Why the hell do people have kids?

by Janelle Hanchett


Hi Janelle!

I’m a faithful reader of your blog. I don’t have kids but that doesn’t matter, your writing is awesome for anyone who isn’t into canned bullshit, and I SO appreciate it!

Soooo here’s my question, please don’t punch me in the throat – what the fuck is wrong with you people with all of these kids?! Seriously, I watched a friend’s daughter for 2 hours yesterday. TWO MEASLY FUCKING HOURS. And I wanted to curl up in a ball and die by the time she was leaving. They’re exhausting. Like to the core of my being exhausting. And that was only one 6-year old. For two hours. How the fuck does ANYTHING get done? When do you sleep? WHY DON’T THEY EVER JUST SIT DOWN AND CHILL THE FUCK OUT?

And she was really good, too. No misbehaving or anything. SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU HAVE UNRULY CHILDREN, like me when I was a little shit bird?! Or, for the love of God, more than one?! Um, I think I need to call my mother. Or buy her a BMW or some shit to make up for dealing with me from birth through at least 25. You parents are fucking super heroes, in case you didn’t realize that. THANK YOU for being willing to reproduce and repopulate the earth so I don’t have to. I think I’ll stick with my chickens!


Dear reader,

Oh my god. I don’t know who you are, but I love you. And I’m going to answer your questions as best I can.

First of all, I don’t know why other people have kids. I barely know why I have kids. Sometimes I think about the fact that I have four of them and I’m shocked then confused then delighted and grateful, in that order, although sometimes I stop at the first one.

I had my first kid because I didn’t know what I was getting into and found myself pregnant and thought newborns were cute.

I had my second kid because my husband and I were worried our first kid would think she was the center of the universe and didn’t trust our parenting skills enough to teach her otherwise, so we created a built-in sharing requirement.

I had Georgia because we went to a bluegrass show in San Francisco and forgot birth control then figured what the hell.


Two kids make sense, sort of. Three? Not really.


Four is what the fuck is wrong with you? Too many humans. You’re a weirdo. You have a problem. You do not fit in restaurant booths, hotel rooms, or normal cars.

Anything beyond four kids means you reside in a highly religious cult commune.

The best part is that having four kids makes little sense in the context of my life: We are not wealthy. We do not have a big house. We can’t afford two hotel rooms. Amusement parks other than Disneyland make me think only of urine and broken dreams. I enjoy personal space. Excessive motion irritates me, especially after 3pm. Large groups of mothers trying to accomplish things, like fundraisers for example, are my personal version of hell. I dislike being pregnant. I do not like being climbed on. I hate kid music. And most kid shows.

And yet, we would have babies forever if we could. I realize that’s a strange thing to say. I know that’s not everyone’s experience and I do not glamorize or glorify or elevate it beyond any other life choice. Frankly, I can’t even explain it, but I’ll try.

I never envisioned myself not having kids. Neither did my husband. By 18 or 19, I was thinking about babies. I loved them. I wanted one. I have no further explanation. This is not to say I was ready to have kids when I found myself pregnant at 22 (I was decidedly NOT), but I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I think part of this is that nobody talks about actual motherhood and we get some bullshit smocked-pastel version of it all, so maybe we think of babies like accessories, like these cute things we add to our lives like a new purse, or brooch. Nobody wears brooches. Not my point.

A lot of people see through this, have the capacity to look at parents and SEE how hard it is. Like you, for example. A lot of people don’t though. And we’re blindsided by how fucking hard and relentless it is. And wonderful, though.

You see? This is the problem my friend. It’s a big emotional clusterfuck.

There are innumerable aspects of parenting I find mundane and tiresome and generally irritating. But for me, the beauty has always outshone the negative in a profoundly real way, and here’s what I see:

I have children for the realization that a tiny life and being has been created through a connection between the person I love and me. I do it for the look in my husband’s eyes when he finds out we’re having a baby. I do it for the all-consuming love that hits me like a tidal wave in that very moment, the moment I realize a little one is coming, of me but so beyond me. Of us but eternally beyond us.

I do it for the fascination, the weirdness, the baffling reality that while the body begins from a cell, there is so much more than that: the soul, the spirit, the personality. We get to watch and love that and be part of a human crossing to join us, from where?

I do it for the mystery.

I do it for the moment I lock eyes with my newborn and he or she is placed on my chest and it’s ecstasy. I do it for newborn breath. I do it for baby rolls. I do it for smiles and laughter.

God damnit. I hate you. Now I want another baby.

And then, well, I guess I do it because I love our little tribe, our little crew. Our goofiness our joy our anger our traditions, the jokes we have, the way we are us, a unit, impenetrable and unbreakable. I do it for trips to our favorite beaches and camping and music and the friendship between siblings, watching older ones love the little ones and knowing forever they’ll have each other, long after we’re gone. I do it to learn. I do it to teach. I do it for holidays.

I hate the fucking holidays. They are the worst.

If you ever told me this would become my life I would LAUGH LAUGH LAUGH. They match, and there's a labrador.

They are the best worst.

Here are my kids in matching pajamas. >>

In the end I think the only thing to say is we have fun and that outweighs the rest. And I really, really like having people. 

