My life to-do list looks a little something like this:
1. Graduate college
2. Find a summer internship or job
3. Go to Thailand to teach in September
The fact that I have something planned roughly six months ahead is a miracle in itself. I fly by the seat of my pants in all that I do, and my sense of spontaneity often leaves me wondering what am I supposed to do next and I love it.
Nowhere on my to-do list is there a bullet point for having children. Shocking, right? As a woman by today’s standards, I should be ready to pop a few out by the time I’m 26 years old, already be married and have had mastered the art of cooking. With no serious relationship or decent human being worthy of dating in sight and still managing to burn almost all that I cook, where does that leave me?
I suppose that leaves me as the heartless female whose cold and cruel body cannot muster the love and care it takes to produce a baby in my godforsaken womb.
While I hope the exaggeration in that last sentence is easily distinguishable, these are some of the reactions I get when the subject of (not) having children comes up.
Although I hate to describe a child as a burden, let’s not beat around the bush here and pretend like taking care of an infant all day, every day is some kind of fun task. It is a job. Being a stay-at-home parent is a job. It is a lot of work. Anyone that undermines the patience and strength it takes to be a stay-at-home parent does not know the first thing about parenting and, quite frankly, neither do I. This might explain why the idea of becoming a mom frightens me so much in the first place.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a newborn baby can cry up to two hours or more on any given day. I’m sure mothers everywhere can attest that this is a true (if not lowballed) number for the amount babies actually cry. Once the crying begins, it is the parents’ job to decode the crying, and there are more than a handful of reasons as to why the screaming won’t end.
Some of these reasons include being hungry, tired or lonely. Having gone through the list with no avail, parents must wait it out. I can’t imagine having to sit and listen to someone I love crying for hours on end and not having a solution to the unknown problem.
Let’s start at the very beginning. Forget about paying your child’s future college tuition, car insurance, health insurance, phone bills … kids are expensive, starting from the day they pop out.
Childbirth Connections, a core program of the National Partnership for Women and Families, put together data collected on birth center charges for a range of different birthing methods. In 2010, the average cost of a vaginal hospital birth with no complications in Kansas was $9,496. The more complicated a birth becomes, the more it’s going to cost you. For a Kansas hospital cesarean delivery with complications in 2010, you were looking at a whopping $20,461 bill.
Let’s not forget the costs of preparing for a baby before it is even born. Doctor’s appointments, cradles, bottles, a car seat and formula are just a few of the thousands of dollars soon-to-be parents spend on items they need to stock up on before they have a baby.
I’m going to seize this moment to play the broke college student card.
I’m a broke college student. I can barely afford to drive home on the weekends. I skip lunch when possible to save food. I work two jobs and am in enough credit hours to feel like a full-time student. I buy the cheapest of liquor to get by on the weekends and don’t even bring my debit card to the bars. If I haven’t clearly painted my beautifully diminished bank account enough for you to understand my total lack of green, I can’t help you.
Remember that thing I was saying about flying by the seat of my pants? I don’t see any child growing up happily, or safely, with a mother who is so indecisive about life that she even changes her hair every other week (I recently cut off 4 inches of hair and got bangs; please avoid eye contact until they have fully grown out). I studied abroad and didn’t buy my plane ticket until three weeks before I departed for Europe. I moved into a retirement community for a class and officially decided to do this 36 hours prior to moving in. None of these spontaneous acts would provide a child with a good living environment.
According to a July 18, 2014 Washington Post article titled, “Are you raising nice kids? A Harvard psychologist gives 5 ways to raise them to be kind,” Harvard psychologist Richard Weissbourd runs the Making Caring Common project which researches how to teach kids to be kind.
The article cited suggestions from Make Caring Common as to how to make children good, moral, caring and responsible people:
“Children are not born simply good or bad and we should never give up on them. They need adults who will help them become caring, respectful and responsible for their communities at every stage of their childhood.”
While taking my kid by the hand during every stage of their childhood sounds like a walk in the park, I simply don’t have time for that, nor do I see myself having the time once I start my career. That’s not fair to a child.
There are millions of reasons to have kids. I could go on for hours as to why having children is not right for me and many others. I do, however, hope that those longing to be parents do not judge those who don’t; we are not cold, and we are not selfish. I am simply not ready to take care of anyone other than myself for awhile and who knows, maybe one day motherhood will call my name and I’ll find myself with a little Kelly running around. What a world that will be.
Kelly Iverson is a senior in mass communications.