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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Pregnancy and Parenting » How can you tell if you're ready?

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Author Topic: How can you tell if you're ready?
StrangePudding
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So, I have two sets of questions:

For parents, or those who are certain that they want to become parents in the future...

How do you know that you want to have children? How do you know when the time is right to have children, emotionally? If you have a child that resulted from an unplanned pregnancy, how did you make the decision to parent rather than abort or opt for adoption? Do you regret your decision to parent at all? Did you have a lot of doubt about parenting?

For those who are certain that they do not want to ever become parents...

How did you make that decision? What factors made you certain you would never want to be a parent?

I just want some input from people who have made these decisions and have pretty strong opinions about them. Thanks!

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Ecofem
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Hey! This is a very good question. [Smile] What are your feelings on this?

I had various feelings on this for a long time but this is where I am now (in my mid-20s, finished with graduate education and working a great job that pays decently but not amazingly.) I'd like to have children if and when the conditions are "right" although there is a lot of flexibility there. Then again, who knows what the future holds?! I could have an unplanned pregnancy or find out I can't even have biological children. Plus, my family and friends know that I'd always immediately take their children in, no questions asked (well, you know what I mean!) if they were no longer able to or no longer wanted to.

As for my interest in having biological children, there are a lot of factors involved. A big one is this: I come from a large family and would (in theory [Wink] ) like to have a large one myself. I'd want a partner who would 1- be willing to have those children with me, 2- co-parent those 18+ years, and 3- put the children first. I also would prefer that we were relatively established in our careers and finished with education, because that gives more opportunities and financial freedom. (And god are children expensive!) i'd hope that we'd have jobs with health insurance and what not, and especially that one of us could stay home with the kids when they are little. I don't have any doubts about my ability to parent BUT I know "all" parents have doubts and worries and what not so that'd be pretty much a guarantee. (But such reflection is good and natural, I think.)

Wow, those are a lot of factors there and, again, who knows what will happen. I am very fortunate that in my current work and living situation that I *could* afford to raise a child alone as a single parent. I have a very child-friendly work environment and public preschool childcare options but I'd have to work and would need childcare for those first three or so years. I would prefer for a family member to take care but I don't really want that either; my parents love kids but they are old and they and I would prefer more autonomy, too.

All that said, if my having a child would mean being a single parent from the get-go and I wasn't feeling up to it, I would very likely choose not to parent at that time. I don't believe I'd ever opt for adoption (as in putting up a child for adoption, not actually adopting which would be an option.) However, it's all very theoretical and actual parents could give you more insight from life in the trenches. [Smile]

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Heather
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Wow, big questions. I can bite, and it's probably good I do so we can be sure to insert into this that there is more than just one way to be a parent: they don't all involve becoming pregnant. [Smile]

I get hyperemesis when I'm pregnant, very badly. The few times I have been pregnant, I have known in around a week, because it seems to take mere minutes until the constant and severe nausea and endless vomiting that is me pregnant with that condition begins. I remember having to wait the six weeks until my abortion in the early 90's was absolute hell for me: I could barely work, I lost around 20 pounds, I rarely slept. Nothing at all, sometimes even water, would stay in my stomach.

So, for me, if I wanted to be pregnant, I had to always know that would potentially mean 40 weeks of that. Some medications work for some women, but I didn't have that luck that time, so it's possible I may not have again. That could mean needing to somehow be unable to work for all of that time. Too, since the first time I got accidentally pregnant in my teens, I have been inclined to miscarry, so there's that to deal with, too.

Additionally, I haven't had real healthcare in over 20 years, and the life choices I have made per what I do for my living have always meant, and will likely always mean, living very leanly: at almost 40, I have never owned a house, I don't own a car, etc. So, financially, it's a pretty unworkable situation when it comes to pregnancy and/or that kind of parenting. It's perhaps also worth noting that I have yet to have a partner who is someone I would feel is a good fit to co-parent with, or a community I felt like I could trust with that, and given everything above, pregnancy and parenting singly has never seemed workable. Having worked with kids and teens the whole of my life (and having grown up with young parents grossly unprepared for me) I have a really acute sense of what parenting requires, and really high standards for myself per ways I'd feel comfortable doing it and prepared to do it.

