Please Stop Telling Me Not to Have Kids

Evan and Marie - HQ-8691
Daniel Swanson Photography

Most of the time, it’s an offhand comment.

Your child did something disgusting, or frustrating, or terrifying, so you fling up your hands, sigh deeply, roll your eyes, turn to the person next to you, and groan, “Don’t ever have kids.” It’s uncomfortable; it’s hard; it’s exhausting. You don’t like being a parent right now, so you tag your personal anecdote with a thoughtless piece of advice.

Sometimes the words hold deeper meaning.

You and your child are facing real trauma. You can’t bear the pain. You’re desperate for an escape, so you wish, briefly, that you’d never become a parent at all. Then you might have spared yourself the agony of watching them suffer. Unable to cope with your circumstances, you whisper a raw warning to a friend: “Don’t ever have children.”

Your Story vs. My Story

Never try to make your experience a principle for others, but allow God to be as creative and original with others as He is with you. – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 13

I genuinely want to hear about your problems because I care about you. I will gladly share your burden if I can. You don’t need to pretend everything’s OK. Give me your honest updates. It’s alright to share the gory details of your life because yes, parenting is insanely difficult. I’m not confused about that. I believe you when you say that it’s tough.

I know it’ll be tough for me, too.

Evan and Marie - HQ-8684
Daniel Swanson Photography

Honestly, I’m terrified of becoming a parent. I’ve heard enough about the sleepless nights, the vomit, the urine, the diarrhea, the tantrums, and the inevitable strain on the marriage relationship to understand that having kids will not be a fun experience. However, I also believe that dreading the future does not serve any good purpose.

Include me in your struggles, but don’t confuse your story with mine.

Present vs. Future

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:34 (ESV)

Before I got married, I heard a lot of people talk about how “hard” marriage would be. I took their words to heart–so much so, in fact, that I dreaded getting married. It’s possible that I blew their words out of proportion, but I felt certain that marriage would be a miserable, horrifying experience. Maybe that’s part of the reason I delayed so long.

Once I actually got married, though, I discovered (much to my astonishment) that I loved being married. It’s my favorite. He’s my favorite. What purpose did all of that premarital anxiety serve, then? None! It’s not like worrying about it ahead of time made the fights any easier, and it robbed me of the chance to anticipate the fun parts of married life.

I feel the same way about having kids. That’s why it bothers me so much when someone tells me, “Don’t have children.” Let me experience my own failures and my own victories in my own time. Don’t try to burden me now with pain that God will carry for me later.

Empathy vs. Advice

Sometimes, we do not know what to say; the mere act of sitting with this person and keeping them as the focus of our intention can be as powerful as words. – Sybil MacBeth, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God

It’s a very difficult practice to tell a story with no moral at the end. I’m guilty of it, too. Just the other day, on the phone with my sister, I kicked myself for telling her to pray about her finances instead of merely listening and caring. It’s easy to want to turn your experience into a piece of advice. It’s also not generally what other people need to hear.

My sister recently shared some wisdom about how to support a friend with depression. She reminded me that people who are struggling don’t need our help. They just need our love.  Writing this blog post has deepened my conviction that I should pause before converting a conversation into a lesson. Remove the plank from my own eye, right?

Still, I get frustrated when people project their problems onto my future.

Most of the time, shared burdens become lighter.

Don’t stop sharing your struggles because we were designed to support each other. Hearing about another person’s difficult circumstances can actually be an encouraging experience! You deserve the chance to process your situation, and you just might provide some much-needed perspective to a friend who feels mired in their own problems.

Keep talking about your kids. You don’t need to sugar-coat the process of parenting. It’s OK to acknowledge how hard it is right now … but please don’t tell me not to have kids.

Love,

The Reluctant Bride

Evan and Marie - HQ-4196.jpg
Daniel Swanson Photography

P.S. Has anyone ever told you not to have kids? How did their words affect you? Have you ever told someone not to have kids? What prompted the advice? Leave a comment!

13 comments

  1. People never told me NOT to have kids, rather telling me things like, “Kids are monsters” or “They’re annoying.” To me, it’s like, “Maybe yours are, but not ALL kids are.” I heard that a lot after Samuel was born!

    I’m actually going to tell you the exact opposite: have kids! Parenting is not a walk in the park by any means, but it’s incredibly rewarding and so amazing that God entrusted this little human to me! Plus, it’s an amazing feeling to have your child snuggle next to you, smile so wide when you walk into the room after being gone because they are SO thrilled to see you. 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! It’s the assumption that bothers me most, I think. Don’t assume that my experience will be just like yours.

      Aww, I’m glad you enjoy being a momma. 😊 It’s nice to hear the good stuff, too. Thanks for reading & responding!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I have always felt terrified of kids because people would often share the hardest parts of parenting when I would say I eventually wanted kids, especially at places like work where the said people didn’t even really know or care about me… everything from really gory details about their special-case labor to the strain on marriage/lame spouse and struggle with children… I would like to think I will love being a parent when the time comes, but it does frighten me—I often want to say, is it that bad?? I agree it is frustrating when people project, in any situation. Life is inevitable, why not try to share helpful thoughts or encouragement instead of just the negatives?… but I am definitely a culprit too. I am also realizing that sometimes I hear the struggle and immediately project it on myself, which is my problem.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes!! This is exactly how I feel. Yesterday, a coworker told me that parenting came naturally to her, whereas a solid marriage required a lot of work. That encouraged me so much. Maybe I’ve already done the hard work of laying a good foundation for our family. God has blessed me with a genuine excitement to be a mom someday through the process of writing this post! 💕

        Like

  2. I think the important thing to remember is God has a different plan for everyone. I was so encouraged to have kids by one side of my family and so discouraged by the other. Once I had kids I got everything from “You have so many kids! Don’t you know how that happens??” to “So when are you going to have another one?” Now that I’m done having kids the comments I get are very positive. But when you are in the process of having them it’s a lot of “Why do you have so many!” “So what ones were mistakes?” “When are you having another one?” “You sure do have your hands full.” In short, you can’t please everyone. So I finally stopped trying. I learned to turn my focus instead on pleasing the Father, who has your best interests at heart, has no off hand comments to share, but only love and love and when you thought there couldn’t be any more, still more love.

    Liked by 1 person

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