More Love Left

I turn 26 in a little over a month and am unsure about whether I want to raise any kids in the future. While I feel okay about not knowing, at this point I lean toward not having kids so that I can maintain my independence, a core value of mine. What frustrates me more than not knowing whether I want kids: the stigma against those who do not have kids, as well as the glorification of those who do have them.

Flash backward to a conversation I had with one of my ex-friends about two and a half years ago. In her sunlit apartment, I sat on the couch while she sat on the carpeted floor. I think I recall her playing with her cat, throwing a little stuffed mouse for her to chase. I told her about my reservation about having kids, about how though I see the merits of adopting a child, I could also imagine a complete and fulfilled life without doing so. When I said this, she immediately said something along the lines of “but Thomas, think about the warm and loving life you could give a child, you could give them a life so different from the ones our parents gave us.”

While I recognize my friend’s intent to compliment my compassion and caring, I felt a slight annoyance because it reminded me of how so many people have told me that I should have kids because I am a nurturing and kind person. These statements frustrate me because as feminist essayist Rebecca Solnit writes about in her amazing essay “The Mother of All Questions”, the world contains so many different things in addition to children that would benefit from nurturance, like communities torn asunder by natural disasters, political movements designed to improve the quality of life for marginalized folks, and the fight to reduce climate change so that more kids can exist on Planet Earth at all. Speaking for myself, I do my best to exhibit nurturance through activities such as providing therapy, mentoring students, and caring for my close friends. My decision to have children should not influence people’s perceptions of my kindness or my warmth, especially because I know many people who mistreat their kids, or people who treat their kids well while mistreating folks like their coworkers or graduate students.

I read this essay collection way back in 2017 and many of its messages still resonate with me! Over the past several years I have focused on reading way more authors of color than authors though I would still recommend this collection. At the same time, a more recent review points out how a few of the essays have become dated, like apparently Solnit praised Louis C.K. who now we know is a sexual assaulter so yikes. Things change!

In her essay “The Mother of All Questions,” Solnit makes the astute point that “while many people question the motives of the childless, who are taken to be selfish for refusing the sacrifices that come with parenthood, they often neglect to note that those who love their children intensely may have less love left for the rest of the world.” This logic resonates with my own life. If I were not to have a kid, I would have more love and more time for other values-aligned activities, such as my clinical work, supervising students, and spending energy and resources on trips to visit my closest friends or bonding activities with my friends if we end up in a similar location. Though I could still do these things with a kid, I would have to do them less, at least during my kid’s earlier years. I am not saying that providing therapy, mentoring students, or investing time in close friends is better than raising a child in a healthy way. Rather, nurturing a kid should not be glorified as inherently better than nurturing a world that would be much better for kids to live in in the first place.

At this point I envision that I will love my life regardless of whether I have a kid. I feel like I would thrive with the independence afforded by not having children, though I could also see myself enjoying nurturing a child with the right social supports. In my life I have had mentors who had their own kids and I have had role models who have not had kids, including Caroline Knapp, one of my favorite writers whose work has helped heal so many folks. Regardless of what the future holds, I feel grounded in my joyful present, like showing off my strawberry blond hair while running across the tennis court, laughing with close friends over Skype and FaceTime and Zoom, and writing about whatever social or personal issue comes my way, doing my best to resist patriarchy and heteronormativity at every turn.

So yeah, I accidentally went strawberry blond lol! I was trying to get my whole head pink but then my previous stylist accidentally caused breakage after bleaching my roots twice too soon and my hair was falling out in clumps and it was very dramatic so I went to a different salon and they did a three-step chemical treatment which turned my hair blond. So here we are for the foreseeable future. I didn’t intend this, however I think I look hot and all the men who had their chance with me and messed up are missing out.

How do you feel about the prospect of having kids, whether in the present, future, or past? What do you make of the heteronormative, patriarchal expectation that people – especially women – should have kids, and how do we fight that? General reactions to this post? I of course recognize that historically marginalized folks have been prevented from having children which is totally oppressive too. Until next post!

10 Comments

Filed under Personal, Society

10 responses to “More Love Left

  1. I love your new hair and thank goodness the stylist could rescue you!

    I have suffered from expectations around motherhood as I’m childless not by choice and have had pressure both ways – have children! Oh, you don’t have children, you must be a selfish person who dislikes them. So people can butt right out of commenting on people’s life situations, and should only discuss this with you if you specifically ask them to, and then from a you-centred approach, not from their own stereotypes. But they won’t.

    I have been able to nurture my best friend’s children from their birth and be an extra aunty and now they’re brilliant social activists who do credit some of that to me and my influence, hooray!

