How does having children change your outlook?

A new study finds that the percentage of women who never have children has doubled since the 1970s. Today’s Question: How does having children change your outlook?

  • Gerald Myking

    A niece once asked me, “Uncle Gerald you are the bravest person I know, is there anything that scares you?” I laughed and said a lot of things but the one thing that has scared me the most is having children.

  • Laurie

    First thought is that I am definitely less selfish/self-absorbed. The kids needs/wants always come first, which I am happy to do. Also, I tend to think longer term and ponder more the decisions I make and also policies of the state/country. I want my children and their children to be able to live happy, healthy lives.

    I don’t know any parent who wouldn’t do anything to help their children succeed and be happy. That doesn’t include doing everything for them, it means teaching them to do for themselves. I think there’s a little too much hovering from some parents these days.

  • Gary F

    Of course. Every little or large decision you make now has more consequences. You become more selfless, you aren’t #1 anymore.

    It is payback though. Every stupid thing you did as a child, now you know why your mom and dad were worried.

  • It’s made me see my own parents in a new light. I’m able to take lessons of what to do and not to do in an entirely different way now that I’m responsible for my own child.

  • Khatti

    One of the decisions I made early in my life was to not have children. After a decade of financial disasters, that has impressed me as one of the most sensible decisions I ever made. Thank God I didn’t have children to worry about during the first decade of the century!

    The flip side of this situation is that I’ve never considered myself a good mating prospect. I tend to think that a woman’s concern is with the creation and raising of children; men are a means-to-an-end in this equation. This is a sexist attitude I suppose–but it appears to accurately describe the situation.

    One thing I think does need to be said: because one does not have children themselves doesn’t mean that one can ignore the needs of children. If I live to be old enough, I will eventually reach the point where everything that enters my body will be coming through a tube, and everything that leaves my body will be leaving through a tube (the alternative is that I will be dead): I will need my nurses to know how to take care of those tubes. Consequently, the education and welfare of children is still a concern to me.

    One social institution that I think deserves consideration in the future, regarding the raising and care of children, is polyamory. The science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein wrote several books in which some form of group marriage existed, mainly to make childrearing easier. The care and welfare of children is the rational behind Mormon polygamy. If one cannot depend on the society as a whole to take care of children–and government policy for the last thirty years should make it apparent that one cannot–a prospective parent needs to create smaller social structures to see to the care of their children.

  • wjcstp

    I think having children makes everyone less selfish, and redefine their priorities. It’s a different world when seen through a child’s eyes. It also made me more engaged in the world. It never felt before like politics were important or that my voice mattered, but now i want to make my voice matter, so things are better for (all) the kids.

  • I had two children when I was young. They are now in their 40s and are well adjusted, productive and successful.

    In my opinion, my having children was the most arrogant thing I could have done. It is one of my life’s regret. Who was I to think that I could have, should have bring people into this world, provide for them and inspire them? Parenting is a life long responsibility and I was / am out of my depth.

    I am a professional person and am used to “big” jobs with responsibilities to motivate and incent others. However parenting is a very different role with a much more profound effect. The mistakes I’ve made in parenting will haunt my children and if they ever have children the effect will haunt their children as well.

    If you have to decide whether to have children or not, don’t.

  • You stop living selfishly.

  • Jennifer

    My perspective on time has changed drastically. The time I have with my children I value, because I can see even though they are quite young, that it is fleeting. Also, I value the time I have alone as well, because it is in such short supply.

    And I suppose, in some other way, I understand time in a larger sense. Seeing in my child’s faces generations of my family and my own self. And as I watch myself grow into my mother, my grandmother I see it as well.

  • james

    I’m not a parent, and don’t think I’d be a good one, but I do think that having children is the hardest job anyone could ever have. When I was younger I felt that I’d missed out on some things in my childhood, and was a bit resentful of my parents as a result, but over time I’ve come to realize that they did the best they could, and that I wouldn’t trade my childhood for any other.

