Whether to have children or not can feel like one of life’s greatest decisions. Then there’s the question of who to have them with, when to have them and even how to have them. For some, the answers come readily enough and it’s a clear choice of ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but for others, the decision isn’t quite as easy.
Some days, you might feel ready to create your own mini-me, but other days, perhaps after you’ve seen a parent struggling to deal with a toddler mid-tantrum in the supermarket, your feelings become unclear. While these conflicting emotions are normal, they can leave you second guessing whether that’s the life you want to lead.
Sometimes, the indecision is exacerbated by fears of other kinds, such as the environmental impact a child can have, or feeling like you should have kids because your partner wants to become a parent. Navigating all of these feelings can be difficult, so how can you reveal once and for all whether you want children to be a part of your future?
How to know if you want kids
While we can’t magically reveal the answer for you, there are some tell-tale signs that could let you know whether you want kids or not, as well as some things that could help you to make the decision.
1. Accept that it’s OK to not know
Acceptance doesn’t necessarily help you to understand immediately whether you do or don’t want children, but it can make things a little clearer and help you to eventually reach a decision that’s based on what you want.
By accepting that it’s okay to not have kids, as much as it’s fine to have them, your decision won’t be weighted by other people’s expectations and this can reduce the pressure you’re putting on yourself. Try to avoid seeing certain decisions as ‘right’ and instead focus on what is best for you and your partner.
2. Try to understand your personal feelings
When deciding if you want to have kids, it’s important to understand your personal feelings towards them. How do you feel about children in general? Do you like interacting with them and playing with them? Perhaps you have nieces and nephews that you adore and dote on. While you can love your nieces and nephews without wanting to be a parent yourself, these interactions and signs can help you to ascertain why you do or don’t want children, which in turn helps you to reach a decision.
3. Think about how you would feel if you missed a pill
Missing a contraceptive pill can give you some idea of how you truly feel about having children. When you finally realise you’re late taking a pill (by more than 12 hours) or have missed a day altogether, is the first feeling one of panic or one of acceptance?
If your stomach drops and you’re filled with fear, this could be a sign that children aren’t on your agenda quite yet. However, if the feeling is similar to acceptance and a “we’ll see what happens” attitude, it’s more likely that children are something you’re open to and actually want.
4. Know that there isn’t a right or wrong decision
In today’s society, there is a lot of pressure on both women and men (though often particularly on women) to have children. Upon getting a new partner or getting married, it’s usually not long before the ‘So when are you having children?’ questions start. Or as a woman gets older, the questions can change to statements such as ‘you’re not getting any younger’.
While there’s technically nothing wrong with such questions and statements, they can make you feel that having children is ‘right’ and choosing not to have them is ‘wrong’. This is completely untrue. No matter which way you’re leaning, your ultimate decision is going to be right for you and your partner, regardless of society’s views.
5. Consider your fears
You may believe that you want to have kids but be somewhat unsure because of all the fears you have flying around in your head.
For example, you might be worried about the pregnancy (how it will change your body, how it will make you feel, whether you’ll be ill, whether the birth will be painful). You could have fears about raising a newborn, but the idea of having an older child doesn’t scare you as much. Your fears might be financial and not emotional, and you may be concerned about how you will afford a child.
Such worries are totally normal, but they can get in the way of your decision making. Ultimately, when these fears are put to one side, the remaining sentiment is the same: you do or don’t want to have children. You should therefore try to see what can be done about these concerns, if anything. For instance, if you want to be a parent but don’t want to be pregnant, you may be able to try surrogacy or adoption. There are other ways to become a parent than birthing a child yourself and these could be the solution to your problem.
Is it selfish to not want a baby?
For whatever reason, some that choosing not to have children is selfish. For instance, it’s sometimes assumed that people who don’t want kids simply desire an ‘easy’ life that is unburdened by worries, responsibility and hassle. But there are many more reasons why a person or couple may decide against having children, and even if these things are a part of your final decision, it doesn’t make it a selfish one.
Ultimately, many of our life decisions are based on what we do and don’t want, so does this make every choice a selfish one that only revolves around ourselves?
On the flip side of the coin, some people believe that the opposite is true and that having children is selfish.
Therefore, don’t make your decision based on other people’s expectations or assumptions, or the guilt you might feel in saying you don’t want children. Instead, make the choice in your own time and in your own way and once it’s made, try to avoid feeling guilty about it or thinking that it’s the ‘wrong’ option. It is neither selfish to want to have children nor to not wish to have them.