Welcome to the first blog post after the summer hiatus! Caroline Kappers brings us a thought-provoking piece about choosing to have, not have, or stop having, children. Each couple’s choice is an extremely personal one, and I thank Caroline for being open about their choice. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and happy reading. We look forward to hearing from you about this topic in the comments!
by Caroline Kappers
“Are you thinking of having more children?”
Somehow the question of “Are you thinking of having more children?” has seemed to innocuously sneak its way within my conversations with friends with children this past year. It’s a question my husband and I have wrestled with ourselves as our youngest is about to start school. Having been a stay at home parent for 6 years now and approaching 40, I feel a sense of the clock ticking away keenly. Like the white rabbit and his frenzied ringing clock following me about. Time seems to be running out to have more children, or to even start a new career after being away from the workforce for so long. Tick tock, tick tock… decisions, decisions. So we asked ourselves, how many children is best for our family?
It’s a mixed bag for me personally; the very idea of having both my children finally school bound and having more time for my own personal/career development makes me giddy with anticipation. But then, the realization of not having little chubby babies crawling about; to nurse, to breathe in that sweet baby smell (not soiled diapers, mind you!) saddens me despite the wear and tear that parenting can bring. Is this sadness an acknowledgement that my 40’s are looming ahead of me, and that I’m leaving behind my youth? That socially and culturally we still place more value on youth than maturity in a woman? I think that is only a small part of it; I embrace my body getting older and the grey hairs springing up in my eyebrows–it’s a reminder of a life well-lived. Yet knowing the end of my baby bearing/raising years are now well behind me; that it’s a chapter closed by us and by nature, feels like the end of an era for me.
Saying goodbye to the dream of a big, rambunctious brood
I always thought I’d have three or four children; I was enamored with the idea of raising a big, rambunctious brood alongside a modern version of Mr. Darcy, with lots of laughter and love following me wherever I went. All of this contained within a rambling cottage and a dog too, of course. The reality turned out to be slightly different; I have the best partner I could hope for and we have lots of love and laughter in our house. As our second child progresses out of toddler hood, we came to realize that our style of parenting, resources, and personal well-being just couldn’t accommodate more without something else having to give.
And to be perfectly frank, experiencing postpartum depression after the birth of my son had me terrified of possibly going through it again. To this day I can barely look at my son’s baby photos without feeling deep sadness at how difficult his first year of life was for us. But despite that–pushing through knowing we were “done” was tough; I’d see my husband coo at babies wherever we went, or we would tell each other, “Well, if we had another, we could make do”. We still have most of our beloved baby items stored in the attic, gathering dust. Despite our youngest entering school in a matter of months, we just haven’t had the heart to sell them… yet.
Bringing forth our A-game to parenthood
Regardless, we both realize how lucky we are to have the two that we have. Our decision to not have more children feels right for our family. Never say never, I know… But we feel grateful that we have the time to devote to our two little ones without feeling like we are on a teetering edge of stability and sanity. We can do our best to bring our A-game to this thing called parenting and try to raise happy, well-adjusted kids with what we have. As the lid on those hypotheticals, the “what ifs” slowly closes, the realization that with the end of one chapter comes a new one is all a bit daunting. I’m now standing on my own personal precipice of the “what now” and I realize how much patience, introspection, and understanding I need for myself – and a good dose of bravery to pursue something outside the realm of being a stay at home parent. I enjoy taking care of others immensely, but now I look forward to taking care of myself too.
What about you?
I’m always curious as to how people arrive at these decisions themselves. How did you decide on how large of a family to have? One, or five, or none for that matter? What considerations played into your decision? Environmental, financial, health and well being perhaps? How many children did you hope to have? I would love to hear your thoughts.
Caroline Kappers is an American living in the outskirts of Delft with her husband and small children since 2011. A writer and fundraiser by trade, she is also a seasoned traveler who has lived around the world since she was a child. She revels in exploring culture through the intersections of food, travel, art, design and most importantly through friendships and the sharing of ideas with others over a cup of coffee. You can follow her adventures @ckappers1 or catch her around town on her bakfiets with a gaggle of kids in tow.