Lastly, I do, personally, have pretty strong feelings about creating new kids when we have so many kids already here without homes.

However, I love kids of all ages: before I did Scarleteen, I worked as an ECE and Kindergarten teacher. But as the years have passed, I feel a lot like a role with kids and young people as teacher or mentor has been a better fit for me and my personality than being a parent would have been. I also feel like I could not have accomplished many of the things I have, could not have lived my life the way I wanted to live it, with kids. Obviously, that's me guessing, but for instance, when I wrote my book, there were some periods of months there where I literally needed to write nonstop for 16 hours at a stretch, and to be uninterrupted, something that would have been impossible if I was someone's mother.

And now, at 39, it's all a bit academic, really, because I really am at an age where a pregnancy, in my opinion -- for me -- is simply something I'm past the curve for, especially since pretty much everything I've addressed so far has not changed.

But.

I have been thinking a lot over the last few years about foster parenting, especially the more I work in youth shelters. I'm not someone deeply attached to babies -- in that I don't need to know a kid from infancy to feel love for them or bond with them -- and I also am someone who would not have a problem fostering some of the groups of kids who have the toughest times getting placed: siblings, kids out of infancy and toddlerhood, teens, kids with abusive histories, etc. With teens specifically, given how young I was when I left home, how young I was when I started to have to couch-surf or spend time on-street, I know how it feels to be in need of a real home and adults who care for you. I also know that when you're a kid who has basically raised themselves, styles of parenting which involve a lot of control are not workable. As someone who really likes to foster independence and autonomy in young people, again, it could be a really good fit.

So, if that's something I can get to doing, I think it'd be the perfect situation for me to parent through (though I don't know that I'd frame it as parenting). Foster parenting is also a way that it could be financially doable for me and any kids I fostered.

I'm not totally there yet. My guess is that it'll be a few more years until I am, but over the last year, I've started to research fostering, and in planning I do with my life, to always envision room left for that.

That may have been more than you wanted, and given my age, it's prob ably a much different perspective than you're going to hear from anyone in their teens or twenties. But there you have it. [Smile]

[ 06-25-2009, 12:32 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Ecofem
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If I may comment on Heather's comments. [Wink]

quote:
Originally posted by Heather:
I can bite, and it's probably good I do so we can be sure to insert into this that there is more than just one way to be a parent: they don't all involve becoming pregnant.

I absolutely agree here! I spoke more to having biological children due to how the question was framed but I see many options here, too.

quote:
Lastly, I do, personally, have pretty strong feelings about creating new kids when we have so many kids already here without homes.
With all due respect, I will say that I felt this way for a number of years but changed my mind. I do, however, feel strongly that, should I adopt, I would adopt a child from the US. I know reasons people adopt from abroad and I support each individual's decision but I feel strongly about this personally.

Also sort of along those lines, I have observed how important it is not to assume anything about people's choices and beliefs on having and/or raising children. I know of an older couple who are wonderful people and tried pretty much everything to have/adopt children only to have it not work (this was not in the US)... they deal with children everyday and have become surrogate parents of sorts to people (including to me even when I was 22!) but I know this is still a sad thing for them. And I was so so infuriated when I overheard a coworker/parent accuse the one of "not really liking children or understanding parenting because she *obviously* didn't choose to have any of her own!"

