For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a mommy. Not only did I play with baby dolls from toddlerhood to embarrassingly far into my preteen years, but I also routinely made lists of the names I would give my children, updating them as my tastes matured.*
Not only did I want kids, I wanted a lot of them. Six! With a set of twins! Preferably redheaded! I said before I understood the dark realities of pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing. By the time I graduated from college I had bagged myself a red-headed sperm-donor husband and had brought my hopes down to the more reasonable goal of three to four biological children and at least one adopted child to break up all the little redheads.**
I wasn’t entirely naïve. I had done A LOT of babysitting in high school and college. Mostly with very young children. At one point my senior year I was getting up at 5:30 AM to watch kids for a few hours before school, heading to another family’s house from 10:30 – 3:30, and then finishing my day with a third family from 4:00-6:30. And after college I worked for a year as a full-time nanny, which I extensively chronicled earlier on this blog. I got burnt out and exhausted from working with small kids all the time, but no matter how tough it got, never once did I waver in my conviction that I wanted to have kids of my own someday.
About a year ago I got baby bug in the worst way. Everyone was getting pregnant and having babies and, being in a meaningless corporate job at the time, I found myself wishing for motherhood more than ever before. I knew that the timing wasn’t right. And I knew that the sudden, overwhelming urge to quit my job and grow a baby was not a good enough reason to bring a human into the world. But the logic of the situation did not stop me from hoping against hope that the baby fever was God’s way of preparing me for a surprise pregnancy. And even though I wasn’t trying to get pregnant (in fact, I was actively preventing) I still managed to feel disappointed every month when it became clear that God had not miraculously intervened and made my body defy science and logic to conceive anyway. Jonathan and I agreed that we would re-visit the topic of baby-having in a year or so and see how we felt about it then.
For several months I continued to have baby-on-the-brain. Then I decided that if getting pregnant in a year or so was a possibility, I should probably do all of the things I really wanted to do pre-baby. Hence the commencement of Operation Lily Runs a Marathon and Operation Lily Goes to Grad School. I really wanted to undertake Operation Lily Travels the World, but sometimes even I have to be an adult and realize that I can’t have everything, so I settled for last summer’s vacation to the Dominican Republic and my marathon trip to Disneyworld. I also decided that before I had kids I wanted to be healthier, which led me to a radical diet change where I cut all sugar and starch from my diet and started eating lean meats and vegetables. I lost 20 lbs in 7 weeks and have a lot more energy and much fewer health problems than I did before.
I’ve made a lot of changes and a lot of progress over the past year: I quit my job, started grad school, ran a marathon, changed my diet and lost weight, did some travel, grew out my hair, and stopped biting my fingernails. But something else changed too. Starting in about October and growing steadily ever since has been a strong feeling that I no longer want to have kids. Not just right now. Maybe not at all. Ever.
If you know me at all, you know how weird that is. Like I said before, all I have ever REALLY wanted in my life is to one day be a mommy. I mean, I’ve wanted to have a meaningful job and a good marriage and to write and help others and all of those things too, but even when some of those things have been unclear or I have felt directionless, I’ve always had this deep desire for motherhood someday to hold onto.
In fact, my desire to be a mother has driven me to the point of fear sometimes. Thinking of having a house full of kids has made me feel a lot of pressure to figure out what I want to do career-wise as fast as possible because I don’t feel I will have the luxury of going back to school or trying to figure that out once I start having kids. I have put a lot of pressure on myself to get these things figured out because, after all, I’m 25, and if I really want to have 4 kids, I’m going to have to get started on that in the next few years.
But for the last 4-5 months I’ve found myself wondering if I really want to have kids, and I’ve concluded that what I really want is to have babies, not children. In other words, I love the idea of carrying a baby and then having this tiny little creature who is part of Jonathan and part of me and part something all his own. But I don’t want to bring an 8-year-old to dance class or fight with a 10 year old about cleaning his room. And I certainly don’t ever want to have a teenaged son.
