Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Back in the day, we picked up a very drunk guy in the ambulance. (Actually, this was back in nearly all the days. Ambulancing is a drunktastic field.) I was driving and my partner was in back, when the drunk guy suddenly yelled very loudly at my partner: "You're a breeder! BREEDER! I bet you have twenty babies! BREEDER! B...R...E...E...E...DUR!"

Then he fell silent, leaving me and my (childless, as if it even matters) partner to contemplate the strange ways of the world.


Anyway. I was idly (idly! IDLY!!) pondering the concept, as we talked in the ER today about seeing a pregnant 15-year-old and a pregnant 50-year-old on the same day, of what breeding would be like.

-Excuse to participate in kid activities again.
-Sort of cute-ish, at certain stages, if you get a cute one.
-Opportunity to indoctrinate a human mind.
-Theoretically sort of a fun relationship project.
-Passes on amazing genetics for super-intelligence.
-Opportunity to find out what breastmilk tastes like, try ice cream and cheese recipes.
-Parents may enjoy grandparent role; would certainly shut up about it, at least.
-Creates "family," whatever exactly that means.
-Opportunity to practice high-minded notions of childhood autonomy and personhood.
-Would be totally awesome, dude, to do in utopian poly commune context where the kid would totally be raised by a village, dude.
-Some sort of magical joy thing I couldn't possibly understand.
-Enters my legacy into the human race for all time, sort of, maybe, if you want to do it that way.

-No takey backsies.
-Birthing process unspeakably horrifying.
-Costs infinity dollars.
-Totally unfeasible with current housing and work situations. Also many likely future housing and work situations.
-Finding care for guinea pigs over vacation hassle enough. Apparently children are not supposed to be left at home for even like ten minutes? DEAL. BREAKER.
-Genetics other than super-intelligence not so amazing.
-Child likely to rebel against my righteous indoctrination.
-Poor track record with cacti (RIP Spike), goldfish (RIP John, Paul, George, Ringo), gerbils (RIP Salt, Sugar), geckos (RIP Baby Geck), hermit crabs (RIP... large bucket of dead crabs).
-Major cockblockage.
-During certain stages of socialization, child will be either tormented outcast or horrible little fascist.
-Big mess of patriarchal associations and obligations taken on with "mother" role.
-High-minded notions of childhood autonomy and personhood prone to sudden, catastrophic collapse first time child acts like unreasonable little shithead.
-Difficult to explain poly/BDSM to six-year-old. Impossible to explain to thirteen-year-old.
-No magical feeling of internal, intrinsic desire for children.

On balance, childbearing and rearing seems like an interesting little adventure, but not something I really want to shape my whole life around. If I were more assured that I could have kids on the side and still basically be me, I might consider it, but as things stand, it seems like that's--financially, socially, culturally, practically--just not possible.

Maybe what I really feel is that I might want kids, but I wouldn't want to be a mother. I'm just too damn selfish. I know my own life is limited and I want to just enjoy the hell out of it, and if that's a character flaw--fuck, better that I recognize it before I inflict it on some helpless little kid, right?


  1. I recently read an article on co-parenting that might be right for you. You get many of the benefits with few of the cons.

  2. Parenthood, while unexpected for me, has changed my life for the better.

    Mine is an old story-degenerate slacker gets his girl pregnant and straightens up a bit and gets a decent job and a house and a couple of bug out bags.

    To me, having a kid is like having 5 extra willpower points.

  3. Palaverer - Part of me says "aww, what a wonderful community-building concept!" Part of me says "the daycare wanted $400/week, huh?"

    Living in Babylon - That would bring me up to... 6.

  4. "-Birthing process unspeakably horrifying."

    This is really a matter of personal opinion. I mean, I know all your pros and cons were, but this one specifically caught my eye. There are a lot of women, me included, who find being pregnant and the birth process to be not so bad. I loved being pregnant, both times. My first pregnancy was a lesson in everything that could go wrong with pregnancy. I still enjoyed it. The second was a breeze and was really quite easy. Even labor wasn't nearly as bad as some women would have you believe.

