To have children or not have children? That is the question that has been consuming my thoughts and my indecision is making me feel anxious.
For me, the decision is not clear-cut. While, for the moment, I am leaning more towards not having children, some days I feel equally pulled in the other direction.
I do think that a huge part of my unease with making a decision comes down to how unaccepting society is of those who choose to remain child free. In my experience, it is a decision that is largely viewed as strange.
When I speak to friends who are mums about the angst I have in relation to making the decision about whether to have children, I am usually met with blank stares or sometimes words of sympathy but none of them really seem to relate. And I couldn’t expect them to because that would go against their own pro-children decision.
But the thing that has surprised me when having these conversations is that none of these women have expressed that they, too, had a hard time making the same decision which makes me feel incredibly alone in my conflict.
Considering both sides
I’ve considered many aspects of this issue.
If I did have children, I worry about the kind of world they would grow up in and the fact that I don’t feel equipped to adequately fulfil the role of a mother. If I don’t have children, I wonder if years down the track I’ll feel like something is missing from my life or if I’ll regret my decision to remain child free.
I’ll admit it, I’ve had thoughts like, “maybe I’ll just have one child and that way I won’t regret not having any”. But making a decision from a place of regret is a terrible way to make a decision.
Getting married hasn’t made my views any clearer, either.
Yet, I am frequently confronted with pressure, more than ever before, from those around me to get on with making babies.
Apparently others don’t think it’s rude or disrespectful to place their strong opinions and expectations of having children on me, even though I’m genuinely struggling to come to a decision about it.
And then there’s my very real fear of pregnancy and child birth. It scares the shit out of me, and I am not exaggerating.
I have had several nightmares in recent years about being pregnant, getting rushed to hospital and it’s all chaos. Then I wake up in a hot sweat and my heart feels like it is going to jump out of my chest.
I have also never had the desire to carry or deliver a child and I don’t think this will change any time soon. The solution? Adoption could be an option. But that’s a whole other conversation and comes with its own challenges.
While I’ve met many women who have expressed how much they’ve gained in their life since having a child, the thought of it instantly makes me think about all the things I’d have to give up. And it stirs up something incredibly uncomfortable within me.
I’d have to give up working and my career, at least for a period of time. And, I like working. I also like earning my own pay check and being financially independent. Having a child would mean relying on my husband to support me in some capacity.
I also happen to like my life as is. I like that I can work 10-hour days without having to worry about picking up kids from school or after care. I enjoy sleeping in on weekends. I like having the freedom to watch a movie or read a book in silence. I love having the ability to go travelling on my own when I want to.
I would have to give up all of these things, even if it’s temporary, to have a child. I’m just not sure I want to do that.
As Kelli Cooper so eloquently puts it in this Huffington Post article: It makes no sense to give up a life that I love for one about which I have serious doubts.
I wouldn’t want to feel resentful towards my child because I’ve had to give up a lifestyle I didn’t want to give up. That would be completely unfair on the child.
A truly personal decision
I’d love to simply put this issue to one side and forget about it while I’m so uncertain, so I don’t have to continue stressing about it, but it’s not that simple.
I have an overwhelming sense of needing to get clear on my decision soon because I’m in that pivotal life stage – I will be forced, biologically, to make a decision in the next few years, whether I like it or not.
At the same time, I get the feeling that there is an enormous amount of pressure on women to have this all figured out.
On one hand, we are told that having children is truly the best thing you can do with your life, while simultaneously being reminded that a woman’s fertility decreases from her early 30s, and having a child after the age of 35 is considered “later in life” and is fraught with increased risk of complications.
I’m sure, by now, you’re starting to understand why I am grappling with the decision so much. Yet, despite the complex nature of making such a life-altering decision, we’re still expected to just “figure it out”.
A quick internet search on the topic returns hundreds of articles to support the argument for and against having children, and if you dig deep enough you’ll be able to find a perspective to match your own. This confirms just how personal a decision it is.
This is a topic I’ve discussed a lot with other women (and some men) before even writing about it, in my quest to gain some perspective.
For the most part, I’ve been served comments like “Why wouldn’t you have children?” and “You get married and have children, that’s what you do” and “Won’t you be old and lonely if you don’t have kids?” These comments, to me, seem rather limited and don’t seek to gain an understanding of opposing views.
While many may not realise this, the people who feel on the fence about whether to have children have, in my experience, given the decision a lot of thought. In some instances, they’ve given it more thought than those who have had children.
This has certainly been the case for me, because when you find yourself not wanting to tread a common path or do what most other people are doing, you find yourself exploring the issue in great depth.
Opening the conversation
I’m curious to know why women aren’t talking about this more openly, or why we’re not regularly visiting the other side of the conversation – that life can be fulfilling without children or why we shouldn’t be so quick to judge those who are considering or have chosen, in the least selfish way possible, to remain child free.
I’m sure I can’t be alone in my thinking, which is why I want to open up the conversation.
Do you feel undecided about having children? Does it keep you up at night? Are there mothers out there who once struggled with the decision and may be able to impart some knowledge? If you chose not to have children, how did you get comfortable with that decision?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, experiences and stories in the comments section below.