Thoughts on Marriage & Childrearing (Part One)

When I was growing up, I always thought that someday I would get married and have kids. That’s what most people around me thought because that’s the dominant discourse we are exposed to—we grow up, go to college, get married, buy a house, have a child or two, raise them, send them to college and perpetuate the cycle. This is familiar, of course, because it is the heternormative American Dream. The unspoken traditional values underlying this are that we become well-disciplined consumers. To be ‘good, productive citizens,’ a certain level of education is encouraged, we are expected to commit to one person in a monogamous marriage (in most states, a marriage between a man and a woman), we are expected to reproduce, all the while consuming goods produced to sustain this lifestyle of consumption. And the government provides incentives for this life trajectory—we are given tax breaks for being disciplined citizens. U.S. taxpayers receive tax breaks for education, for getting married, for buying a house, for having children, etc. Parents are often given paternity leave by their employers whereas child-free employees are not. I apologize if this sounds pessimistic. There are, of course, many wonderful things about marriage and parenting. But this is just to point out the ways in which the system in which we live benefits from, and reproduces the institutions of marriage and parenting.  

After Eric and I had been together for a while, people started asking, “When are you going to get married?” as if that was, of course, the next step in our relationship—the goal. Then, as soon as we were married, people started asking the question, “When are you going to have kids?” Not “ARE you going to have kids?” but “WHEN?” At first, my answer was a non-committal but cheerful, “I don’t know…not anytime soon, but someday.” Then things started to shift as I thought more carefully about this question and what it meant. Tons of people actively choose not to have children for all kinds of reasons, so why the expectation that, of course, a heterosexual, married couple would have children? The more I thought about this institution of human reproduction, the more closely I started to pay attention to conversations about having children.   

I’ve now seen quite a few of my friends and family members have children. For some of them, there was little choice involved. They got pregnant accidentally and went with it. For some, I think they had children because it was the next step after marriage and they didn’t necessarily see any good reason not to. For some, having children was something they had always wanted to do, they loved children, were great with children—they were, in other words, born parents. Other friends thought extremely carefully about the decision to have children and are raising their children with that same careful thoughtfulness. And still others made the choice to adopt children.

When I was younger I always thought I wanted to be a mother. I’ve always felt like my body would be good at pregnancy and childbirth. I even went so far as to think about the ideal time for childbearing/rearing in terms of career, etc. (late 20s seemed to be a good time). But then as I started creeping into my late twenties and started thinking about animals in a new light, something changed. I had started to become vegan and I was thinking about activism more seriously than ever before. I started thinking about the animals with whom we share our home and the impact that having a child would have on them. I started thinking about the way having children (as it should) makes you prioritize your children over other projects. I started thinking about my career and what having children would mean for that. I started thinking about writing and how having children would complicate my time for writing every day. I started thinking about how little time we have here on this earth to make change and I started to wonder if having children wasn’t necessarily the most productive use of my time. In other words, I started to radically rethink the assumption that I would have children. To be clear, when I say all of this, I do not mean to pass any judgements at all on people who have chosen to have children and for whom the decision was easy. I am merely giving my own thought-process and perspective on what I see to be a huge decision.

After many, many conversations with Eric, family and friends about this subject, I’ve encountered some interesting insights about the choice to have children (or not) and I’ll share some of those in my next post. To be continued…

In the meantime, what’s your perspective on having children?

Join the Conversation


  1. I never thought I would have children, even when I first got married. I was never excited by the idea. But something kind of “switched on” for me and it was almost like a sickness! Now I cannot imagine my life without Eli, and I’m looking forward to adding one more to our brood. I think it’s nice that you are thinking so deeply on it though, because many people do just into it because it’s the next logical step, and that can definitely cause complications. Having Eli has shifted my priorities completely, and has changed the way I view the world and my interaction with it. I care more, and I put more care into everything I do now. So I think this has been a positive change for me personally. That being said, time becomes scarce, and time for what YOU want to do, becomes more of a nice idea than a reality – at least at this early stage in the game. I’m good with this, because I realize these first few years of his life (and his brother or sister’s) are so important and I am more than happy to sacrifice my personal desires to make sure I’m doing the best I can. So, I guess, in a nutshell, you have to do what feels right and put your ear muffs on because people are so flippin’ pushy. Also, if you have a lot of friends with babies, my guess is that they would like you to join the club so you can truly understand TIRED and OMG THESE KIDS, and can chat endlessly about poopy diapers 🙂

    1. Ha! Eric and I already talk so much about poop already with housetraining Saoirse that we would probably be intolerable if we added diapers to the mix. The other day, Saoirse pooped in the house, then she grabbed a piece of her poop in her mouth, and started running around the house crazily. I spent 10 minutes chasing her trying to get her to drop it. I was telling a friend of mine who has a kid about this and she said, “It sounds like you’re ready to have kids!”