But you have to understand something here: You can’t judge having kids by the feeling you get hanging out with other people’s kids. Other people’s kids are fucking annoying. I can count on two hands the number of kids I find engaging and tolerable, and most of them are related to me.

Oh, come on. I’m not that evil. I’m exaggerating. Sort of.


The reason you can’t compare hanging out with other people’s kids to having your own is because your kids are YOUR kids in YOUR family and therefore will learn what works and what doesn’t and what’s tolerable and what isn’t in YOUR FAMILY, and this will be different from other families.

For example, whining. I fucking can’t handle whining. I don’t care how tired you are or what age you are or how badly you want the red cup. Normal voice. Figure it out. I hear other kids whine and their parents deal with it differently. No judgment on them, whatever people, but when my kids try whining – as they all do – I look at them and say “I do not understand whining” and walk away. Because I’d rather get a root canal than listen to tiny voices carry on about some bullshit they think they need.

And soon, the older kids are telling the younger ones, “Don’t baby talk. Don’t whine,” and soon nobody’s doing it because that shit is unacceptable in the house.

Also unacceptable: complaining about food, expecting special meals, not using manners, the inability to use sarcasm, watching Caillou, failing to recognize revisionist history, disliking the Grateful Dead.


It’s ours. It works. My kids annoy the shit out of me but not in ways that make me question the meaning of life.

My point is that you get to raise your kids, and you’ll raise little humans that more or less fit into the culture of your family while also bringing that certain something that makes you want to scream WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU COME FROM?

I’m not saying you should have kids. By god almighty DO NOT DO THIS unless you’ve got some deep-seated overwhelming urge, because there are a thousand ways to connect with the mystery of life and enjoy cute things and have fun and have people. For example: Redwood trees, sea otters, any vacation anywhere without children because children ruin vacations, and friends.

Oh, and your other questions:

How the fuck does ANYTHING get done?


When do you sleep?



They do, when they’re older, and then you miss them being little.

This is the fucking mystery I tell you. 


Also, don’t believe anything anyone says about kids. Nobody knows what they’re doing.

Have a nice day.

I hate everything.

I hate everything.

70 Comments | Posted in Ask Janelle | April 25, 2016
  • Annie

    Every time I see that picture of your husband with the baby my heart does a flip! No wonder you have kids if you get to see that sort of thing!!


      I’ve never seen it and I immediately burst in to tears.

    • Martha


    • Reena

      wow. this is great. thank you.

  • daniel pelfrey

    Other people’s kids are the worst. The. Absolute. Worst. We are expecting our 7th later this year. The last two were surprises. This one? Fuck. We really didn’t want another one.

    So why?

    My kids DO annoy me to the point to where I question the meaning of life. Then again, I look at my kids and THEY are the meaning of life.

  • Jennifer Schartz

    OMG, Janelle. “I do not like being climbed on.” Literally lol. You must have liked it at least four times!! Keep up the good work.

    • Jessica

      ???????????? I’m dying! That’s hilarious

  • Tabitha orr

    Again your post has me broken open weeping at the bus stop. My tribe is a little broken now because I divorced and that has been the grief that has lasted the longest. Not our love affair because that shit was fleeting and never really that good, but we made an epic family and I will never get that with another. And it comes just as I have to make tough decisions to fly my nest for my education so I know that I am nearing the end of those days, prematurely and with deep regret but it’s my only smart choice and it’s the one I want to make I guess, but deep down I know that although I have six babies I would have had babies forever because I make really really cool kids. But yeah, even now I question why the fuck do people have kids because the joy and pain get all muddy like play dough when you let your kids have it. It’s the inside jokes and the fandom a you share and the way that their love feels like one of those spring days when the weather is perfect and your heart hurts from the beauty. That. Thank you.

  • Lou Taylor

    Good to know. I totally get your answer too. There was a time or two where I was only saved by the grace of whatever God decides these things. On another note I am proud to report that I no longer laser glare or roll my eyes to overwhelmed mothers thanks to you. Granted it was a hard habit to break but I put your face and your story on the overwhelmed mother whose kids are being real shits and I smile and nod. They seem to appreciate it and it makes me feel very earth motherly so it’s a win-win. Not for nothing, next time you feel overwhelmed just remember you are loved and admired to the moon and back. Raising children is at times a dark and dirty job but God Damn it somebody has to do it. Thank you for stepping up to the plate.

    • Emily

      I did too–I didn’t even really have misconceptions about kids or parenting; I didn’t really have conceptions in the first place. I hated the noises, and while I couldn’t help the noises bothering me (because neurology), I just had no concept of how sometimes, there’s just nothing anybody on earth could do about it, and maybe the parents notice it, too (/sarcasm). Looking back, I think I mostly did a good job of only glaring or sighing if I was not anywhere near the parents, saved by the grace of my strong non-confrontational streak. Man, I just had no clue.

      Strangely enough, plenty of noises still bother me, but I’ve become kind of inured to kid-based ones. If it’s my own kids, I’m probably thinking about how much louder they are at home (although I definitely try to keep them from making loud or annoying noises in public–unless it’s Target, because it’s Target and if you don’t like a kid screaming while I buy a half-ton bag of toilet paper and three gallons of milk then you’re welcome to shop at Whole Foods since I can’t afford it anyway, but please don’t take Target from us). If it’s someone else’s kids, I’m probably just thinking about how it’s not my kids this time.

