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Apparently Men Just Don’t Know about Children, You Know?

October 29, 2013

I made the mistake of getting into a debate with my uncle last week. I say “mistake” because my uncle, unlike the rest of my pro-choice, pro-gay-marriage, commie-pinko, pot-smokin’ family, is a registered Republican. I, and the rest of my family members, generally try to avoid contentious topics with him because it will only end with simmering resentment and a need to get my father the M.D. to prescribe ever-increasing dosages of blood-pressure medications (no, he will not cut out the middleman and prescribe pot. We’ve been begging for years).

But I think he seems to be sort of ceding ground on some things. As my uncle is the brother to an Israeli woman who is dead certain that “everyone wants kids!” one might imagine what his stance on having kids is. For those who are scratching their heads and knitting their brows in such a way that their faces are in danger of sticking like that, I’ll clarify: “Eh, you’ll like it once you try it,” he once said to me.

After that particular line, I had a good degree of difficulty picking my jaw back up from the ground, but I finally managed to retort: “But what if I don’t? It’s not like babies come with a receipt and a 30-day return policy.”

He shrugged. “You don’t know until you’re holding your child in your arms for the first time. Then you see how special it is.”

Of course, trying to convince someone who bought a first-class ticket on the someone-from-this-younger-generation-PLEASE-reproduce train that reproduction is not the be-all and end-all for everyone is a bit like trying to make a howling blizzard dissolve by standing outside naked and yelling at it, only there’s at least slightly less frostbite of the family jewels involved with yelling at my uncle.

Nonetheless, I do believe my years of adamant tokophobia, comparisons of babies to roadkill and live tarantulas on my personal cuteness scale, and voiced complaints about the younger guests I have had on my roster as a ski instructor that were only minimized by my being able to hand said guests back after a few hours have made him relent a little.

But only a little. When the topic of children came up last week, it was in the context of how his middle son needed to get out and date more so that he could finally get on with his obvious life goal of making my uncle a grandfather.

“But what if he doesn’t want to have children?” I naturally inquired.

My uncle shrugged. “Eh, he does. He just doesn’t know it yet.”

“Maybe the uncertainty means that he does know he doesn’t want them but hasn’t found a way to tell you yet?” I stupidly persisted.

“No, he doesn’t know. He won’t know until he has one.”

“But know I never want to have one. I know it would be a huge mistake, one that I wouldn’t want to inflict on a child or myself.”

My uncle shrugged again. “Yeah, sure, maybe a woman knows,” he said, demonstrating that tiny glimmer of progress, “but a man? Nah. Men don’t know. They just have to do it.”

I once again struggled to pick up my jaw from the table. I tried bringing up the example of my childfree friend who is so certain he got himself fixed on Father’s Day and took a bumpy Baltimore bus ride home from the surgery. If that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.

But my uncle merely proffered his go-to shrug and said, “Yeah, but does he have a child of his own? He doesn’t know. He won’t until he has his own child.”

At this point, I had no choice but to abandon ship. The logical quandaries raised in the last statement were overwhelming enough, but it was quite clear I had no way of prevailing upon my uncle’s newfound insistence that every man wants to have children, even if he doesn’t and can’t because he doesn’t.

To be somewhat fair, I suspect there might be more room for men to be on the fence about children than women are. Men, after all, don’t have to suffer through 40 weeks of decreased bladder capacity, back pain, shifting organs, weight gain, heat intolerance, and hair-trigger barfing. They also don’t have to deal with a corporate culture and federal government that penalizes taking time off for any reason, appeasing the neo-cons’ fretting about the future of social programs they want to destroy anyway aside.

And I recall my ex once telling me that if I’d shown any signs of maternal instincts, he’d have gone with them when the time was right. Children weren’t something he yearned for with all his heart by any stretch, but he was willing to at least consider the possibilities.

But then I think about the men who do just know. My friend from Baltimore, for instance. Also another guy I dated who did just know he was going to be a father someday and had no time for trifling around with a woman who couldn’t be convinced of her true nature as an incubator of his precious seed (needless to say, that only lasted three weeks).

Who knows. Perhaps time will have to work its magic on my uncle once again, with years of his son(s) showing no inclination for dating or mating finally convincing him that there are, in fact, men who do know for sure one way or the other.

