older. LOL. And when they are older get a bike attachment so they can ride tandem. Lots of dads love that with their kids.

But I am getting ahead of myself. LOL.

~Heather

PleaseRecycle said...

All the planning in the world can't truly prepare you for becoming a parent. But a wise friend once told me that children come into your life and not the other way around.

Maybe this journey will lead you to your life partner and you will know the joy of marriage and children. Or maybe it will take a different path filled with other joys.

I agree with other comments: get to know yourself, be yourself, and if you find yourself in a relationship, revisit the issue.

Sub Girl said...

As you figure your life out, your life will figure it's self out. No decision you make will be a wrong one. No Worries.

Claire said...

I've never wanted children. IMHO for many people having kids is either an attempt to follow the crowd or they have some romantic idea about having children.

EJ said...

I think the biggest reason for not having kids (unless adopted) is that they do use lots of resources. While one commenter says "if the proper steps are taken, your child doesn't have to be a large global strain.... my kids shared bath water, rewear clothes,.." a lot of our resource use is food. Yes we can eat more local, etc but in a food shortage every mouth to feed counts.

Having kids is often an ego driven decision that we do well to consider wisely, long, and hard as you are doing.

Anonymous said...

I would have to disagree with the assumption that the norm is to have kids. The "path of least resistance" for my husband and I was to not have any at all - after all - we are both only children from small families with childless aunts and uncles. Then I became pregnant. I had held one baby in my life because someone plopped the baby in my lap and that lasted about 30 seconds. My husband and I weren't prepared. We didn't want a baby but we decided to keep her. Luckily there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Now we have 3 kids. Our family has hiked volcanoes and touched glaciers in Iceland, visited the museums of London, seen the countryside of Ireland; I could go on and on. If and when you decide to have a child don't stop what you love! Children are pliable and love what they know. Sure you may visit about 200 zoos that are basically the same, see childrens' movies that bore you to tears or deal with a temper tantrum or two but what you get in return is amazing. Plus, who says you have to make a decision now? My parents had me (a surprise as well LOL) back in the 1970's at ages 40 and 44. Now people have kids at even more advanced ages - not to mention that adoption is a very real option especially if you are worried about overpopulation.

Lisa

Jade of the Jungle said...

Wow, big topic. I’ve never thought that having kids is a prerequisite for happiness. I have to disagree with Lisa, I really do think society has this widely held misconception that kids make you more complete as a person, but that is incredibly patronising to those who either have made a rational and reasoned choice not to, or to those who can’t have children. If you’re infertile does that mean you can’t lead an amazing life? Of course not.

Having kids is never something I’ve wanted - never has been, never will be. But when I tell that to people, from their reaction it's like I've made some heretical statement, it’s so welded into the cultural psyche.

You’ll know if you’re ready for kids if that day comes, but don’t take that step just because you’re on some conveyor belt of life choices (you’re only just about getting off the career one!). It’s not fair on you, or that little person who will carry with him or her the consequences of your choices. But I think you know that. And, I think a major part of your journey is clearly defining what you really need and want in life, and separating them from all those distracting societal constructs. In this day and age it’s so hellishly difficult, so I’m glad that you mention it in your post.

Jx

bill h said...

1. It's okay not to have kids.
2. You would be a better father than you think and the job itself forces you to become less self absorbed. That's a good thing, at was for me.
3.I agree with the step at a time idea.
4. Having a family does place financial demands that limit your options and it's wise to consider those.
5. I have two boys. (17 and 20)They are the source of endless frustration and pride and joy.

One final practical consideration, not that it should rule the day is that my dad would be screwed right now if his two sons weren't taking care of him. It's part of how the world should work.

thanks again for sharing these deep questions.

Here's my highest complement, I think I'd enjoy having a beer with you. Here's a cyber suds...

bill

Fonk said...

I never wanted kids, but then we accidentally got pregnant after 10 years of marriage. I would have been perfectly happy to never have kids, but now that we have them (3 now, including one set of twins), they've become my main source of joy (and frustration - still hate the sound of a crying baby!). I'm not advocating for having children; just saying that you have to be willing to adapt to whatever life throws your way. Don't limit yourself to thinking there's only one way for you to live, and if you don't stick to that one mold you'll be miserable. In that case, you're actually setting yourself up for misery. Take it as it comes...