      • John Laidlaw

        About noises that bother us: I’m a carpenter by trade (40+ years “on the tools”) and grew up around construction. So – one thing I’ve figured out/learned is that noises we “understand”, that are natural to the situation, and expected – even if loud – are “filtered” by the brain. Loud as they may be (and this can include jets taking off overhead, believe it or not) they are not, really, heard- but a “wrong noise”, even if a lot quieter, will be heard – and set off alarm bells in our minds.
        A case in point happened to me. I was working on a table-saw – a big brute, with a 12″ blade, and a 5-HP, 3-phase motor. My job was a “production cut” – a full 3′ lift of ¾” plywood to be reduced to a stack of sign-blanks of various sizes. The most effective way of doing this would be to set the saw for the largest cut – and make as many of that size as needed, then reset the saw to the next size on the list, do all those cuts, and so on. It’s a mind-numbingly boring job. Part way through, I lost concentration enough to let my hand stray too close to the saw-blade, and WHAM! I had a bloody hand on my chest. I stopped the saw, and headed off to teh first-aid room. Yep – you guessed it – I’d effectively amputated one of my index fingers. However, by the time I’d hit the kill-switch on the saw, our foreman, who was sitting in his office, with the door closed, was on his feet and out of the office, asking if I were OK. What he’d heard was not the loud drone of the saw, but the slight change in the note as it grabbed my hand and flung it back at me.
        Time and again, I’ve been working in places like a marine radio transmitter room, with a lot of fans running, and the speakers spitting static, and a voice transmission would come through – and I’d be able to hear it, and get the gist of the message. It simply wasn’t part of the back-ground noise.
        So, also, with kids – as parents, we can hear kid noises, and know with about 100% certainty whether it’s normal tired/bored kid, or something serious. We can also pick out our own kids from a crowd. Not only is this normal – it is (or was) vital to our childrens’ survival.

  • Lou Taylor

    “There was a time or two WHEN I was only saved…..” Proofreading….so important.

    • Sam

      Is that all you took from the whole article??

  • Jo

    Stop, stop, it’s making me broody. Number 5 is not an option – you have once again said it all and so beautifully.

  • caffeine_lights

    Uh huh. Yep. I definitely relate to the “never imagined not having kids” thing, and it always fascinates me when I realise that there are people who feel the opposite way.

    It weirds me out the most when I realise that there are people who felt one of those ways and then changed their minds. I just – what is that? What is it like to occupy both of those worlds in one single lifetime, how can it be??

    I love motherhood. And I hate parts of it, for sure, but I never imagined a life where I didn’t do any of it, and I love being in the “club” that is parenthood, and even on my darkest days I just know that it couldn’t have been any other way.

    I was recently pregnant again, for about a week, which sucks, but is beside the point – it reminded me that HOLY SHIT, I love being pregnant. Everything just feels right, and while I no longer want to have five kids (because fifteen year old me was insane), I know for a fact that I’m not done. And that makes me wonder if I’ll ever feel done, and that worries me, as well. But right now I can be in babyland and I can be broody and I’m just going to enjoy it, whether it’s a biological urge or not.

    • Cath

      I strongly suspect we’re in some way wired to want a certain number of children (or none at all). I had my first two 364 days apart, and the third seven years later – and then I knew I was done, just because I was. But I have friends who’ve never wanted children, friends who are on their sixth and still going, and my darling aunt had eleven – and said that she’d have had more, if she could have. It wasn’t a decision, for me – I always assumed I’d have children so I did.

      • N

        I’m starting to think the same thing… I mean, now that we have birth control and some actual say in this, I’m starting to feel like there is a distinct recognition (or, maybe realization) of instinct happening. Most of the women I speak to seem to have a deeply rooted knowledge of what a “complete” family is for them. Sometimes, sadly, the instinct and the reality don’t line up for whatever reason (financial, a sucky relationship, infertility…), but other times, it’s very clear. I had two. After my first, I knew I wanted a second and I had to wait for our lives to allow it. I knew the instant that my son was conceived that he would be my last. I feel like we’re all here now, a complete unit of four. But, some friends say that they don’t feel done. They NEED another baby, despite all logic. One friend, who was put through the ringer with two colicky twinfants (and at the time, swore she’d never go near a newborn again), recently said “I have a son who isn’t here yet” and so she went and had a boy. Now, I’m not very spiritual, and I definitely don’t believe that there are floating souls out there waiting to come to earth through our wombs , but I do give a hell of a lot of credit to women’s intuition… which is also to say, if your instincts are driving you away from children, then honour your birth control 😉

  • Shay

    So true, every single word.

  • Rose

    YES! a thousand times yes! HOW THE HELL ARE YOU IN MY HEAD? And able to articulate for me the stuff I felt but didn’t know how to say?? 4 kids ( in 3 years!)
    “how the hell did this happen hurry up and grow up this is exhausting no wait I take it back I miss the baby/toddler/kid/teen years wow look and these really cool people that are part of /in/because of my/our life.
    love you

    • Anne

      Unacceptable:watching Calliou. Mic drop.