But it’s most likely that I’ll have to continue nodding and excusing myself to go to the bathroom whenever my uncle lumps his entire gender as one of childish imbeciles. And if I’ve exhasted my quota of bathroom trips, I can always argue about Obamacare. At least the blood pressure meds will be covered.


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  1. This is funny, and so true about arguments with people who don’t understand the childfree. Some people I hear make comments that make me want to say something, but then I don’t want to start a debate…or World War III. It’s funny how sensitive people can get when they realize that someone on this earth does not want children.

    • It really is incredible, and I can’t help but wonder if some of the overly sensitive are so because they’re trying to cover up their own regrets for having gone a different road–misery does love company, even if the feeling isn’t mutual. But I suppose there probably are enthusiastic well-wishers who really, genuinely think they’re trying to be helpful by telling you all about this amazing event that changed their lives for the better and will change yours in the same manner if you just let it happen. -_-

      • I agree, it could be that people are trying to hide their own regrets and make us feel about making a choice that they may not have realized they could have made. I have encountered people who genuinely want others to have kids because they think the people in question would make good parents.

      • Ah, the “You’ll make such a great parent!” argument. I’ll have to take that one on in a future post, although I’ve, personally, never heard that one (which shouldn’t that, in and of itself, get people to stop and think about what they’d be inflicting on my future children if they did manage to convince me?). It’s my hope that the more I and other likeminded individuals write, the more even those do-gooders will realize that the only response to, “I don’t want to have children,” is to take it at face value.

  2. Every time I read a post on this subject, I just shake my head. I really don’t understand why anyone would think everyone should want children. Not everyone wants a _____ — you could fill in the blank with anything: tropical vacation, dune buggy, house full of cats, night job, swimming pool…
    Why would children be any different?

    • Excellent point. Even though I’d love a dune buggy, I’m fine with one cat and would find a swimming pool too much work, just to take a few of your examples. I get that there are some people who are so involved in their own worlds that they can’t fathom how people can live outside of them, but that tends to be limited to people with compromised mental abilities and/or very young children. :/ But I keep posting these examples so I can maybe help others poke through their friends’ and relatives’ cloak of bandwagon fallacies on the marriage-and-babies issues.

  3. Usually it’s female relatives pushing the whole children thing on everyone, it gets more than a bit weird when it’s a male relative who, as you said, does not have to do any of the real work. It’s absolutely NOT every woman’s dream, nor is it every man’s. And that is 100% ok.

    • I think it’s creepy no matter who’s doing the pushing (in the metaphoric sense…). I have heard stuff along the lines of, “Oh, lighten up! Pregnancy and labor are WAY easier than they’re made out to be! Why, *I* never puked once, and I was only in labor for 15 minutes, so I don’t know everyone’s making such a big deal out of it!” Maybe I’m unique in having found men AND women who are pretty equal-opportunity in assuring me that their positive experiences would replicate themselves in my life.

      But yeah, considering dudes have absolutely NO frame of reference for saying what someone’s experience of pregnancy and birth will be…yeesh.

      • I agree with you.

        I witnessed the birth of my Goddaughter and I honestly don’t think it was “way easier” than it’s made out to be. Her labor was shorter than some other women’s that day, but it was still painful and not something one soon forgets. The baby was breech right up until they were about to wheel her into a c-section. She asked (actually she demanded, and they didn’t want to argue with a 6.2″ pregnant woman in labor who could take them out, even in a compromising position. LOL.) them to check the baby’s position again because she’d felt the baby shift, which she’d been doing for months. A last minute flip, which put the baby in the perfect position, helped her avoid what I will always consider to be surgery (she felt the same way and didn’t want to be cut open unless the baby was in danger), not a “simple procedure”. I think it’s an immense toll on a woman’s body and I’ve heard so many stories where women, even in this day and age, have nearly died giving birth due to all sorts of bizarre health related things that pregnancy can cause, so I think men really have it very easy saying it’s “no big deal”. All they have to do is sit there or stand there, providing they choose to be present at all.

        I don’t think marriage and children are for everyone, or even just one of those things. We are all given a life to live and should live it in a way that makes us feel happy and fulfilled, not in any one else’s image.

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