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Matt, You Ignorant Slut

February 22nd, 2011  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

You might remember a post yesterday from my esteemed colleague Matt about wanting his brother to start having children. Sure, it was an unsolicited intrusion into the reproductive choices of a loved one, but otherwise it seemed harmless, right?

Not exactly.

Here’s Matt talking about why he waited until his mid-30’s to have a baby:

On some level I regret not having had Sasha earlier, in large part because she’s just so much fun to be around. It’s a pointless regret. Even a couple of years earlier, I didn’t have the career or the housing or the common sense that have made raising Sasha so easy (relatively) and rewarding.

And I guess that’s where Steve (and his wife, Tara) are right now. Working hard, getting ahead, and enjoying being married and free of responsibility. That’s how it goes now, for more than just the Gross family. It takes longer to get established, and kids—well, that could fuck it all up. So you work and wait, and either you have a kid or two when you’re “older” or you don’t have one at all…

This is an old family planning canard, the idea that you have to have stable income and plenty of money before you start having kids. It’s part of the larger insidious trend of making sure that every damn thing is in line and in order for kids, throughout their lives: it starts even before they’re conceived. I was going to start spitting fire at my friend Matt about this in the comments until I saw that a commenter named Steve had beaten me to it and made some excellent points:

That notion that kids will prevent you from “getting ahead” whatever that is, or that you should be “established” before you start having kids. Note the scare quotes.
If having a family is an important value for you, then having kids IS “getting ahead” and being “established.” All other considerations are besides the point. I got my first kid the same year I started my PhD, while living on pathetic university funding, with no career prospects to look forward to.
Sorry to say (please don’t take it the wrong way) but I find it a very bourgeois idea that you should wait till you have achieved your career goals and bought a two-story house in a nice upscale suburb before you are settled enough to provide a decent home for children.
Children are a blessing, not an expense. They thrive on love and passion (so cheesy, I know) not on promotions and large disposable incomes.

I don’t know this Steve fellow, but I like the cut of his jib. If I have any regrets about the timing with our kids, it’s that we didn’t understand this and we waited until things seemed “stable” and we were making the “right amount” of money.  Really, we should have had them when we were undergrads. My wife and I were dating back then, and were well supported by the largess of Pell and other loansharks. If we’d had babies when we first met, they’d be applying to college now. Freedom would be just one personal essay away. True, they would have grown up well ahead of the Year of the DadBlog, so their moments of incontinence may have gone unrecorded for posterity. But for me to assume anything else about what would have happened after that–that my wife wouldn’t have made it to medical school, that I wouldn’t have ever gotten a (brief) corporate journalism job–is to ignore the fact that people who have kids do seem to find ways to keep progressing and advancing, if that’s their goal.

It’s tempting to be terrified about trying to raise kids poor in a country that doesn’t care for the health or education of very young kids. But Steve is right about one other thing: kids don’t need your middle-class comfort and spacious living. My wife and I brought our daughter into this world in a 500 square foot apartment that we shared with her and my mother-in-law. That was, perhaps, excessively small, but only because it was three generations. We searched for more space–and are now paying dearly every month for it–before the second child was born, because we had this idea that Children Need Space. Well. That’s true on one level: nobody wants to raise veal-kids or babies whose toes fuse to the grates of their cages. But imagine our chagrin when we realized that even now, with a five year old and a two year old, the kids’ greatest aspiration is to be wrapped around our legs like koalas on eucalyptus.

They don’t want space. They don’t use space. Wherever we are in the apartment, they rush over and crowd and cling. If they knew what the word ‘downsize’ meant, they’d suggest it themselves.

All of which is to say: Matt, it’s fine to have regret. Regret is the vapory fuel that powers the DadWagon. But you’re wrong on this one. Let the babies happen; it’s all gonna be just fine.


Responses

  1. TechyDad says:

    February 22nd, 2011at 8:56 am(#)

    When B and I were first deciding whether or not to have kids, we figured we would need to wait until we were ready financially. I charted out how much income we had, how much our expenses were and how much a baby would cost us. Then we tossed all of those charts out the window. We realized that we would never have a child if we waited until we were financially ready. Sure enough, we had NHL and figured out the finances on the fly.

    Yes, it is scary in a way to not have everything planned out ahead of time, but much about parenting is make-it-up-as-you-go-along. Parenting is the ultimate improv performance as you try to keep one step ahead of your kids while not falling and making it seem like you know what you’re doing. 😉

  2. Kelsey says:

    February 22nd, 2011at 9:08 am(#)

    Life is what happens when you’re planning.

    I remember wanting to have some semblance of a career in place before I got married. This notion nearly cost me the girl of my dreams. (We dated for 11 years. It’s a record!) Once we got married everything fell into place, including the career. When my wife mentioned having kids, I had grown tired of my, “but…do we have the income? But what about this or that…?” Now we have a great little gal that is half her and half me and another little boy on the way. The career is a roller-coaster still, but I love the family along for the ride.

  3. Tara says:

    February 22nd, 2011at 10:47 am(#)

    As the “Tara” mentioned in Matt’s post, I find this all pretty funny. Weird, but funny.

    The idea of having everything in place before the kids arrive is comforting… it is also impossible. At a certain point, you can over-plan; missing your chance to even have a family. We have tried to split the middle, striving to at least have the seeds of prosperity planted before we launch ourselves into baby-land. We are not far off, lucky for Matt (and, evidently, Sasha).

    One other point: While it is true that kids don’t need much space, they do need security. That doesn’t always mean you have a “two-story house in a nice upscale suburb” (*gag*) but it does mean that you live within your means. It is easier to do that if you have somewhat of a decent income… or a big extended family to help you. Since we don’t have the latter, we are going for the former.

  4. Katie says:

    June 10th, 2011at 2:33 pm(#)

    I Love your site! I don’t have any children, but I like your realistic approach to things. As recent graduates the thought of my dh and I having children scares the crap out of me. I used to say by 26, by 27 etc. Every year we get older the number goes up. It’s not so much that we are waiting for everything to be perfect. But we both grew up with parents who had us way to young and poor. Yeah, we are fine now, we got over not being able to have jnco jeans or ever going to Disney world, thats just material stuff. And kids don’t need space, but middle class life? That maybe would have been pretty sweet. I’m a social worker so I’m still broke and always will be, dh however has a swanky software developer job so its not all bad. I still cringe when I remember trying to find a prom dress to borrow, not because I was embarrassed, I’m still cheap, but because I know how much my parents wished they could have afforded it. I never even bothered to bring home the school fliers for class ski trips or senior skip day at six flags. I worked full time and I loved it, but I never had any extras. There will never be a perfect time do anything. But perhaps a little planning wouldn’t be so awful. We use two forms of birth control (even with one being an IUD) and I totally avoid the fertility statues at the MET. One can never be to careful.

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