Friday, 22 May 2009

Having a Child

As stated by La Delirante in her latest post, we have recently talked about the issue of having a child sometime during the next few years. Considering the fact that I am already 30 years old, an increasing number of individuals keep asking me about when La Delirante and I will have a baby; until now, our answer has often been something along the lines of "sometime in the future". Following yesterday's late-night discussion, however, both of us are having second thoughts about the matter.

At the moment, the thought of having a child in Malta could be described as a source of anxiety for both of us. There are several reasons underlying this feeling. First, La Delirante and I have virtually no family support in this country. Nowadays, given the high cost of living prevalent in several countries, it is extremely hard for numerous families to survive on one income. Consequently, both parents often try to maintain full-time jobs whilst recruiting family members in order to help with the baby whilst they are at work. I have witnessed this phenomenon at work; all the colleagues who have one or more children benefit from some type of family support. In the absence of such support, it is logical to ask: who could give us a helping hand? Private child care would be too expensive for us. Sadly, the current Maltese government does not seem to offer much in the way of child care centres; if my memory serves me right, many of these centres are not open throughout the whole working day and none of them appear to be free. Furthermore, it seems that a number of scholars have written against the idea of sending children to such centres before the age of three. If these scholars are right, one of us would have to stay at home and look after the child for the first couple of years. This would mean trying to survive on one income, which would probably lead to many problems (financial, psychological, etc.).

The idea of having a child is also a source of anxiety for us since this would undoubtedly affect our current standard of living. All the parents I know at work hardly ever go out to a restaurant or to the cinema and travelling becomes virtually impossible (unless some family members are able/willing to keep the children for some time whilst the parents relax abroad). Furthermore, the time that was once utilised to watch DVDs, read a good book, write, go to exhibitions would suddenly be replaced by changing diapers, frequent visits to the doctor, hours spent helping out with studying prior to exams, and so on.

When viewing the point mentioned above, some people might argue that we are being selfish in preferring to indulge in our hobbies rather than in rearing a child. Not really, I would say. In my 30 years of life, I have only been able to enjoy the things I liked during the past 3 years or so. I am not saying that I had an unhappy childhood, but my family was never the type to take me out to restaurants or to the cinema on a regular basis. I grew up as a very sheltered individual and I only managed to start enjoying the nice things that life has to offer during my early 20s. Even then, however, I could not do much because of my relatively low salary. Only now am I getting the opportunity to travel more frequently or to indulge in certain pleasant activities more regularly. La Delirante's background was strikingly similar to mine in this respect and we, therefore, both understand each other when we talk about the importance of having a reasonable amount of time for the things we really enjoy doing. We are still far from living the type of life we want to live. Faced with such a situation, when we ask ourselves whether we are willing to endure several years of numerous deprivations in order to have a child, the answer is a clear no.

Considering that La Delirante and I have bought a place for ourselves last year, there is still a lot to be done before the apartment looks the way we want it to. Bearing the ticking of La Delirante's biological clock in mind, we would only have around 4 years to carry out several huge projects before it starts becoming dangerous to get pregnant. Even though our salaries have improved over the past couple of years, we are still not earning enough to be able to do all the things we need to do during such a short period of time. The next few years will still see us trying to deal with a number of debts. Furthermore, the idea of trying to carry out numerous projects as quickly as possible would require sacrificing several things and putting a huge amount of pressure on ourselves.

Another worrying aspect of having a child in Malta is the country itself. Yes, one can eat well here and it is perfectly plausible to say that Malta is a very safe country. Yet, as stated in an article which appeared in the Times of Malta on the 21/04/2009, "Malta is the worst country for children to grow up in, if a study by York University is to be believed."

When it comes to State support, La Delirante and I do not believe that the current Maltese government could do much to help us rear a child. I have already mentioned the child care centres. Apart from that, Malta has one of the lowest periods of maternity leave in the EU.

The above are a list of points that we discussed vis-a-vis having a child. Bottom line: we are currently not willing/able to have a child.



allaboutg said...

I already commented on La Delirante's post but I thought it only fair to leave a comment here too and I think that you're very sensible in the way that you look at things. Because struggling financially will not only mean that YOU won't be able to enjoy yourselves but I think it's normal to want to put a child first and ultimately children are expensive and society doesn't help! Esp. in Malta where everybody is trying to compete with their 'neighbour'. If a child is what you want, you could always put aside some money for the future so have a foundation to dedicate towards his/her upbringing :)

Onedia Hayes Sylvest said...

Ultimately , Red, it is better that you and La Delirante are ready for that major step. I was 33 when my daughter was born. I know several women who were older when their first child was born. So, don't think that clock ticks away the opportunity. These days a healthy woman can have a healthy first child later.

For me , I would not have been emotionally and financially ready until the time I had my child. That is so important. We were able to provide for her the types of experiences that helped her grow into the magnificent woman she is. My biggest regret is that I did not make better use of my childless years to explore more, travel more, and stretch my wings more.

I applaud your wisdom in seriously discussing what is right for you both. People should not be expected to have children simply because they are married and of an age. Follow your own wisdom.

Annemarie said...

I fully understand your arguments. This issue is a topic of discussion for us as well at the moment and we also decided to wait...not too long mind you...but still...I would like to finish my PhD first. However, do you not experience social pressure? I have starting dreading my visits to Malta or meeting people because I always get asked the same question!!! I wish you all the best and I can only say that having a child must be your decision, and I think that parents who feel fulfilled make better parents. So keep on enjoying life and time together.

Blur Ting said...

Reading about your (and Delirante's) views, I see where you both are coming from. It's best to be ready before you can enjoy having a child in your life. Having a child can really change the routines and alter your lifestyle completely (even after they have grown up!), so it can be a major source of stress unless you have everything in place.

Red said...

First of all, many thanks for the comments posted here! :)

I cannot say that social pressure to have a child affects me in any way. I am aware that no matter what other people say or do, only I can say whether I am prepared and/or willing to have a child.

I am very glad that La Delirante and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to discussing this matter since a great deal of tension could be created when one partner wants a child whereas the other person does not feel ready/willing to start a family.

As I look at the next few years, I see myself trying to achieve some of the many goals that I have in my mind. There are home projects, projects involving La Delirante, self-development projects (including furthering my studies in several areas), etc. At the moment, the notion of having a child appears to be a barrier to achieving several of the dreams that I currently have.

One important point which I think deserves to be mentioned is that the increasing demands that many people face at work are seriously limiting the amount of time that countless individuals have to enjoy themselves. Nowadays, there are many jobs which require much further education if one aspires to have a decent income. Such education must often take place on weekends and after working hours, meaning that there is less time (and energy) to indulge one's hobbies/interests. Imagine how much time would be left if, on top of the studying, one also has to look after a child!

As an adult, I can remember the many hours that my mom dedicated to looking after my brother and I. I can hardly ever remember her having much time to read a book or to enroll in some educational course. There was always an enormous amount of work to do at home! I am very grateful for all the things she did, but I would not like to live like that anytime soon.