When I was a little girl the first toy a girl received was a baby doll that may or may not wet. We learned to fold diapers, how to ‘cook’ on a pretend stove in a pretend pot. My brother was given cool trucks, a microscope and a chemistry set he used to make disappearing ink. That was the fifties and sixties and most girls’ choices were set from the day we were born.
Born about ten years later than me, my cousin Tina decided with her husband not to have children for health reasons. She was called “selfish” and another woman refused to let her hold her child saying she “obviously hates children” even though it was untrue. Tina was swimming against the tide but ahead of her time.
Reproductive choice has always been in the hands of my children, it’s called responsible sex. Now more than ever young people are realizing that behaviors like casual sex can have far-reaching consequences and are taking care to plan their futures with or without children. Without making a moral decision I’d like to say discussion is a good thing.
Women have been expected and pressured to have children just because of our gender. Some of us poured ourselves into a mold even though— given the choice— we would have preferred otherwise. In my Parents Anonymous group many mothers tossed their hopes and dreams out on the table for all to see— not for their children, but for themselves. These accomplished moms were a chemical engineer, a dancer, a teacher; I would have chosen carpentry at the time. All of us put our dreams on hold to put what we considered our most important job at the time, nurturing our children.
Having a child is not like getting a puppy. If you get a puppy and later move into a no-pets apartment you have the option to take the dog to the animal shelter or have a rescue organization find another owner. Children are for life!
According to a government report released in June 2012 the cost alone of raising one child to age 17 in a two-parent family is $235,000. This number does not include higher education beyond high school. This is not pretend— this is real life!
I have four wonderful children, the youngest now twenty-five and three are daughters. Yes I gave the girls baby dolls when they were little, but there were also Barbie dolls with possibilities. I also gave them my lifelong example, using power tools to build things and volunteering. I also talked with them about contraception and what bringing a child into this world really means: the financial expense, emotional impact and the actual time involved.
My eldest daughter Emily works as an insurance agent and has an amazing daughter in the Air Force and a son still in school. Chelsey is adamant that she does not want children— ever. Katie is busy building her career in art and when asked she quickly replies. “I’m pretty careful with my time.” Not having grandchildren from two of my daughters was sad at first but I think of my own life and the many things I missed out on. When you get right down to brass tacks we all say, “I just want you to be happy!” When I look at them each in their lives I know they are happy. That puts to rest my silly, grandmotherly needs and makes me happy too— very happy!
When you get down to the nitty-gritty it’s all about whose life one is really talking about— and having options.
Talk with a Volunteer or Find a Group in New Jersey:
1-800-843-5437 or 1-800-THE-KIDS
Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc.
Phone: (609) 585-7666
Fax: (609) 585-7686