Why do people choose to have kids? There are many perfectly valid reasons, because family is what you decide it is. For some, perhaps they feel like society expects them to. For others, maybe it's been a dream they've had since they were little. But, for me, I think I fall somewhere in-between. I never really envisioned my life without them, but I wasn't the person who had baby names picked out as a child.
My husband and I met in college when we were both young and extremely naive. We daydreamed about our future together: The types of jobs we'd have, where we'd live, and yes, even how many kids we'd have. For us, it was easy to do because we both saw ourselves as parents. I figured that the time would come when I'd get baby fever so badly that I just couldn't wait another minute. I assumed that this strong urge to have children would probably come in my mid-to-late twenties. But now that two decades have passed since those first conversations about having children, I see things much differently and much more clearly.
This is cheesy, but when it comes down to it, the reason my husband and I wanted to have kids was because of love. Yes, our love together and for each other, but also out of a desire to give that love to other human beings — human beings that we made together. I know, that sounds super cliche, but it's true. Before we even tried getting pregnant, I pictured my life as a mother. I wondered how magical it would feel to cradle my firstborn in my arms. The joy that would fill me for their first words, first steps, first day of school. I felt like it would be similar to falling in love all over again — only better.
But if I'm truly being honest, there was a bit of a selfish reason I wanted kids. I wanted to not only give love, but receive it in return. I wanted to feel the unconditional love that only children can give you. I thought about my own childhood. I was blessed with two loving parents who loved me and who I loved deeply, despite their flaws and mistakes. I not only wanted to experience that, but I wanted to pass that down to another generation.
So, after my husband and I got married at the age of 27, we went about our lives while I waited for baby fever to strike. But it never did. One day, I woke up and I was 31 — and told my husband, "If we want kids, we better get on this." It's like we forgot to try to have kids. So, I began taking the prenatal vitamins, tracking my ovulation, and peeing on the ovulation sticks. It was all very calculated (and included zero romance). And once our first baby was born, I waited some more for my maternal instincts to kick in. It turns out, those instincts were not innate for me. Maybe I'm missing something genetically (though I've heard from other moms that my experience is far from unique), but becoming a mother was not what I thought it would be like. Loving another human, becoming a completely selfless paradigm of motherhood, did not happen with the snap of my fingers. It took a lot of hard work. With time, my love for my babies ignited like wildfire, but getting it to spark was no easy task.
And now that I am a parent of two children, a girl and a boy, I understand the gravity of the responsibility that rests on our shoulders. To my husband and I, it is imperative that we send grown children into the world who will hopefully make it better. We now know that raising a child isn't only about the love you give them, but also about the lessons you teach them, and the contributions they make to the world. If I want my love for them to translate into the real world, then I have to guide them on how to do that and work my hardest to mold them into respectful, giving, caring, lovely humans. Raising kids will be my toughest endeavor. And I understand that it's the kind of task where my love alone will not be enough.
I think the decision to have kids is deeply personal. Whether you choose to have or not to have children, they're both perfect choices, because it means you understand yourself and what's right for your life. It's funny now to look back to the original conversation my husband and I had about having children. It was so effortless . . . and yes, clueless. Just because my husband and I always knew we wanted to be parents, doesn't mean that it was how we dreamed it would be. While I wasn't the natural mother I envisioned, being a mother has brought me the more joy than I could ever fathom. I'm grateful for the naivety that my husband and I both had during our college years because that's where our love began to bloom for the children we would one day have.