All My Original Reasons For Wanting Kids Turned Out To Be Bullshit

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reasons for wanting kidsAs one of eight children, I frequently found myself in the position of defending my parents’ choice to have a large family. Thin-lipped women in grocery stores or doughy Sunday school teachers would lean in and ask me, “But why would your parents want so many kids?”

As a product of this family, I had no idea. My answers were usually a joke (“They like sex!”) or evasive, (“We have fun.”). Only now that I’m 30 with a toddler and a husband is the answer to that question starting to take shape in my mind.

Before I got pregnant, I tried to come up with an answer to the question, “Why?” In my mind, I thought people would press me for an answer: “Why a child? Why you? Why now?” But no one did. My husband and I are white and middle class. We live in the Midwest. The only question people asked us was, “What took you so long?”

Which was good, because I didn’t have a perfect answer to the question, “Why have a baby?” My answers ranged from the selfish — I want to experience the love of a child, I want the happiness of a family — to the coldly practical — it’s part of our DNA to reproduce. But truthfully, I just wanted to reproduce myself in the most literal sense. I wanted to see that little girl again, all limbs, folded up into an arm chair, clutching a book to her stomach. I wanted to be there with her as she discovered Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to help her sew doll clothes and teach her to climb trees. The truth is prosaic. But no one wanted it anyway.

Now, as an adult, that question is again a common refrain. But this time it’s not directed toward my family. Instead, the question is being asked of gay couples: “Why do you want kids anyway?”

Why? Why would you want children if you can’t raise them with a mother and a father? Why do you want children if most of the country won’t let you adopt or have the custody security that comes with marriage? Why?

I live in Iowa, where gay couples can legally marry. But the struggle to build a family as a gay couple is still a long road riddled with social, emotional and biological obstacles. And of course, that nagging question: “Why?” When your family is a societal aberration (big or gay), people question you. They want to know why you are different. But the answer to why gay couples (or anyone) wants kids is a lot easier than you think, and of course, more complicated than you can imagine. Let me explain.

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  1. Lori B.

    August 9, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Wonderful piece! It actually gave me goosebumps! I was actually struggling with this question myself. I have a wonderful three-year old daughter and am trying to conceive our second child. Last summer I had no desire to have more kids; this year I was struck with baby fever again and kept wondering to myself “What changed? Why now?” Reading this piece, makes me realize that it doesn’t really matter. Whatever it is, for whatever reason my mind changed, any new baby that joins my family will be loved.

    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks, Lori for the comment! I am usually really practical, but I think when it comes to children, the decision is so personal it’s hard to give ONE good reason.

  2. Brian Scott Emerick

    August 9, 2012 at 11:34 am

    Sorry, but this article doesn’t seem to have a point or conclusion, at least related to the title of the article. I came in wanting to know why the reasons were bullshit, and what the real reasons turned out to be, but all that it purports is that there aren’t any reasons. I disagree, many people have concrete reasons. It’s mostly philosophical in nature, but with no direction – just mentions of god and spiritual ideals occasionally. I just wish it was more focused with some sort of reason for writing it, other than the defense of your own parents having 8 kids. /soapbox

    • kate

      August 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm


    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      Perhaps it’s not quite the bulleted list you might have been looking for, but it’s a topic that needs to be addressed because it’s the subtext of a lot of our conversations about gay families or big families or any family that doesn’t “fit” our model. And I think the essay is complicated because the subject is complicated. But I *would* say that because I wrote it 🙂

    • kate

      August 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm

      I think perhaps it was the title that gave people wrong expectations of what the piece really entailed? still well written and thoughtful, maybe just not what some of us were expecting 🙂

    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Ah yes. That’s the web conundrum isn’t it? Eye catching title for not quite eye-catching pieces. If it helps, the title really is true, though.

    • Kim's Kitchen Sink

      August 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm

      I dunno, I thought the piece fit the title just fine. Haters gonna hate.

    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

      Those who hate, shall hate henceforth.

