What about children?

My name is Ashley and I blog at Writing To Reach You.  When I asked for opportunities to guest blog, Kaci offered me some space here and challenged me to answer the question, “What are your thoughts on having children?” This is not a topic I have found myself anywhere near in four years of blogging, so it certainly is a challenge.

I am 28 and single and I’m pretty sure I want to have kids someday, which is exactly the same way that I felt when I was 18 and single.  My attitude to children and to marriage is not at all casual, and when I say “pretty sure” and “someday,” I don’t mean that casually either.  I would without a doubt be disappointed to never get married and to never have kids.  But I’ve also never been in a hurry.  At least in part because I have so many doubts and fears about both.

My attitude to marriage and to children is largely shaped by the fact that my parents are divorced.  They divorced when I was 5, which means I have almost no memories of my family being together, and a whole lot of memories of everything that came after.  The way I feel about the divorce has changed several times over the course of my life.  When I was very young, I imagined how easy life would be if my parents were just together. I didn’t have any friends who had divorced parents and the topic felt so highly charged at home that I never really got to talk about it.  Whenever I tried, it always seemed to end in a big teary mess, so I finally just stopped.

By the time I was a teenager, my divorced parents were on such good terms that I began to think that divorce was not such a big deal.  All of that was in the past.  My parents were cool now.  They were friends.  Divorce was only difficult for a while and then you came out on the other side.  And that’s how I felt about it for a very long time.  Until I moved away for grad school, and felt while I was home for Christmas that first year that I was still somehow choosing between parents just in deciding who to stay with.

I was 23 and living a thousand miles away from home when I suddenly became resentful again toward my parents for divorcing.  What I really resented is that divorce is not a thing you ever get over; instead, it’s this thing that has an effect on your whole life.  I hadn’t learned to accept that yet.  In the years that have followed, I’ve developed a much more adult attitude toward the divorce, which means that I have begun to think of those two people who divorced as being not all that different from me.

I have tremendous respect for my parents.  They are the best people I know, and I’ve written a lot about that.  When I get my heart broken, I imagine the strength my mom must have had to deal with that times a million and when she also had three kids to raise.  And when I make a big mistake, I think of how hard it must have been for my dad to see his own mistakes and not let that keep him from doing his best to make things right again.  But it kills me to think of ever putting children through a divorce.  It’s just too much pain when you’re too young to understand it, and even under the best circumstances, you’re still growing up in a house without one of your parents.

I know that it’s complicated.  I still think divorce is a better option than raising your kids in a hostile environment.  Sometimes it’s the only option.  And I know that you can only ever be so sure about another person or your relationship or what the future may bring.  I know that I turned out fine, and kids turn out even better than me under far more difficult circumstances. I don’t expect perfection out of anyone, including myself.  But these are the things I think about when it comes to having children.

Now that I’m older and I have friends who also have divorced parents, I’ve had more opportunities to discuss these things, and even though we were all affected differently by divorce, a lot of us have the same fears about marriage and children.  We want so much not to put our children through the same things that we went through.

I’d like to say that my fear of marriage and children is healthy, but I’m not always sure that it is.  Does fear really keep you from repeating mistakes?  No, I don’t think it does.  And I know that I will make mistakes with my children, even if they are different from the mistakes that my parents made.  But, I hope that whatever happens, I get to have the same kind of relationship with my children that my parents have with me.  Because, unlike a lot of my friends, I get to talk to my parents like they are real people.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it was revealed to me very early in life that my parents were capable of making mistakes, which has made it easier for me to admit my mistakes to them, even though I still respect them more than anyone else and care a great deal what they think of me.  I see myself in them, and as much as I hope to avoid some of the mistakes they made, I will also feel lucky if I ever end up half as honest and generous as my parents.  So, yes.  Pretty sure. Someday.

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