And like others have said, having kids doesn't mean you have to give up everything. You can still ride bikes, travel, etc. with kids; you'll just have to do it a little differently. Instead of cruising along at 17mph on your road bike, you might find yourself going a little slower w/ a kid trailer on the back... :)

Also, usually the experiences we "lose" get replaced by something equally joyful. For instance, I may not get to wander Europe like I could 5 years ago, but on the other hand I can get great satisfaction out of simply going to the zoo now, not something I'd get w/o kids. Seeing that amazement in my child's eyes makes me relive that feeling, feelings not experienced since my own childhood. It's like taking a wondrous trip right in my own backyard.

Don't have kids because you think you should, and don't not have them because you think you shouldn't. If it happens, it happens, and if it does just accept it and enjoy it. If it doesn't, just enjoy your life without it.

All that said, I need to go to bed now, as I have to get up early for a mountain bike ride with friends. See, you can still have personal fun even w/ kids! ;-)

Cheers,
Fonk

Anonymous said...

Jack:

I made the decision when I was 13 years old that I would never have children.

My sister once said to me: "that is the most selfish thing I have ever heard."

To which I replied: "Is it more selfish to have kids I don't want than not to have kids?"

I knew, even at that early age, that I would not be a good parent. Now, at 41 years old, I still know that I would not have been a good parent. Please don't get me wrong. I love kids, I love being an aunt and spending time with my neice and nephew, I love volunteering at a local charity which is devoted to kids, but I knew being a parent 24/7/365 was not for me.

Whether this is a permanent decision for you, who knows? You may meet the woman of your dreams and become a father of 3, but if you don't, this doesn't make you a failure in life.

Having kids for "normalcy" sake is more selfish than having children for the "right" reasons - to bring new life into the world and teach them well. I think of all the kids out there who are in foster homes and need parents, I think of all of the children of the so-called normal people I know, the ones who do not need to work two jobs and the kids are being raised by nanny's and daycares so that they can fund the type of lifestyle which you are voluntarily giving up, and I think THOSE people are selfish.

So just do what feels right to you.

JB

C.S. said...

Just my two cents from age perspective: I'm 56, widowed female...never wanted kids, have NO regrets about that. I could go into lots of reasons, but I do consider it the height of selfishness to procreate just to "have the experience" or "have someone to take care of you in old age" or to "leave a part of yourself behind." The "normal reasons" have always been suspect to me; I think it's UNselfish to NOT have children.

But IF one does have children, the CHILD should be their first and foremost concern -- not procreating for THEIR own interests. Look around, and you'll see multitudes of children who suffer from SELFISH parents.

Kerry said...

I have just had this conversation with myself in this past year. As of one year ago, I was on the path of marriage and kids. This is what I thought that I wanted. This is what was "expected of me". And now at the age of 34, I've come to this conclusion: It's much less selfish to decide to not have kids, than to have them and then resent them later on because you aren't able to do the things that you thought that you wanted to do.

Jack said...

Jennifer,

That's definitely thought-provoking. So, having children can be, in fact, a way to further simplify and to truly simplify is to let go of the id altogether....

Kristina,

I tend to agree. I have a feeling I'm just in a place where it makes sense to think about these things, even if it's just not the right time or place to do anything about it. I will give it time.

Three moons,

How true. And that will be the question a little bit later: Do I have the 'desire' to go there.

Jack said...

Jennoit,

Point taken. The question is whether I will, in fact, make a determined effort in the first place. Not an issue i think I need to deal with for a bit, but you never know...

Jerry,

I think you are absolutely right. I know you've been reading my blog for a while now, so I know you are aware of how much I think about next steps and the merits of my life choices. Maybe as I was writing this post i had a momentary need to just let go for a while and see where life takes me.

Teresa,

Thanks for the comment. I've actually heard the same thing from other people. I already have some of his other books on my reading list. How's the new life coming on the boat?

Jack said...

