to breed or not to breed

To reproduce or not to reproduce, that is the question.  Many decide for and many decide against and many have the decision taken out of their hands entirely, one way or another, and somehow it manages to be difficult no matter which road you’re on.  Since bringing Baby Pickles into the world, a number of friends have asked me questions about what it’s really like living with a baby to help them with their own decisions.  In writing an email on the subject recently, it occured to me that many of the thoughts were ones I would like to share here.  So I’ve taken some of my emails on the subject and edited them for your eyes.  I would love to hear if any of you with kids experience any of this in the same way or what those thinking about having or not having them are taking into account.


Babies! Having kids is a totally insane/amazing mixture of the absolute best of times and the absolute worst of times. It’s absolutely awesome—and the good times make the bad times totally irrelevant and forgotten—but still. I don’t like to gloss over the fact that it’s not all rainbows and kittens and lollipops. That being said I think just about everybody can handle way more than they ever imagined, and that is another of the fantastic amazing fuck-yeah parts about having kids. You get to find out what a superhero you secretly were all along.

So. To have ’em or not to have ’em?  I know part of my own wanting kids is this sad twinge I get when I think about growing old without kids directly in my life.  On my dad’s side we have this awesome family group, not too big and not too small, and I really just love the whole family dynamic and family thing. Living so far away from them all, I figured that if I wanted a family thing in my life, I would have to make my own.  DIY!  Hahaha.

What I fucking love, and what takes up the majority of the baby time now is just how frickin fascinating this little person is. Yesterday I had one of those moments—and I have them quite often—when I look at her and just can’t believe that she could possibly be real.  And I said to her, “Hey look Pickle, you’re a little person! How did you do that?” Kids just fill your life with constant magic. I’m convinced that they are still capable of the magic that we all could do if civilization wasn’t filling us up with other thoughts and aspirations, with computer skills and insurance bills and retirement plans, and it is so wonderful and beautiful and fulfilling to be allowed to spend just about every minute of every day in the presence of that magic.  I feel like it brings some of my own magic back to me.

I would love to tell you its totally easy and all, and it has been mostly with Pickles, and it totally can be. But I don’t want to say that, not really, since everything will depend on who your baby is. Mine happens to be pretty low key, and she fits easily into our lives.  But I have friends with high-needs babies who are a lot different than Pickles, so I don’t want to be all like all babies are easy! Some babies are easy, and I think babies in general aren’t hard in the way that mainstream culture likes to act like they are—as if they ruin your life and trap you and make you boring or all the sitcom stereotypes.  Babies who are “hard” just tend to need a lot, and as the fulfiller of those needs, you need more too.  And then you discover that your well of patience actually goes way deeper than you ever imagined, or you hand your baby off to a partner or friend and are warmly, happily reminded of the beauty and neccessity of community.

The day to day taking care of a baby (though I can only speak up to six months) isn’t hard at all, just a new pattern to get used to.  Diaper changes, feedings, and always planning for your tiny and constant companion.  I personally felt really ready for kids in that I felt like my life had already come round to a place where the things I wanted to do were all things that were possible with a baby and the things that I didn’t want to do were the things that don’t fit so well with having a baby. But traveling and making art and music? Perfect kid stuff.  All the stuff that isn’t so easy with kids is kind of lame anyway. Like drinking a lot all the time and then being hungover the next day. Fuck that.

Right now I’m sitting on one side of the Wagen typing, and the Beard and Baby Pickles are on the bed playing banjo.  We trade Pickles back in forth in rhythm with each of our creativities. The Beard plays the babe music while I sit and type and so on.  I do find it really hard to get time to write however, so far, and I think (hope) this will change with age.  You just become so interruptible, particularly when you are still exclusively breast feeding, and I tend to need time to get into the flow of the words.  A lot of times I will sit down to write and get interrupted before I find that flow or just after.

At the same time i feel like having Baby Pickles has just made my priorities so much easier to sort out, which in turn creates more space for my art.  When I have time I really get shit done, and when she needs me I just ignore everything else and enjoy being with her. Whenever things feel hard I just think about how short this time of her life is and how fucking cute she is even when she’s inconsolable (though that happens rarely with her, luckily). Making music is a lot easier, and I envy the Beard a bit for being able to do his passion with Pickles.  It is pretty boring to sit and watch someone type.

You asked if it changed our relationship: Oh hell yeah, but in all sorts of really good ways. Also totally not like the stereotype of mainstream kidness you hear about.  We have been way more lovey dove since. It is really fucking amazing to watch your partner be a parent, and it totally makes you all crush on each other all over again.  Bringing a baby into the world feels like doing magic, and casting a spell that complex and amazing can bind you together tighter than you ever imagined was possible.

