Why I feel bad about not wanting more children

Esther Walker
Esther with Kitty and Sam

The relief I feel not to have to be pregnant again or deal with a baby again is huge. I almost can’t believe I never have to do it again!

I am chucking out small baby clothes and toys left, right and centre. I am making plans for what to do with the tiny box room off the kitchen, which is at the moment a devoted nappy-changing space (an extra fridge is going in there).

These are not the actions of a woman who longs to hold a newborn in her arms again. When people say that to me, when they say ‘I just love babies,’ they might as well be saying ‘I love going to the dentist’ or ‘I can’t wait to bungee jump again.’

 I feel as if having two children means that my love for my children is not as strong as that of other people who have more.

Plus, I did not marry my husband in a panic because I needed to be with someone, or then decide I wanted to have kids and needed to continue having a lot of kids so that I didn’t have to re-engage with him.

I married Giles because we get on like a house on fire and he is fun and vital. But children put pressure on my marriage, just like they put pressure on everyone’s marriage. My husband is not especially brilliant at surviving on tiny scraps of affection. He has been willing to forgo attention and affection because he loves his children so much – but he cannot go on like that for ever.

He would have more children, he would keep going, to make up for, I suspect, what he feels as a serious lack of wifely doting. But there would have to be more help. Someone living in probably.

My husband would never admit this to anyone, would be furious with me if I said it, but he is as tired as I am. What he is ready for now is an easy life with two children over the age of two, plenty of holidays, not too many school fees to have to fret about, a more relaxed wife.

So I could have another, but I don’t want my co-parent to be a live-in nanny or au pair, I want my co-parent to be my husband. My friend Kate, who has two children and a husband who works very hard, described having an au pair as like having ‘a shit best friend’.

I feel bad about not wanting more children. I feel like three or four children is hardcore, it’s cool. I feel as if having two children means that my love for my children is not as strong as that of other people who have more. That I don’t relish domestic life as much as they do.

Two children is sad and suburban. I recoil from older women I meet who say they regret not having more children, because I don’t want that to be me. I hope I never feel like that – I think that regretting not having more children must be the saddest feeling in the world, especially if you could, if you get pregnant reasonably easily, births are alright, you have plenty of cash, husband on board and all that.

But I think that maybe what they are experiencing is possibly just a related feeling of just loving your own children, of fearing that something might happen to them, of feeling ill and bereft at the idea that one day they will all leave home.

Part of me thinks that I ought to have more children as an insurance policy in case one of them dies. Really! I have had that thought.

But it doesn’t matter how many children you have, as they will all leave home at some point – you cannot put that day off for ever. Part of me thinks that I ought to have more children as an insurance policy in case one of them dies. Really! I have had that thought. But that is a bit sick, isn’t it? Would having a lot of children make it less devastating if one of them died? I can’t see how it would.

Rather than running away from it, I would like to look forward to the day my children leave home, embrace it. I would make plans for myself but hope that they return again, one day, with their own children.

I would like to be a reasonably young, genuinely useful granny. I would like to be able to have my grandchildren at my house for the weekend, so my own children could have some time alone without the guilt you get when you pay for childcare.

  • This extract is taken from Esther Walker’s new book Bad Mother. We’re going to be serialising it over the next few weeks but if you can’t wait for the next instalment, buy and download the whole book here

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