Why does being honest have to hurt so badly?
What is the truth? I’m sure every single person on this planet will ask themselves this question today and everyday henceforth; it’s a question that has plagued me ever since I started serious thought into the most important life question a human being will ever ask: Do I want to be a parent or not? Two years and eight months ago I met the most wonderful lady I could ever imagine; I said a prayer asking Jesus for a certain woman and she met everything I ever asked for even down to hair and eye color. She was a dream come true; during our time in college we had the time of our lives. Staying out late, sleeping in all day, yelling until we lost our voices at football games, two-stepping at our favorite dance hall; I must admit that the first two years truly were the most fun. Then the inevitable happened, both of us graduated; that’s when the reality of life hit us square in the head and the euphoria of college life started to dwindle away.
When we first met, and I must admit I was rather shocked by this; she mentioned rather randomly of how she wanted two kids. Naturally she asked me what my desire was and as shocked as I was, I was amazed I was even able to stammer out a nervous answer. “Two? That seems like a lot, I think I’d rather have one first and see how it goes from there; I think they’re a lot of hard work.” Was I being honest at the time when I said that during the first few weeks? I’d like to think so; but at that point my attitude had been to just shrug my shoulders at the issue and say, “Why not? It’s just what people are supposed to do; get married and become parents.” Who honestly is thinking seriously about this kind of thing while they’re having the time of their life in college? I don’t deny that some people do, obviously my girlfriend was; but among men, I would be surprised if many of them were. I’ll never forget the uneasiness I felt though even when I answered, ‘yes’; without anyone telling me, I instinctively knew how hard it was going to be just to care for one child. The idea of adding another one to the mix just sounded insane and I really tried to reinforce that to her when conversations like that would pop up now and again. It was always the same response, “I think we should just see what it’s like with one before we agree to two.” She seemed unwilling to heed any of my warnings, but regardless of how content she was with the pretty picture she had painted in her head; I knew my uneasiness wasn’t something to ignore.
Now by this point I had already graduated and was working in town waiting for her to finish school; it was right around the time of her graduation, when the two of us had talked about moving down to Houston to live close by and work, that I started to truly give some serious thought to all of the major issues I had purposefully put off thinking about. The biggest of these being children; it was at this point when the first honest feelings of, “I may not want any,” began to surface. Should I have confessed these doubts to her the moment I started to experience them? Yes, I should have. Was I wrong for withholding this from her for so long? Yes, I absolutely was and I will admit now that it was the cowardly thing to do. Now this is not an excuse, but merely an explanation of how I rationalized not telling her right away: I honestly thought, as a lot of parents tell us, that “it’s merely a phase you’ll grow out of; you’re just not ready now, but you will be. When the day comes your mind will change.” These words echoed in my head and I really did wonder: “Maybe this is just some irrational fear I’ll get over in a few weeks; maybe it’s just the reality of living life outside of college that has me nervous about everything. If I tell her I don’t want kids, she leaves me, and these feelings turn out to be insincere, I will have made the biggest mistake of my life.”
And that is what I kept telling myself over and over again in my head to prevent the truth from slipping out. It was almost three months ago from today that the truth finally did come out, between bouts of utter sobbing. Yes, I know I should be ashamed to admit that I was sobbing, how un-manly of me; but when faced with the reality that the love of my life, my very best friend, would probably say the most heartbreaking words I could ever imagine, “It’s over”, when I confessed that I didn’t desire to be a parent; those emotions were impossible to suppress. I had prepared myself for it, I’d said my goodbyes to her pets, her family; everything we had shared together for over two and a half years, I said goodbye to. I was shocked when her response didn’t turn out to be, “It’s over”, but rather, “I don’t believe you.” When I really tried to assure her that I was sincere, then all of the insults that all of us are familiar with came rushing out of her mouth like a river, “That’s selfish; what an abnormal, sick, satanic thing. You love yourself more than you love me; I’ve wasted two and a half years of my life! You’ve lied to me this whole time; you betrayed me!”
After surviving this brutal gauntlet, she finally cooled down long enough to try and assure me, “Look, I’m not going to leave you; I’ll just wait for your mind to change. Now don’t ask me to wait for long, because I won’t; there are plenty of other better men out there for me to be with, so don’t prevent me from moving on for too long; but I know this is just a phase, some irrational fear that you have that you’ll grow out of.” I was more insulted than I was relieved. Imagine if I had spewed those same insults at her if she confessed her desire to be a parent? Would she have appreciated it if I’d said, “Oh, this whole motherhood desire is just some abnormal phase you’ll grow out of.” I wouldn’t have dared to say that to her; I can’t possibly discern and speak for the desires of her heart. If that’s what she says she wants, I’m supposed to take her words seriously the moment she utters them; but for me? No, a childfree desire must be a joke of some kind. Now if you’re wondering how we can still be together three months after this confession was made; out of respect for her I have taken her advice and taken some time to discern if this truly is my heart’s desire. With each passing day I have had more and more peace regarding a childfree life and I truly have a lot of you childfree people on this blog to thank for that; your support and encouraging words have been truly uplifting.