    While I do think that having kids changes one’s priorities, the idea that childless adults are selfish is a bit hard to believe. I’ve known some incredibly selfish parents, and I’ve seen childless people devote tremendous energy and time to worthy causes for the good of others.

  • Philip

    Being a parent tells me that I must have been quite the knucklehead as a kid.

  • Caroline

    I feel being childfree is a very great gift to the end of suffering. In the future I believe iit will be socially acceptable to remain childless. The amount of resources used in a single lifetime is astronomical compared to all other nations. Not having children is a gift to those who decide to and both people with and without children should feel free to live life as they choose free of judgment. That is what makes America great; the freedom of choice is available to women for the first time in history. It is a blessing beyond measure to be free to chose, not everyone is so lucky.

  • Krista

    My own mother is fabulous at mothering and everything else she does. My favorite quote of hers is “Motherhood is not for wimps!” Motherhood has made me braver, stronger, and more resourceful because I have to be that way for my children. In the end, motherhood has taught me that “love” is the answer.

  • James

    I don’t ride my motorcycle as fast:-)


  • Lance

    How does it NOT change your outlook? Everything you do for at least the first 18 years revolves around them. Change their diapers – get them to school – teach them to ride a bike – help them with their homework – take them to church – teach them to drive a car – help them choose a college. In teaching them how to do things, you learn more about the thing you’re teaching them and about yourself. I certainly wasn’t well prepared to know what to do in all these situations that arise. Thank God for my wife. I can’t imagine trying to raise kids alone, whether you’re a man or a woman.

    Rose, forgive yourself. Another thing having kids has taught me is that I am not the only factor in how they turn out. We have two kids and they were raised in the same house with the same rules. They have totally opposite views of almost everything. I can’t take full credit for their successes or their failures, although I’m certainly responsible for some of each. Many days I feel unqualified for the position of parent, but just keep doing my best, hoping it is enough.

  • Krysten

    I have struggled with the decision not to have children, because I wanted to have children of my own, but for a large and complicated number of reasons it has never felt like the right thing to do or the right time. (I’m also a pretty committed environmentalist). One thing I have noticed is that not all of the people who have children have been as thoroughly conscientious about bringing those children into the world as have I…and at times I confess to having been resentful about that (and envious). Another thing I think I have observed is that having children tends to change the focus of their lives — in that prior to children, it is possible to strive for treating the whole world with equal compassion and to be very economically unselfish and living in the moment. However, after people have children, it seems like they (albeit completely understandably) shift their focus towards trying to accumulate material security on behalf of their children’s future…whose future they obviously & understandably elevate to a higher priority than “other people’s children”. Unfortunately, I think this natural tendency to want to provide a secure financial future for one’s children helps drive some of this country’s excessive materialism and overconsumption. Do any of you who do have children agree with this?

  • Gerald Myking

    Kyrsten: You are what you are before and after children with the exception of personal growth. I have seen where having children makes some people more responsible but I wonder if that’s just an illusion because they may have matured any way with or with out children. It is true the majority of people do not give any conscientious thought to having children thus causing most of our social problems. We taught our children that having children is an enormous resposibility which is probably why none of them have children, with our youngest being age 28. My daughter is an excellent Mother even though she is not married nor has any children. There’s plenty of children but a shortage of good parents.

  • Tom

    Even the question is wrong. What having children does to your life is nothing to what it does to theirs. Fundamentally, life is not worth living for most people. Birth is a death sentence. Then there are health problems, broken relationships, job layoffs, multiple personal failures and ongoing guilt to look forward to throughout life. Children are cute and many times they are very nice people to know and we hope for the best for them, but usually they end up with more suffering. People always think about themselves when they consider having children. “I/we want children.” I seldom hear anyone speculating about what kind of a life their children will have if they are brought into the world. I wish my own parents had taken up painting or pottery or bowling instead.