My favorite classes in business school were the Organizational Behavior courses taught by Professor Donald Palmer. The only things I might refer to on a daily basis are things that I learned in his classes. One of those topics was Commitment Theory (I don’t remember if that is what it was actually what it was called in his class. I had a tendency to rename a lot of his topics for my own purposes!). The principle behind this theory is that when you publicly commit to a course of action, it is difficult to break from that path as people in general want to seem consistent.
Recently I have been pretty vocal in telling others that Pudge will be our one and only child and we’re ok with that. Sometimes, though, I can’t help but wonder if the logic of being a single child household in San Francisco is brainwashing me into thinking that I only want one child. In fact, I would be over the moon if Pudge had a sibling. The reality is that having children is not what it used to be. So many people have told me that everything will work itself out; there are so many people that have children that don’t have everything figured out when they go into it but it just works itself out.
Am I just convincing myself that we can’t do it?
Initially I had publicly committed myself to not having biological children by telling everyone, including my mother-in-law, that I had no plans on having biological children; I wanted to be a foster parent and adopt. That was it. I told anyone that was willing to listen and many that probably unwilling parties that it was my deepest cherished dream to be a parent to a child that had been left to the system. I figured the more people I told about it the less likely I would be able to stray from that course of action.
What I did not anticipate was that the person that I picked to be my life partner would not have that same dream and also wasn’t that keen to make that dream his own. The more I tried to make plans to have children my own way the more I saw his excitement diminish. It occurred to me one day that dreams change and if I wanted my partner to be a part of mine I might have to change my tune.
So we had Pudge. Two years later we have a funny silly sweetheart of a boy. So funny and sweet that sometimes I wonder how I couldn’t want another one. There is really the truth to it all: I want another child, but I spend my days telling people we’re done because the numbers of it all say to me that something had to give. Is that fear making me declare definitively to everyone and anyone that we have no more children on the horizon? Am I committing to something out loud to spare myself the heartbreak of trying to make a choice that we ultimately might make us feel trapped?
The idea recently made a “Hmm…” moment for me and after some light soul searching I do think that there is a part of me that publicly committed to having our quest for children end with Pudge because of the fear of doing the opposite. Having children these days is not the same commitment it was before. Things don’t just “work out.” The biggest dilemma for parents and their offspring these days is providing the education that you desire and that they need to make it in the world without having the burden of a debt they’ll be paying well into their retirement. If that isn’t hard enough with one, worrying for two is just not something I’m sure we’re ready to do. Once you commit to having more children (whether or not that be biological or by adoption) there really isn’t any turning back.
Then there is also a part of me that still remembers why I initially wanted to be a foster parent and still hopes that maybe there is a kid out there that wants a family and would like to be a part of ours.
Commitment theory can be such an important tool in business because you can use it to create action amongst team members at your company but you can also use it to create discipline in yourself.