Now this discernment period, as well as some counseling did allow me to think of some possible events that may be factoring in to my childfree desire. When you’re told growing up that, “It’s YOUR fault that your Mom and I are fighting all the time; when you grow up I hope you never have a child that’s been as difficult as you’ve been to me.” Those were some scalding, scarring words, and maybe that has contributed subconsciously to this desire of mine. Remembering those events did force me to question, “So if what he said is true, then how exactly are children a blessing to a marriage when apparently my Dad is telling me that all I did was bring trouble to theirs?” I told this to my Mom recently and of course she tried to deflect any wrongdoing from me, saying, “Oh, that’s just him not taking responsibility for his own problems.” Maybe that’s true; but I like to think that it was my Mom trying desperately to convince me that, as a child, I didn’t do anything to contribute to those turbulent times. Even after she confessed that, I still told her how my desire was unchanging; I really didn’t desire children. This of course caused her to cry and for her to tell me how she has already seen my children, two boys in fact, in a dream. I’m just stunned that she should be so grieved over this, after all my brother and sister-in-law recently had a little girl of their own; so it’s not like my Mom is starved of grandchildren. Heck she’ll have plenty; the two of them eventually want to have three kids! I guess that’s just the prevailing American attitude, we can never have enough. “One child isn’t enough, I need two more; one grandchild is too few, give me more; my house isn’t big enough, I don’t have enough money, my car isn’t fast enough, I’m not strong enough, not skinny enough; blah, blah, blah, the list is unending.”
Quick word of wisdom, to all of you couples out there and to anyone who is single (or about to be because of this); PLEASE be honest about this issue. For those of us whose minds are clearly made up on the desire to not have children; let’s stay strong and not let anyone forcibly dissuade us. For anyone who may be reading this blog who remains a “fence-sitter” on this issue, I’ll say this. The best way to discover what your heart’s desire is on this is to sit in a quiet space where the only voice you can hear within 100 miles is your own. That’s ALL that matters, what do you hear YOUR heart telling you once you’ve quieted all of the voices of your family, friends, relatives, or total strangers. Remember, each of them, whether they’re aware of it or not, are trying to persuade and shape your thought process with their biases and opinions; they have a set of values they’re trying to impress upon you. Now let me be consistent here, don’t let anyone who’s childfree try and convince you to go that route either; just shut out everyone and ask the most important question you ever will in your life, “Do I want to be a parent?” Remember, you have only ONE life to live; it is NOT, and I’ll say it again, it is NOT selfish to live the kind of life that in your heart, you know would make you happy. Your identity, your wants, desires and ambitions, let them be YOUR OWN; remember, the minute you let anyone shape your identity for you, you’ve lost it. It was never yours to begin with. Remember, ONE LIFE; LIVE IT YOUR WAY!
Remember, if you get talked into a lifestyle that makes you miserable until the day you die; don’t think you’ll get a do-over or a second chance. When life is over, it’s over; live it to the fullest! And for you women; there are many things to be ambitious about in life; you have more choices available to you than being a mother. For many, that is the life they choose and it s a noble one. There have been thousands of prominent figures throughout history who have had revolutionary and everlasting contributions to our way of life; that wouldn’t have been possible had there not been a mother to raise them. However, is this the greatest or most fulfilling life choice available to you? Not even close. People without children, Jesus Christ, Paul, Mother Theresa, St. Francis, Leonardo DaVinci; all of them and many others had just as much a lasting impact on history and on people lives as anyone else. As for anyone who wants to call a childfree person selfish, let me tell this story: “My great grandfather, before he immigrated to the United States, was a member of the Irish Republican Army. He was proud of it and displayed his membership pin openly; two British soldiers followed him home and proceeded to nearly beat him to death with their rifles before dragging him out to a swamp behind his house to drown him in front of his wife. The priest from his church, only 26 years old, followed them there and told the British soldiers, “If you’re intent on taking a life; take mine and let him live.” Without hesitation, they took that young priest and drowned him to death. After reading that, anyone want to try and assert that childfree people are selfish, conceited and self-absorbed?
