A non-exhaustive list of things that scare me about parenting

What scares me about parenting

Jezebel is pretty hit and miss, but sometimes they really knock it out of the park. Like with this headline:

We Need To Talk About Women Who Regret Motherhood

I can take or leave kids, personally, but I have a partner who wants them, so kids are in the plan. On a scale of one to baby fever, though, I’m definitely wayyy down on the ‘terrified’ end of the spectrum.

In so many ways, I’m not cut out for it

I don’t know how to ‘play’
This comment on the Jezebel piece sums me up nicely:

Playing with my kids was always so hard for me. I remember trying to play barbies with my 3 year old once.

Me (holding barbie): “Hello, how are you?”
Her (holding her barbie): “Well I’m doing alright.”
Me: “…”
Her: “I don’t want to play with you anymore, where’s dad?”

I hate answering questions
And kids do nothing but ask questions all day long. Usually stupid ones.

I don’t have an ear for kid ‘frequency’
It’s like they operate on another wavelength. Whatever they say comes out sounding like a high pitched mumble to me

I need a LOT of sleep
I inherited that from my mother.

There are so many things I’m scared of (some shallow, some serious)

I’m scared my kids won’t love books
This comment on The Toast is almost literally true for me:

One of the many, many reasons I am averse to having kids is the possibility that they will not enjoy reading and I will have to kill them and try again.

I’m scared my kids will be picky eaters
Like my brother was, and is. All through our childhood, he never ate the same things the rest of us did.

I’m scared my kids will be stupid
Guess there’s a bit of a tiger parent in me buried deep down? Average, I can accept. Dim, that would be a hard swallow, especially if they had a smarter sibling. I’ve seen so many cases of bright siblings overshadowing a slower one. I don’t trust myself to navigate that kind of thing well.

I’m scared my kids will be really needy
I was a pretty self sufficient child. Entertained myself with books and writing. Never asked for things. Wouldn’t tell my parents when I was super lonely after we moved, certain they wouldn’t understand (school is for learning, not making friends). Clinginess is alien to me.

I’m scared my kids will just be bad eggs
I honestly believe sometimes nature > nurture.

These are my confessions. Maybe I sound like Cruella De Ville. But I’m not gonna lie – this is what’s going on inside my head.

In Notes From A Future Shitbag Mother, the Hairpin’s Alana Massey writes:

It is a tired cliché that insults the childfree to say that parenting is the most important job in the world, but it is the most permanent one. I am paralyzed by the fear that my inadequate handling of the job will spill across generations, poisoning lives that never even had to be. I must consider how willing I am to leave behind traces of myself in a world that I feel I have already disappointed quite sufficiently.

Like Massey, I’ve considered and acknowledged all my fears and come out still knowing that this is a path I’m willing to go down. For me, thinking and talking about these fears is a healthy thing. Personally, I think I’d be crazy to NOT have any doubts about something this big.

I’m sure I’ll be a decent parent one day. Or least, I’m confident I won’t be the worst parent ever. Daunting prospect, though.

31 thoughts on “A non-exhaustive list of things that scare me about parenting

  • Reply Revanche September 25, 2014 at 07:38

    Well, there’s no need for me to write this list up then since you’ve hit every single one of my fears right on the head – especially the last time. Every single time I look at my brother I think: how do I know? HE started out promisingly and then it all went down the drain by mid-teen years. So I get to live in semi-terror for the first … 30 years ….

    At the end of the day, we’re committed. So, I know I’ll do my best, and for the stuff I’m crap at? That’s what Dad is for. Or friends. We all have our strengths and mine is more along the lines of making the rules and such, not the fun things.

    It’s funnier, I think, when someone ELSE is fielding the stupid questions. Like the text I just got from a friend: [kid] wants to know if PiC likes [this random thing].
    No reason. Just cause. Hah.

    • Reply eemusings September 25, 2014 at 08:57

      Ah, kids and their randomness. Ha.

      I know in my bones you guys are going to have a kickass kid and be the best parents ever. I’m ridiculously excited for you (the friends we have who have currently kids, all have horrible partners, so have yet to have a couple who we’re genuinely stoked on behalf of).

      • Reply Revanche September 25, 2014 at 09:56

        You’re too kind 🙂

  • Reply Revanche September 25, 2014 at 07:38

    Time? Last *thing*.

  • Reply Tonya@Budget & the Beach September 25, 2014 at 07:50

    I think those fears are very common, even for people who want to have kids. I’ve never been indifferent to having kids…I’ve always known I don’t want them. If I was dating a guy who really wanted them we’d have to end things. Is it tough to be on different pages?

