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.