One Thing That Has Surprised Me About Parenting

One Thing That Has Surprised Me About Parenting

So, something weird is happening…

As I’ve mentioned, Alex and I have agreed that we are done having children. Sometimes it seems like we can barely handle the two we have! For many reasons, I’m confident that this is the right decision for our family.

But I’m still sad. What gives? Is that normal?

The sadness of being done having babies hits me at random times: When the boys play by themselves, so independently. When they’re fast asleep, all sweet and sweaty. When I imagine them going to college. Our friends brought over their new baby last night, and watching him sack out while drinking milk made me crave a similar weight in my arms.

I truly believe that two is our number, and our family is complete. The children we have are the great joys of my life; my heart swells whenever they walk into the room, and I find them utterly hilarious and beautiful. So, who wouldn’t want to extend that feeling? I’ll get that pang, and will joke to Alex, “Let’s just have a quick one, just a little one really fast.” Will that broodiness ever go away? A blogger named Sarah called it “The Ache,” and it feels just like that.

The other day, I stumbled upon this quote from a mother I know:

    There is a mother I watch who has a child on her lap and she holds the child’s long hair in her hand. It fills her fist, a limp rope. The mother is absentminded, exposing the child’s neck is an unconscious instinct. Cool the child: lift the hair. Like other parent-child touching, this gesture is so soft and common it is maybe unfelt, like ones own sweater against ones own skin. But watching her I wonder how long it has been since I have felt that exactly: the weight of someone else’s hair in my hand. A long time. I would like to feel it now. Today I felt the weight of a handful of cilantro. I wonder if it’s similar.

That moved me so much. This parenting thing can really throw you for a loop sometimes.

Do you hope to have a certain number of kids? When it comes to being done, can you ever make an unambivalent decision? If you aren’t having more kids, do you ever feel The Ache? Sending love to all those who are done having babies — and also all those who are trying to have one, as well, especially if it has been hard.

P.S. Five women on deciding NOT to have children, and how did you know you were ready to have a baby?

(Photo by Meg at Old Farmhouse.)

  1. Joanne, I was trying to find the very first blog of yours that I read years ago to share the following comment (I recently found out it’s good to leave comments and that I should’ve been doing it all along), this post comes close to how I felt when I first read…I just remember reading this and the 1st one and thinking -this is the 1st time that I am reading something on the internet that comes across as genuine and real.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Oh my gosh, Tayo, that means so much to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to write. <3

  2. Parenting is a pleasant and painful experience at the same time. But for some people, it is less painful than others. Especially raising multiple little kids at a time is most challenging……in fact all these pain and hardwork increase bonds with your kids and parents love to remember what they have done for their little ones.

  3. Meg Deutmeyer says...

    My husband and I have a beautiful five-month old son. Both of us are forty, and we feel so blessed to have found each other and to have a son at this point in our lives. I am surprised every day by how much I love being a mother. Being with my son is so fulfilling, and my husband and I agree we’ve never been happier. Yet the question of more children is hovering over us, and sometimes family members even ask the question. Thing is, I’m not feeling the Ache. I’m feeling afraid that the Ache will come, but it will be too late. Your post, and all your readers’ comments, have made the fear a little more bearable.

  4. Mina says...

    I loved reading all these wonderful comments. I am pregnant with my second one it wasn’t planned. I was in total shock, my beautiful dauther is only 21 months old and i love her very much. I was even considering abortion mainly because I feel insecure in the financial part. I haven’t worked for 2 years and I was just considering to start again. My husband is working and he really wants to have this baby, however his income is not sufficient. Reading your comments made me realize that there are much more complex problems that women face and they are still brave enough to have more kids…thanks to all of you…We are all blessed each and every one of us in a different way.

  5. Erica Boynton says...

    I waited until I was 33 to have my first son. By the time I was pregnant with my second, he was diagnosed as autistic and the experience has changed a lot in my life and my marriage. Now that my second son is two, I am a much more confident, calm mother and sometimes think that, autism or not, we could try for a third. I feel lucky that these beautiful, brilliant boys “chose” us and am so thankful for everything they bring to our lives, but having another would be too hard on them.

