Childrearing

All My Original Reasons For Wanting Kids Turned Out To Be Bullshit

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reasons for wanting kidsAs one of eight children, I frequently found myself in the position of defending my parents’ choice to have a large family. Thin-lipped women in grocery stores or doughy Sunday school teachers would lean in and ask me, “But why would your parents want so many kids?”

As a product of this family, I had no idea. My answers were usually a joke (“They like sex!”) or evasive, (“We have fun.”). Only now that I’m 30 with a toddler and a husband is the answer to that question starting to take shape in my mind.

Before I got pregnant, I tried to come up with an answer to the question, “Why?” In my mind, I thought people would press me for an answer: “Why a child? Why you? Why now?” But no one did. My husband and I are white and middle class. We live in the Midwest. The only question people asked us was, “What took you so long?”

Which was good, because I didn’t have a perfect answer to the question, “Why have a baby?” My answers ranged from the selfish — I want to experience the love of a child, I want the happiness of a family — to the coldly practical — it’s part of our DNA to reproduce. But truthfully, I just wanted to reproduce myself in the most literal sense. I wanted to see that little girl again, all limbs, folded up into an arm chair, clutching a book to her stomach. I wanted to be there with her as she discovered Anne of Green Gables. I wanted to help her sew doll clothes and teach her to climb trees. The truth is prosaic. But no one wanted it anyway.

Now, as an adult, that question is again a common refrain. But this time it’s not directed toward my family. Instead, the question is being asked of gay couples: “Why do you want kids anyway?”

Why? Why would you want children if you can’t raise them with a mother and a father? Why do you want children if most of the country won’t let you adopt or have the custody security that comes with marriage? Why?

I live in Iowa, where gay couples can legally marry. But the struggle to build a family as a gay couple is still a long road riddled with social, emotional and biological obstacles. And of course, that nagging question: “Why?” When your family is a societal aberration (big or gay), people question you. They want to know why you are different. But the answer to why gay couples (or anyone) wants kids is a lot easier than you think, and of course, more complicated than you can imagine. Let me explain.

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