Every parent goes through ups and downs in the parenting journey. Up until recently, I felt every bump in the road was worth hitting the proverbial ceiling from those bumps and that the journey was well worth the costs; emotional and financial. Right now, for the first time in my life, I’m beginning to understand the Millennials that I meet who say they don’t want children. I also fully understand my oldest friend, who declared ever since he was a young adult that he didn’t want to have children.
There is a major cost, emotionally, practically, and of course to your bank account when having kids. Of course this isn’t “news” to anyone. And, that’s if you’re lucky. A dear friend of mine told me of a family that went bankrupt to pay to send their son to a special wilderness program to try and help his severe behavioral problems. Go to any Al-Anon meeting and you’ll hear story after story of parents who have been financially ruined or marriages destroyed by the incredible stress of addict kids (or any number of other parental challenges).
I often ask young couples if they’re married whether they want children. It’s no longer an assumption that a couple wants to either get married or have children. Most couples I speak to in my very scientific study declare a desire to get married but most also exclaim little desire to have children, except possibly one child, and THAT is only when they are more stable financially.
When the world was agriculture-based, somehow families had many children – and many died – but the issue of their expense was not a question. In fact, the more children, the more “hands” available to help. That is certainly not a factor in any part of the Western world today in the decision to have children.
Another response I often hear is the desire to continue the lifestyle a couple has presently that would be badly disrupted by having to deal with and care for a child or children.
My first reactions – in the past – to these responses were one of sadness and one of judgment that they were being selfish.
Now, for the first time since I became an adult I am revisiting this thinking and the “value” of having children. Of course this reaction and column is in direct relation to problems I’m experiencing at home with my boys. These problems go with their age, their generation, and are more typical than the success stories we tend to unilaterally believe that we hear from our friends.
As I heard once, “the only happy marriage is one in which I don’t know the couple very well.” Perfect and well-adjusted kids are not far off. Of course, some of our friends are blessed with good and successful kids or the world would be much more of a disaster than it is. My fears for the future notwithstanding, there are plenty of successful and well-adjusted young people in the world and a few of them are even procreating.
That the Western World is procreating at less than break-even is a statistical fact so much so that in Singapore – where the birth-rate is one of the lowest in the world – the government is desperately trying to financially incentivize couples to have one or, gulp, even two children. And, these efforts are not meeting with much success. Japan now sells more adult diapers than diapers for babies. Hello?
My wife and me have struggled mightily in the past months dealing with issues with our relatively grown boys. And, we’re even mostly on the same page. Of course I get a number of “I told you so’s” from her and, on reflection, I mostly think she’s right when she says them. But, I also know I probably would have made the same mistake in a do-over since I was so sure I was doing the right thing at the time.
My boys are entitled and spoiled. That is our problem. That was mostly MY doing.
Do I love them? With all my heart. Do I respect them? I refuse to answer that on the grounds it will incriminate me. Will things change? I pray they do.
Right now my answer to “where did we go wrong” was in not using more birth control. Tomorrow, perhaps I’ll think differently. Right now, I just want to cry and go to sleep…and hope I wake up to a different reality!