  • Rachel

    This. This exactly. I’ll be following your blog now. Mostly because you just read my mind and also because nothing will make me vault over the couch like a raving lunatic faster than the Caillou theme song coming on Sprout. I Can’t. My daughter is not allowed to watch it because if she learns how to sing that song I will lose my ever loving mind!!!

  • christina

    This is the exact post I would write IF I could write like this. But I won’t let it stop me from trying. Love this so much. We live in the country, homeschool, have unassisted homebirths and AREN’T fundamentalist christian. Raising our own unique brand of bad-asses is amazing and truly a mystery. Thanks!

  • Chelsea

    This is so good. Thank you for this! I have struggled for years with the question “should I have children”… sometimes it makes sense and sometimes it doesn’t. Drives me to drink 🙂 But love your rawness about why you have children and chose it. And it makes me feel more human to know you. Thank you!

  • Lisa


  • Elizabeth

    OH I loved this post. Thank you. I am about to have my first and definitely fall into the ‘I always knew I’d have kids’ camp even though I’m already a bit (okay – a lot) overwhelmed thinking about everything that goes into parenting little people. I love the idea of being an even bigger unit (beyond my husband and cats) and I can’t wait for that feeling. Totally will be reading more from your site now 🙂

  • Denise B

    YES! I was reading the Lenny letter that Joy Bryant wrote about never wanting kids. Of course it’s great, perfectly legit, that she doesn’t want kids, but one of her points was when people tell her, “It’s so much fun” and she responds with, “Fucking liars. Next.” That statement so rubbed me the wrong way.

    Yes, it is by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It is by far the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s work, but it’s mining diamonds work – it’s the fun and the joy and the crazy love when you put in the work, right? It’s not a lie to say that it’s fun.

    I have two kids and if I could afford more, I’d have as many as my attention-abilities (three? just kidding. four?) would allow. That is to say, a bunch of kids, but not a Duggar bunch. Maybe foster kids. I read about the statistics of those kids who age out of the system and it kills me.

    Anyway, thanks for perfectly articulating what has been frustrating me since I read that article, you gave me a voice.

    • caffeine_lights

      I guess that probably she could have worded it in a different way, I think kids are great fun, but also really stressful. I mean, there are probably more efficient, less expensive ways to have fun. And certainly it isn’t as fun as I always thought it would be (I think that I assumed having a big family would mean I’d get to play with kids forever… I somehow left out of the equation the fact that I would be grown up and also always have to be the Mom.)

      But also the point that different people find different things fun. Like sports. Lots of people find sports fun. Yet I find it a pain filled, frustrating, cold, sweaty, muddy horrible experience. I could say that people are lying when they say they like playing sports, because I’ve literally never found anything to enjoy in it, but I can see that they really do like it, so what do I know?

      It is closed minded to insist that something isn’t fun just because you don’t enjoy it. There’s no such thing as one magical thing that everybody enjoys.

  • Travis

    “Nobody knows what they’re doing.” Love it. Could not agree more.

  • Nikki Cole

    Um. I love this.
    Seriously. This is the best thing I’ve read in forever.
    When I joined my partners on this crazy life adventure, they already had three kids. I never imagined having more than one kid, and that was iffy.
    Then I accidentally ended up with three of them.
    And….2 months later…baby announcement for bundle of joy number 4. My friends and family thought I was crazy, but I was overjoyed.
    I don’t even like kids…but these kids are my entire soul. I love them.
    You are right on when you say that four makes you a fucking weirdo. People look at us like we just fell from our spaceship…other moms ask how we do it (though, with two of us at home, that’s a little easier. A little.)…we don’t go out to eat of on vacation because that would be a NIGHTMARE…but life is good. These little punks are totally worth it.
    Thanks, as always, for being one of the coolest people on the internet. Always a pleasure.

  • Trisha

    THANK YOU!!! I have always thought that I must just be the biggest bitch cause I cannot deal with children other than my two. It’s VERY good to know that I am not alone with that!
    As always, you are ON POINT with every thing you say. Keep it up, I fucking love every word you type????

    • Jj

      Not healthy

  • Kay

    This is similar to “Why would you want another kid when you can’t even handle the ones you have?” Oh beware, sweet sister of mine. Karma is a bitch. Your time will come.

  • Jo Eberharyou dt

    Other people’s kids are the worst. Always.

    I have two sons. I always wanted exactly ZERO children. Both were “accidents” — so much so that I didn’t even know I was pregnant with my second until I was 16 weeks along. (Don’t judge me — I’m not stupid. My body was still operating as if I wasn’t pregnant.) I cried my way through both pregnancies. But now I have these little people in my life and I love them more than I ever thought possible.

    My children know the rules of living in our house, as part of our family. Like yours, whinging is not allowed. Don’t touch me without asking. (Consent, people.) The word “want” is banned. You only complain about what someone else has if you’re prepared to give them what you’ve got as well. And music should be turned up loud and sung at the top of your voice, regardless of your ability to carry a tune.