    A lot of it is psychological. If you believe pregnancy and labor is horrible, it will be. I had planned, from the beginning, for a natural labor and birth. I had read blogs and books by, for and about women who had positive experiences instead of just going with the friend-relayed "OMG IT'S BURNY-STABBY-OUCHY-PAIN". Anyhoo, the birthing process isn't always horrible. Like many things in life, it is what you make it.

    "I know my own life is limited and I want to just enjoy the hell out of it, and if that's a character flaw--fuck, better that I recognize it before I inflict it on some helpless little kid, right? "

    It most definitely is not a character flaw and fuck anyone who would try to make you feel like it is. Some people are parent kind of people, and some aren't. It's better to realize that now than after the kid is born.

  5. I can help you with your curiosity on one point, anyway: Get some Frosted Flakes or other sweetened cereal, pour on milk -- whole or extra rich, not skim -- and eat the cereal. The milk left in the bottom of the bowl tastes quite a lot like breast milk, to me.

  6. i agree with both the "pregnancy/labor are not that bad and actually kind of cool in a science experiment kind of way" and "breastmilk tastes like cereal milk" posts. but i don't think people should have kids unless they really want them. it's a lot of work. i like it even more than i thought i would but it's not for everyone. the flaw in your lists is that your own child is not like other people's children. your own child is much more interesting and you can't account for that before you actually have one.

  7. Hmm, sounds like you're in the perfect situation to be an aunt.

  8. "the flaw in your lists is that your own child is not like other people's children. your own child is much more interesting and you can't account for that before you actually have one."

    That's totally true. I was never a big fan of kids, in general, but always kind of figured I'd have my own someday. You do find your own kids a hell of a lot more cute/interesting/tolerable than other people's kids. An interesting affect that having my own kids had on me; I now find other kids much more fun. I still usually can't stand their parents, but the kids are cool (usually).

  9. Good lists! I do like being an aunt. (I'm not genetically, but I have done the sort-of auntliness with some friends' spawn & it's been fun.) And I might not mind being a dad, if that were an option. Way easier than being a mom.


  10. Svutlana will never look at Tony Tiger cereal same ways again...

    It seem for me that have child be experiment that you can no accurate hypothesize, even with breakfast cereal. Know me too many peoples who no be parent peoples until they become most excellent parents.

  11. The only sweet cereal I had was Cocoa Puffs.

    Even accounting for chocolateyness... man, people milk must be delicious.

  12. I've never had a desire to have children. I always found that reason enough not to have them.

  13. "your own child is much more interesting and you can't account for that before you actually have one."
    Totally. If you have a kid you'll be amazed at what you find fascinating and have to constantly remind yourself not to yammer on about to the wrong people. Also, forget cute, you will find your own child unspeakably beautiful. I assume this is all directly related to humans being willing to take on the care and feeding of a helpless creature for years on end. (On that note, I work very, very hard at not being "that mom" in real life and on Facebook. But FB doesn't reward that. I try only to post kid/ mothering stuff like one of out so many posts, and try for a lot of variety of what I'm interested in, but hands down my posts about my kid get more comments and likes than anything else.)

    "-Big mess of patriarchal associations and obligations taken on with "mother" role."

    THIS is HUGE. And because I hadn't even found the feminist blogosphere before I had a baby (i.e. didn't know I was a feminist until I was in my 30s. Yeah.) I had NO IDEA what this would do to me. It's not even that I don't want any of these obligations, but being a mother is incredibly limiting unless you have a very good support system (and that only goes so far). Little things can make you a crazy, like having to explain to my husband that the things he lets her do in public that get him aw-what-a-great-dad smiles will get me judged when she wants to do them with me. Grr argh.

  14. Apart from the feminist-angsty and gynocological-ouchy concerns, these lists pretty much reflect my thinking, too. And I've decided the second far outweighs the first, especially since I have the privilege of enjoying friends' and siblings' kids.

  15. I have a pair of twins you could have for the summer, cheap. They wash dishes, take out the trash . . . well . . . . they know how to do those things, anyway.

  16. Wait, what does your daughter do that gets approval with dad and judgment with mom? That sounds weird.
    But I have a Y chromosome, so I'm not claiming to know, just asking.