Moving on from that somber tale, remember; the suburban house with a white picket fence and two kids may be a formula that works for most, BUT NOT ALL. This formula can’t be forcibly applied to everyone woman with the promise that it WILL bring you happiness. I’ve been told that parenthood is the “normal” desire because it’s what most people do. Yeah? Well most people enjoy drinking themselves into an embarrassing stupor, most people enjoy doing drugs of some kinds; most people enjoy being intolerant, hateful and disrespectful; even to the point of physically harming others. Why don’t we all just run off and behave that way too; as my parents used to tell me, “If you saw your friends jumping off a cliff to their deaths, would you follow them?” Just because it may be normal for most, doesn’t mean its normal for YOU or that it will bring you happiness; think of YOURSELF and what you want out of life, there is no wrong in that. Don’t let anyone look down on you or your life choices, remember, as Eleanor Roosevelt said: “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
My girlfriend always accuses me of thinking about parenthood too much; in my humble opinion, you can never think of it enough! Parenthood is the hardest thing you will ever take on in life, (remember it lasts a LIFETIME, not just eighteen years) and it’s IRREVERSIBLE. I’ve never understood people who tell you, almost casually, just to “try it”, “You’ll feel differently if you just try it.” I’m sorry, but ice cream is something you try. If I try the vanilla flavor and don’t find it tasty; I can easily hand it back and ask for another. Mark my words, parenthood is NOT something to try; besides, what if you have a kid and you realize, “Oh crap, I don’t like this.” What are you going to do; just hand it back and move on with what you were doing before?!
Another opinion I have on this is, whether you want to be a parent or not, agree BEFORE marriage on how many kids you will have or NOT have. Whether it’s eight or none; both spouses should agree on the EXACT number of children they will have. I have read so many tragic stories over how divorce has happened because one or the other spouse was not in agreement on the issues of children, whether it’s if they wanted them or not or how many they wanted to have. Leave no stone unturned before marriage, especially this one. Don’t hesitate to make it a contract either; I’m completely serious: Fill out a sheet agreeing to how many children you want to have (or not have) and then sign it. Then in the future if one or the other tries to back out on what they promised from the start, you can always point to that signed piece of paper and remind them of what they agreed to. For anyone who is childfree, don’t accept dialogue from your spouse that says, “You’re right, I’m not ready NOW either.” That’s almost assuredly implying that your partner wants kids at a later time in life; if you hear that kind of language, be wary. Make sure the words coming out of their mouth is just like yours, “I don’t want kids at all, either.”
Furthermore, as the title of this post says, “The consequences may hurt REALLY badly, but please don’t hesitate to be honest with yourself and with your partner on the issue of children.” I’m paying the price now, and my girlfriend even admitted that she’d wished I’d never said anything at all, but rather pretended everything was the way it was. I’m sorry, but life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows; you can just cover your ears, close your eyes and chant, LA, LA, LA, while you ignore the harsh realities that are sure to come. I try to remind her on this regarding parenthood; she seems convinced that the parenthood experience will be the equivalent to skipping along a yellow-bricked road covered with rose petals while rainbows paint the sky and bluebirds sing in the trees. I never hesitate to tell her that the desire to be a mother is not wrong, it is an honorable and noble undertaking, just like the childfree life; but every time I try and warn her of how difficult it is going to be and how she shouldn’t underestimate the lifestyle, she is completely unwilling to hear it. At times I just don’t know if she really knows what she’s getting in to; at one point she told my sister-in-law (both she and my brother seem to be the only people who understand and accept me), that she should only tell me how good motherhood is. She just shrugged her shoulders and answered, “Well, I’ll tell him the good; but I’m going to share how hard it is too.” She tends to complain about how hard her day at work as a kindergarten assistant is and how exhausted she is when she gets home; as my sister-in-law reminded her, “You think your life is hard now without a kid? You think you’re tired, you think you can even begin to comprehend frustration? Brace yourself!” When she’s taking a nap she gets so upset when she hears the dogs running around in the living room, I can’t help but ask, “You think that’s noisy? What’s your attitude going to be when it’s your kids out there making the noise?” All of the things she tells me that she can’t live without now; sleep, freedom, exercise, are all things she’s going to lose quite rapidly once a baby comes. I don’t want her to learn that the hard way; but she seems determined to.
Also, for you ladies out there; I almost feel like I have to apologize for my gender on this. I have seen some of the most mean-spirited and despicable comments come from men towards childfree women and even women who are on the fence, comments to the tune of, and this is toned down significantly, “What’s with you not wanting kids? That’s really all you’re here on this earth do; now pump me out some babies so I can thump my chest and say, “Look at what I have created; there is a little mini-me with my bloodline in it running around! I can also use it to prove to my guy friends how straight and manly I am.” You think I’m kidding? I’ve heard some shallow reasons from women for wanting to have children; but none of them even come close to men. Ladies, believe me, there are good men out there who are mindful of the hell you have to go through that is pregnancy, childbirth, and being a stay-at-home mom. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I knew I contributed to a woman experiencing all of those things; remind those men that’s easy for them to want children because they’re not the ones at home taking care of them 24-7! Stand up for yourselves, ladies, and don’t be bullied into a corner to accept a life you do not want. Guys, same with you; don’t let a lady, no matter how much you love her, persuade you into taking on a job and a lifestyle you do not desire. A good friend of mine has a Dad that did not want to be a father, but was persuaded into doing it. He turned out to be abusive toward both her and her brother, the moment he held both of them in his arms, in his own words, “He felt nothing.” Don’t be that man; don’t come to that realization when it’s too late.
