The XX Factor

Insert 3-Year-Old Here

Amanda , I agree with you that people’s reproductive choices are their own business. But I have to take issue with the brandishing of endless research studies showing that having children ruins marriages, careers, and general fun times. I’m assuming from your post that having a career makes you happy. But if you were to record your hour-by-hour happiness while engaged in your career, it’s likely you would find that your career actually produces more moments of frustration than satisfaction. But you would shake off that conclusion because you know frustration is simply an inescapable part of life. You don’t expect an endless series of ups. You know the deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction your career brings by definition requires overcoming setbacks, dealing with limitations, persevering in the face of obstacles.

Yes, raising children can be a high-stress venture. But somehow the “science” that concludes you’re better off foregoing them seems to completely miss the deep, enduring joy that having a child brings. You mentioned when you were out having fun with a friend she would say “Insert 3 year-old here” as a way of reminding both of you how kids would mean the end of freedom and pleasure. I disagree that  that’s what a 3-year-old means, but your friend touches on one of the biggest misconceptions about parenthood: that you’re stuck perpetually changing diapers and wiping tears. Your friend should, as the years go by, more accurately say, “Insert 3-month-old here,” “Insert 3-year-old here,” “Insert 13-year-old here,” “Insert 30 year-old here.” When my daughter was 3, it did feel as if that phase would never end. Now she’s 14, and much in demand as a babysitter for 3-year-olds. I know it will be only a blink before she’s off to college and sailing into her own adult life.