  17. Even labor wasn't nearly as bad as some women would have you believe.

    A lot of it is psychological. If you believe pregnancy and labor is horrible, it will be.

    I've never given birth but I have a vagina and I can't imagine that any the many women who have had an episiotomy would agree with you on either of these points. "Some women would have you believe that a torn vagina is painful. But not me! Actually it's all in their heads."

  18. No takey backsies

    I laughed so hard at that one...

    My list is rather similar to yours. Except with less pros and more cons. I'm contemplating egg donation as a modern take on sowing wild oats / genetic spread / world domination.

  19. I'm a teacher on the college level because I love those sudden lightbulb moments, where the student goes " I understand." Being a mother gives me that in spades, which kind of makes up for how limiting it is, both for my career and my social life (what there ever was of it).

    That said, I don't particularly like children. Mine are the exception, and then only because we're genetically pre-programmed to like our own children--or, as Heinlein posits, we'd be drowning them at birth.

    With regards to the opening anecdote...the last person to call me a breeder as a derogatory term (a militant evangelical lesbian--a girl who believed that all straight women were lesbians that hadn't found the right woman) was in grad school with me. I don't think she particularly liked it when I responded by calling her an evolutionary dead end.

    I don't take insults (or things meant as such) lightly,unless it's a friend making a joke. There is no passive in my aggressive.

  20. "I've never given birth but I have a vagina and I can't imagine that any the many women who have had an episiotomy would agree with you on either of these points. "Some women would have you believe that a torn vagina is painful. But not me! Actually it's all in their heads." "

    I've given birth, twice. The first (twins) was a c-section. The second was a natural labor and delivery. While I didn't have an episiotomy, I did have a second degree tear. Routine epis are actually no longer recommended and more and more doctors have stopped doing them. Natural tears heal faster and have less complications. Unfortunately, tears still need to be repaired (except for some 1st degree which are left to heal on their own) and, yeah, that was uncomfortable.

    I never said it was "all in their heads". I said that if you believe it's going to be horrible, it will be. That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt at all. It just means that some women can, and do, make it worse because of their frame of mind.

    Having had both a c-section and natural delivery, I can tell you that I absolutely don't understand women who opt for a planned c-section over a vaginal delivery. I would do natural 10 more times before I ever agreed to an elective c-section. That was a horror from beginning to end. I was in more pain and was debilitated much longer than with the v-birth. With the natural delivery I went home less than 24 hours later (because I begged to be realeased. Not because they kicked me out) and was back to my normal routine 24 hours after that, including getting up on day 2 to go to breakfast and then did some shopping for a few baby things we still needed (who forgets to buy diapers?).

  21. Chi: Little things can make you a crazy, like having to explain to my husband that the things he lets her do in public that get him aw-what-a-great-dad smiles will get me judged when she wants to do them with me.

    I'm with Don, both in the Y chromosome possession, and the not-understanding of this. In fact, I don;t even have kids. But I'm still curious. If nothing else, I might stop being a judgmental asshole (by a little bit, anyway) if it's pointed out, and this is something I'm doing. :)


    Holly: Birth process. It's like double fisting, after 9 months of drugs to make it go better, from the inside out. Right? ;)

  22. I love your list and wish that would-be parents would give this half the attention that you obviously did in one afternoon. As a parent of two now grown children, I had a few comments on some of the specifics:
    -Participating in kid activities is awesome. After I realized this, I started putting toys out at adult parties.
    -Opportunity to indoctrinate… I think this is crucial to procreation; we are such egotistical creatures. I spent my pregnant days imagining my hip, athletic, popular yet outspoken feminist girls advancing my beliefs until the whole world changed. Oh yes I did. I didn’t have girls, it doesn’t appear that I had children that would make huge advances for the entire world, but I did get my feminists. Indoctrinating another human can be tricky. Did you know that a feminist lesbian couple raised the head of Operation Rescue? Something backfired there.
    -Genetics that aren’t so amazing – your offspring will remind you constantly of those gifts.
    -Poor track record killing plants and pets – I was terrified of that. Luckily, those little suckers are pretty tough. They are also louder than plants and pets when unhappy.
    -Major cockblockage – I found this wasn't an issue, especially when I was pregnant. I’ve heard men on macho radio shows be very disparaging about the M in MILF, and I know those men are out there, but none ever passed my radar. Rather I became the target of men enamored with bountifulness. It might be harder to find long-term partners when you have children, but it’s not harder to get laid.