Miss Scorpio,

And practice I do! :)

Watcher,

Your comment spoke the most to me. I never thought about childrearing in those terms before. Maybe I will be missing something essential by not having kids. Do you think there are other things in life that will have the same effect?

A Square Peg,

Definitely a non-issue at this point. I guess I'm in a frame of mind where I'm rethinking everything, even stuff that's not directly relevant at the moment. I agree with the rest of the analysis, particularly the intangible benefits of having children. Just need to get to a point where I can see myself in a position to make the choice.

Jack said...

Amanda,

Agree with the sustainability comment. But, man, that was a harsh thing for your dad to say. It sounds like you have come to terms with him though. Not to mention finding a place you can call your own. Who knows, maybe I will turn around one day and realize that I have come home as well.

Marissa,

Yeah, the pooping is definitely NOT plus, but the caterpillar watching is awesome.

Miles,

Yeah, we did touch on that before. It's one of the reasons I think we could get together for beers and get each other. As for the age thing, maybe the grass is always greener; how many couples who have kids later on would also like to have had the energy of their younger selves when taking care of toddlers, for instance?

I can see why staying put is important for them. And for you. But that is just an issue of circumstances. I understand that kids a pretty mobile and it's just a matter of juggling things to get out there and travel around.

Jack said...

Nancy,

You actually came to mind as someone who could provide added perspective when I wrote this post. Who knows, maybe I will join you guys on the road with a couple of younger Jacks one day!

Heather's,

Yeah, that's sort of how I am seeing things. I need to spend some time focused on figuring things out. Who knows how I will feel about this stuff when I come out the other end. Maybe a tandem bike is in my future. :)

Pleaserecycle,

All good points. I will definitely revisit the issue, if and when I am actually in a position to do so.

Jack said...

Sub Girl,

My favorite phrase of all: no worries. :)

Claire,

It's refreshing to know that there are people who have figured this out one way or the other. I'm hoping to have your clarity myself at some point.

EJ,

Very good point. Every child born in this country will probably at some point buy a car or buy a house...imagine how much in the way of natural resources you can protect if people thought about their life choices long and hard? Boggles the mind.

Jack said...

Lisa,

Interesting. The accidental parent turned happy parent. Maybe that's the mark of how wonderful it is to start a family.

Jade,

"I think a major part of your journey is clearly defining what you really need and want in life, and separating them from all those distracting societal constructs."

I think that captures it perfectly. It's not just kids but EVERYTHING. You must question everything if you want to redefine the kind of person you want to be.

Bill,

I actually thought about the whole issue of care in old age. Something else to add to the mix. And we should have that beer at some point. I'll take care of the first round...

Jack said...

Fonk,

I dig your attitude. Flexibility may be the best medicine for where I am now. Maybe it should apply to big stuff like having kids. Maybe I will be buying a trailer sometime soon.:) Hope you had a great ride.

JB,

Absolutely agree! The reality is that you can't plan anything, but to also be mindful of what you believe inside your heart. Glad you found that clarity (though it sounds like you've always had it). Now I just have to find mine.

CS,

I know plenty of those kids. Some of my best friends are some of those kids. I wonder if I am one of those kids.

Amanda said...

Harsh, maybe, but also very real. Teaching by example what *not* to do is still teaching. :) And anyway, being the child of a bipolar parent teaches compassion. When he said that, it was the depression talking, not him.

Hmmm... how to say this without sounding glib? Look on the bright side: your writing shows you to be a pretty thoughtful and sane person. Sure, you're working through a lot and maybe aren't the happiest with yourself all the time. But you don't seem crazy, and therefore it's unlikely you'd be a terrible parent. Just sayin'. :)

I guess my larger point is that for all of my dad's many imperfections (a few of which I have regrettably inherited, though I did dodge the crazy bullet) I wouldn't trade him for anything.

nea said...

i haven't read through the dozens of replies you already have, but i will add my own thoughts anyway. i think the "i will be a bad parent" reason is bogus. there is something about the birth or adoption (i imagine) of one's own child that changes you in an instant. it sounds hokey,i but it is true and i cannot describe it. if and when it happens to you, you will understand. and if it doesn't, that is okay too. without children, there are so many things you are able to do that i can never go back and do, at least not in the carefree way i could before i became a mother. also hokey, but i believe things happen for a reason and in their own time.
of course, i am a tired mamma who now lives the single life vicariously! ;)

Anonymous said...