    My kids drive me to the point of insanity, and then they give me a smile and ask for a hug, and tell me they love me, and bring me breakfast in bed JUST BECAUSE and engage in conversations about philosophy and why people shouldn’t have more money than they need and how dragons are the best, all in the same breath. They argue and piss each other off, but go to the wall for each other when they’re in company. They are the mostr frustrating, amazing people I’ve ever met.

    But twenty minutes in charge of someone else’s child, and I’m ready to run away and join the circus. Because that child doesn’t know the “rules”. And, more importantly, there’s none of the pay off. That child will whine and complain and say they want a drink (I don’t understand the word “want”!) and tell me the music’s too loud and, anyway, why don’t I play some children’s crap music instead of classic rock, and that’s bad enough. But that child isn’t going to climb on my lap later and tell me they love me. They’re not going to repeat my words on gender equality to their unsuspecting grandparents. They don’t bring the beautiful emotional connection — they just bring the annoyance.

    • beth

      Holy sh*t Jo.. that was so articulate and amazingly from the heart. I only have 1 which I swore my whole life I never wanted.. but you describe the flipside of ‘knowing’ you want kids but loving them beyone belief in the life you’ve created with them. Do you write? You should! Thank you.

      And every post by Janelle is a moment in my day that I cherish..seriously and I’m not soppy, or emotional, just grateful!

      • beth

        Obviously you do write Jo.. just noticed your link.. will be checking it out…

  • Dorothea

    I never wanted kids, until suddenly I hit 31 or 32 and did. I had my daughter at 35, and have struggled with the internal debate for three years about having another. I don’t want another… I don’t think I’m cut out for it, but I hate her growing up without the amazing relationship I got to have as one of seven kids.
    Parenting has been a real challenge for me, the ups and downs of it have been beautiful and so very overwhelming.
    But my daughter was meant to come to me, I just know it. I couldn’t say what made me need to do it, but I did it- mainly because I needed to.

  • Marisa

    My almost year old son, does not sleep! He thinks he should toss and turn, nurse and fuss all night. I’m so tired!!!! And yet, we are discussing when we should have another.

  • Lauren Wellbank

    Oh my god this was amazing and accurate and made me want four kids even though trying to type this short comment with just one toddler is enough to make me insane.

    And that picture of all your kids in matching PJ’s is perfection.

  • Cali

    I always knew I’d be a mother, no question about it. I only have the one kid, she can be the easiest child, and the most difficult within the space of minutes. Now that she’s five, I really want another. Apart from being divorced from my dickhead ex and having another kid would be almost impossible, I think about the baby stage and I really want that all over again; the nursing, the diapers, especially the fat rolls, all of it. Being pregnant again would be a bummer for the whole ten months, I’d give birth ten times not to be pregnant for a week; I had a scary pregnancy that probably left me with PTSD, that and my marriage. However, I can say with a tear in my eye, that one and done is it. Quite frankly, the miracle child I have is enough. In a perfect world though, I’d have at least two or three or four. I seriously fucked up on the whining thing, but the situation is being corrected right quick.

  • Jill

    You hit the nail on the head. Every. Time.

  • Beth Purdom

    curse you for posting the links to Georgia & Arlo’s birth story. Because now my uterus is all whiny and twitchy. I’M DONE and you woke the beast.

  • Charlie

    I have long argued that what is required to conceive children (other than the obvious) is:
    1. Intoxication
    2. Insanity
    I haven’t been lucky enough to have much choice in when/how many kids I get but I love this post! Thank you (again). I don’t like kids, babies are a bit ugly to me, I love to sleep, and I think any sane woman would never have them, but I have a couple and think 5 would be great ????.

  • Shannon

    Fuck Janelle, this is beautiful. I am pregnant with my first and weeping as I read it. Thanks for that ????

  • John Laidlaw

    Hi, Janelle:
    I tend to agree with you – no-one in their right mind would ever have kids. They are noisy (often when you need it least!), demanding, expensive – the list goes on and on, and on.
    But my wife and I have had three – and launched all of them successfully. We knew, both of us, what we were getting into. I am the middle child of five, stretching from 1931 to 1954. To make matters more exciting, my “baby brother” was born an uncle. In fact Mom and my sister “shared” a pregnancy – 5th and 2nd – in the same house. That birth hit me like a ton of bricks – absolutely the Most Fabulous Baby Ever, though nephew and niece were not too far behind.
    My wife, similarly, has a sister several years older, who was widowed with a 2-year-old, and a new-born. They came home to Grandma’s, for a year or so, while mom went off to University, to get enough education to become a teacher. Kid Sister became a trainee overnight.
    By the time I met Norma, she had 3 nieces and 2 nephews. Yes – we were well prepared for the joys of parenting. Would we do it again? Not at this age – but we both heartily endorse it as a vocation.
    How else, may I ask, can you get put so thoroughly in the League of Stupid Adults by a 2-year-old? Yes, there’s a tale. Norma had been resting, late in her second pregnancy, and asked our son – just 2, to go and ask me to plug in the kettle. “Sure” I said, “What does she want in it?” He looked at me as if I were some kind of Precambrian life-form, and said “Water, of course!” and fled back upstairs. He did a pretty good job, over the years, of keeping me there, too. As I was driving him along to his destination, as Norma and I were headed out shopping one evening, he launched into what sounded as if it were going to be a bit of a tall tale. “Before you get started, son, just how long do you think my legs really are?” At this point I was making a left-turn in traffic, and his response came back “Oh, long enough to reach your mouth, Dad!”