Frankly, there’s a part of me that doesn’t even understand what the point is of having children. I know most of you won’t get this, but sometimes I think, “I could spend most of my life raising these kids who may or may not turn out to be good people, regardless of how good of parents Jonathan and I are, and for what? So they can go out and have their children that they spend their lives raising those kids so that those kids can grow up and have their own families.” There’s just something inherently narcissistic about it to me. I mean, if we just wanted children out of a desire to give of ourselves and our love and raise great men and women to right the wrongs of the world, there would be no more orphans. We would look at these millions of parentless children and find exactly what we were looking for. But that’s not all. We might want those things, but we also want mini-me’s made in our own likenesses.
Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that there are parents in the world. After all, if my parents had felt this way, I would never have existed. And I like existing. I’m just not sure that, for me, the reasons above are good enough reasons to have children. I’ve been thinking a lot about parenting and how, to do it correctly, it really does require you to sacrifice everything for the sake of your kids. I see the family I work for now where the parents aren’t willing to self-sacrifice for the kids, and how their kids suffer for it even though they have all the material wealth in the world.
And I look at my own family. I have two parents whom I respect and admire deeply. Not once in my life have I ever doubted that they loved my siblings and I and that every parenting decision they made was genuinely out of a desire to do the best for us. And yet, I look at my siblings and me – my brother who has wrestled with addiction for at least 10 years, my sister, whose entire understanding of her world has been rocked to its core since leaving home, and me, who has lived believing that my best would never be good enough and that no matter how good I was and how hard I worked, fault would be found in me. My youngest sister is on the brink of adulthood now and we have yet to see the things she carries.
My point in saying all of this is not to rag on my parents. It’s to point out that even having some of the hardest-working, most self-sacrificing, godly and loving parents in the world, we have reached adulthood deeply scarred. If this is the reality for a family so committed to raising their children well and loving them deeply, I am utterly terrified to think of what I, a much more selfish person than either of my parents, might do to my theoretical children.
When I started to articulate how I am feeling about all of this, it sort of freaked me out. I mean, I have ALWAYS been the one who loved kids and couldn’t wait to have a family. And more than that, I’m really good with kids, especially really little kids. It’s one of my main skills – something I pride myself on. Jonathan and other close friends are convinced that this is a phase I am going through and that I won’t feel like this forever.*** They might be right and that will be ok. It may be a phase I am going through that will last 6 months or a year and then it will fade away and I will go back to the way I was before. But for now, this is where I’m at and I’m embracing it instead of fighting it.
So what does the future look like for the girl who spent her whole life planning on being a mommy only to discover that she might not want to be one? Honestly, from right here it’s looking pretty unlimited.
* If I had named my kids at age 11 they would have been called Chloe and Oliver. But then, of course, we named our dog Chloe so I couldn’t use that one anymore.
**Because I am convinced that all of our children will be redheaded, recessive genes be damned!
***At least, Jonathan is certainly hoping that’s the case. I can’t really blame him, I mean it’s sort of false advertising for him to pick a wife based on the fact that she wants to bear him 4 sons, only to find out after the deal is sealed that she really doesn’t want any. Bad form, Me. He has assured me that he will still love me if I do not bear said sons. But I can tell he still thinks the whole thing will blow over.
I love your blogs!
Love this post – I think it’s really gutsy that you went out on a limb and said the thing most women are too scared to. It’s ok to not want children – because after I had my little one, my life really changed. In both good ways and well not so great. But at the end of the day – I would never undo having my little A. That being said – do what you want, it’s your life in the end, your time that you will have to commit – and I know that the answer will come to you. Oh and did I mention great post?
Hands down my favorite blog of yours! I can so relate. My parents basically had two sets of kids. My older brother and I and then 7 years later my two younger brothers. Although I LOVED my little brothers growing up they were like little kids to me and I moved out for college and missed a few growing up years with them. I had to move home when I was finishing grad school because I quit my job. My idea of parenting has NEVER been the same again. My parents define Godly parents. They are more committed, balanced and faithful than any other parents I’ve seen yet. Moving home I realized those cute little babies do indeed grow up to be teenagers and adults who have their own brains (like I do) and are pursued by a very real enemy and can make their own decisions that will send you on continuous undesirable roller coasters for days, weeks or months at a time.
