In this week’s post I interview my friend since first grade about her desire to have children.
My friend Jill and I are a female odd couple: she is a suburban-living Republican* who devotes the time she’s not at work to carting her boys to every sport ever invented, with a special focus on sports that require you to wake up before sunrise and stand in the cold.
I am a Democrat who leans socialist and lives in the woods in a town without a single stop light or gas station. I don’t watch sports on TV or in stadiums, on fields, or at rinks.
Jill is great with numbers and budgeting; I prefer words and glaze over whenever anyone talks about money.
She is blonde; I am brunette.
She always wanted kids; I never really did.
We’ve been friends since first grade and our friendship was cemented when her family moved across the street from mine when we were 8 years old, and since we want to stay friends, we’ve never sat down to better understand each other’s political beliefs, but we recently started talking about our different stances toward procreating. She has been following this website with great wonder because she is drawn in by the perspectives of women who don’t want kids or who are uncertain because these perspectives are so foreign to her.
In talking with her and her husband recently about her certainty, I heard a story I’d never heard before: after she got engaged, but before she got married she tried to convince her fiance to get pregnant immediately and not wait until after they got married. He refused; their honeymoon plans involved a cruise to Alaska and he didn’t want to be honeymooning with a woman miserable with morning sickness.
Jill got married at 30 so she had plenty of time to get pregnant. So, why was she in such a rush? I sat down with Jill this week in her home and asked her a few questions to get to the bottom of her maternal drive:
CS: When did you know you wanted kids?
Jill: I don’t remember a moment; I’ve just always wanted kids. I knew I wanted a lot of kids but I only had two. The turning point for me was when Brett, my cousin, was born; he is seventeen now. I went up to visit in New Hampshire when he was born. I stopped going out and I started driving the two hours there for the weekend. Part of it was that my aunt wanted help, but I started choosing to go there. I was 25 or 26 at the time, when I started going there once or twice a month as opposed to going out.
As soon as Brett came, I knew wanted that.
CS: Why do you think it is that you always wanted kids?
Jill: I have a brother who is ten years younger than I am so essentially I was an only child. I would go to my grandmother’s and all my cousins and aunts and uncles lived so close together, and I would go there and I was part of something. There was always something going on. There was always someone to talk to. And, we would just never sit around, but when I was home I was alone. I like being around people. Even now I don’t like to be alone.
CS: What about the fact that your brother IS so much younger than you, and it was almost like having kids? Or at least you got to see what having kids was like?
Jill: I didn’t raise him but I understood that it was a lot of work. I moved home at 23 for a year; he was thirteen, and it was his freshman year of high school and I liked it. I took him to practice every day. I took him to school. I liked being part of his life.
CS: So you have maternal instinct?
Jill: I guess. It doesn’t mean I’m doing it well. I just means I wanted to do it.
CS: So you never doubted your certainty?
Jill: Never. I always thought I would have five kids.
CS: What prevented you from having five?
Jill: Money. I think if money wasn’t an issue, if kids were free, I could’ve talked my husband into more.
CS: Do you think you would’ve been happy with five children?
Jill: I do.
CS: I don’t. Not you. ME. ME. You’ve known me for 36 years, why do you think I was so wishy washy about having kids?
Jill: You know what you want, and you do it and with kids you get tied down and you can’t go for what you want. Say you want a degree. If you had kids fifteen years ago, it would’ve been a lot harder to get a degree.
Everything is harder once you have kids. Like travel. And, I think you have so many more things you want. I’ve always wanted to travel but not as much as I wanted kids. I knew I’d be giving that up and I don’t think you wanted to give up the travel.
CS: I don’t even think I got how much giving up there is. Do you think we grew apart when you had kids?
Jill: I don’t think so. Obviously we didn’t talk as much, but we haven’t lived near each other since we were in sixth grade. We can go a long time without talking and then it’s just normal.
CS: I remember being disappointed and sad that I’d never see you and then I would see you Christmas Eve, and you would have to leave early because you had kids. But now I understand it.
Jill: But we’ve definitely kept in touch. I have other friends that I’ve lost touch with and they HAVE kids. We got wrapped up in our own kids.
CS: Do you feel like it’s harder to stay friends with your friends who don’t have kids?
Jill: I do.
CS: We talk about different things now that we both have kids, don’t we?
Jill: It’s a common bond. You get it more. Until you live it, you don’t get it.
CS: Maybe people wouldn’t have kids if you did get it. You used to tell me that I shouldn’t have kids, why?
Jill: I think I worried motherhood would be too boring for you and you’d regret it. Having kids would hold you back from everything you knew you wanted and had worked so hard for. I was also afraid you’d change and stories about trips to Nicaragua and Thailand would turn into stories about potty training and milestones. Hanging out with you was always an adventure and if you had kids I would lose that adventure. We’ve both changed and visiting you is different than pre-Quinn but it’s an adventure for everyone. We’ve taken the boys to Disney and on a Caribbean cruise but when asked they say their favorite vacation was swimming and hiking in Becket. Our adventures are now G rated but sharing them with the all of our boys is just as much fun.
CS: It’s true. I love how wonderful your boys are to Quinn: they play with him even though he can’t keep up [he’s 4 years younger than Jill’s youngest], they (and you) make him gifts, and they look out for him. He loves them so much that he talks about them even when he hasn’t seen them for months, and this makes my heart swell.
*In response to me calling her a Republican, Jill wrote me a text that read: “For the record I am a registered independent and have voted both ways. And you think you are the open minded one. 🙂 But leave Republican, it’s better for the story and I lean that way more as I get older.”
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