    I look back on those moments as some of the greatest pleasures in life – and we have the even greater pleasure of having grandchildren, who pay HIM back “Why is lightning always happy? – Because it’s ex-static electricity!” I wouldn’t change anything for the world.

  • Fern Mama

    Four kids right here and after I had my 4th baby girl I said, “I WANT 17 MORE!!!!” fucking crazy.

  • J

    I’m sitting in my office, attempting to write a PhD, and reading your blog. I have three kids. I am crazy. I’m trying to juggle so many things. But man, I nearly burst into tears (in front of several people around me) after I started reading this. You have a real gift for putting into words what people are feeling and I love reading this blog. I think you might be the only person on the planet who makes me think about how hard it is to have kids but at the same time you make me want just one more. Just. One. More. Baby….. Oh, and you also make me want to use swear words in my academic writing. Wonder if they’d pass me if I did? : )

  • Kat

    Love this post! It totally sums up how I feel. I am so broody yet there are so many reasons I’m done with having more. The evil twists of mother nature!

  • Tony

    Two words: Thank you.

  • Hena Tayeb

    You answered the question way better than I ever could.
    This post was awesome.. because as a mother of two I do sometimes find myself asking.. why did we do this.. kids.. especially when your 2 year old wakes you up at 6:45 am on a weekend because he peed in your bed.. not his.. yours.

    I can not imagine having another.. one was perfect.. two adds to the fun.. but i think that’s all the fun I can handle

  • Cheryl S.

    “Other people’s kids are fucking annoying” AMEN! I love my daughter. She is the best thing ever. But, like you, there are only a few other children that I actually like and want to be around.

    Love your description of having a child. I always say that having my daughter is probably as close to a miracle as I’ll ever get.

    To the person who posed the question. No one knows why we feel compelled to produce little humans. If you do not feel compelled –DON’T. Be the crazy aunt/friend that the kids can talk to.

  • Tessa

    I compared it to havin a car recently. If you heard and saw all about the car troubles everyone has you would think “why?! Why have a car that always needs gas and washed (if you’re into that) and repaired constantly?!” Because cars kick ass and so do humans, which are just grown up, trained (hopefully) babies.

  • Jenny

    I love every word of this so f’ing much.

  • Kate C

    Well…you’ve just made my decision for me. I’ve always been on the fence. I can’t stand other peoples kids. HOWEVER, I recently had a nephew and I am obsessed! Cutest.thing.ever. When you say that you get to raise your own kids and they will fit into your family, the stress melts away because its so true and so logical. The anxiety I have had about becoming a parent with all of the mommy-blogs complaining about how hard it is, and how stressful, and how tired you’ll be…they make me want to RUN as fast as I can away from my husband(who decidedly wants kids NOW). But your honesty and realness makes me want to run home and cuddle the shit out of him and maybe have a baby. Thank you for this! I want to move to California so we can be friends. I promise you’d like my future kids.

  • Ry

    BEST. ANSWER. EVER. And letter writer: awesomest way to ask that question, ever.

  • Libby

    I’ve often wondered what drugs Caillou’s mother is on…..

    • Dina

      All of them.

  • Mariek

    I now want another baby. Damn..

  • John Laidlaw

    You know – as a father, I totally agree that kids are demanding, time-consuming – you name the reason why NOT, and I’ll agree with you. So will my wife. We thought that the two we had were exactly what we needed – no regrets. And yet, when we found we had a third on the way – and seven years later, to boot, there was no hesitation.
    My job took me away from home a lot – in two-week stints – and it made being a full-time father difficult, but I did work at it. One memory of this time was when my wife told me our minister had asked, ever so gently, if this one were planned. She hadn’t known quite how to answer, but rather preferred my immediate response: “It all depends on whose plan we’re thinking of.” He certainly hadn’t been in ours, but when he came, we knew he was a baby that was needed by so many of our acquaintance.
    However, I’m more interested in the after-time – when raising kids.
    Thanks to this third child, I got involved, again, in Scouts (He refused to move along, unless I put on a uniform, myself.) That has proved an even greater gift than the years spent with our own children. I’m still active, even in my 70’s, now, and still getting the ultimate kick out of being there, as a child or a group of them, make a major life transition. My first Jamboree (a week-long camp, with thousands of eager Youth of all ages – some of us heavily superannuated!) had me put in charge of an activity to leave the camp a better place, with some work from the participant youth. At teh camp, we happened to have a couple of youth with mobility challenges – power-wheelchairs. The first day on this project, which had been handed me as “Just smooth this trail out a bit, so no-one will break an ankle walking along it.”, one of the Youth asked if we were doing this for the kids in power-chairs. My answer was: “That’s not quite what I was told to do, but if that’s what YOU want, that’s the aim.” That did it – they went to work with a will, and they also passed the word, so that every group that arrived was ready to “make things happen” – and, by the end of the week, they, the Youth, had placed something like 35 cubic yards of fill and bark mulch on the trail, and it WAS now passable by the power-chairs, unassisted. They’d done all the work – all I had to do was get out of their way (and keep their Scouters out, too – another tale). I’ve met some of the Youth involved later, at other camps (and one was that Bonus Child of ours) and I know they felt that this made a huge difference in their lives – it was the first time they’d felt they really DID something. Being there to mentor, to help them along, is such a huge task, and such a thrill, that I’ll stay at it as long as I can be more help than hindrance.
    Having a child is one thing – the next twenty years (more or less) is just as wonderful, and important, and that’s a job we can do, and do, and continue to do.