    • Kim's Kitchen Sink

      August 9, 2012 at 4:57 pm


    • kate

      August 10, 2012 at 9:02 am

      it does help. i dont know if i agree with you yet or not, i big reason i had kids (three of them to be exact) is because we wanted a large family and aside from our own children we dont have any deep connection with anyone else (i wont bore you with those details) but really we wont know the effect of that for another 15-20 years when the kids are grown and we find out if they stick around and have cheery holidays or hate us and send us their therapy bills
      ps- i really appreciate an author who responds to the reading public! kudos

    • lyzl

      August 10, 2012 at 9:35 am

      That is so true. You never know how it is going to turn out. My parents raised us to be a bunch of Conservative Evangelicals and we’re all Obama loving, religion skeptics. But I don’t think they regret anything. It’s just that what you think will happen, usually doesn’t. Unless it does. I had my daughter because I wanted a family and I wanted to reproduce and now she is here and she is nothing like I thought she would be. She is better. And I both know her completely and know nothing about her And I just wonder why do we make aberrant families answer a question that the rest of us know better than to demand of others.

      Also, I love getting down and dirty in the comments! The conversation is the best part, really.

    • LaNeshe

      August 9, 2012 at 2:44 pm

      I’d had to agree with you. I didn’t come looking for a bulleted list, but at least a mention of someone’s reasons, and how they turned out to be BS.

    • lyzl

      August 12, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Actually, I list quite a few reasons and how they came out to be BS. You have to click over to the second page for that. Give it a shot.

  3. mamabear of 3

    August 9, 2012 at 11:44 am

    great article! thank you for trying to answer that age-old question, and still not having a “socially acceptable/correct” answer that outsiders are always looking for. we build our families on our own experiences, not any one elses, and THAT is what makes each family UNIQUE 🙂

    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 2:37 pm

      I love that “we build our families on our own experiences”! Lovely way to put it.

  4. Lisa Gray Giurato

    August 9, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I read a really great quote today by Henri Amiel, “We are all visionaries, and what we see is our soul in things”. This applies I think in more than one way here. I can only speak for myself here, but I think when I was under the influence of baby fever, this is partly what I was seeking from the universe. I had a vision of what I thought motherhood, babies, family, our society, etc was and sought to apply that to my own life. What ended up happening is that I did find my soul, so to speak, in the process of living through it all (the ups and especially the downs). I also see these unique souls and individuals in my children that are a combination of familiar and uknown, but completely beautiful. Then, the second layer that I see when I read through this post with the lens of the above quote by Amiel, is that all of us are going to see family through our own souls. We seek out ourselves in our visions of family, but for some people (I’m guessing here, since I’m only in my own head & am not claiming to speak for anyone in particular), they don’t like it when someone decides to forge ahead with a different vision than their own vision of how they see it “should” be. I think it is sad that people should ever judge another family’s “shape” – if that is single mom, single dad, divorced parents with kids, a couple without kids, a man-woman-child(ren) combo, man-man-child(ren) combo, or woman-woman-child(ren) combo. My wish is that we as a society could simply let people decide for their own families what that should be.

    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      I love that! “We see our soul in things.” Gorgeous and true. I also love that you call your children a combination of the familiar and the unknown. I feel that everyday. I know her and I don’t know her.

  5. Abbie Allthatmakesyou

    August 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    I think the smart people should have as many kids as they want. How many people are commenting without really knowing if they were wanted or planned when their mothers had them in her womb. Who am I to judge why someone wants a child. Society should be thanking people who want and care for their children, even if they didn’t give birth to them or if there are two moms.

    • lyzl

      August 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm

      I think of that too! How do we really know “why” our parents had us. What matters is that we are here and that we are loved.

  6. tgotf

    August 10, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    none of my friends have kids, and i often hear them scoff at anyone’s decision to have a child, at all. any reason is suspect. unconditional love? wrong. someone to take care of me when i’m old? selfish. next logical step after marriage? SO wrong. always wanted a family? non-answer.
    I’ve taken to heading off these discussion by asking what an appropriate reason to have children is, in their opinion, and rarely does anyone have an answer. I was hoping this article had one! Is there one, even? Besides, “I want to, and that’s that.”?

    • Miss Anthropy

      August 11, 2012 at 10:51 pm

      I’ve never found an adequate reason to have kids, which is why I’m not having any. What a horrible experience to inflict on another human being – brought into a world where the stupid are overbreeding, selfishness is rife and money/greed rules. Dumped on a treadmill until you’re old enough to retire and die. Futile.