0 Comments on “to breed or not to breed

  1. Lovely article! I agree with and relate to a lot of it, but I had a somewhat more difficult baby so I’m glad to see you acknowledging that they aren’t all so easy.

    It is difficult to write with really good flow when a kid is around even when he’s 7 years old (I say from experience) because he wants to talk to you every so often, if not constantly! My mom did a lot of writing when I was in elementary school, and I remember how hard she tried to set us up with something that would keep us busy for a while and how visibly she struggled to be civil to us when we interrupted. But I also remember how honored I felt the times my mom chose me as the first audience for something she had written and, as she read it aloud, how awed I felt that she had made this herself. In the past year or so my son has become interested in my Website and wants me to read my articles to him. It’s been really interesting hearing his reactions. Part of why I write about how to do stuff is to nudge myself to keep doing it the way I’ve realized is right instead of sliding back into what I’ve identified as bad habits–like I’m motivated to keep doing it because I said in public that I do it so now I have a reputation to maintain!–and I’ve found that my son will call me on this, too! Even more interesting, when he’s heard my detached analysis of HIS behavior and why it’s problematic, he seems more likely to recognize when he’s behaving that way and apologize for it, even if he can’t get himself to stop it right away. Anyway, yes, it is boring to sit and watch someone type, but eventually they do catch on to the idea that this typing creates something that can be read again and again.

  2. Thanks for writing this! I’ve been following (lurking on) your blog for a couple of months, as I prepare for my own baby. (Due in a month! Eep!) So the holy shit emotional changes what will this do to my life stuff is majorly on my mind right now.

    It’s very… reassuring, I guess, to get the sense that balance between baby stuff and my own projects and hobbies and everything is possible. That we’ll eventually find a new sort of normal and I’ll still get things done. Totally what I needed to read right now.

  3. I’m sure it is different for everyone… some people really can be happy not ever having kids?

    I never had a strong maternal urge, but thought I would have kids “someday” then it happened earlier than I thought. I love my baby girl so so much and am so much happier than I ever was in my former life.

    As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to depend on and appreciate family a lot more. I wish I could have 6 kids if only I had the money (and energy) to support them. (and omg never gonna happen because I’m 30, yikes.)

    I would tell anyone who is “on the fence” to go for it. If you know you don’t want them, don’t have them, but otherwise, you will spend the rest of your life wondering if you might’ve loved them more than you’d ever imagined.

  4. I find that it makes life decisions exponentially more difficult and, when you get to the heart of the matter, exponentially easier. I think that, as a parent, you learn how to live in a world of juxtapositions. You are simultaneously your mother daughter and your daughters mother for example. I find myself looking a lot to the example my mom set for me and evaluating if that is how I want my daughter to remember her life. I work really hard to make magic in the world while trying to keep her grounded in reality. Some revel in this and others want to tear their hair out over these simple issues!

  5. I’m glad all is going so well and you are so happy. Parenthood can be wonderful, but it is also really hard. I hope you will never get to the hard part. You have a wonderful time to enjoy right now. The time you have with your first child is wonderful and magical. My first child is 16 now, and I still (and will always) cherish his first couple of years.

    When he was 2, I had a second child, and I will never regret it, but life got a lot harder with baby #2. I was warned…LOL…and it is true. You just get so much busier somehow. Two to love and two to feed and two to referee and two to shuttle about and two to worry about.

    Now they are in their teenage years, and I have to say this age is the hardest for me. There is so much you can’t control at this age, and so much to worry about. I wonder what I will think when they are in their 30’s? Maybe I’ll even miss the teenage years?

    So to reproduce or not to reproduce? You have to really want it…really want it. Don’t be on the fence. You’ll never know what it is really like until you jump in; you can’t know. But be sure you want a family first. It’s too hard otherwise.

    And enjoy these early days…they are truly magical, and you’ll never forget them.

    Love your blog. Thanks for writing!

  6. I too relate with a lot of what you said. Matter of fact, I don’t know if I have anything to add but you strung a chord with me and I’ll just say it.

    Having a child (like yours mine is pretty laid back, easy going and what not), who’s just turned 2, somehow, and to my big surprise, made my life simpler. Not easier but simpler. I used to be a very disorganized person, still am, but now the day is not just a big unity but a lot of small blocks and it’s easy to play along. Time to get up, to nap, to play, to plan for the meal (getting the food and preparing it), to feed, to bathe, to go to bed. That’s it. I’ve found that it requires a lot of forethinking and very flexible (or not at all) planning, because things not necessarily go as expected but don’t stray much either.

    Being someone’s mother gave an unexpected meaning to my life. I’m still me, same old self who enjoys strange movies, whacky humor and reading like crazy and can’t tolerate perfume or sea food, but there is also her, little amazing person I helped create. It’s not all rainbows and it’s not all shit, but… it’s quite worth it, I think.

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