    • Thank you for sharing your experiences Liz and that sucks to have received pressure both ways to have children and to not. I appreciate you providing tangible strategies to approach this issue in a sensitive way, by only discussing this with folks who invite you to with them and centering them as opposed to projecting what you think is best for them. Unsurprising to read about you being a positive influence to your best friend’s children and that’s wonderful that you’ve been a great aunty to them who’s motivated them to engage in social activism.

  2. At one point in my life, I really wanted to have kids. I was even going through the toy section of Costco, checking out kids furniture but I think it was more of a phase. I worry that there are people that marry and have kids because that’s what they think they should do. And yet they aren’t capable of being strong, supportive parents or even figured out how to have a loving and trusting relationship.

    It’s a huge responsibility to be a parent.

    I don’t know how to change people’s expectation that it’s fine for women not to have children. Maybe the best thing is to just focus on the younger generation; be supportive of women in our circles who choose not to have children and push back on people that keep harping on them.

    Maybe you would be a good parent. I think you would. I would love to watch you expose your kids to music. Would they like the same singers as you? Will you teach them how to dance like Blackpink? But I respect your decision to focus your gifts and talents elsewhere. Many people could benefit from that.

    Have a great week!

    • Yes, totally retweet in terms of people who get married and have kids because they feel like that’s what they should do! I appreciate what you share about how wanting kids perhaps was more of a phase and that’s alright too. I agree too with supporting the women in our lives and people in general to not have kids if they do not want to. Grateful for your encouragement and hope your upcoming week goes well too. (:

  3. priya

    your decision and desire to have kids or not is completely your own right. and i’m sorry your ex friend expected you to use your caring and nurturing traits for raising kids. i guess it’s another product of heteropatriarchy, where society only values the emotional labour you put into your children and treats all relationships outside the traditional family as secondary.

    i’m glad you’re remaining confident in your independence 🙂 also your hair looks soo nice omg!

    p.s. it’s been a while, but what do you think of call me by your name by lil nas x??

    • thank you for naming the role of heteropatriarchy! again while I don’t think my friend’s comment was malicious it definitely shows how the default view for femme folks is that we should expend our warmth on nurturance on kids which should not be the default, even if that is one way to exhibit nurturing.

      good q: I really like Lil Nas X! and I appreciate the song overall even though I don’t like the book call me by your name. for some reason I only listen to female singers/the beat of call me by your name doesn’t super appeal to me however again I think he’s a wonderful artist and how he speaks out is super cool to watch.

  4. Kartavya Ratate

    The quote you’ve shared totally resonates with me; I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the choice of raising children. Also, loved the overall clarity of this post.

    And your hair, they look sooo cute. The first time I saw your pic, you had pink hair (in your post 𝘗𝘪𝘯𝘬𝘮𝘢𝘴), so it makes me feel so happy to see you continue with this “tradition” of hair dyeing. Sending my warmth and positive energy. Take care 🙂

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and to comment, your kind words mean a lot to me! Also appreciate the appreciation of my hair – it’s going through a bit of a rough patch right now however I will get it back to the icy blond in this picture by mid-May or a little later. (: Hope your upcoming week goes as well as possible!

  5. sleepy potato

    Hey Thomas! Righteous hair-do. It’s Devina btw, I got tragically locked out of my old account. I agree with all that you’ve said. If you choose to have children someday I’m confident you’ll apply yourself to being the best parent you possibly can.

    I’m 27 this year. It still hasn’t registered to some of my family that I couldn’t possibly want children, I might change my mind but this parenting thing has left me traumatized in ways I’m only now coming to recognize. It’s an extremely flawed process, this. However, it can be rewarding in itself that one has overcome fear and nurtured another human being.

    Man, society. It’s necessary and stuff, but damn, do some of the traditional thinking stick in my craw, and you know how some societies vary. I think it’s been changing though, childless couples are more accepted at least in western societies? I find that quote by Solnit really interesting. It’s difficult when I’m not with the belief that there is someone who could love me, what then of having an actual child? All I can say to that is: we shall see.

    I’m so happy to see you thriving.

    • Aw Devina, it’s so great to hear from you and thanks for stopping by, though bummer about being locked out of your account that sucks. :/ That sounds painful, the traumatizing experience you mention, and I agree about the reward in nurturing another human being though there are many ways to do that beyond having a kid. Yes I hear you too about in western societies childless couples becoming more of the norm, and I appreciate your open-endedness and flexibility with the thought of “we shall see.” Sending a lot of warmth and strength in your direction, it’s been so many years and I’m honored to have received a comment from you.

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