Long and rambly post ahead, sorry.
This post by Hello_My_Lover got me thinking about this sometimes contentious topic, again, along with lots of Internet browsing about wanting children and grandchildren and all the meanings we attach to them (always a dangerous thing). I never wanted children when younger, and now in my late thirties my wistfulness about having them is mostly a function of the door closing on biological reproduction. When I see pregnant women, I don't feel yearnings or the desire for a baby I'm supposed to - I think about how cute babies are, or how excited she might be, or how being pregnant must be an interesting feeling. I know this desire isn't about a baby, but about having love or a family at some point, in whatever form that might appear in my life.
And that got me thinking about child-related visions and fantasies of the future. Like, for me, in a perfect world, I might have a partner who's committed to really splitting the child care and housework, and then I wouldn't be angry about having a child - probably not more than one, though. Alternatively, my idea of a "big happy family" is a couple of his kids plus a biological one of ours, or just his kids by themselves, which is equally fine. (It's not that weird once someone pointed out to me that I grew up in this kind of family, so I'm trying to recreate it.)
But to my mother or maybe other possible grandparents, this is probably disappointing - the only thing my mom asked was, "How about your own?" She has, in the past, ordered me to produce kids, preferably multiple, because she hated being an only child (she wanted 6 kids. Nope! Not my dream). She would also be extremely offended by my wanting to work - I once pointed out to her that it was great that fathers took care of their babies, too, and she threw a fit saying she'd "failed to teach me about the importance of [women] taking care of babies." She finds women having kids on their own "immoral," and I would worry about her mistreating a child IF I had had one by myself.
All of which is to say that my way of being a mother or stepmother would disappoint and hurt my own mother, which makes me wonder about how people think about wanting children, and some of the thoughts I've read about the fantasy part of having kids.
"I wanted a boy/girl/all boys/all girls/ the daughter/son I'll never have"
Ah, the gender thing with all of its individual variations. I wonder what kind of daughter or son you'd want? A girl to dress up? I can see women wanting their daughters around as adults...but what if they move for whatever reason? What if they don't like spas or shopping or kids? What if your son isn't the kind of boy you'd envisioned when you wanted "a boy"?
"I wanted biological kids/grandkids so I can see how my blue eyes or smile would look on another face."
That would be fun, I'm not going to lie. There's all kinds of cool ways that could go. What if your child doesn't look like you at all though? My own mother bitched occasionally about how little I resembled her physically - after all, she did all the work of pregnancy and giving birth! Why couldn't I have resembled her a little instead of looking 95% like my dad? (My dad's dead now, so I think she's more ok with this these days.) Most of the grandparent grief I read about is similar - "I wanted to pass down my physical looks." "When I look at my stepgrandson I see his biological grandma's smile." "I want a genetic legacy." None of this is insignificant, at all - it's very normal. But I wonder if they're upset about not having children or grandchildren themselves, or the theoretical ones who resemble them. What if your kids look mostly like one parent, or some other family member? What if your grandchild looks not like you, but like another grandparent? What if you have biracial children or grandchildren?
"Children are important because of family stories and history. I want that to matter."
Me too. I love genealogy and family stories. And yeah, I want to matter too after I'm dead - that's pretty normal as well. Sometimes...your kids won't think those same things are important. My aunt saved all kinds of family memorabilia, and my cousin sold it all on Ebay because he didn't want it around anymore. He's not at all a bad guy for doing this - it's just that sometimes personality and values aren't transmitted via genes or nurture. Sometimes you're going to be different people. Of course, some values should change - there are definitely ways I don't want to be like my parents.
"I would be disappointed (but still love my son) if he were gay because he couldn't give me biological grandchildren. I've fantasized about his wedding and everything."
Yurgh. The above may or may not happen if your kids are straight.
Of course I have as many fantasies about my future as all these people do - number one, that my family will like me, relate to me and want me around. But it is interesting to see how much we all attach to having children or a particular kind of child, particularly in regards to nebulous things like values.