It seems almost crazy to me now that you have to decide how many kids you want when you’re biggest concern regarding them is their sleeping, pooping and playing schedule. I’m positive my parents sleep less and pray more now for their 19 & 20 year old sons than they did when they had 4 young kids running around and I know parenting in this stage is more emotionally taxing than had they had 10 babies at one time.
All that to say, your emotions and feeling are so VERY validated. I’ve felt the same way and after a few years of watching and joining my parents in seasons on their parental roller coaster I’m still going to have kids (despite my own reservation) but I can assure you my perspective is very different on how I will approach each season. I think it’s both healthy and admirable to allow yourself to think down this path, because not everyone is aware of the cost of parenting when they decide to make and grow a baby….especially if you’ve watched your parents love their children and fight for their futures and safety down the road of addiction. I completely relate. Having kids and parenting are not the same thing.
Choosing to be a parent is a much bigger commitment than wanting some kind of emotional high from a cooing cute baby in the most adorable outfit you bought off etsy featured in the perfect christmas card to send to the family. Luckily, when you’re able to count the cost before bringing a human into the world, I think you can treasure and value your moments differently because you’re not blind to the options ahead. You can live on the offense instead of defense! Enjoy your season – with motherhood on your heart or not- like all of other life seasons….they never last forever. And keep blogging…you’re hilarious and make me feel normal.
Thanks Renee! I love what you said about how having kids and parenting are not the same thing. I think that’s it exactly. In all reality, I probably will end up having kids at some point, but I think I’ll be better for having gone through this season of acknowledging all of the scary and difficult things about parenting, and I am freer in this season not feeling like I have the pressure to reproduce hanging over my head. I get that no one is every fully prepared to be a parent, but I think that if I become one, it will help to have acknowledged that you can be the best parent in the world and your kids will still have the free will to choose what kind of person they are going to be.
Wow Lily I really enjoyed reading your blog! You have a gift for writing and being so relatable!
Hey Renee! Thanks for reading. 🙂
The Lord has such mysterious ways of working…i was in a similar place as you until we got Surprise pregnant (while quite actively preventing) and then sadly miscarried. It was hard and horrible and surprisingly awakened in me a desire to be a mother like never before…and rocked my “need for independence”…..we then got pregnant again (not exactly in our timing–but what is?)—and now in May, Ill meet our angel baby daughter.
Be true to what you feel—but in Jesus name do not live under a spirit of fear concerning “how they turn out”. I am quite anxious at times anticipating the role of mother and the LIFE long endeavor it is…but like other things in life, the Lord places in our life—we EVER more realize our need for Him, His grace, wisdom, and intervention.
In the mean time until God reveals more—-yes, keep living fully!!!
But as I am living proof—dont cling to hard to any desire, plan, fear, or hope…..just jesus.
Love u girl and miss seeing u from time to time!
Caroline White (caroline davis)
Hey sweet Caroline,
Thanks for these words. I agree with you that we shouldn’t be driven by fear…For me, I think I had spent years and years being driven by the fear that I wouldn’t have time to do the things I wanted to do personally before I had to start having kids. I have felt that I was on a pretty strict timetable and had put enormous pressure on myself to check everything off my list in time to start having kids. And now that God has taken that desire away, at least for a season, I feel so free. I don’t have to look at the future like a room whose walls are closing in on me. It’s OK if I don’t start having kids in 3 years. And it’s OK if I don’t have them at all.
BUT…I also know that if I found out I was pregnant tomorrow I would be overjoyed. And I would love that baby with everything in me. For me, this has been a perspective change more than anything. I believe God gives us what we need when we need it and I think maybe He is giving me these feelings now for the first time in my life, to keep me content in this season without kids so that I can do what He has for me here and now without the worry and distraction.
You are going to be the best mom, Caroline. I can’t wait to see pictures of your sweet baby girl!
Lily, hi! So fun to read your voice here. Our lives are crazy and I am excited to see all the ridiculous things that happen/don’t happen/etc that we can’t picture. 🙂
Two quasi-unrelated things,
1) This was my favorite sentence in this post: “And I like existing.”
