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I Love Kids, But I’m Not Sure I Would Make A Good Parent

The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line

We paid a visit to the Doctor’s roommate from medical school, who also happened to be instrumental in helping him locate and land his new job. We hung out with him, his wonderful wife and his adorable kids for an afternoon over a little champagne and a lot of sparkling apple cider.

What started as some catching up with The Golden Girls on in the background turned into a play date with miniature trains and silly selfies with little Vince and Lorenzo — while baby Victoria, the Doctor and the other grown-ups hung out nearby.

I’ve always been told I’m “good with kids,” though I’ve often struggled to figure out what that really means for me. Growing up, I probably had at least a dozen different regular babysitting clients in high school and early college. I’ve always enjoyed trying to relate to the young people, whether it’s involving Thomas the Train (like this weekend) or Peppa Pig (my nephew’s favorite) or a riveting game of hide-and-seek outside.

It’s a perfect gig for me, because the fun part is what I’m good at. When someone falls and starts crying, or shits his diaper, or goes to the dark side and screams bloody murder about everything, I’m pretty ill-equipped to deal with the situation. When I was a teenager, I became really good at working them up into a frenzy shortly before the parents got home. If they weren’t curled up asleep on the couch when the parents walked in the door — which was usually the case — I could just hand them off, take my cash and let the mom and dad deal with the tough stuff.

If I’m going to be responsible for bringing someone else into this world, I would want to ensure that I wouldn’t f–k them up.

I think it’s because I have a strong aversion to disciplining kids, especially when they’re not my own (which, I guess means all kids). I realize there’s a fine line between getting kids to behave and still being “that cool babysitter” and turning into an asshole that the kids will inevitably tell the parents about later.

I never wanted to be that asshole, so I was, by default, a doormat — a doormat that kids loved to walk on, tug on, wrestle with, chase around or just put miniature trains on.

As a babysitter, it worked like a charm. As an uncle, it remains to be seen how that age-old strategy will work. My nephew just turned 2, and my niece is 3 months old. They also live in New York, so quality time has been hard to come by. Thankfully I’m headed up for a visit in a couple of weeks, so we’ll see how I continue to fit into the role of “Uncle J.”

I’m often told that because I’m “good with kids” that I should consider being a father. This summer I turn 35, so the clock is ticking if I’m going to pull the trigger (metaphorically speaking). After all, if he (or she) is a flame-throwing southpaw when high school hits, I’d like to be capable of crouching into a catcher’s position and catching that fastball.

However, I’ve always had a series of concerns about parenting. I realize that many people become parents without any planning or notice, and they adapt and turn into fine parents. But as the Doctor and I aren’t in danger of a surprise pregnancy, I’ll enjoy the liberty of not living with that risk.

It’s a perfect gig for me, because the fun part is what I’m good at.

Biologically speaking, I’d be concerned that any child who had my DNA might be cursed with my genetic shortcomings — type-1 diabetes and depression just to name a couple. A geneticist could probably show me the real probability of that actually happening, but I think my hesitancy is more of a general worry. If I’m going to be responsible for bringing someone else into this world, I would want to ensure that I wouldn’t f–k them up, either from my own genetic makeup, or from the questionable environment they would be born into. Based on what has gone down in the White House in the past month, I shudder to think what could be our social reality 9 more months from now.

Then there’s the issue of carrying on the family name — after all, my dad was the only son, and I’m his only son. But I’ve never felt even an inkling of pressure to carry on the name — if anything, my dad has sought ways to avoid much of his side of the family through the years. So I’m fortunate that this isn’t an issue.

Adopting, then, would be an option, but I’m wary of the legitimacy and integrity of the system we would have to navigate, with all the flaming hoops and red tape. The Doctor and I would have to be 100 percent all-in to embark on that journey, and he’s fairly certain he doesn’t want kids. So the odds of the adoption route are low.

To be fair, I often echo the Doctor when he explains his aversion to rearing children. I’ve seen how it drastically changes the lives of the parents, from the physical realm to interpersonal relationships to the pocketbook. Having a kid is not a decision that affects the next 18 years of your life; it’s a lifelong decision, according to how I was raised.

the change up movie scene

This starts to get into the territory where dissenters might throw around the word “selfish.” To their credit, I can see how the personal investment required to create a new person can be considered selfless and, if you’re religious, the right thing to do. And I can see how consciously avoiding becoming a parent can be construed as counter-productive to society.

Is that a valid reason for becoming a parent, then? The fear of missing out?

This “selfish” argument can be used in the inverse argument, though, so I humbly suggest that it should be deemed invalid. One could also posit that there are so many parentless children in the world, so why “selfishly” have your own? And if you adopt and you’re not absolutely certain that this is something you desire, leading you to later regret it, are you doing the child (and the world) a disservice?

It’s a slippery slope either way, so I try to avoid any self-absorbed guilt that might creep up as I see all my friends (and my younger siblings’ friends, and my cousins) having babies. A lesbian couple I’m dear friends with are looking to get pregnant later this year, and a gay couple I know are amid the harrowing process of adopting. Depending on whom you look at, it’s a no-brainer either way.

I think it boils down to more of an intangible, spiritual decision — like religion. Either you get something out of it that enriches your life, or you don’t. If you think you want something out of it but don’t feel it all the way to your core, it could cause all kinds of psychological and social problems for you and the poor soul you’ve become in charge of. The fact is, there are plenty of people out there who have a calling to be procreate and be parents, and there are plenty who don’t. Rather than looking around you to see what your peers are doing, you should listen to yourself and decide if you’re really cut out for being a parent.

But then there’s the inevitable argument that I’m possibly missing out on the greatest love one can experience. I don’t know what it’s like to look into a child’s eyes and see a reflection of part of myself, knowing that you are responsible for this new, human life. I’m aware of the existence of this emotion, but I don’t know how it feels — because I simply can’t.

Is that a valid reason for becoming a parent, then? The fear of missing out?

There’s no way I can know this without biting the bullet and becoming a dad, but my fleeting good sense tells me that this would be reckless behavior.

I’ve heard that heroin is one of the most intense physical highs one can experience, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to stick a needle between my toes so that I’m not “missing out.” I deal with enough needles as a diabetic, anyway.

Personally, the joy I experience from being around the youthfulness, innocence and levity of children is manifesting pretty ideally in my current role.

Somehow I’ve gone from discussing hanging out with kids to shooting up heroin, so that tells me this morning’s mental exercise is just about complete.

It also tells me that I’m probably best suited to be an uncle, or an “uncle-figure” for friends’ kids, especially considering my aversion to discipline and diapers.

(Something tells me I might actually learn how to change a diaper in New York next month, whether I want to or not…)

As a friend often jokes, “I love kids! But I can never finish a whole one.” This crass, barbaric joke often leaves the jaws of mothers on the floor, but in a symbolic sense, it’s how a lot of people feel. If you feel that way, it’s pretty certain that you should snip it, tie them or just avoid procreative activities.

Personally, the joy I experience from being around the youthfulness, innocence and levity of children is manifesting pretty ideally in my current role.

After all, what adult would endlessly humor me with crazy-faced selfies?

Jordan Morris is a freelance editor and writer who recently escaped the corporate grind. He writes about travel, recounts his entrepreneurial past and discusses sociopolitical issues on his daily blog, while also serving as the editor in chief of POND Trade magazine. He and his partner live on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville, Florida.