If you could be a fly on the wall at a lunch with a group of 30-something women, I bet one of the hottest topics of discussion you would hear them talk about is whether they are going to have children. More women than not do some serious laboring over this decision. For many women it’s not an easy choice if they don’t feel a strong, unquestionable urge to become a mother. Here are just some of the questions men and women may ask themselves:

How will introducing a child into my life affect my career?

How will a child affect my relationship?

If I’m not in a relationship, what is the age to “fish or but bait” and decide not to have kids?

If I am not in a relationship, do I want a child enough to become a single mom?

How long should I wait to find a committed relationship with a partner who wants kids or decide to do it on my own?

Sometimes these questions can be putting the cart before the horse. To make the decision means committing to some pilot testing, and then having a heart to heart with oneself. Pilot testing means do some serious babysitting of all children from a variety of ages. Sometimes women think they will love being around babies, toddlers, or children as they get older, but when they experience it first hand find they feel differently. One woman in Families of Two worked as a nanny for a living and decided she didn’t want children of her own as a result of caring for children as her job. Others I interviewed were the oldest in their families, and doing their share of babysitting influenced how they felt about becoming parents when they became adults.

Once you’ve pilot tested caring for children:

Do some deeper soul searching with these questions:

Do I honestly love spending lots of time with and caring for children?

What experience am I really looking for if I have children? Is having children the only way to have this experience?

What really gives me meaning in life now, and how will having children fit into this picture?

Am ready to change my present life for a different one? Am I ready to put other life goals aside while I am raising a child?

Am I emotionally and financially ready to become a parent?

If I imagine I am at the end of my life, will I feel like I had missed something if I had not become a parent?

Many couples don’t take this time individually or together to answer these questions. In my interviews with happily married couples without children by choice, a sizable number got married before looking at this question. That’s risky! It can end up being very difficult on the relationship down the line if they went into the marriage not being clear about if and how parenthood will fit into their married life.

The parenthood decision changes your life for the rest of your life. Unlike generations ago, when in the words of my parents, it was “just what you did”, today it’s more complicated. If you know of men and women who are in the midst of making this decision, encourage them to spend time with kids and answer these questions, to find their, reason, no one else’s, for having children or not.

If the decision was hard for you, how did you ultimately decide? How have you seen others make what can be a tough decision? Your thoughts and experience can very well help those currently in the midst of this big decision~

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