Remember, parenthood is, “a job”, not unlike any other; except it’s much harder, more exhausting, and the benefits of taking it on are few and far between. A quick reminder to those on the fence, if you are 99.9% sure you want a kid, DO NOT have one! I’m telling you, that .1% may seem insignificant to you; but even the tiniest speck of doubt can be amplified once the stress of pregnancy and parenthood begin to sink in. Don’t bring a child in to this world and regret; there can be no greater tragedy than that. I’ve had people tell me that if I remain childfree, I’ll regret it; yes, that may very well be a possibility, but I would rather not have a kid and regret it than to have a child and then regret it because then two people suffer as opposed to one. Guys, if you’re like me and you’re certain that fatherhood is not for you; if you do wind up getting married, let US be the ones to get sterilized; Vasectomies are far less invasive and do not require anesthesia unlike procedures for women. Don’t make your wife or girlfriend go through that; just take thirty minutes out of your day and have it done and over with.
Finally, I want to stress the one thing I am proudest of on this post; I am a Christian. This is the source of my greatest joy, and yet I am also ashamed of this. When I see the behavior of Christians being so diametrically opposed to the very character and teachings of Jesus; I can’t imagine the untold damage that is being done to his name and his gospel. If you have had the “Be fruitful and multiply and children are a blessing” diatribe forcibly thrown in your face; don’t associate that legalistic, intolerant religious person with Jesus, HE WAS NOT THAT WAY. Jesus was accepting, heck even he never had children of his own (Christian seem to be willfully ignorant of this), as well as Paul, two pillars of our faith, never had children. Yet Christians try so desperately to peddle parenthood as the only reason for marriage to exist, marriage exists for HOLINESS, NOT PARENTHOOD. Remember, Jesus saw all people, regardless of age, as his children. That’s my view on it too, I don’t need to have two of my own children for me to have some incentive to help them; I care about all people at every stage of life, not just when they’re little.
Let me explain more about doctrine that pressures and promotes parenthood; pressure to procreate from churches stems from the desire to fill the coffers with tithes; and they call the childfree materialistic? Though of course that makes little sense, when they’re spending so much money on their children, they’ll have that much less to donate to the church. Also, and this is just embarrassing, the pressure to procreate for the sake of “out-breeding people of other religions, particularly Muslims.” And they call childfree abnormal? Furthermore, “The children are a blessing” line is from Psalms, not only is that a poetic book, not one to pull doctrine or biblical law from, but not all children remain little. When they grow up into adults, they have free reign to become whoever they choose to be. I mean, look at Mao Zedong, Stalin and Hitler; oh yes, what a blessing they were to this earth. If you want a more recent account, the gunman in Arizona who killed six people and wounded many others, oh yes, what a blessing he’s been to others’ lives.
Parents seem to be deluded into thinking that they can have a little mini-them running around who both looks and acts exactly the same. Prepare yourself for disappointment, almost everyone I know, including myself, turned out to be nothing like their parents. I can’t imagine the disappointment one parent must feel when they have these expectations of their child growing up into a perfectly, obedient Christian adult. If you’re brainwashing yourself with that, how accepting and loving will you be if you kid comes home and confesses they want to become a Muslim, or that they’re gay, or that they don’t believe in anything? Quit trying to visualize what you want your child’s life to be like and expect it to happen as you envision; you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. Let your children live day to day and love them through whatever they decide to become.
Lastly, the “Be fruitful and multiply” was not a command from Jesus at all, but an additional blessing. Besides, look at the timeline when that statement was made. The earth was EMPTY; seeing as how we are rapidly running out of space, I would say that has been more than fulfilled by now. Besides, I think there’s a reason that birth control was invented; I believe ideas that benefit mankind are divinely inspired. I have no doubt that this invention was thought of at just the right time in our environmental history.
In closing, I just want the world to know how much I love my girlfriend and how I so desperately wish that we never end up parting ways. As I’ve tried to tell her, being with her leaves nothing to be desired; as long as I can live life with her, I wouldn’t need a single thing. It saddens me to think that her feelings are not mutual, it saddens me to think that she looks me and thinks, “I love you, but you’re not enough.” For all of you couples who may be suppressing any doubts about children for fear of what your partner may think; don’t wait any longer. No matter how badly it may hurt, never hesitate to do the right thing by being honest. Your life is YOURS, don’t live it for someone else; live it for YOU! THAT IS NOT SELFISH! May Jesus bless all of you?