  • Emily

    All this is so true! If I had the money and space and could quit my job, I’d have a million kids, but then I’d probably hire a nanny because I can barely weather the two I have. My daughter (who is four) keeps saying she’s going to have “a zillion babies” (quote continues: “I’ll have SO MANY BABIES and then they’ll say, ‘What? What’s that noise?’ “) and I’m just like, “HA. Ha! Ha. Let me tell you about yourself. As a baby.”

    I know it sounds cliche, but it’s really true that you can’t tell how you’d feel about being a parent until, unfortunately, you are one. So basically, nobody can make the decision based on anything actually empirical, which I suppose is a good start for something like parenting.

    Every part you think you’ll hate you’ll love, even if you still hate it, and there are plenty of parts you think you’d like that you’ll hate or at least be impatient about. It’s all backwards. And even stuff you hate while it’s happening, you’ll love the minute it’s over, until it happens again and you hate that part.

    The whole thing is crazy, and I’d never tell someone that they can’t know they don’t want kids, but what I do wish I could communicate is how they’re probably basing the decision on things that aren’t really the relevant issues. But that’s all anybody has to go on (even the people who already have kids deciding whether to have another one).

    • John Laidlaw

      My comment on the prospect of having a family is this: As well as your personality, a great deal depends on what happened to you as a child.
      I’m the middle kid of five – spread out over 22½ years!
      What this means is that I’ve filled almost all roles in the family, at various times. I was the baby – and recall it well. I was displaced as baby at age 4. I’ve had the “pleasure” of Big Sisters (two of them, and one was as bossy as a mother – but that’s another story.) I also had the wonder of a baby-brother when i was ten – and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Just what it was, I didn’t understand until I became a parent, myself. Oh – yes – that instant, life-long bond of care and worry, as well as pride that is Parental. Once our sisters grew up, and moved out, I became the Big Kid, sort of responsible for the younger ones (and I suspect they suffered somewhat in the process). To increase the fun, my mother and my eldest sister “shared” pregnancies in the same house – Mom’s fifth, and my sister’s second, so I’ve also been an uncle most of my life.
      My wife had a similar experience, as her sister (a decade her senior) was widowed early, with two small kids, and came home to return to school, so Aunt became a Big Sister, in a sense. We had, then, lots of hands-on experience and training in parenting – the possibility held no fears for us.
      Our first was a joy – just a huge one! – and made parenting easy. Our daughter, the second, was a slightly more difficult child – some issues with digestion, and a form of dyslexia, gave us some trouble – but that didn’t scare us, by this time. We thought we had the perfect family – one of each, and both in good health. Then we were hit with a surprise package (as in “not in OUR plans”). He has turned out to be the child that a number of our acquaintance needed to complete their families, in a way. He also turned out to be the perfect training for our eldest – for I saw that instant bond hit him, as it had me when I was ten – and, no – he never recovered, as I didn’t. But it made for HIS being a wonderful father, in spite of being a natural worrier. Beneath the worry was an understanding of what his job was, and he has been carrying that out very well.
      So – if asked, I’d say: “Parenting is what we are wired for, in a sense. I’d not worry about it, for it comes naturally- as long as we remember that our job, like any parent, is to prepare the child to leave the nest. This means a lot of training – hands-on – and mentoring. It means *being* the very best parent we can be (and don’t worry about not being perfect – kids are tougher than we think, and smarter) as what they will show is how we’ve treated them. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – making them is less dangerous than refusing to act, lest you do make one. Don’t be afraid of not knowing everything – they will learn that it’s OK not to be perfect – and be the better for it. Above all, enjoy being a parent – it IS fun, sometimes hilarious. We need to laugh at ourselves, for we will be in ridiculous situations. I recall how our eldest (age 2) enrolled me as a Charter Member in the League of Stupid Parents: He’d come downstairs with a message: “Mommy says ‘Plug the kettle in, please.'” “Sure – what does she want in it?” At that point he gave me a look as if I were something that had crawled out from under a flat rock on the beach: “Water, of course!” and fled back upstairs. Yep – I’d had it – I was toast. That’s why it’s important to be a parent – it takes all the wind out of our self-importance.

  • Mama Bee

    I have 2 teenage daughters & frequently yearn for the days when all they wanted to do was hang out with me, having interminable tea parties on the Little Tykes plastic picnic table (which I did not appreciate NEARLY enough at the time). Now that I’m in this phase of parenting, & without getting maudlin about it, I view having kids as the ultimate life learning experience. Parenting forces you to grow, & teach, & suck it up, & feel joy & sadness, pride & frustration & spend copious amounts of money & ride the roller coaster with the humans you created (or went through hell to adopt/acquire). It is the deepest connection you will ever know. My child-free girlfriends shake their heads at the chaos & my lack of a coherent social life, but they’ve all questioned how their lives might have been different with kids (profoundly different, no doubt.) I’ve always wanted kids, so I can’t conceive of a life without them.

