For some people, having children is a foregone conclusion. For others, it’s not as clear-cut.
“It’s a deep, personal decision,” says Natasha Sharma, therapist and author of The Kindness Journal. “It’s not the kind of thing you want to be on the fence about. If you apply for a program and you decide you don’t want to do it anymore, you can drop out. If you buy a sweater and don’t want it, you can return it. But you can’t do that with a kid.”
We’re certainly not at a loss for things to worry about when it comes to considering whether to bring children into the world — from financial concerns to stress about the kind of political and social climate they’ll be born into — but you shouldn’t let those issues colour your decision. Nor should the opinions of others, experts say.
“Don’t solicit advice or opinions from other people,” Sharma says. “It’s best to keep this decision between you and your partner.” It’s too easy for others to advise you based on their own experiences or cultural expectations — parents will likely push for you to have kids, while the happily childless are more prone to extol the virtues of not having kids.
Instead, Sharma says, find a quiet space and ask yourself (and your partner) some key questions.
#1 Why do I want kids? Why don’t I want kids?
This will help you to organize your feelings on the matter and sort out what the rational fears are versus the more inconsequential ones.
“It’s OK to worry about things like how your life and marriage will change, and to tailor your expectations,” Sharma says.
However, she cautions, if you’re firmly on the fence even after weighing all the pros and cons, you might be better off erring on the side of not having them. She says that indecision, if it lasts past childbirth, is something that children can read and feel.
#2 Do I feel secure?
Security can apply to a number of different facets of our lives: financial, emotional, psychological, spiritual. And it’s especially important with regards to the other relationships you have in your life, says Joanna Seidel, a child and family therapist.
“You need to feel secure and stable so that you can relate and attach to your child,” she says. “But that also extends to having security and stability in your relationships with others, like your partner or your parents, because you’ll need their support on this journey.”
#3 Can I love someone else more than I love myself?
A lot of people worry that they won’t feel an immediate rush of love for their children, and it’s a natural feeling.
“Even if there’s an automatic rush of love when your baby is born, the responsibility and commitment can be frightening,” Seidel says. Not everyone takes to the magnitude of a new baby easily.
But you need to ask yourself if you’re ready to put your child’s needs ahead of your own — not just in their infancy when they can’t do things for themselves, but even as they get older and require more emotional or spiritual guidance.
#4 Am I ready?
This one is tricky, Seidel says, because very few people actually feel ready to start a family, but it applies to a number of different factors.
“You want to know if you’re ready to commit yourself emotionally and physically to having a child, in addition to taking on all the other responsibilities.”
She says it’s OK to feel afraid because fear can be a motivating force that will inspire you to be a better parent.