I can also think of a recent conversation that made me very upset where people said some unkind things about teen parents; I may not appear like I was the "typical" teen parent to them. I wasn't but how can they assume I didn't have a child at a young age that I gave up for adoption, etc.? The bottom line is that I understand it's a personal choice and such a, well, personal issue that I can't really understand unless someone really opens up... like here! [Smile]

quote:
But as the years have passed, I feel a lot like a role with kids and young people as teacher or mentor has been a better fit for me and my personality than being a parent would have been. I also feel like I could not have accomplished many of the things I have, could not have lived my life the way I wanted to live it, with kids.
I like how you point out the various ways to mentor young people/raise kids. I say the more positive adult relationships in a young person's life, the better! I also think you make a very good point on children affecting accomplishments. Because I would want to put any children first, all my other goals would have to become secondary. That would be ok but I think it'd be then much better for me to *not* have children if I wasn't ready or willing to make that sacrifice for any reason. (Not to say that you wouldn't/couldn't, Heather, or that everyone has to give up everything for their children!)

quote:
I have been thinking a lot over the last few years about foster parenting, especially the more I work in youth shelters.
I really like this idea as something to pursue myself one day, too. While it does come with some financial support from the state, I see this as requiring an extremely high level of emotional openness and giving. Not that this isn't always the case with children or young people BUT I think I can safely say that the foster system (as well as the very reasons the young people are no longer with their biological families) is far from ideal. A foster parent would be dealing with potentially years of abuse or hard feelings, which are understandable and I don't mean to call bad BUT rather something that takes extra reaching out and patience. In other words, I'm not ready yet but maybe/hopefully one day. I know a family that has two teenage sons and regularly takes in foster children of various ages. While I do not agree with their anti-choice beliefs, I have a lot of respect that they put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and see them as a positive example of how foster parenting can be a positive experience.
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-Lauren-
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I honestly don't really know where I am when it comes to this. So, this may get disjointed, my apologies!

I am actually leaning towards the childfree by choice camp; there's lots of points I agree with. At a time where I'm seriously contemplating whether or not I'm ready for the responsibility of a kitten (Hey, you forgot to mention pet-parents! :P), a child just seems absolutely intangible. I'm admittedly at a pretty selfish point in my life, want to do my own thing, have my own crap going on, and I don't know when or if "enough" will ever be enough. I want to travel eventually, and a kid would be kinda hard to do that with, especially when very young.

On the other hand, I adore my niece unlike any child, ever, and I do feel a maternal-type bond to her, especially now that she's 3. I was kind of horrified of her as a baby.. she had this reptilian alien scream and could projectile-poop AND vomit at least 5 feet. Yeah.. um.. selfish me likes to keep her lunch down!

My younger sister is now pregnant with her 2nd kid and my older sister has a 6 month old and is pregnant now with her 2nd too. My family, I'm absolutely certain, would pester me about when I'm going to get knocked up were we in regular contact. And, seriously, we're all 24 and under, for chrissakes: why can't the babymaking wait?! Part of my aversion to pregnancy/parenting right now is this family/culture obsession with it, women getting married young and preg young and that all being glorified.

The worst thing is that my partner's parents are pushing the "grandkid" issue, and his formerly (very) abusive dad is constantly guilting him and calling him selfish. I've found that's a REALLY common response to someone who says they don't want kids, and I don't understand it. Isn't the person saying it the selfish one, wanting someone to undergo the physical and other burdens to provide THEM with amusement, love, company, whatever? Argh.
So to stop ranting and try to sum things up.. I won't even consider it until I have a whole self to give to my kid, have resolved my abusive childhood so that I don't pass any wounds onto my kid or become abusive myself, overcome my emetophobia, can be a good role model, can afford it, and on the condition the new kitten-turned-cat doesn't quell any crazy mommy urges, because I know having a baby to fill some kind of void is a horrible idea, and I've witnessed it firsthand.

Phew!

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September
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That's a very thought-provoking question! Thanks for staring this thread, StrangePudding.

For me, it's always been pretty clear that I do not want to have a pregnancy, or be a parent. There are several reasons for that.