You are just frightened, thats all.You are obviously being bluntly honest and you are probably right you are not ready yet.May be you will never be ready for fatherhood.Its very refreshing to hear someone actually admitt these things.You will make a wonderful father One Day, if thats what you choose , when you are happy with what you have done.I am a fifty something mother of three.My husband was much like you (from what i see) and he was ready eventually.Maybe you will, maybe not.Take your time.Don't worry.

maggie said...

You must be exhausted. I've just started reading your blog and I am getting overwhelmed by all the big questions. If I can make a suggestion--you don't have to figure out all these issues today, this week or this month. Yes, the questions make for great conversation and discussion, but go easy on yourself. As lawyers, we are predisposed to analyzing everything, and feel the need to have out strategies in place, then implement them. Uncertainty is not comfortable. You may have stopped practicing law, but you are still "practicing" in your life. Relax. Breathe. Deal with specific issues as they present themselves. Sorry if I am being too preachy. These are the things I am trying to do for myself. I have a need to have a plan with all contingencies researched and planned. I am trying to develop a new more relaxed mindset, with no scheduling orders.

LiLu said...

This:

How can I travel the world when I have to be at home and do the responsible parent thing?

is EXACTLY the reason I think I won't, or at least shouldn't. It may be selfish, but when you think about it realistically, the only ones who it's ever going to matter to if I don't have kids? Are my parents. And is that really a good reason to bring life into the world? Methinks... NOT.

Watcher said...

Jack- the question you asked in response to my comment: “Do you think there are other things in life that will have the same effect?” Wow, this is a great question, and probably worth a post of its own. The short answer is yes, I do, but I don’t pretend to know them all. In addition to marriage/life partnership and raising children, two others for me have been learning (and using) a foreign language, and working to really understand at least some aspect(s) of the natural world. Both have expanded my perspective and helped me to see beauty, wonder and connections in things I might have missed otherwise.

I strongly suspect another is learning to play a musical instrument well, which I’ve regrettably only done half-assed.

-Alex
http://www.watchingtheworldwakeup.blogspot.com/

anita said...

the best thing about having kids? the love it brings into your life..there are a million reasons not to have kids..cost, schedule, space, time...all very practical. what kids bring to your life is relationship. my life would be meaningless without my children and grandchildren. the worst thing about having kids? the heartache that inevitably comes with loving someone so deeply. in the end it's really not about practical reasons...because the selfishness in all of us would make it an easy choice. in the end it's about loving someone else more than you could possibly ever love yourself and it doesn't make any sense whatsoever. i'm sure that didn't make much sense or help at all, sorry! just something to think about.

Jack said...

Kerry,

It's inspiring to see know that you came to that conclusion. And that's what I want to do; I want to figure out what is best for me and not what others may think is best.

Amanda,

Thanks for the follow up to my comment. Yeah, I guess it's just a matter of working through the issues. Again, never said I would be a bad father all the time. Maybe just need to go through this process first.

Nea,

Ummm, interesting...Maybe noone is ever really ready for kids. It's having kids that makes you ready in the firs place.

Jack said...

Anonymous,

I hope so.

Maggie,

I completely agree with you. On the other hand, I have a feeling this transition I am going through is forcing me to rethink some very basic aspects of my life. Maybe asking these questions now is central to the process itself, even if the answers aren't all that relevant at the moment.

Lilu,

We definitely have a ton in common.

Stef said...

Jack,

I spent a good deal of time reading your blog yesterday. My life has taken a similar path so I thought I'd share...

I attended the University of Michigan Law School (which I chose for the school's emphasis on public interest law). Once I graduated, I inexplicably found myself working for a large firm. I was extremely unhappy with the environment and the people.

To make a long story short, 9/11 pushed me over the edge and I quit the firm in mid-2002 at age 33. My father, a partner in a large firm, couldn't fathom why I'd give up the money and status. After several months to recuperate, I began working a government job.