    • Reply eemusings September 25, 2014 at 08:55

      Different pages? I dunno, check out the comments on this (heartbreaking) post for that info http://apracticalwedding.com/2014/09/ending-a-marriage-2. I don’t see us as being on different pages. When I say I’m ambivalent, really, I mean it in the truest sense of the word – I’m not fussed either way, so it’s just about my partner tipping me over the edge one way or another. If he had NOT wanted kids I’d be equally fine with it. He does want kids, and will be a great dad. I’m happy to have kids with, assuming nature cooperates (and I’m not willing to go to any extra lengths to conceive, and not keen on the hassle/cost of adopting). Sometimes I’m actually excited to think about being pregnant or watching our babies go through ‘firsts’, but then again, I’m equally terrified of childbirth/nappies. I know absolutely nothing about kids, so it’s going to be on HIM most of the way.

  • Reply Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) September 25, 2014 at 07:59

    Really interesting reads, Esther. Especially as I’m a childless married woman who plans to keep herself baby-free from here to eternity (my dogs are my “fur kids” and that’s enough for me!). These articles dovetail nicely with a conversation Tony & I had last night after we returned home from a friend’s who now has a nine-month baby; I have no doubt that if I decided to be a mom, I’d be a good one, but spending time with a baby on a regular basis has really reinforced to me that I don’t want to be a mom. It’s kind of an interesting place to be because I know when I was younger I assumed I would have kids, did a ton of babysitting when I was in highschool, etc., And yet, now that I’m in my 30s, I’m really happy with my life exactly as it is and while others spend time dreaming about all the good things that babies bring into your life, I just think about all the work, the worry, and the money that they require. I know I’d never take another easy breath (which aren’t all that easy for me a lot of the time any way) if I had a kid. I accept what the job is to be a parent and I totally respect the people who do that job and do it well and find it largely rewarding. But that’s not me and I’ve found peace in that revelation as well. I won’t have kids and I won’t feel like I’m missing out either.

    For what it’s worth, I think parenthood is one of those things that some people never feel 100% ready for. Sometimes you just have to accept it is scary and do it anyway if it’s important to you. I know I didn’t feel ready to leave on our RTW trip, and now I think it’s one of the best things I ever chose to do.

    • Reply eemusings September 25, 2014 at 17:03

      Oh, I couldn’t agree more. I’m one of those people (extremely indecisive, overthinker, worrier). Felt the same about our RTW trip. Took me a very long time to commit to actually getting married – very much a scary thing but one important to me. I’m certain I’ll never feel 100 pc ready for kids. Vocalising my fears, I think, is an important step for me. These are all genuinely thoughts that take up space in my head, but none of them are reasons enough for me personally not at least to try for kids.

  • Reply debs @ debt debs September 25, 2014 at 08:35

    If you start reading to them young (I mean like 2 months) at bedtime, they will learn to love books. Even if they go through a picky eating stage, if you stay consistent and don’t cater (make separate meals), they eventually adapt. For everything else you adapt and try not to freak out too much.

    • Reply eemusings September 25, 2014 at 09:01

      Oh, did I mention I HATE reading out loud?!?! Hate hate hate it. But I know I will need to.

      • Reply Revanche September 25, 2014 at 09:56

        *cough* PiC’s job *cough* I haaate reading out loud too, it’s too damn slow. 🙂

  • Reply Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies September 25, 2014 at 10:42

    “I’m scared my kids will be really needy”

    Never heard this verbalized quite in this way, but yes! I was always ridiculously independent – cannot imagine being able to relate well to someone who was not.

    Over the last year or two, I think we’re getting closer and closer to being a firm “No” on the kid question. We’re happy. We like being the two of us (plus the cat). Why mess with what works?

  • Reply Anya September 25, 2014 at 10:44

    You can always hope for infertility. I was in the same situation as you until after seven years, when I ran out of excuses why we can’t have a kid just yet, hubby and I started trying only to find out he’s infertile. Things have an interesting way of working out. 🙂

    • Reply eemusings September 25, 2014 at 16:58

      LOL, I wouldn’t go that far. I think what’s meant to be will meant to be. I imagine I would be sad initially if this happened but not devastated. His side are always popping out babies, so there’d be no shortage of little humans to be aunt and uncle to.

  • Reply Genie September 25, 2014 at 11:59

    Thank you for writing this. I’m of the firm belief that couples should not plan a family unless both partners really want kids. It’s a lot of work if you don’t desperately want them. I understand that priorities change but what if people just say the change so they don’t feel like they’re missing out on all the other things they had planned?