    It amazes me how many people think that a person is obligated to procreate. I don’t know what my family would have done without the added love and care received from my beloved, childless friends, and I try to remind them of that as often as I can.

  23. It's like in the Gilmore girls with the pro and con list. I don't think having children can be intellectually analyzed or decided. I mean, I bet no one would have children if they only saw it from the ups and downs point of view. There have been loads of researches going around saying that couples without any kids are happier than those with kids. My friend added to that "I was happier in a way without them, but my life had less purpose". I guess that's the magical happines that can't be taken into account. And of course, not all people get that.

    I didn't use to want children, but I've changed my mind. After fighting with the mommy myth and the expectations for the women involved but not the men I still want children more than I want to keep on being free - as if I ever was.

  24. I just don't think this shit [points with both thumbs at self] is great enough that it needs to be passed on to the next generation.

  25. If only I'd had that discussion with myself about three years ago. Yes, it can be great, but I'd get way more from being an uncle than I do from being a dad. One of the major justifications was - "I don't feel ready ... but *nobody* feels ready, so maybe I am!"
    Big. Mistake.

  26. Ok, that may not have been clear, but I was referring the phenomenon of dads getting a lot of social credit for parenting and cut more slack.

    The example I was thinking of was he thought nothing of letting a 3 yr old push one of those grocery store kid-size mini-carts. (Whose bright idea were those??) No way would I deal with the aggravation of preventing her from careening around running into people, much less the looks and sighs. So either he doesn't get looks and sighs or he doesn't notice/ thinks nothing of it and that would still kinda be part and parcel of the same thing.

    So, I find being a mother in public very stressful (outside of child-oriented places) in a way that my husband does not seem to at all. Just one of those patriarchal associations/obligations.

    Parenting is worth it to me, sometimes more than others (oh, how I loved having a baby!). Some people really enjoy the routines of parenting, others of us are doing what we gotta do to get to the snuggling. Age 2 sucked, yet...language comes springing out of nowhere...the coolness cannot be expressed. I could never judge whether it would be worth it to someone else, and pressuring or shaming someone else about having a child is assholery. But having kids can't be reduced to a calculation - the monetary and physical costs can be high (very high for women) and the rewards are intangible. It's interesting that from a distance of years people always remember parenting as happier and more fun than if you ask when they're in the trenches (see book Stumbling on Happiness).

  27. My little one walked for the first time the moment I can find no cons.

  28. "Age 2 sucked, yet...language comes springing out of nowhere...the coolness cannot be expressed."

    This is a perfect example of how personal the whole kid discussion is. Personally, I'm not a big fan of babies. They're draining and exhausting and don't really give anything in return. Once babies at least reach the smiling/giggling stage they start to get a little fun (IMO). My youngest is just a little under 2 and she is just about the funnest thing ever (yeah, I said "Funnest". And?). She's cute and funny, and silly, and even when she's being rotten, she's just too damn adorable to be angry with.

    I know women are supposed to have this "AWW, I want one" thing with babies but I was personally never a big fan. I mean, I never ate any of my own but I didn't get pregnant because I wanted a baby. I don't see friend's babies and think "Awww, I want another one". Once they hit about a year old is when I really start to like them. Before

  29. * Badly cuts into play time.

    I'm too selfish too. I think there's a whole generation of us out there, this is not something that was as prevalent in my parents' day.

    I don't have kids, but my wife has two who go visit their father every second weekend. Means we can host every second weekend. Our friends with kids have to make all kinds of plans if they want to host.

    Vanilla people can send the kids to their room(s) and talk adult talk, if the kid interrupts you handle it. Bit difficult if you're tied up under five people (think little kid with skateboard in _The Incredibles_ :-)

    Some people want kids badly enough to change their lives. Others want their lives. You... have time. Lots of it.

  30. If I ever have kids you can be their aunt Pervocracy.

  31. Haha this is very similar to a list my boyfriend and I made about whether or when we want kids (only it was verbal, not written), and we keep agreeing that our selfishness is really the bottom line. And yet then I go watch a documentary about home/birth center births and hospital births, as if it means anything to my life right now.