  6. What a beautiful post. I have a five year old boy and always wanted another child but unfortunately the second time around was not going to be easy like my first conception. Now a after a miscarriage and failed IVF attempt im 45 and am trying to live with the “the ache”. In makes sense that it never goes away even if you have 2 or 3 . Thanks for sharing.

  7. Anna says...

    A wise friend of mine told me, “You never regret the child you have, only the child you don’t.” There is also a great book called “Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” by an economist named Bryan Caplan, which I found super interesting and kept quoting to my mother! On the other hand, my husband and I live away from our families (like whole continents away) so it’s just the two of us with the kids (4yo and 15mo). The good thing about this is that we have EXACTLY the life we want. The bad thing is we don’t have much of a support network, and three will mean we’re outnumbered. We also do lots of family travel and most airplanes will only have four in a row, max! Plus, like I always tell my daughter, I only have TWO hands. Three will change our life; we need a new house and car, for a start. So hard to give up what we have when we’re in such a good place financially – I had to give up opportunities for my little brother, and I don’t want that for my kids.

    So, I am 90% sure we’re done. The only way I’ll have a third one I think is if my husband gets posted overseas (he works for a big multinational) and I have to quit work to be an expat wife – that will give me time to spend with a third, without blowing all our cash on childcare. I work full-time at the moment and get massive mum guilt because my kids are in childcare five days. (The right decision for our family and my sanity but man, the guilt!) There is just no conceivable way for me to stretch myself further, but then again my son is still only a baby. Having said that, sometimes I definitely get the ache – just not as pronounced as when we didn’t have kids, and when we only had my daughter. Have lots of time to decide whether I can live with that residual ache and not regret it later – 3.5 years left on my IUD!

  8. Kim says...

    I had a different, but related issue. The ache I felt was not for myself, but for my daughter. I knew I only wanted one child, but I felt a nagging guilt that was most often brought on by others who said (quite insensitively and always unsolicited) that it would’t be fair for my daughter to be raised without siblings. So, for those first couple of years of my daughter’s life, every time I saw an infant, I felt a guilty ache. I’ve decided against having another child and it was the right decision. Actually, oftentimes find myself in situations when I say to myself, “I’m so glad I only have one.” Having one child is just right for my lifestyle and temperament. My husband and I have been able to tote our daughter around the world for adventures that would rival that of any relationship she’d have with a sibling. (Sibling relationships are not always guaranteed to be good, after all.) I no longer feel guilty.

    • Alina says...

      I am an only child and my husband is the oldest of three. I love hearing funny stories and seeing pictures from when they were growing up, but I am happy my parents decided to stop at one. Getting their full attention was the best.

  9. sam evans says...

    I’m a lucky father of two girls and two boys. The eldest is 17, the youngest is 4. A couple of years ago I had to have a testicle removed and my wife and I decided that I should have a vasectomy at the same time. (a two for one, if you will) from time to time since then, I dream my wife is pregnant when I wake up and see that she is most definitely not. I am filled with a deep sense of disappointment. It is silly really. But I just can’t help it.

    • Kristin says...

      Thanks for sharing!

  10. For those of us who have had children later in life (for whatever reason), the decision to stop having them comes up quickly. For me, it felt like I waited all my life to have my children. Five years later, the period I had waited for, for so long, is over. It’s hard to wrap my head around this. Happy to have such a supportive community.

  11. Casey says...

    We started trying to have our first baby 3 years ago. At first it was all I could think about, all I wanted and when I had my first miscarriage I think I was in shock. The second miscarriage floored me. I couldn’t get out of bed for days. I kept looking at the spare bedroom brokenhearted that yet again I wouldn’t be turning it into a baby’s room. After the third miscarriage I started wondering if I even still wanted to have a baby and I have felt that way ever since. It has been about 8 months now. I’m wondering if the feeling will ever change. I get angry with myself over giving up. Ambivalence just happens. I don’t think it is ever possible to make a decision and feel it 100%, not for me anyway and not when life and nature dictate the outcome without our input sometimes. I have been trying to give myself permission to just feel what I feel without expectation to feel something else. It is difficult.

    • Kristin says...

      Infertility is the loneliest road. The biggest Ache. Wishing you peace.