      In all seriousness, though, thanks for the thoughtful response! I’ve really enjoyed following your experience in motherhood…You make it look like such a wonderful (and at times funny) adventure! 🙂

      1. Oh my goodness LOL! I am glad she is feeling so mischievous – a sign of comfort, right? 🙂

        It is wonderful and funny, and it’s also exhausting, soul-crushing, marriage-busting, and all out insanity sometimes. It’s not like I’m overly fond of anyone else’s children though. I’m still more of a dog and cat person.

  2. I fear I’ve shared way too much on the “con” side with you already on this topic, so I’ll leave it there ;-). But want you to know that I think you’re a wonderful, whole and completely fabulous nurturer. All of your fur children tell me so. And whether you chose to add another to the mix – either of the human or fuzzy kind – I believe the world will be a better place for it. xoxo

    1. Aw, thanks Rain! I have SO appreciated our conversations on the subject and your honesty about the at times harrowing difficulties involved with raising a child. And in spite of how rough it can be, you are a wonderful, creative mama. 🙂

  3. There are several important points I want to share:
    1. It is really difficult to raise decent people in the culture we live in today.
    2. It is sometimes an agonizing experience for anyone who is sensitive and empathetic.
    3. I cannot imagine my life without my child.
    4. Children teach you more about life than anything you will ever learn in school.
    5. You are right to examine the question honestly because it is not for the faint-hearted.
    6. Diapers and poop are the easy part.

  4. Nick and I are in this place and as I begin to creep towards my mid-thirties I’m beginning to receive the raised eyebrow about not having kids and ‘don’t wait too long’. I greatly appreciate your open honesty on the subject because I find that this expectation puts a tremendous burden on couples and an even greater burden on women to fulfill some gender normative standard. My life, at this point in time, is no less richer for having only the four-legged kid variety and in many ways I feel blessed NOT to have children – I can go on a spontaneous date night with my husband, plan a trip, stay out late, focus on my grad school research and my work without feeling exhausted and pulled in a thousand directions. I LOVE that I can feel so excited for my friends having kids and am so thrilled for when they are older and I will be able to fulfill the role of ‘auntie’.
    To those willing to have children, I take my hat off to you and to those of us who choose not to have children I raise a glass!

    1. Rachel, this is great! I definitely envy your resolve in your decision AND your positive attitude about the decision to have or not have children! Cheers!

  5. I have a friend who really loves children very much. Every time there are kids around, she always goes to them, plays with them, and even do simple things that moms do to their kids. She is very fond of kids and you will really see that she likes them very much yet, she doesn’t want to have one for herself. She basically has everything–she is at her early 30’s, happily married, and has a decent job that pays well. So out of curiosity, I asked her why she doesn’t want to have kids and she just answered, “I think I am not responsible enough to be a parent and if I ever had one, I think I won’t be able to raise him/her well.” So my little advice about childrearing is that if you feel that you are not ready to raise kids yet, then don’t force yourself. And once you have decided to go for it, be fully committed of being a parent. We will not have the same experience for sure but for me, being a parent was a little bit more than what I had expected. Just a little. 🙂

    1. Janet, Thanks for commenting and for reading! I definitely know people who are in the camp of “I’m not responsible enough to have children”. I think it’s probably really important to feel like parenting is something you want to do and feel equipped to handle before taking the plunge into being a parent… 🙂

  6. Katie, this is one of the most thoughtful and honest pieces I’ve read about this issue and I just wanted to say that I identify with a lot of what you wrote. I married a man who had children from a previous marriage and so it gave me pause to do what you have done, really examine if that decision is right for me. Ultimately, I chose to focus on my other important projects instead of taking time out to have kids, and I don’t regret that decision at all. Sure, I love to snuggle a cute baby and I get a kick out of the crazy things my nephew says, but, I am very happy with my choice (while at the same time eternally grateful that we live in a time when I have a choice). I also try really, really hard not to judge people who do have kids, but at the same time it’s hard because I feel like I know too much about the environmental impact of overpopulation and the realities that American kids have such a big carbon footprint. Thanks for sharing and I’m looking forward to the next blog post on this topic.

    1. Thanks, Carrie! It’s great to hear your perspective on this subject. And yes, I think a lot about the environmental impact of reproducing, particularly for children who grow up to be meat-eaters! I have a good friend whose children are now grown. She raised them animal rights vegan their whole childhoods. One has remained vegan for animal rights/environmental reasons. The other eats meat (bought from Walmart) at nearly every meal. Even with the best intentions, we have no control over how our children will grow up and what impact they will have on others or the planet… 🙂

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