    My sister is 19 and had her son just after she turned 18. She had a HORRIBLE hospital stay. They screwed up her epidural TWICE (the first time they missed and just shot it into her back, and the second time they didn't give her enough and later told her she basically did it naturally) and she got a 3rd degree tear, and my nephew was over 9 pounds.

    While I definitely see June Clever's point that "if you think it's going to be horrible, it will be," my sister did not think it was going to be horrible. At first. She had been present at her best friend's delivery the previous year, and the girl was so doped up and she felt nothing. Every time she'd start to feel a little pain they shot her up more. She needed one tiny stitch, and said giving birth was a piece of cake, and since my sister was there the entire time watching, she expected hers to go the same way. After the hospital people kept messing up on her stuff, I think that's when she started getting scared and was unsure how competent they were. It didn't help that HER doctor was out of town and therefore she had a strange doctor delivering. She talks about it even now as trying to shit out a house, and thinks any woman who gives birth naturally is a "masochistic idiot" (for the record, I disagree).

    Anyway, upon taking others' comments into consideration, I do see how in order to reconcile giving up your freedom in order to fulfill your evolutionary duties that you have to accept that it can't be intellectually talked out, and that helps :)

  32. My moderately-famous father has a line he uses sometimes in his talks about societal development. He says "If you live in a city, you have to decide: would you rather have a child, or a million dollars?"

    There's always two laughs when he does that. First a polite giggle like oh-what-a-droll-metaphor, then a beat, then a deeper, more nervous laugh as the audience realizes that yeah, that's a pretty good estimate.

  33. June Clever - agree(1000) You said everything I was thinking, only better.

    Leah - I wasn't at your sister's birth but it sounds like part of the problem was the location. Do you remember Holly's post a while ago about feeling like a "cogstacle"? The reason most hospital births turn out badly is the whole cogstacle thing. The birth process + non-negotiable hospital routines = unnecessary physical and psychological pain.

    Also, from what I read in your post, I think it's inaccurate to say that your sister didn't think birth would be horrible. She did think it would be horrible if she wasn't doped to the gills. If you have a lot of fear and tension in your body, birth is horribly, unbearably painful. If you have confidence in your body's ability to give birth; if you can relax and give in to the process, then it's not so bad.

    That's why the majority of births should not occur in hospitals. Patients in hospitals expect that they will come in, the doctors will do something to them, then they will go home and feel all better. With birth (unless you're having a c-section) the doctor can't do it for you. It's not an illness the doctor can cure, it's something you have to do yourself.

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  35. If nothing else, I might stop being a judgmental asshole (by a little bit, anyway)

    I'd just like to make it clear that this man does not speak for me; I have no such plans. I might actually get worse.

    I guess I'm swimming against the stream, but I really enjoy my kids. Admittedly, I'm not really enjoying the current moping-thug-wannabe-emo-princess phase the twins are going through, but they're teenagers. I just keep telling them how smart I'm going to seem in a few years. But the little one . . . I couldn't get enough when he was a baby, and then he started walking and babbling and learning, and as he approached two it was like someone flipped a switch and the accelerated learner kicked in. Suddenly he was a whole new person every morning, and as he closes in on four years old he's still like that. He just busts out a new ability every so often, and some of them are logical progressions, but some of them appear as if by magic. Today I got rid of his child seats and put a booster seat in my car. He wore a seat belt.

    That's the kind of thing people were talking about above, I know--the kind of milestone that other people don't care about. But I'm not other people. I'm his father. He's my son. I love it.

  36. Holly: Birth process. It's like double fisting, after 9 months of drugs to make it go better, from the inside out. Right? ;)

    Ha ha. I very nearly posted something about this on the fisting thread. When I was having my second, I was very aware of the sensation of her moving through me. I could distinctly feel her rotating and was just very intensely aware of my body. It was really cool! I've never wanted to try fisting, but the way Holly described it made me think it could be a way to get a similar sensation, but in a calmer, more controlled way, without the tremendous urge to get it out nearly overwhelming the ability to just feel the sensation.

