Is Having Children Stupid?

| Thu Apr. 2, 2009 12:31 PM EDT

Yes. It absolutely is. But I did it anyway. Twice.

OpenSalon ran a thought provoking piece the other day: Does Having Children Ruin Your Life?

Well, we know it ruins the planet, but between now and Armageddon, why have them at all? A childless 31-year-old wonders, seemingly sincerely, why people do it, meaning: Why should she? She doesn't really want to but knows her bio clock is ticking. With her egg timer running out, she muses:

The parents I know seem, as a general rule, to be less happy than the non-parents. They are more stressed out, more exhausted, more worried, less fun, less funny, and much more interested in their personal/familial lives than the outside world—at least compared to those without children. Now of course, this is all perfectly natural. Raising a child (or more than one) takes a huge amount of physical and emotional energy. Anything that sucks up your physical and emotional energy will lead to the previously enumerated list of characteristics. So I understand. But my question is, why do people become parents when parenthood seems so awful?

Why do we have kids? We no longer need them to help around the farm. We no longer expect them to go off to the work in the big city and send home money, nor can we expect them to care for us in our old age. Hell, we can't even expect to stay married to their other parent, in which case everyone involved thoroughly suffers. They're cute and adorable, but so are our nieces, nephews, students, and the babies we can volunteer to cuddle down at County General. We all know the havoc they're going to wreak in our lives, and we still move heaven and earth to have them (see octo-mom, or the material mom, Madonna).

I was always ambivalent about having kids. Growing up where I did, it was quite obvious to me that children were the supremo recipe for ensuring a miserable life for myself, at least until they were grown. My motto was: I can be one kind of happy with kids and another kind without them. But my ex wanted kids and it took me all of a minute to cast off 40 years of 'no kids, no way'. There was no rationality, no weighing of the pros and cons involved, and they make my life extremely difficult. Miserable, sometimes.

Yet, I'm glad I had them and I can't wait to see who they grow up to be. Hard work as they are, it's still like living with unicorns—unutterably beautiful creatures who nonetheless destroy the carpets, gore the walls with those horns, and embarrass me in public with their lost bowel control.

But I think I'd just be a different kind of happy without them.

So, to that author, don't do it if you don't want to. Either way, it's up to you how your life turns out.

Or, just be French about it. Check out French Vogue's take on motherhood. Talk about ambivalence.