Finding Magic in Motherhood, Part 3: The “Do You Want Kids” Question Froze My Brain

Women typically fall in one of three camps when it comes to having kids: yes, absolutely not, and on the fence. And some can’t decide, so they make their way from camp to camp. Then, I’m hoping, there are those like me: no on the outside, yes in the heart, and on the fence in the brain because that yes-no battle can get intense. Hence why the question of whether I want to have kids froze my brain.

“No” Was a Front I Internalized

I grew up with a traditional Chinese grandmother whose Americanized Chinese husband passed away when I was 12. She always tried to teach her grandchildren the traditions of our heritage. That included arranged marriages, matchmakers, and marriage at an early age. Even though she became an American citizen, she still held onto the traditional ways, especially after my grandpa passed.

When I was 14, on the day my brother graduated middle school, she tried to marry me off. Not literally, but she started telling me about all the eligible bachelors in Chinatown. She started talking to me about marriage and motherhood. I panicked. I ran to my mom. My mom talked to her mom. But I was still terrified. I told my mom I didn’t want to have kids, and she passed the message along. I know I wasn’t the only granddaughter to go through this, but as one of two 100% Chinese granddaughters, it was important that I marry a nice Chinese boy and have kids.

My brain couldn’t handle the pressure. My very American upbringing wouldn’t hear of it.

But My Heart Knew the Truth

I remember walking back to my dorm when I was a freshman in college. The sun was setting and the sky was a lovely blue-purple. It was a warm spring evening, and I was enjoying it by myself. At the time, I was taking a child development class, so kids were on my mind.

I knew I had been quite vocal about not having kids, about being career oriented. As much as I loved having a stay at home mom, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.

But my heart knew. My deepest wish was to be a wife and mother. I also wanted a career. I didn’t see why I couldn’t have it all. But I wouldn’t tell anyone that. It was my secret. I would only tell it when I met the right guy.

My First Step on the Journey to Motherhood

I met the right guy when I was about to start my senior year of college. He wanted kids. My brain froze. I wanted to say yes and no. Considering we’d only been together for a couple of months, I didn’t want to confuse him, so I told him I would have to think about it.

Think about it, I did. A lot. I had to unpack and analyze everything I wanted, everything I’d said, everything I’d believed. I had the strangest feeling my decision was going to change the course of my life. It was a big decision.

I didn’t want to have kids because I had said no too much. I was also afraid I would either be too strict or spoil them too much. Of course, I knew neither was likely, but the fear still hung over me. Could I be a good mother? That was the real question. Motherhood is a huge undertaking. Would I be ready to take up the title of mom?

But I also couldn’t help but picture little feet running around. I also couldn’t shake the image of a little dark haired, seven-year-old girl with curls and a burgundy velvet dress. There was also my secret wish to be a wife and mother.

We struck a deal, my heart and mouth, and my future husband and me. We would have kids as long as we were both equally involved.

“No” had never really been a real answer.

Enjoy more of my finding magic in motherhood series or check out my parenting posts over at the Mother’s Corner.

18 Comments

      • Autumn

        Absolutely no one was supportive of me; it was wonderfully rebellious. I’ve even mastered the art of dirty looks, so complete strangers don’t criticize me for having kids anymore, lol.

        I have to ask out of curiosity, is this “married at 16” style of teen mom, or unmarried with no long-term partner?

      • kat

        I like to think that wanting to be a mom is quite noble. After all, moms bear and raise the next generation, the ones who will be making the rules and laws for society when the older generations need to hand over the job. Without kids, and parents to raise them, I shudder to think of how society will turn out. Ha, people deserve the dirty looks!

        Honestly, I’m not sure. Her mom is actively trying to discourage her from being a teen mom. I’m sure she’d be fine with her daughter being a mom, just not in 10 years or less. She hasn’t mentioned any kind of father for her kids, so, at this point, I’m not sure if she knows how babies are made yet. She just wants babies.

  • mothertherealist

    I’m in your camp, though I feel the decision was not officially mine -more because of an inherent personality trait of wanting to please others than being literally forced into it.

    You’d think I’d be comfortable with it all after 14 years, but I still feel a bit “on the fence.”

    • kat

      I’m always jealous of those women who know for sure where they fall, but I like to think most of us are on the fence, especially when we’re exhausted moms constantly asking ourselves what we’ve gotten ourselves into. Sometimes I wonder if I’m more like you and just said yes to kids to please my partner, that maybe I’ve twisted my own history over the years, but, oh well, what’s done is done. I’m just hoping this fence doesn’t suddenly sprout sharp points.

  • jordanquirkcole

    Ugh, I love this so much. I struggled so hard with my hearts desire to be a mother but my crippling fear of becoming like the mother I was born to. I’m so glad that you share the things you do, it really helps me remember that there’s so many more people stuck in that yes/no conundrum than we see.

    • kat

      Becoming a mother is such a life altering event, one we can never actually prepare for. I’m always surprised when I can’t find more moms who are paralyzed by the decision, and massively jealous of those who know for sure what they want. I think it’s a struggle most women go through, and one that probably never ends. After all, we can never know for sure what kind of mom we will be until it happens. By then, it’s too late to yes or no to motherhood.

  • darlene,mommyslittledarlings

    I would always say no to the thought of children. I wanted them but later in my late 20’s. Then life happened! Lol But I still kept up with my trend of saying no to more children. Now I have 2 and I still say no but to only keep them guessing. 😅 The heart says YES but the brain says go back to bed.

    • kat

      Life certainly has a way of changing one’s plans. I like the idea of keeping people guessing. It’s really no one’s business, and it drives all the older people who want little kids around crazy. I definitely agree on the going back to bed! Kids are exhausting.

  • motivationalfather

    Beautiful article Kat! My wife and I have been through our ups and downs when discussing having a second child and this post is hitting close to home. Some days are vastly different than others but I believe the first inclination is always the best. Keep these gems coming! Thank you!

    • kat

      Thank you so much! I think it’s always hard to give it a solid yes or no because children bring in so much change and it’s impossible to know what the future in general will bring, but I agree that the first inclination is the best. I like to think of it as the heart doing the talking and telling us what we really want. Best of luck making a decision!

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