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longgone's avatar

How do people find the courage to have children?

Asked by longgone (17110points) March 16th, 2015

I’m in the process of finding a puppy – and I’m trying hard to stay sane. My mind is constantly busy with training plans, shopping lists, scheduling, money issues…I’m making and re-making decisions I thought I had already made.

Now, I am only getting a dog. That’s 15 years of care, at the most. The costs are low, compared to those of raising a child. With decent training, I can probably leave this dog home alone in about a year, while a child can’t be left on his own for years. Training a dog is different from raising a child, and while there are specific challenges to both, training a dog is definitely more clear-cut. I wouldn’t even get shunned if I gave up after a while*.

How do people manage to have children? How do they manage to not freak out for the nine months spent waiting? Do you think many don’t realize what they’re getting into? I’m sure the parents of Fluther were, for the most part, very thoughtful parents-to-be. How did you do it?

* I have never given away a dog, and I don’t think I ever could. The mentality of simply getting rid of a dog that’s causing problems bothers me a lot!

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23 Answers

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I don’t think most people put as much thought and planning into having a baby as you are into your puppy. We all should but I don’t believe most people do. Some children aren’t even planned. My first child was a surprise baby. I was pretty freaked out at first, but that was more because I’d just found a job, taken on a mortgage and then found out I was pregnant. I didn’t ever doubt my capacity to love and look after my child.

I’m not sure I’ve ever planned anything too carefully. Like you, I can’t imagine giving up one of my pets. However, I do know that even with the best intentions sometimes things happen and the best carers have to find alternative care for their fur baby.

And then there are the irresponsible people who just don’t care much.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t have kids, but one thing I will say is having a dog is like having an infant for 15+ years in some ways. For the dog’s whole life you have to worry about what time it pees, and taking the dog out to do it. By the time a child is a few years old they are already going to the bathroom on their own and can tell you what hurts when they don’t feel well. Plus, they can grab food out of the pantry it fridge on their own.

Also, your baby/child you can take with you almost everywhere. Vacations, friend’s houses.

I’d much rather be responsible for my child than an animal. If much rather have my day revolve around my child than worrying about having to take the dog out or worrying about my dog when I am out of town. Just me. I guess if I traveled a lot for work worrying about my child would be much more difficult than worrying about my dog, so it depends in the circumstance.

Being responsible for a child is obviously huge, but that sacrifice seems so normal to me it barely registers. The stress and worry I’m sure is pretty big though. Especially, the first 6 months. I’m sure I would be one of those moms watching my baby breathe as he/she sleeps.

jca's avatar

I think partly from seeing other people (including one’s own parents) raise children, that helps. Also, in the work I used to do, I have seen plenty of parents of all kinds, and had all kinds of training about children, behavior, discipline, etc. which helped me understand what was involved.

I kind of roll with the punches and tend not to stress out too much about most things. I was 41 when my daughter was born so I knew I was mature enough to handle parenting and not feel like I missed out on anything. The biggest thing for me when I had the baby was who was going to watch her when I went back to work. Luckily I got a great babysitter who was also the babysitter for some good friends, so that made the return to work effortless. Luckily also I am in a financial situation where money is not a stressor to me.

@JLeslie makes a good point about having a dog. It’s for that reason that I’m not looking to have a dog, even though my (now 7 year old) daughter keeps asking for one. With a puppy, you have to plan for the puppy to be home alone and still have its needs met. With a baby, that is not an issue because you won’t be leaving the baby home alone, the baby will be with you or with a babysitter (relative, paid person, etc.).

I think having a child adds another dimension to your life in a way that no pet or anything else for that matter could ever possibly do. I’ve seen people on Fluther say derogatory things about having children (people who know not because they are not parents) but I say until you experience it, you can only make assumptions. All I can say to that is that most people who have children would not trade them for the world, do not regret having children, and so many women that I know would have more if they could (could afford it, were younger and able to bear more children, didn’t work full time, various reasons like that).

hominid's avatar

I think many people do have the nagging doubts and worries. And those worries about “am I doing this right?” don’t go away when the kid comes.