2) Can you give me insight into the whole cutting sugar and starch out of your diet? Because everyone keeps saying how cutting out sugar gives you more energy and that sounds good but how on earth do I even start. (And don’t tell me “stop drinking 1/2 a cup of sugar with your coffee every morning”, I know :)).
Thanks for reading! As far as the cutting sugar/starch thing goes, I am on a specific diet that is low-glycemic. It is designed for weight-loss and some of my foods I order from a company. The food I cook myself is 5-7 oz of lean protein and 1.5 cups of non-starch vegetables. I’m guessing you do not need the weight-loss aspect. 🙂
The average American eats twenty-six spoonfuls of refined sugar a day, when your body only needs 1 teaspoon of sugar to operate your entire bloodstream. It makes sense how sluggish you feel if your body is trying to process 26 times as much sugar as you need every day! A lot of that sugar isn’t from overtly sweet things, but refined starches like white bread, white rice, pasta, and potatoes. The best thing I can suggest for cutting out sugars besides the obvious ease-up-on-desserts is to pay attention to what goes into the foods you eat and to get rid of the refined starches.
If I were you I might try something like this – go through a normal day and eat what you would normally eat. Track your food with something like myfitnesspal.com (this is free and if you have an iphone there is a free app.) Almost every food you might want to eat is in there. At the end of the day, look at how many carbs/sugars you consumed. It will break it down by food if you are online and you will be able to see how many sugars were in each thing). I try to eat 24 grams of sugar or less per day. That will give you an idea of where you are getting your excess sugar from.
In general, I would suggest trying to mostly eat lean protein, vegetables, a moderate amount of fruit (b/c fruit does still have a lot of sugar even though it is natural sugar) and
The highest glycemic veggies (you can eat them, but be aware that they turn to sugar during digestion) are: corn, peas, and cooked carrots
The highest glycemic fruits are: bananas, melons, pineapples, grapes, kiwi
The highest glycemic starches are: white pasta, white potatoes (baked, fried, mashed), risotto, white rice, rice cakes
If you decide to try cutting out your sugars and starches you will go through withdrawal for about 3 days while you de-tox. So for about 3 days you will crave sweet things and will probably feel more tired. After that, you will start to feel soooo much better. All of that excess sugar is like poison in your body.
Hope that helps! I’m not a nutritionist, but I’d be happy to tell you anything else I know. 🙂
First of all, I’m SO inspired by you and how you’re just checking things off your bucket list left and right! Way to go on the MARATHON, weight loss success, and grad school! Second, I really wish we were friends in real life because I can relate to you 110%! (Also, if I ever do have kids, they’d all probably have red hair too!)
Down here in the south, it seems like everyone has kids SO early. Like people my age (and younger) at work already have 3-4 kids. It sometimes makes me feel like an old hag. Especially when they ask if I have kids and when I say no then say “You’re not getting any younger”. SERIOUSLY?! It’s just like the title of your post… I ain’t got time for that!
There’s so so so much we want to do and so many places we want to travel and sometimes I feel like that’s a totally retarded reason for putting off having kids but it’s such an overwhelming desire for me and my husband that I just can’t shake it. We’re trusting that God made us like this for a reason 🙂
Anyway, this new nurse at work just had her first kid at 37 and she is the first person I’ve ever met that told me that waiting is the best thing she’d ever done and she traveled all over the world and lived her life and now she has no regrets. I love it. (Now I just need to win the lottery so I can do that)
Anyway, I can’t tell you how much I loved this post and how much I’m inspired… it was just what I needed to hear 🙂 You go girl!
So good to hear from you, Jess! 🙂 Just so you know, you are pretty much my hero. Every new little adventure you guys go on inspires me to continue searching for wonder in the world. 🙂
lily- I don’t read blogs… like ever… and I got sucked into this (saw it on facebook) and had to keep reading. oh my goodness! I love this. so honest. so wise. so entertaining. I love it!
just wanted you to know that!
Haha. Thanks Jenn. For reading and for letting me know. 🙂
Thank you for your courageous post. I have never wanted kids, and believe that parenthood is a very personal decision. It bothers me that even today, every married female with a uterus is “supposed” to want and produce offspring. If I decided to have kids one day, I would certainly opt for adoption. Why have your own when there are so many in need of loving homes?