What it means to have children?

Updated: 3 July 2015

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Dad's opinion

Before you have your own children you have no clue what it means to be a mother or a father - believe me! Most of what you see on TV, or read in books, is just trash produced to promote a current social ideology or family image.

Advice for women: Before you make your choice about children you should soberly consider the following facts:

Dependence. Being pregnant, giving birth, breastfeeding your baby and eventually taking care of a growing family with two or three children is not something you can easily do on the side. Only a very small minority of (very wealthy or otherwise privileged) women have the resources and stamina to handle the shared burden of career and family. If you have children you will most likely be deeply dependent on your partner, on your parents or on your mother-in-law - at least for the time when your children are small. Make sure, you find a husband who is really willing and able to help you and, if necessary, provide for you and your children. Don't be stupid enough to believe you can be a mother on your own! You will work your butt off in a 9 to 5 job to pay for day care and living and you will hardly have time to enjoy your baby. Single mothers are the most likely group in any society to fall into poverty. Even if you are a high-flying career woman with an excellent income - as soon as you are pregnant your life will change! Your workload and stress-level will double, because motherhood is just hard to combine with the demands of a professional career. It only works, if you have the full support of your partner. Make also sure that your own parents are willing to give a helping hand. If they prefer to spend their "golden years" on cruse ships or golf courses and actually give a damn about their grand children, it will be rather hard for you. And don't be so dumb to accept a marriage contract that gives you the burdens and your husband the freedom (and the money)! If you plan to have a family unambiguous financial arrangements of burden (and property) sharing with your partner are essential. Marriage laws in most "Western" countries are relatively fair on mothers; but make double sure that your partner doesn't have an option to leave you with a bunch of kids and a pile of dept. Women, who want to have kids, should be sure of their partner and aware of his economic resources.

Sharing responsibility for children. Don't believe the nonsense that a man will equally share the burdens (and joy) of raising your children. In the vast majority of cases he never will! He is not genetically programmed for it! We are currently flooded with all kinds of bullshit gender ideology by the media, by politicians and quite a few social scientists. They want to make us believe that men and women are equally suitable for taking care of small children. But this is nonsense! For millions of years men and women have evolved with specialized gender roles, which have shaped our bodies, brains, social skills and emotions. On average, women are just more capable than men of providing physical, social and emotional care to small children.
Please note that I have emphasized "on average". Of course, there are men who have great parenting skills, empathy and love for small children; and there are, of course, women who are exceptionally bad mothers, cold-hearted, sadistic, or emotionally abusing with their children. All biological, social and emotional characteristics of people are normally distributed - with "tails" of extremes on both ends. But the peaks of the distributions are important - and these are clearly different for men and women.
I have also emphasized that men would not share responsibility "equally". I am not arguing that men should just go to work and women should stay in the kitchen. Women certainly may want to have a career away from the home. Men must certainly take on some responsibility for their children - and when they are good fathers and husbands, they will enjoy helping you with the kids and the household. But don't expect too much! In the vast majority of cases a man will not give up his career or postpone his education to take care of children. With a few rare exceptions "house-men" are a social fantasy of cultural engineers. If you want to combine a professional career with motherhood you better have sufficient resources to help you with this challenge. You also need incredible discipline, stamina and organizational talent. 
 

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Enjoying the wonder of children! I have started by discussing two hard facts of motherhood (and indirectly, fatherhood). But there are not only challenges of having children, but also incredible joy. Many women would say that nothing in life had touched them more deeply than the intimate relationship with their (unborn) child. And many guys would admit that when their partner gave birth to their first child they finally felt to be a real man. Becoming a mother and father is not just a biological process - it is a deeply emotional experience that can change a person's attitude towards life. Pop culture has trivialized parenthood as a sequence of sex encounters, nuisances, educational challenges and inconveniences. But in reality, parenthood is a fundamental step of maturation and a irreversible transition into a new phase of one's life.

Taking part in the circle of life! Having children is not just an individual biological, social and psychological experience between a man and a woman. By becoming a mother and a father women and men also participate in the cycles of human evolution. They contribute to the survival and growth of their families, tribes, race, ethnic group and - ultimately - the human species. In Asia, children are often desired for the survival of a family tree; some religious groups perceive children as a gift of god; and radical fundamentalists may want to have many children as future fighters for their cause. Whatever the motives may be - having children is also something that connects the parents to a larger cause. For most people children are an essential part of life who give meaning and purpose to their existence.
 
 

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Further reading

Mona Eltahawy: Why do they hate us? The real war on women is in the Middle East. Foreign Policy, April 23, 2012

 

Copyright 2014, 2015 by Gerhard K. Heilig. All rights reserved.

Updated: 3 February 2015