My wife and I had a dog “baby” for many years prior to having children. It was clear to everyone around us that the dog was a pre-kid and a trial run for us. We were able to safely explore some of the issues that arise when raising a “baby”, including approaches, philosophies, etc.

We also had some experience with children that provided some confidence that we were not going into it blindly. Note: we really had no idea, but at the time, this experience seemed relevevant. My wife had plenty of babysitting experience, and had spent years working in a preschool. I had worked with developmentally-disabled children (at a residential school program). I was their parent for 40 hours per week. I learned so much about children – and more importantly, about myself.

But you’re never really as prepared as you think you are. And there were – and continue to be – challenges. “Can I do this?” and “Am I doing the right thing?” are not rare thoughts in parenting, in my experience. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. In any project, overconfidence can be a bad thing.

Another thing that I find with some new parents is that they consider the addition of children to their lives as their lives + children == their lives + children. This equation is mathmatically incorrect. The people who seem to struggle the most seem to be people who cling to “their life”. That is gone, and it doesn’t need to be in a bad way. It just will never return. And that is a bit terrifying for some people. The inability to drop their attachment to what was makes adjusting to the new all that more difficult.

canidmajor's avatar

The nature of your question “How do people find the courage to have children?” kind of presupposes that it’s an unnatural event fraught with danger, along the lines of “How do people have the courage to go to the ISS?” For me (as for many, this is not the first time I’ve been a part of this discussion, whether on a forum like this or IRL) the having of children was a much more organic progression. I made sure I was in a place (emotional, financial, etc) to care for them then I had them. (The logistics weren’t that simple, but the decision was.). I am a good parent, it was a good decision.

Having dogs is very different, they are a different species with different needs, obviously, but I have had dogs forever, with the same attitude. I’ve had puppies sort-of “happen” to me, and I’ve rescued adult dogs, and I do a good job with them, too. I don’t overthink it, I simply do it.

ragingloli's avatar

Mostly it just happens, and then they are stuck with their spawn.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Assuming you have the resources…

Having a kid is like adding another dimension to life. Imagine you lived on a piece of paper like in “Flatland”. Your life is fine. You move anywhere you like. You visit museums, look at the stars, eat meals, travel, work, watch TV, exercise, enjoy sex. Life is good. Then this little bundle comes and suddenly you see in 3D.
When you visit the museum and look at artifacts you now point out things and see the response in another little person. Before, you looked at stars and Andromeda in binoculars. They were the same as always. Now you point them out and hear and see the child’s response. You go to restaurants and try new foods. But now you show them and teach and see the reaction of someone other than yourself. Pretty much everything becomes a richer experience. visiting museums, looking at the stars, eating meals, traveling, working, watching TV, exercising – except for enjoying sex. That is over.
~Until the kids are 15 or so they just don’t have the requisite camera control.;-)

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Most of the parents I know are more of the huh, how did that happen kind.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Add me to the minority. We both had good jobs, were married, bought a house and waited 4 years until we were confident we could support and nurture kids properly. Then we started having unprotected sex.
Our kids were lucky. And our future grandchildren will have the same advantage.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@LuckyGuy Laughs, but you’re also a hardcore engineer. You always have it mapped out.

JLeslie's avatar

@LuckyGuy You describe how I always think of it. When people used to ask me if I want children I always said yes. In my mind always thinking children; I never was focused on the baby year. Children to experience things with, hear their ideas, show them new things, and witness their own personalities. When my husband and I consider adopting we never are very focused on it having to be a newborn for that reason.

@hominid I like how you described people having a hard time letting go of what was. I never think about that much when I think about having kids. I didn’t when I got married either. It just seemed like a natural progression. I didn’t have trouble adjusting to married life, but I didn’t feel like I gave up something, I felt like I gained something. I know adding an adult is not the same as adding a child, but I think I just never really relished single-dom. Especially not as a young person.

