Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The question

Costa Rica can be a child-friendly place to live. Most people here really like kids. A lot. On the other hand, there is a lot of child abuse and, if you have young kids, not a whole hell of a lot for them to do. Playgrounds are seriously lacking, because, you know, "people" (read: poor people) would "ruin" (read: use) them. I have heard more than one Costa Rican tell me this. It disgusts me. And most cities would rather spend money maintaining giant soccer fields than building playgrounds for the kids who live there. But I digress...

Living in a country where every married couple is expected to have a ton of kids can be bizarre/suck badly if you don't want a ton of kids. I remember when I was pregnant, people would ask me the stupidest questions. For example, "Was it planned?" "Is it any of your business?" is what I most often wanted to respond, but usually just said, "Yes, of course he was." What if he wasn't, though? Sheesh. People can say the dumbest things.

The one we've been getting lately is "Are you having more children?" or "When are you having the next one?" People. I'm done having kids. I will admit we had thought about having just one more child about a year ago, but the older I get (I'm going to be 40 in May, if you missed that post!), and the closer I get to my son, the older he gets, the less desire I have to bring another baby into this mix. I remember not sleeping well for a year. I remember breastfeeding for what seemed like forever; I remember diapers and straining baby food. I just have no great desire to go through that again. Been there, done that. Plus, damnit, I'm OLD! Okay, maybe not old, but I feel old, and I'm not willing to put all that strain on an already strained body. These are some of my reasons. The most important, though, is that I feel like my family is complete. I'm happy with us the way we are.

Yet, Costa Ricans are so shocked when I say that, no, I am not having any more kids. "You really need to have two, because blah blah blah..." What do they know? They know nothing of my family life. How irritating for someone to assume they know what's best for me, what's best for my family? I know I'm living in a Catholic country, where the whole reason for marriage is to have kids and propagate the Catholic species. But I'm not Catholic. Even some friends of ours who got married in the Catholic church (a year after their son was born -- hee hee -- that must have stirred up the congregation!), have no intention of having more kids. I'm sure their family must give them a rash of you-know-what about that.

The people I really feel sorry for, though, are those who are childless by choice. I would bet that in Costa Rica they're few and far between, and they get hassled by parents, family members, friends and complete strangers all the time. "When are you guys going to have kids?" Having children is a huge decision, and I totally respect people who choose not to have kids at all. I am sure they thought about it and came to their conclusion after much weighing of the pros and cons. Who are we -- their parents, their best friends, anyone, really -- to think we know better than they do? Why do they (the question askers) assume we have not discussed the issue of having more children and decided, after much thought, that we have come to the conclusion that is best for us? And as much as I love my friends here, I really do, I can tell you that not a single friend of mine from California has once asked me when/if we are going to have more kids. Not one. Whereas nearly every single one of our friends here in Costa Rica have. Maybe it's like, "How about this weather we're having?" "Are you guys thinking of having more kids?" Mere conversation between adults who, for the most part, already have kids. I'm just tired of this question. I'm tired of hearing it, and I'm tired of answering it.


  1. I never fail to be surprised by how people cannot resist the urge to release a constant and ready stream of advice and by the audacious intrusiveness of their questions.

  2. It is weird, in a way, that Costa Ricans feel the urge to so freely give unwanted advice about one's children, even if they have absolutely no relation to you, because in general they're a "mind-your-own-business" culture. I remember when our son was a baby getting asked ALL THE TIME by complete strangers, "Isn't that baby cold?" I finally started saying, "Hell no! This isn't Alaska!" What they really needed was a thorough explanation on the circulatory system of newborns, but I just got tired of hearing it. Personally, I try not to dispense advice unless it's specifically asked for.