    Both my husband could go either way and since neither of us desperately want them, it’s more likely not going to happen. If we had kids accidentally, we’d keep them, but that’s not going to happen.

    I love and value my independence and all the things listed above. I’d be happier with raising pets. Nothing that people who love having kids say has inspired me to want kids.

    I think there is more to life than having kids and it’s fine not to want them.

    • Reply eemusings September 25, 2014 at 16:59

      Unfortunately here it’s easier to have kids than pets if you rent. NZ is weird that way.

      I think I could be very happy with OR without kids. I feel like the kid route will be a lot harder, but also (if all goes well) a lot more rewarding, potentially. I couldn’t really say WHEN I switched from being quite anti-kid to maybe-kid, but it was definitely in my early 20s. I think that the older I get the closer I edge to pro-kid (and once we’re settled in a house of our own? Even more so) but definitely don’t ever see myself succumbing to full on baby fever.

  • Reply Erin @ Journey to Saving September 25, 2014 at 14:15

    I think I have every single one of these fears as well. My boyfriend is in the “can take it or leave it” camp, and right now, I’m mostly leaning toward no. I can’t relate to kids at all; I always feel so awkward around them! My cousin’s son wanted me to read to him, and I felt like I did an awful job. For whatever reason he was most interested in me out of everyone else there. No clue why!

  • Reply Michelle September 25, 2014 at 17:49

    Love this, while I want children, I haven’t always been this way. I am most terrified of the fact that I didn’t have a “normal” mother growing up, so I really don’t know what a mother does with their children or how any normal parenting situations work. I’m going to be an awkward mom!

  • Reply Mrs. Frugalwoods September 25, 2014 at 23:02

    We do want kids, but we also have those fears (and more). I think it’s actually a good sign to be worried and to have concerns! I think people who have kids without a fair amount of preparation and anxiety are deluding themselves into thinking the whole experience will be a breeze. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself now :).

  • Reply Katie @ Second-Hand Hedgehog September 26, 2014 at 05:23

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head at the end of this post: you won’t be the worst parent ever. I think there’s probably a lot of comfort to be had from that. And besides, surely it’s natural to be scared of becoming a parent?

    I never used to be particularly bothered about whether or not I have children (I’m still not sure on the subject), but I’ve always thought I couldn’t do it without an amazing partner, because personally I wouldn’t have a clue what to do, and babies terrify me. Then a couple of my friends started having babies, and I was encouraged (read: coerced) into holding them, and suddely I don’t find babies so scary any more. I mean, don’t get me wrong, if I found out I had one brewing right now I would still break down in terror, but I guess it’s a slow learning curve.

    Great to articulate these fears though. I thitnk the first step towards overcoming a fear is acknowledging it. Plus we’re constantly told that being a woman means we *ought* to want children, desperately. It’s great to point out that, actually, not all women want the same thing…

  • Reply Sally September 26, 2014 at 09:46

    Mostly, afraid of never again having alone time (reading time!), being able to sleep for 12 hours a night, and arduous travel, though on the last one I am pretty sure I can make them do what I want. Also, afraid of never making enough money but that’s always a concern. But looking forward to: putting them in cool sports, encouraging them to be artistic, creative and think for themselves, and seeing who they become.

  • Reply Kate @ Money Propeller September 26, 2014 at 23:22

    When I got pregnant, I had mixed emotions, I’m happy and at the same time I was afraid! Afraid if I’m going to be a good mom, if I will be responsible enough, but everything turns out to be pretty well. You will never know until you have your baby, yes they do ask silly questions that will make you laugh but they are perfect gift from God above.

  • Reply cantaloupe September 27, 2014 at 00:10

    As a teacher who sees a ton of kids and their parents, I can tell you that most kids turn out exactly as you would expect them to turn out, based on their what their parents are like. Some even turn out better than you could have hoped, based on their shitshows of parents. Never ever have I seen a kid turn out shittier than his/her parents.

    You have your shit together, you’re smart, you’re realistic, you have a loving, mature relationship, you’ve traveled, you’re not spoiled. Your kids will be beyond golden. Just don’t spoil them.

    So, ok, I lied. Sometimes they turn out shittier than their parents. It’s always a result of being spoiled and getting away with everything at home, then being shocked that the real world doesn’t operate on the same rules. It usually comes from the nouveau riche families that don’t know how to handle their first generation prosperity and freedom and laziness… but that’s not you, so don’t you worry!