@Adirondackwannabe I think most people do plan and think about kids before having them. At least a little bit. My husband didn’t even want to get engaged until he felt stable in his job. My maternal grandparents waited 5 years before having children. All my closest friends planned their children except for one who had a condom failure, but they have been married for 23 years now and they were already in their 20’s when it happened.

hominid's avatar

Also, you mention the panic for the 9 months leading up to the birth. Many people get a bit of an adrenaline rush of excitement when they find out they are (or their partner is) pregnant. This excitement is met with some reserved caution during that period where you wait to tell people. Then, when you do, there is another rush of excitement. There are other milestones throughout the pregnancy that reboot the excitment about it – and in a way, this reduces the anxiety. Sure, it’s easy to get into a mindset of perpetual worry about the health of the baby. But for the most part, life is filled with doing normal life stuff and preparing for something that you will be unprepared for no matter what.

And if you have a second (and a third) kid, the second round is even less of a time to worry. You’ve already been a parent, and you know what some of the challenges are (but you don’t know what it will be like with more than 1 kid. You just don’t.). We were so casual about kid #2 that we were shopping for a mattress when a worker from the store asked if my wife was going to give birth in the store. We went home and my son was born (at home, as planned) 2 hours later. Round #3 was similar. The midwife showed up at our house about 45 minutes before he was born.

But that even happens with parenting. Most people describe parenting becoming less “strict” for each child. Strict might not be the most appropriate word for it. Parents are more at ease as they continue to do it. By the time the third kid is doing something, much of the worry that was there during kid #1 is gone.

I figure that once my kids are grown, I will have enough experience to be ready to be the parent I want to be. But like life, by then it’s too late.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe We included lots of practice time. Lots of practice time…

@JLeslie One of my most magical experiences was walking down the road at night and pointing out to my then 4 year old a communication satellite gliding through the dark sky. I explained how it picked up radio signals and retransmitted them back down so everyone in view could hear them. He got it. He’d been around 2 way radios since he was born so it was not a stretch.
He is an electrical engineer and a pilot now. I done good.

@hominid You wrote “I figure that once my kids are grown, I will have enough experience to be ready to be the parent I want to be.” And that is why grandchildren were invented. :-)

rojo's avatar

When my wife and I first married we talked about having kids in a few years. We wanted time to enjoy each other and we were “not ready” emotionally or financially for the responsibility of children.
Over the intervening years we came to realize that we could always rationalize not having kids for ever if that is what we chose to do. Instead we decided to take the chance and see what happened.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I have known very few people who actually planned out their kids, courage never entered the equation; more like lust. For most (that I have known) kids came as a byproduct of them boinking like bunnies, plain and simple.

JLeslie's avatar

I always thought the big worries people had about children before they were born, especially while pregnant, were just worrying the baby was healthy. Once the baby is born I have no doubt it can be more worrisome being a parent than people imagine.

That’s how I thought about it anyway. My SIL once said she never worried about whether her baby would be healthy, and I found that quite striking. Maybe that’s partly why she took it for granted.

kritiper's avatar

If people had the courage to have children, I think they would have the intelligence to NOT have children!

Dutchess_III's avatar

I didn’t really think about it much. The only thing I can say that I was not prepared for was how frustrated and angry and scared you can get when a kid won’t stop screaming and there doesn’t seem to be anything you can do to help. You’re working on 3 hours sleep a night because the kid screams and cries so much! That was my first one. My second slept 18 hours a day. Sigh I thought there was something wrong with him.

I developed my parenting style as I went. Teacher school helped immensely with that.

jca's avatar

Before my daughter was born, I heard stories like “you’ d better sleep now because you won’t be sleeping much when the baby’s born” and stuff like that. When I brought her home, I was waiting for the torture. She slept all the time, except when she was eating. I thought to myself “This is cake!” Of course, the periods of her being awake became longer and longer but still, I was thinking, “What are people talking about? This is so easy!” LOL

Dutchess_III's avatar

So depends on the kid, @jca. My Corrie had croup or what ever. There was was nothing they could do for her then. She woke up every hour at night, crying. She only took 15 minute naps before she’d wake up, crying.

My son was a whole different story!

jca's avatar

@Dutchess_III: Yes, I know. I was lucky!

ucme's avatar

Not a question of courage, a burning desire & the confidence to pull it off.

longgone's avatar

Thank you. All your answers were interesting to read. I’ll come back with an update when I’m expecting a child ;)

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