Does spending a lot of time with children increase or decrease your desire for children? That’s the question tickling my brain today.
Last week I published an interview with author Kathleen Guthrie Woods, who did an “internship” caring full-time for her nephew while she was trying to decide whether or not to become a single parent. She wanted to know what it was really like. Her life was already full of children. She was the favorite aunt to her siblings’ kids and loved being around children. She already knew how to feed and diaper and child and hook them into a car seat. If she had a partner and was younger, she would certainly have had children. Ultimately she decided she couldn’t do it alone, but for her, being close to other people’s children increased her craving for motherhood.
The book I just read, a corny Old West novel set in the 1840s, didn’t allow for non-reproduction. A woman’s job was to a) look pretty, b) cook and sew, and c) make babies. The woman would of course be responsible for all childcare while the man got to boast about being a proud papa. Our heroine, who spent her early years traveling from job to job with her grandfather and pretending to be a boy, knew nothing about babies. But her situation changed. She wound up married to a man she barely knew and helping deliver a friend’s baby. Watching this woman in labor made her think she never wanted to do that. But as soon as she held that baby in her arms, the magic happened and she was dying to have one of her own. In the epilogue, she welcomes a daughter. We assume there will be more children because she had no birth control, and nobody said no to children in those days.
I never spent much time around children. My brother was so close in age that we were both babies at the same time. All of our cousins and friends were about the same age. I only babysat a little and was not good at it. I didn’t hang around friends with babies. I was not surrounded by kids, and I have not become the favorite aunt, much as I would love to be. I still don’t know about diapers, baby food and car seats. If I were suddenly given a child to care for, I’d be holding the baby with one hand and scrolling through how-to videos on YouTube with the other.
Some of the people I interviewed for my book grew up taking care of their siblings or other family members. They became adults either ready to start their own families or thinking I already did that, and I’m done.
So today I ask you to answer three questions. 1) Have you spent a lot of time with children? and b) How does that make you feel about having your own? 3) How would your partner answer these questions? We all come into relationships with different life experiences. Surely an only child who spent most of his or her time around adults will feel differently than someone from a large family who was surrounded by kids.
Please discuss in the comments.
3 thoughts on “Does growing up around kids feed your baby lust?”
1) No, I haven’t spent a lot of time with children. My younger sister is only a few years younger, and I never had much to do with the cousins who were a lot younger than me. I’ve only once lived in the same town as a niece or nephew, and my friends who had kids were very self-sufficient, or after a few years dropped me in favour of their new parent friends. I have a good relationship with two nieces, but it is long distance.
That said, I knew how to bathe a baby and change nappies. But I was never comfortable with children and babies, because there was so much judgement about whether I was “clucky” or “hated children” or whatever was in others minds and it made me feel very self-conscious. I spent a week helping my sister with her new baby, born some years after I knew I would never have children. I thought that would be very hard, but it was very obvious that she was not my child or one of the children I’d wanted, so I was able to separate myself from the emotions somewhat. The only thing that was hard was seeing my sister breast-feed.
2) I guess the fact I haven’t been surrounded by children makes it both easier and harder. Easier because I’m not constantly reminded, but harder because I don’t have the in-depth inter-generational relationships with children that I would have liked to have. Of course, the nieces and nephews and children of my friends are all grown now too, so when we say “children” I’m talking largely about adults.
3) I’m not sure you want to hear about my partner, simply because we both wanted children – and he wanted them for much longer than I did, but was also prepared to stop efforts to have them earlier than I was. I do think, being a bloke, he has found it harder, because they’re not so good with emotions, haven’t had the online support I’ve found, etc.
Questions answered in order. 1. both father and mother to three wonderful children. (Difficult trying to answer some of my daughters’ questions) throughout their lives. 2. Having three children? To me that part of my life was like wandering around in a barren desolate desert and then finding a meaningful place full of love, laughter and the smell of roses. 3. Mother gave up on us at a very early stage. Left to enjoy the life she wanted…..Don’t know if this information gives you the information you were seeking, but it does reflect another aspect. John
Thank you, John. Most of our readers have never had children, but I know some of your story and suspect your lack of family as a boy led to you wanting to make a family of your own.