I don't make much money, but I serve the public and have much more time to spend enriching my life. More time to pursue creativity and to volunteer my time to others.

Here are a some things I've learned during my transition to a happier life:

1. Debt Forgiveness: UofM's debt forgiveness program was of limited use to me for various reasons. I had to reconcile myself to the fact that I'd have to pay down my debt without assistance. I just put myself on a plan, stuck to my plan and released myself from thinking about the debt load. Much happier!

2. Outward Bound. With your interest in the outdoors, I'd highly recommend taking a nice, long course. This was one of the best experiences of my life.

3. Children. After many years of discussion, my husband and I finally decided not to have children (we've been married 13 years). I'm just about to turn 40 and I know this was the right decision for us. There was a lot of pressure from family and friends (subtle and not so subtle), but we withstood the pressure and made our own decision. Every single one of my married friends has children, so it was difficult to swim against the stream. However, I've never been happier and I find numerous ways to enrich my life.


---

Keep up the good work! I look forward to following your progress.

Storyteller said...

My children both "came to me" - single for 10 years with the first, married to my youngest daughter's father, separated before her birth and raising her solo has it's distinct challenges. However, I learned long ago in my early 20s - surprised at motherhood, that it was best for Me to get out of the way.

I have learned the most about life and about true love from my children, and I love Gibran's poem "On Children" to describe how children come through not from us.

I selfishly am considering having a third child someday - hoping to share the experience with a wonderful man... if it doesn't happen, I'm sure I will cope - I've been blessed with the children I have.

Que Sera Sera - I think it's good that you are deeply concerned about how good a father you'd be... my guess is that you would be wonderful simply because of this caution.

You can have a wonderful life without procreating though.

hey - and guys can wait nearly their entire lives to do it - so no rush, Jack! =)

Cynthia

Jonna (aka mom) said...

Kids? What are you thinking about that right now for? Not having kids never makes anyone less of a person. Having kids when a person is not ready can though. And it hurt the kid.

I agree that you are not ready for children. Not now. It's important that you take time for you. I hope that there is no sad feelings for you in this. There is nothing wrong with living your life for you. I actually think it takes a stronger person to do it that way...so it's an asset.

Not having children is actually more common than I think people realize. Lots of people choose not to and they live wonderful lives without feeling that they have missed out on something.

One thing to remember is that men can father children right up into old age. So if you want to, you could marry a younger woman who is still within childbearing age when you are older. My grandfather did it, he was 25 years older than my grandmother. Back in history it was like that, men didn't take a wife until they were established. Imagine just how neat of a life you could build with someone if you and your chosen one of the future are both established, know who you are and know what you want. Imagine finding someone that shares the same dreams you do. It could be a good thing.

Of course, you could just stay single. Look at Hugh Hefner, he's a happy man! (come on... just one grin?)

Abigail said...

Our generation is hugely scared of having children. I was so there eight years ago! (I think the only reason we have a family is that my beloved St. Patrick gave us a strong shove to throw out the birth control after an inspiring trip to Catholic Ireland.)

Now on the other side: I've got three thoughts.

1) Meeting your spouse is what usually changes the kid thing. It's not an abstract "should I be a father" anymore. It's "I want X's children because I adore her so much!"

2) As my husband says "Kids come with instruction books." Kids heal us. They perfect us. They make us into the parents that we are supposed to be for them. Something happened in the 1960s, so I think most of our parents sort of lost the idea that our job is to "help" and perfect them. Never the less, it's true. You don't have to wait to be a perfect person to be a parent. Just be open and love will handle the rest.

3)Kids are not expensive! That's one giant whopper of a lie. My kids are breastfeed, have cloth diapers, are homeschooled, etc. I was shocked to discover that even their future Harvard Education is now free. (Harvard just posted a full scholarship for any family under double my husband's income.)

Anonymous said...

I had kids because I really wanted them.

However, I told both my daughters that unless you are willing to devote 24 years to making sure your kids are raised right, don't do it.

Both are happily single, 28 & 29, no kids and doing what they love.

I'm perfectly content with that. And so are they.