    Anyway, I've had two unmedicated births (first wasn't really "natural" cause I was induced and shot full of pitocin), had an episiotomy with the first and a pretty good tear with the second. And ... they weren't horrible. There's pain, for sure, intense at times, but more than anything it just feels like a ton of hard work. Like running a marathon or something.

    But here, of all places, I shouldn't have to explain that just because something hurts doesn't mean it's not worth doing - or even rewarding in its own right.

    Not that that's a reason to have kids. Just saying is all.

  37. Can't make cheese out of human breastmilk, it doesn't have the right... *waves hands* stuff. It won't curdle I think.

    Your list is 100% correct, but you missed sleep deprivation. :) I came down on the breed side, but my partner claims its just to continue my genealogy project.

  38. Vicky - That's likely true. She IS a pain baby. Maybe it's not so much that she thought it would be horrible, but that she's SO AFRAID of pain that she tensed. As one who has yet to birth a child, I can only speculate, but that seems pretty true. That being said, I've basically decided that if I do have a child, I am NOT giving a hospital birth unless something goes wrong. Noooo way. The idea of being a cogstacle was precisely why I stopped going to school for Nursing after I became a CNA. I went for Human Services instead.

  39. I found you through a web search that had very little to do with the topic of this blog. :) However I'm a poly/pervy mom. :)

    Even if you go into labor with a completely open mind. Even if you give birth at home. Even if you have a habit of ridiculously extreme bdsm scenes... birth can be horrible. I was in labor for nine days (with my second child) and then hemorrhaged and nearly died. I'm really tired of the natural birth police saying that everything will be fine if you just 'do all the right things'. Not that anyone on this thread knows me or cares about my opinion.

  40. So, I know this is an old post, but as a poly/queer lady who is expecting a baby in just over a month, I've thought about many of the same issues you have. Whether you ever opt to have kids or not, I wanted to let you know that the "Difficult to explain poly/BDSM to six-year-old. Impossible to explain to thirteen-year-old" statement isn't so insurmountable. The thing is, you don't explain it to them at six or even at thirteen. You have the parts of it that they can understand be out in the open from the very beginning "some kids have just a mommy and a daddy, but you've got a mommy and a daddy and a Bee and Bee lives right here in this house and all three of us love you very much." The other parts come as is natural and healthy, in bits and pieces. Kid finds your flogger at age 11? Not as big a deal if you've already explained to him that everyone has different personal boundaries for touching and nobody gets to touch him in a way he doesn't like, whether it be stroking his hair or hitting him in the face. And he doesn't get to impose his boundaries on others, so if he likes to wrestle with Timmy and they both think it's fine, it doesn't mean that there's something wrong with Bobby for not wanting to wrestle or finding it unpleasant. Kids are remarkably smart and understanding and resourceful and compassionate. I have friends who have been raised in family structures that are very unconventional for much of the country (and even my own liberal corner of it), and they're fine. They're not any more or less happy with their lives, and they understand that their parents are only ever going to be human and imperfect (whatever that is) and that we're all just chugging along doing our best.

  41. This is pretty much exactly the same thought process I've been through many times.

    The revelation that (cisgender) men *don't* go through this, that in their minds, the equation is usually not, "get kids but lose self," but rather, "get kids, make occasional minor sacrifices, but basically remain the same person," pissed me off.

    I didn't figure that out about the world until I was about 25; I always just figured I was miswired or some kind of subtly bad person for not wanting to give up my life for kids. That half the population doesn't even worry about this never occurred to me.

    I heard rumors about double standards, but I always brushed them off--surely no one would actually be *that* selfish as to want to keep a life while raising kids, went my thinking. Surely everyone hates being a parent as much as my mom does, and they only have kids because...uh...something about passing on genes? Or maybe because of self-hatred that makes 18+ years of what is clearly exquisite torture (again, the world according to my mom) exactly what you deserve?

    I have a friend who says "normal" is nothing but a setting on a dryer, but for me, I still need this label just to identify the ways in which my small slice of the world growing up was very, very abnormal. Without "normal," I can't hold in my mind the fact that to deliberately go into raising children with the idea that you will loathe every minute of it is *ab*normal.