Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Do You Want to Have Kids?

December 18th, 2012 by Kati Bicknell

I’m sure by now most of you have seen this video by Jonathan Mann and Ivory King, which went viral last week. Or at least I hope you have, because it is wonderful.

I went to Bennington College with Jonathan and have been enjoying his music for years. He’s been writing a song a day for over 1000 days straight, and he shows no signs of stopping.

Usually he writes about fun or silly things, like kittens in space. So naturally I was surprised on December 5th to see that his 1,435th song was called ‘We’ve Got to Break Up.’ It was, appropriately, a song about him and his girlfriend of five years, Ivory, deciding to break up because only one of them wants to have children.

I think this is one of the best videos I’ve ever seen, not just out of the Song A Day files, but anywhere, and not just because it’s catchy.

The choice to have children or not is immensely personal, and if a couple is mismatched in their desire to have children, one or both members of the relationship will ultimately be unsatisfied, regardless of the many loves, joys and other interests they may share.

This is a topic that needs to be discussed more openly and honestly, with each member of the relationship being clear about their needs and desires. If your life won’t be complete without hearing the pitter patter of little human feet, staying with someone who doesn’t want to have children is not fair to either person.

I think this is why ‘We’ve Got to Break Up’ has received so much attention. This important topic is so rarely talked about, especially in public, that to see a couple expressing their views on the subject is unexpected and compelling. The pain on both of their faces as they realize they must say goodbye to a loyal, loving, wonderful partner in order to lead the lives that ultimately will bring them happiness is heartbreaking, yet also inspiring.

In my opinion it deserves mentioning that it is Ivory who doesn’t want to have children. This goes against the grain of popular culture, where I feel like women are the ones who are expected to want to have children. One million extra bonus points for Ivory for being clear about what she needs. The fact that women can now choose when, if ever, to have children is freaking sweet! That’s why it’s so important that women realize they have this choice, and learn about how their bodies work, so they can have children if, and only if, they want them.

I hope that Jonathan and Ivory’s brave and open-hearted song to their friends (and, as it turns out, the world) will give more people the courage to have these difficult conversations with their partners.

5 responses to “Do You Want to Have Kids?”

  1. Laura Wershler says:

    Thanks for sharing this. I hadn’t heard about Jonathan and his songwriting, so that’s cool. It is a good song, so poignant and honest.

    I’ve often wondered if long-term use of hormonal birth control suppresses desire to have children just as it suppresses normal menstrual cycle and endocrine function. We know HBC suppresses sexual desire in some women, so it’s not a stretch to imagine it could also affect maternal instinct. Think also about the impact of HBC on pheromones and mate attraction.

    Certainly there are many considerations a woman makes in deciding whether or not to have children, but I think it would be naive to exclude the possible impact of hormonal birth control methods.

  2. Carol says:

    When I was 22, I broke up with my “high school sweetheart” due in part to him wanting to have children and that he kept telling me that I would want to have a kid when I was older. One of the things that attracted me to my (now) husband was that he was certain he didn’t want to have children. I’m 27, the world’s greatest Auntie, and very happily childfree. Maybe I’ll get the baby-bug in a few years, but I don’t think so. I have never really had any sort of desire to have a child. I have a cat instead.

  3. Chris Hitchcock says:

    I found a teachable moment to discuss this with my daughter about a year ago, while talking about Justin Bieber’s song, Baby. She was sad to hear that the song was about breaking up. We got to discuss many things, including why I thought that finding a life partner was hard (DD:”I will just find someone I love” – M:”It’s not that easy, you also need to find someone who wants to do the same things that you do.” – DD:”Oh good, I will look for someone who likes math and who is not lazy.” M:”Hmmm. Also, it’s important to talk about things like whether or not you want to have kids, and when that would happen.” – DD: “Why would people not want to have kids? Maybe they wouldn’t want to have kids because when you are pregnant you can’t drink alcohol [thank you, public health posters in bathrooms]. And maybe because they are lazy.”

    So, we got to talk about being Childless By Choice, about infertility, and about some of the hard things about choosing a partner. At 7, she didn’t yet know about the strong attractions that will pull her this way and that. But I’m glad I found a way to start the wheels turning early.

  4. If only it WERE as easy as finding someone who “likes math and isn’t lazy” :)

    What a gift to have opened this conversation up with your daughter. She now has a perspective that many adult women don’t even have, that she has a CHOICE, and that she gets to design her life the way she wants. Beautiful.

  5. Zoe says:

    @Laura Wershler: Women have been not wanting children for the whole of history. As have many men. Trying to blame birth control makes it seem like it’s somehow an unnatural wish for women specifically, but it’s not. Wanting to have kids has always been context-dependent. Women often have had to have different priorities than passing on their genes; infanticide was regularly practiced in places where the environment was inhospitable to raising children, for example, pre birth control. Ancient civilizations all had abortion. The “maternal instinct” is a bit of a misnomer: we have a sex instinct, and the consequences were simply previously unavoidable.

    I knew I didn’t want kids from before I was able to have them, and before I was sexually active. And there’s no evidence in the medical literature for any such link. The only difference between now and then is that we have the freedom to express our desires without shame.

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