You know you’re an adult when your friends start acting like stereotypes. A friend confides that she’s only getting married because she’s afraid her sub-optimal fiancé is her last chance. Or your married pal move away from your hip, fun city to live in the suburbs, where they can have a yard and a laundry room. Or your college roommate, who always swore she’d be a relaxed, stress-free mom, starts obsessing about tutoring her two-year-old for the SATs. Welcome to adulthood, which is more complicated, painful, and confusing than you thought it would be.
Nowhere is the complexity of adulthood more pronounced than in the decision to have a baby, where formerly sane, smart women start saying things that sound like lines from a Lifetime original movie. Whether or not to be parents is a decision that people make in different ways and for different reasons, but let’s be honest—for every good reason to have a baby, there are some spectacularly bad reasons for doing it.
1. “It’s Time”
Perhaps your friends are starting to have kids, or you just got married and you’re beginning to wonder what’s next. If you’re surrounded by people more or less like you who are happily breeding, you may understandably start to suspect that it’s what you should be doing, too, but—this should go without saying—there is no right time to have a baby. Look around: from fourteen-year-olds on MTV to post-menopausal miracle moms, obviously there’s a pretty wide range of what people find acceptable in terms of the right time to reproduce. It’s time to start a 401(k). It’s time to start wearing sunscreen. There is no such universal “time” to start having babies.
2. “I Love Babies”
I hate to break it to you, but babies do not stay babies forever. They’re only babies for a hot, messy, screaming minute; eventually they become toddlers, and before you know it, they’re teenagers. No one has children because they love teenagers. If you have children because you love babies, you stand a very real chance of turning into Octomom.
3. “It’s What People Do”
Generations of feminists fought for today’s women to have the right to control their reproductive destinies. Your life isn’t scripted, and there’s no need to have a family just because of some vague, undefined feeling that you need to check this milestone off a list. Popping out 2.5 kids and living in a four-bedroom house with a dog isn’t a foregone conclusion anymore, and plenty of people are perfectly happy without them.
4. “I’m Lonely” or “I’m Bored”
It’s a sad truth that not all marriages are happy ones. Some of those beaming wedding day couples soon turn into a real-life Revolutionary Road. But if you’re not getting any attention from your partner or you’re unsatisfied with life, bringing a child into the mix isn’t going to help. You can’t have a baby so that “someone will love you.” It’s not a child’s job to provide love and fulfillment to the parent; it’s the other way around. What you really need is a therapist.
5. “My Parents Want Grandchildren”
Your parents are allowed to demand that you do your best in school, that you obey the law, and that you respect their rules while you live in their house. They are not allowed to demand that you bear children solely for their own benefit.
6. “A Baby Will Fix Our Relationship”
There’s a reason that studies consistently show that parents are unhappier, as a whole, than childless married couples. Why? Being a parent is really hard work, and it’s brutal on a relationship. Whatever fissures and emotional breaking points exist in your relationship now, a baby will amplify them by a thousand. A baby won’t make a husband grow up and stop playing video games all weekend. A baby won’t make a wife suddenly learn how not too overdraw the checking account. A baby won’t bring you closer together or solidify your bond or prevent your partner from leaving. A baby will be something you both fixate on for a while, but eventually will become just another thing to fight over.
In a perfect world, every child would be a wanted child born into a stable, loving, financially comfortable family, but of course the world isn’t perfect. And if everyone waited until they were emotionally, physically, and financially ready for kids, the world would be a much-less-crowded place. When it comes down to it, even if you’re a Teen Mom who’s having a baby because you desperately want somebody to love you, the only thing that matters is that you love your baby and try your best to do the right thing. And read to it … I hear that’s really important.