      While I respect that other people may have religious delusions leading them to spawn, or they are more philosophical and accepting than I am of the ‘yin’ that comes with the futile ‘yang’ of life, I still find it difficult how any sane, rational, caring person can view spawning in any other way.

    • lyzl

      August 12, 2012 at 3:05 pm

      For me the reality has been completely different. Having a child has thrown me smack into the joyful mess of life and however my original reasons are judged, the only justification I need is my child who is a fabulous addition to the world and I’m sure your parents feel the same way about you (and I am sure they are correct!)

    • lyzl

      August 12, 2012 at 3:03 pm

      I think there are lots of good and valid reasons listed in this article, but ultimately the point is, no matter what your reason is it changes in the light of who your children eventually become and the uncontrollable realities of family. But ultimately, why do you care if you can justify to other people your decision? You only have to justify it to you and your children. And for children, love is enough.

    • togtf

      August 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm

      I suppose I care because they are my friends and their opinions matter to me, and I trust their judgement on a lot of issues. But I don’t care enough to let their views make my choices for me. And it is really refreshing to hear someone else agree that solid, logical reasoning isn’t actually the point.

  7. AnnH

    August 10, 2012 at 9:49 pm

    People (and especially women) who don’t want to have kids are asked “why”. Women who get an abortion are asked “why”. Gay couples who want to have kids are asked “why”. Couples who want a big family are asked “why”. Couples who want only one child and won’t consider a second baby are asked “why”. You know who isn’t asked “why” ? Everybody else.
    That should be either the first question asked to everybody, or the last question asked to anybody.

    • lyzl

      August 12, 2012 at 3:00 pm

      Ann, I totally agree. Either ask everyone or ask no one.

  8. OnionButt

    August 12, 2012 at 3:46 am

    I am childfree and I don’t GET why people would want kids – just as I don’t GET why someone doesn’t like cheese. In other words, it’s just perspective.

    My reason for not wanting kids – I just don’t. And that is good enough – I don’t have to explain myself to someone or justify my reasons. And I think the reason, “I just do” is a valid one for those who do want kids. Granted, I hope the person who wants kids is sure they really want them (and not just thinking they HAVE to have kids because it’s “what everyone does”) and is as ready as they can be to be a parent. But otherwise, it’s not really anyone else’s business as to why people do or don’t do the things they do.

    • Tammy

      August 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm

      I appreciate the fairness in that perspective- one person doesn’t need justification, so why should the other?- but I think there is a major difference between choosing to not procreate “just because” and choosing to procreate “just because.”

      Not having children isn’t going to hurt anyone, it won’t effect anyone else, and nothing changes. It’s fine to make that kind of decision without a whole of of justification.

      Having children, on the other hand, effects a lot of people, it hurts in a very real way, and a lot changes. You are bringing another living creature into an already over-taxed world, and you are responsible for not turning it into a serial killer. It is not acceptable to approach something like that so flippantly.

    • OnionButt

      August 13, 2012 at 9:38 pm

      Oh Tammy, I agree with you! I think the justification as to WHY someone wants to be a parent doesn’t have to be there – but I do think they need to question THEMSELVES if they are really up to the task. Sadly, it seems those who opt to NOT have children have put more thought and consideration in that decision (which as you says doesn’t have any ill effect on the world) while those who have children rarely seem to give it as much forethought despite the massive consequences having children brings.

      So I agree with you on that – but still maintain that the reason WHY someone wants them doesn’t need to be justified to others.

  9. Tammy

    August 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    ” In my mind, I thought people would press me for an answer: ‘Why a child? Why you? Why now?’ But no one did.”

    These are the first things that come to mind when I hear someone is expecting. “What makes you think you’re so special? Don’t you care about the planet? Don’t you know how many people there already are? How many children already living who need families? Why do you think that just because your birth control failed (if you were using it at all) is a good enough reason to bring a whole new living, breathing, human being onto the planet?” I don’t ask them not because I don’t want to, and certainly not because I don’t think people *should* be challenged to actually *think* about such a big decision, but because it’s rude.

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