    • Reply eemusings September 27, 2014 at 16:13


      The instances of shitty kids I’ve seen have often been a result of spoiling (and in one example, what do the parents do? Spoil the other kid EVEN MORE though thankfully he isn’t as bad) but in a few others it’s been more getting in with dodgy people and drugs despite having gotten off to a good start. Such a waste.

  • Reply Jane September 27, 2014 at 07:35

    I’ve never been very interested in kids that I’m not (closely) biologically related to. Even my nieces and nephew often overwhelm me. I’m totally enamored with my daughter, though, and I’m convinced it’s partly the effect of biology/hormones, and partly that her personality is pretty similar to my husband’s and mine (which is probably a combination of nurture/nature).

    I don’t think anyone should be pressured to have kids they don’t want. I do agree with a previous poster that you’ll probably have some ambivalence about your desire/ability until you actually have a child (even if you know you *reallyreally* want one). It’s a huge paradigm shift.

  • Reply Mutant Supermodel September 27, 2014 at 08:28

    I have moments of regret all the time. Big ones. Not many people I can admit that too though. My mother for instance gets downright PISSED if I go anywhere near that area.

  • Reply Pauline September 27, 2014 at 11:45

    I am scared my kids would die, a night where I wouldn’t hear them having problem breathing, or because they can’t phrase they are in pain, or hungry, or whatever. I have had chickens die under my watch because they ate poison or an animal came at night and ate them, so I am worried if I don’t watch the kid 24/7 the same will happen.

  • Reply save. spend. splurge. September 28, 2014 at 03:39

    We all worry about the same things and I did too as a new mom, but honestly, they’re tougher than we think. If they’re hungry, we’ll eventually understand what their signals are for being hungry, in pain, etc. It will all be fine in the end as long as we don’t stress out over it and try to force them to be mini adults when they’re just.. babies.

  • Reply Untemplater September 29, 2014 at 17:09

    I’ve written about my fears of having or not having kids a couple times and I totally understand everything you wrote about in this post. I know plenty of people who were waiting to have babies as soon as they tied the knot, and a lot of my friends are already on their 2nd or 3rd kids.

    I have no idea if I’ll have kids someday or not and I do think I will be afraid of a lot of things. I think we should stay in tune with our feelings and not rush into anything. I think we have these feelings and doubts for a reason. But I do think that our feelings and fears can change and dilute over time as well. I think what you’re feeling is absolutely normal and natural!

  • Reply nicoleandmaggie October 5, 2014 at 05:39

    I’m not crazy about kids, but my mom told me that *my* kids would be different. And she’s right (like Jane above said). My kids are perfect and wonderful, because they’re mine. So it worked out. There’s actually a two year window around each of my kid’s ages in which other people’s kids are adorable and interesting. I’m right at the point now where newborns are back to looking mostly ugly instead of adorable. Hormones are amazing things.

    Also, for the most part whatever you do as a parent so long as you’re not abusive or too neglectful doesn’t really matter. Your kids will turn out just fine.

  • Reply Sarah October 10, 2014 at 11:01

    I love kids and definitely want them, but I do think often enough about my fears of having them. Like you, I’d be terrified of my child turning out to be an asshole. My brother was AWFUL as a teenager, and I wasn’t so bad, but certainly tried to keep up with my brother to gain his acceptance so did my fair share of angsty stuff.

    My two biggest, deepest fears about parenthood:

    1. I will be cold. My mom is certainly not cold now, but I don’t remember very many warm moments between us as a child. I don’t remember her playing with me, or even reading to me (my memories of that are of my dad). My mom is a wonderful mother and I am lucky, but she isn’t exactly the most maternal of people.

    My mom never seemed like she was super happy to have children, though she was certainly dutifully devoted to us. I guess I just don’t want to be the type of parent who sees motherhood as a chore, duty, or responsibility – it is those things, yes, but more than anything, I think it should be .. I don’t know, a priviledge isn’t the right word, but I want to be the type of mother who actually ENJOYS her kids. Does that make sense?

    2. How the kid will turn out wont be in my control. If we go back to the nurture argument, people’s personalities are not a product of one person (the mother), they are a product of their environments, circumstances, events and people, all who help shape and mold them. Peers, teachers, siblings, even strangers and their other parent all have an impact and what if the kid turns out terribly despite my best efforts because of things that I can’t control? It sounds like me being a control freak but there you have it.

    Plus, I’m scared that parenthood will put a damper on my relationship with J.
    (http://qz.com/273255/how-american-parenting-is-killing-the-american-marriage/ — great article just in case you want more reading material).

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