Deciding to be a parent

So there was this question to The Guardian’s “Your Problem Solved” column which is sort of an Agony Aunt, but from the title (“your problem solved”) kinda presumptuous. Or arrogant. So maybe an “Arrogant Aunt” column?

Anyway, the letter writer (seeking advice) was agonising over whether to have a child.

My partner… and I have always been fairly ambivalent about the idea of having children. However… since the birth of my youngest nephew, I have found myself wavering… The feelings have become so strong that looking at photos of them causes me to well up.

If I were to tell my partner straight out that I wanted a child, I think he would probably agree to go ahead, but my own feelings are so mixed that there’s little point even raising the subject. (My partner doesn’t know how to handle emotional uncertainty whereas I have found that if I take and present a position on something, discussion is much easier.)

Species are becoming extinct at an accelerating rate and populism and insularity are on the rise…

… I feel that it would be unfair of me to bring a child into what I see as in all likelihood a precarious future. If I were in my 20s, I would simply wait it out to see whether the next years bring any change but I am now 36 and don’t have that time.

Well, I would have told the woman to stop being so full of herself. Which is why I don’t have a job as an agony aunt. Not enough empathy.

What did the agony aunt say? She consulted a psychotherapist, and

… she was struck by “the depth of sadness you feel over not seeing your nieces and nephews…”  We were struck by how “alone you seem in this decision. While it sounds as if your partner finds uncertainty unsettling, you will be parenting together and one of the first acts of parenting is making the choice to have the baby together.”

“What I felt was missing from your letter is hope,” says Johnson. “Women get pregnant in all sorts of… circumstances and… they are choosing life over potential death.

I agree with the psychotherapist – hope is missing in the letter. For as long as you are ambivalent about a child, you should not have a child. Sure, there will be ambivalence in spades when you do have a child. When you look at the messy, selfish, emotional, stubborn flesh of your flesh and you wonder what monster have you brought into this world. But yes, when you are ambivalent, when you aren’t sure, by all means do not have a child.

And when the stick you pee on (or your spouse pees on) suggests that you might have a child, yes, you are allowed to wonder if your world is crashing down about your ears. You are allowed to worry if you will be a good enough parent (pro-tip: you’re not. No one is. except the most arrogant)

And yes, maybe at that time, even then, you might not be completely happy or at ease with that impending event. And you will worry, will the child be normal, will it be a she or a he, will I love him/her, will he/she cramp my style, my life, my freedom.

I looked at my wife when she told me we would be parents, and all the above were running through my head at the time. But I had confidence in my wife and myself. And I had hope.

Confidence is not the belief that you know the right things to do. Confidence is the commitment to do the right thing, to find out what IS the right thing, and to do the right thing at the right time.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the letter-writer lacks confidence. In herself, and her partner. It seems that she seems to think that this is a decision she has to make by herself. And in that I think it best if she does not have a child. But I could be wrong.

Anyway, here’s some practical advice on how to prepare for parenthood from the How To Dad.


[Update Dec 2017: From a FaceBook comment on a somewhat related subject:

I have enough trouble keeping PLANTS alive. I am in no way ready for a human child… I figure if I’m having trouble looking after something that requires literally no supervision and [just] occasional watering, I don’t think I’m ready to be a father just yet. It takes a level of “having your shit together-ness” that I definitely don’t feel I have yet.

“… I too could not keep my plants alive. Well, not the plants I was trying to grow. I got a lot of weeds (ferns) though. 

Well, now I am a father. I become one at the young age of 50. Yeah. I finally figured, enough of procrastination. My shit is not getting any more together. Just wing it. How hard can it be? Lots of people have kids. And juvenile delinquency hasn’t become the epidemic we feared. There’s probably a default setting for kids.

So hang in there. You may be ready by 50 (like me). Or just give it a shot regardless. Or not. I always said I’ll have a kid when they come with an “off” switch, a “mute” button, and a remote control. They still don’t.


On the one hand, parenting is not to be take lightly. 
On the other hand, lighten up!
I appreciate that people take parenting seriously enough that they ask themselves if they are ready. But lighten up.
Yeah, parenting is no walk in the park. But neither is it rocket science.
I’m not saying, “go out there and be parents, it’s easy!” 
I’m just saying, “don’t over think it.” Yeah sure, you’re not ready. Well guess what? No one ever is. That’s the secret of parenting, no one knows FOR SURE what they are doing. Not you. Not me. Not your parents. Not mine, I’m sure.
But they went ahead and became parents anyway. Those fools!
And yeah sure. Once in a while there will be an Adolf Hitler. Or a Donald Trump. Or a Harvey Weinstein. And yeah, maybe it’s the parent’s fault. 
Or maybe not. 
Who knows. 
Parenting is all about being confident: “Confidence is not the belief that you know the right things to do. Confidence is the commitment to do the right thing, to find out what IS the right thing, and to do the right thing at the right time.”
This entry was posted in Child, Life Lessons, Musing, Personal, Plans, Rant. Bookmark the permalink.

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