The one that's most obvious, maybe, is the fact that I have a chronic disease that can be aggravated by pregnancy - worst case scenario is I spent my entire pregnancy at the hospital and on meds, which would neither be a good situation for me, nor be very healthy for the baby. Furthermore, stress in general can aggravate the illness, and I can think of few things more stressful than having an infant. What if I cannot take care of the baby myself? What if I am a single parent and have no one nearby who can help out? And, some recent research supports the claim that my condition can be passed on from mother to daughter, and the one thing more stressful than having a baby is having an ill baby. Especially if you're ill yourself. So, for a whole host of health reasons, pregnancy and parenting is out for me.

Physical health aside, I'm also not the most healthy person as far as my mental health is concerned. I have chronic depression, and while I've gotten a pretty good handle on taking care of myself, most of the time I do have my hands full just trying to make my own life run smoothly. I cannot imagine having another person depending on me for all of their needs.

Those essential things aside, I'm also a very independent person, and I do not like to be tied down. I never live in the same place for very long (I've moved ten times in the past ten years, am planning my next move as we speak) and I cannot see myself giving that up anytime soon. I also plan on getting my phd and I'd love to teach and research at different universities - I'd hate to drag a child from one place to another constantly (and I know what I am talking about - my family moved from Europe to the US when I was 13, then back to a different European country three years later, and I had a hard time adjusting both times).

All that aside, I do absolutely adore children. I've held a couple of teaching positions where I've worked with children in Kindergarten and elementary school age, and those were incredibly enriching experiences. So, while a pregnancy is definitely not an option for me at any point, I do feel sure that, should I ever feel like I'm more settled, I will consider foster parenting.

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Johanna
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Karybu
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Good question! It's been really interesting reading all the answers so far.

Personally, it's always been very clear to me (like September) that parenting is just not something I wanted to do. The main reason for that? It isn't a popular viewpoint, but I don't like children. I just don't.

Even if that were to change, however, it's unlikely I would end up having kids. I'd be worried about the wacky hormones during pregnancy making my chronic depression and anxiety worse, and I'd be very worried about passing on my family's strong tendencies towards mental illness.

A kid also wouldn't work too well with my lifestyle. I move around a lot, I travel a lot. Most anthropologists spend a year or two at a time living with the people they're researching, often in very remote locations, and it generally isn't possible to take a child along.

This issue has actually been bothering me quite a lot lately....I just turned 25, and it seems that my mother took this as her cue to start pestering me with the when are you getting married/when are you having kids thing. When I respond probably never/almost definitely never, she just sighs, smiles and says "Oh, you'll change your mind." Whatever.

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"Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing." -Arundhati Roy

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-Lauren-
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Barf. I'm sick of hearing the "you'll change your mind" line. Sorry you have to go through that, Karybu.

I'm actually sorta-with you on liking children. I like them for like.. an hour, max, until they bore me to death with repetitive games, start whining, spill something, or other disasters. I have never ever babysat willingly, because I like to give them back to their parents ASAP. I don't like holding babies either.

Just so you know, I hear from other like-minded young individuals that getting sterilized and responding with that tends to stop the "change your mind" crap dead in its tracks. ;)

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a year of roses
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I think that I will be ready to parent by 28. I am definitely not ready now. I am 24, and I work full time and go to school part time. It isn't a schedule for a new mom, and it is near impossible for me to take time off. Also, I want to have some savings which is depleted now because of paying for school. In most other ways I feel ready to be a parent now. I am with someone that wants to co-parent and would be wonderful at it. We are engaged, and we have been building a strong foundation for our relationship over the last four years. Our relationship is one of (almost) unconditional love and unyeilding support. Also, I have done a lot of soul searching and therapy for myself. Because of this, I have dealt meaningfully with my own issues, and know how to cope effectively with future problems. We have health insurance, own two cars, and rent an apartment. Once we get married, can put more money in savings, maybe buy a house or at least rent a place with more room, and we are both done with school, I am confident that we will be ready. I love children and I have always wanted to be a parent. It is important for me to carefully and thoughtfully prepare for being a parent. My dad really didn't really think through what being a parent is. I think he thought he was the right age and made enough money, so it was time. But, kids need way more than that. They need real love from people who have done the work to know how to really give it. He had not really dealt with the lack of love he received as a kid, and so he didn't break that cycle. Breaking that cycle is one of my biggest goals in life. I think being a parent will be deeply fulfilling for me, but I also think that I can give my children what they need to also have deeply fulfilling lives.
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a year of roses
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@Lauren- I totally agree that wanting to be a parent can be the selfish thing to do. I think it can be really hard and selfless to acknowledge that for whatever reason someone isn't ready for/doesn't want/wouldn't be good at parenting. I don't know that many stellar parents, but the pressure is definitely there for everyone to parent.