  • Obie

    You are AWESOME Janelle, your husband is fortunate to have you. Sometimes I wish I was as adventurous like you. You know, just do it don’t think about it, but I do. I’m 37, not married, no kids but I enjoy my life. Natural loner, music junkie, Dead Head. But, your article was definitely an eye-opener for me. Everytime I get the ever so brief baby fever sentiment, it shudders out of me in the blink of an eye when I think of diaper changing or butt-wiping!

  • Obie

    Btw..,your kiddos are beautiful! I must admit that picture does makes me smile lol

  • Rose

    I AM PRINTING THIS UP AND GETTING IT FRAMED AND HANGING IT ON MY WALL!! right next to the pictures of my 4 kids 🙂
    oh wait -who am i kidding i don’t have framed pictures of my kids hanging on my walls because , well – read the above post!!

    as always thank you for articulating so well the stuff I can’t <3

  • Sarah

    This is a perfect answer!

    (I haven’t met you, Janelle, but I’ve loved you since I first discovered your blog. I feel like I know you, and I should text you and invite you, Mac, and the kids to come over for Memorial Day when we grill and open up the pool for the summer. But that would be weird, right?)

  • Kory

    Sooo, this was my question! Thank you so much for answering it, I think I have a little better perspective a year later cause I have two kids now – well sort of. I have two kid….goats! They were one week old when we got them and required bottle feeding 4 times a day and love and cuddles and cleaning up pee and poop and holy shit, where is the time for sleep?

    I have never in my life been so exhausted, but fortunately they only bottle feed for 8 weeks rather than years like the tiny humans do. And I am not the soul provider of the teat 🙂 But man, I just love the shit outta them. I wouldn’t trade them for anything, and I threaten to take them to work with me every day if they can’t stop being so cute. In fact, I already talk about getting more next year (the same damned thing happened with the chickens, too!).

    Even when they’re being naughty and crawling all over me and using my neck/chest/spine/head/spleen as a jumping board (I, too do not like being crawled upon but the bf finds it terribly amusing and has encouraged this bad habit – they will be 130 some day, you know?!) I still love them. and then they drive me insane when I’m trying to get something done and the just follow me and get in my way, and WHY CAN’T YOU SEE THAT I’M WORKING HERE?! Oh yeah, you’re a goat.

    I think my real issue is fear of responsibility for another human being. I was convinced I was going to kill the goats by not feeding them right or not keeping them warm enough or keeping them too warm or god knows what other ways I could mess them up – so nerve-wracked for the first few weeks I could feel my heart beating in my neck and head all day.

    Still not convinced that human kids are my thing (cause seriously, look at all the things my parents did, or didn’t do, when I was small that make me the weird freak I am today – I can only imagine what I could do to a kid!), but I think I get it now – the parts that make up your family, whether human, dog, cat, goat, chicken, or elephant, are fucking amazing. They’re what bring us the greatest joy in life. They also try our patience and sap our energy and worry us to death but when I get home and the goats are calling to me and the chickens greet me at my car, it just melts my heart. So thank you, again, for bringing another great perspective to light for me. And sorry for being so long-winded and rambly today, too much coffee has been drunk this morning. Or not enough – sometimes it hard to tell which!

  • Beatriz

    Only a mom would understand that post. Everything about is real and beautiful.

  • Koies

    I respect my mother so much for dealing with me as a kid. Not to mention I had ADHD so that probably was even more of a headache for her. That’s why I truly do not have any animosity towards her and try my best to help her on tough days and always give thanks and not get upset. You only have ONE real mother and fortunately I am aware of that. I’m not sure if I could have have the resolve to have children though or if that’s even desired now in this increasingly uncertain and hostile environment.

  • Anon

    I’m a guy, and my husband’s cousins are over, and their kids are a fucking nightmare. I was like, why do people generally decide to have kids? It seems like a living hell. So I googled it and this article made me cry. I don’t “know” why people have kids, but you helped me “feel” why people have kids, and it’s a beautiful, confusing feeling.

    Thank you.

  • Amanda

    I still don’t know why people have children. The reasons have always seemed to be: we don’t know, “oops a baby”, and because the parents want to leave a legacy and have someone to take care of us when we’re older (self centered alert). I get that before birth control and over population we needed to have kids but the impact on the earth, the cost-emotional, physical, financial, environmental etc and the relentlessness of it…I just don’t understand. I actually love children and I would raise a couple if adoption was not an incredibly expensive endeavor ($30,000-$100,000 for the average adoption). But to have your own in a world overrun with children in need of homes and in such a violent and disconnected world. I don’t understand. Good grief, sending them to school alone is terrifying enough but if you have a girl there is a one in four chance of them being raped which means that there are boys out there doing it (here’s looking at you Brock Turner) and parents shaming the girls and supporting the boys (hello again Brock). It’s painful and violent. I just don’t understand.