“Do you have kids?”
It’s a natural question to ask a woman of my age. It used to bug me. I’d think, “You wouldn’t ask me if I have sex would you?!” Then I realized that people with kids generally want you to ask that question because they want to talk about their kids! What I saw as invasive was really just a way for new people to try to bond with me.
I don’t have kids of my own. I’m proud to have a complicated and sometimes strained relationship with three young adults who are my husband’s offspring. However, having my own kids wasn’t really on my radar.
I’m sure as a little girl I was conditioned to see myself married and mothering, but I don’t remember loving the idea of playing with baby dolls or playing house. On the other hand, I loved playing with Barbie Dolls and setting her up on dates with Ken and GI Joe. Dressing her up for work and a night on the town was all kinds of fun!
When the long-awaited season premiere of This Is US began with Randall trying to convince his wife that they should adopt a child I was intrigued. He was motivated by a number of things, primarily his own adoption. The following day there was much discussion between other adult adoptees on whether or not we had desired to adopt because of our own situation. More than half of the adult adoptees indicated that they had not ever wanted to adopt. Those that did want to adopt children (or had) were strongly in the camp of those who had a positive adoptee experience themselves.
Of course, this got me thinking. Why didn’t I want to adopt? Why had I not had kids of my own?
Many adoptees say, “I desperately wanted someone who was a part of me, biologically” and I can relate to that. However, during my childbearing years, I had no idea what exactly it would mean to have someone who was biologically related to me. Would I be passing on genes that were detrimental? Would I be unleashing into the world a child who would turn into an adult with severe anger and rage issues? Did I turn out relatively well-adjusted simply because I had been adopted? What if my genes included serial killers, pedophiles or addicts? I knew that as much as I would love a child, I wouldn’t be able to “fix” them if they were born with cells imprinted with these issues. More to the point, I wouldn’t know what to do if these types of things happened – because I hadn’t lived with it and had no experience of these illnesses and issues in my own family.
Not knowing my medical history was hard enough, I didn’t want to go through all those appointments with my child, explaining that I had no idea what his or her medical heritage brought to the table.
That’s one of the reasons I didn’t have children.
Another reason was the fact that neither of my first two husbands impressed me as particularly good “father” material. Remember I told you about my ability to pick poor partners! These were nice enough men, but they weren’t men that I could see co-parenting a little human being alongside. I had high standards for my imaginary children, and since I didn’t know what my DNA brought to the table I needed to know that they were bringing some serious great skills and genes to the potential of parenting. Their stories are their own, but there were reasons I wasn’t comfortable with them as fathers.
Parenting is hard-ass work. I watched my own parents do it and I know it wasn’t easy. They were in it for the long haul though and that seemed daunting to me. As my friends began having children instead of feeling like I was missing out, I starting feeling like I missed a bullet. That’s a definite sign that maybe you’re not cut out to have kids, I think.
I was also honestly worried that I might decide I didn’t want the child after I had him or her. All the stories, movies and TV shows in the world couldn’t convince me that as soon as I had a child I’d fall madly in love and be smitten. What if I turned out to be the mother who didn’t want her child? What would I do then? In my heart, I knew I didn’t want to take that chance. After all this musing I realized I was ambivalent at best and that was no reason to bring a human into the world.
Why did I have that lingering fear? Because the fact of the matter was – I was given away. Sure, the circumstances and the times were different, but I was a baby who wasn’t kept by her mother. I had no basis to believe that it was for any reason other than it seemed like too much work to keep me.
By the way, this isn’t a pity party here. I’m not mourning the loss of unborn children and blaming it on my adoptee status. I just want you to know why I don’t have kids.