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"Those were the best years of my life. I had roses and apologized to no one"

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atm1
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Like a year of roses, I think a lot of my certainty around wanting to be a parent is coming from the fact that I'm in a partnership where we both really want to parent, and believe that the other would be a good co-parent.

I've always known I wanted to be a parent, and I've never really minded the times when I've been saddled with the care of my cousins unexpectedly for vague amounts of time (I have 13 younger cousins, one older).

Also, even though my immediate family is small (I have one brother), my extended family is large (my dad has six sisters, and all of them have at least two kids). Having a strong sense of family has always been really important to me, and my partner feels very similarly. I've also learned a whole lot about parenting by watching my aunts and uncles, who all have very different styles. I've been able to see what works with what kinds of kids, and I feel like I have a lot of good information. I think the fact that I'm so much older than a lot of my cousins has helped me prepare too--they've always known me as a grown up who can take care of them (though, I'll admit I was horrified when I was 15 and someone thought one of my infant cousins was my daughter. Sex wasn't on the table at all in my life, and the thought that someone thought that I could have done that AND gotten pregnant was so awful to sheltered 15 year old me.). I know what it's like to consistently be an adult presence in a child's life as they grow, and it's something I really want to do for my own children.

I'm not ready to parent now, and neither is my partner. Until I have full time, long term employment (and health insurance coming from somewhere other than my parents), I'm unlikely to stay pregnant if I got pregnant. But I know that decision would be really painful, particularly given the fact that even two years from now, any child would be really wanted. But there's this feeling, coming from somewhere very deep down, that I want to be a mother. And it's made more intense by being with someone I want to coparent with.

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KittenGoddess
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I've been looking at this question for a while now, and have started responses at least 3 times but always seem to get stuck (or interrupted).

I'll start by saying that I'm 28 and the parent of a 1-year old.

I've always felt that I wanted to eventually have children, whether they were biological or adopted. My partner also has always wanted kids.

We both felt very strongly, however, about not bringing anyone else into the situation until we were in a good place individually and as a couple. I'm a planner and a "worst case scenario" person by nature, so I felt like all of our ducks needed to be in a row first. I needed to be in a certain point in my professional career (though now I do wish I'd till I was done with my doctorate), as did my partner. We started saving several years beforehand and made sure that we had good insurance. Each of us felt that it was important that we be able to survive with the (at the time hypothetical) child were something to happen to one of us. We also spent time as a couple and worked on our relationship. In a way, we pretty much waited until our "criteria" were met before deciding to try for a baby.

At the same time, I won't tell you that I felt 100% ready...I don't think anybody ever feels that. I've yet to meet a parent who hasn't questioned their decision at one time or another or hasn't felt that fear about being a parent. I think that you just make the best decisions you can.

That said, I'll also admit that parenting has been much different than what I expected. We get a very idealized view of motherhood in this culture. There's a huge pressure to have a certain experience and to say that you've had that beautiful picture that you're "supposed" to have whether it really happened that way or not. I never expected to have a difficult birth experience and postpartum depression. There was incredible pressure to put on a smile and say that I was happier than I'd ever been...even when I was crying everyday and wasn't sure that life would ever be okay again. I love my son more than anything, my partner & I are very happy, and I feel like I was as prepared for parenthood as possible...but I won't say that it has been exactly what I expected.

[ 06-30-2009, 03:06 PM: Message edited by: KittenGoddess ]

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Sarah Liz

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