“So when you having kids?”
Having kids has become just one of those things people do. Graduate school. Get a job. Date. Get married. Have babies. Get a house. Die. A checkbox on the list of life. It’s taken for granted that everyone is having kids to the point that people side-eye folks who decide to not have kids.
People hear that they will never be fulfilled in life if they don’t have kids in almost the same way that commercials try to convince us that we won’t be happy unless we buy the next thing or consume the next life experience. In general, having children in this society tends to focus on the parents’ wants/dreams/wishes as if babies are a must-have accessory for your late-20s and 30s. To be real and true, this kind of thinking has had most of our parents and most of us messed up. Having babies and raising children should be seen as the job it is. Like I said during my Corporal Punishment/Public Shaming Part 1 post, raising children is like giving on the job training on how to be an adult. Just like any other occupation, not everyone has the juice for every job. This is another situation where knowing yourself is important. Specifically knowing yourself and the people you want to raise children with. Are y’all a good team? Are you (and/or they) a team player?
I’m coming at this Part 1 from the perspective of a psychotherapist providing relationship counseling. This part is not necessarily about the individuals in the relationship (that’s coming in Parts 2 & 3). Here, the relationship itself is the client to be counseled, not the individuals in the relationship. And when I say the relationship is the client, I’m talking about the entity/thing that forms once 2 or more individual people with different life experiences, goals, dreams, perspectives, etc. decide to go with each other. A relationship is not the sum of its parts: It ain’t just you and the other people put together. It’s also the spaces between y’all, the lines between their freedoms and yours, their boundaries and yours, their “stuff” and yours and how all that jives with each other over the time that y’all are together. It gets deep.
Ok, Really Look At Your Relationship Right Quick:
Who are you with?
Really look at the person you’re thinking about having children with AND look at the relationship. Lemme ask y’all some questions to help y’all start to reflect. Assess your relationship. How long have y’all been together? What’s your dynamic like? Can everyone get their point across? Do you feel heard and respected in the relationship? How do y’all cope with stressful situations together? How do y’all problem-solve together? Are y’all able to talk it out clearly? Do you understand each other?
Have you thought about and talked about your parenting styles?
Have y’all talked about discipline? If you haven’t already, check out the post I wrote about the psychological effects of beating and shaming/humiliating children. Long story short: That mess is abusive and has long term effects on children even after they grow up. Assuming you’ve decided to not hit/humiliate your children and you want to look into alternatives, does your partner/co-parent feel the same way? Beyond discipline, do y’all see children the same way? Meaning, do you think children should be seen and not heard? Do you think children should be able to voice their opinions as they feel? How are children supposed to act in your opinion (I’ll bring this up again in a future part of this series)? How does your partner feel? Do your parenting styles match? Are they compatible? Or will y’all annoy and/or undermine each other?
No, But Seriously:
Should you be raising kids with this person?
You can love someone whose parenting style isn’t compatible with yours. You can be in a whole loving, committed, amazing relationship with someone who does not see parenting the way you see it. There are many different ways to be compatible with someone when talking about sex, dating and relationships. People can be sexually compatible and have amazing sexual energy together. People can just click dating each other and people can even be compatible enough to be together for 10+ years…and still not be compatible to parent together. That doesn’t mean the love or the relationship isn’t real or important. Someone can be right for you as an individual person without being the right person for you to raise a child with. Being your partner and being a co-parent are two different roles with different sets of skills needed to do it right. Just like being an amazing salesperson for many years would not automatically make someone a great supervisor. Two different roles and skills.
Kids ain’t a magical cure-all
Just like moving into a new apartment/house, getting a pet together, or getting married wouldn’t and/or didn’t magically fix any issues that might exist in your relationship, babies ain’t magic either. It’s so sad to see people have children, thinking that it’s going to strengthen bonds in their romantic relationship. Babies are an extra responsibility, a full time job, an expense, and, to be honest, a stressor. Not a bonding/bargaining tool and not a bandaid. The stress of taking care of a baby will KO a struggling relationship. If your relationship wasn’t what you needed it to be before the baby, the pressures, demands, and struggles that come with pregnancy and raising a child will make the problem worse. And I’ve seen many parents turn around and resent their children for making their relationships/lives more complicated and stressful as if the child chose this life. That’s not fair to the child and, being real, it’s not fair to you and whoever you’re with.
Y’all wanna know what heals relationships? Open, honest, clear communication even when it feels uncomfortable, empathy, firm boundaries, and self-care for each person. Learning these tools can be hard if you don’t have good examples of what healthier relationships can look like. Quality couple’s counseling with a culturally competent, sex positive, LGBTQAI-friendly, and non-judgmental therapist, who can model how to use these tools in session while helping y’all work through the issues, would be ideal.
So many people force kids into a relationship situation/environment that isn’t good for raising kids. So many people try to have kids with someone who isn’t compatible to parent with them and that’s not good for them or the relationship. All ultimately because everyone around them and society tells them that people HAVE to have kids to be normal. Sure, it’s definitely EXPECTED for you to have kids, but does it fit you and the situation you are in? If you already have children, it’s never too late to think about whether your current situation or relationship is a stable/nurturing environment for raising children/teens. Awareness is the first step to change and growth. Part 2 of this series will focus on each individual in the relationship, their personal feelings/fears about raising children, coping skills, and the importance of therapy and learning child development and basic parenting skills.