Parenthood is an enormous undertaking. You’re creating a whole new human, responsible for guiding them into adulthood and making them respectable members of society.
In the past, parenthood was a given. Although some herbs and medicinals were available, most women didn’t have the option to control when and if they had children. With advances in technology and birth control, we have more choice in bearing children.
More and more people are choosing to opt out of parenthood altogether.
It’s terrific that we have the option. However, it leads to the most significant decision of our lives: should we have children? And what happens if we change our minds?
The Child-Free Option
More and more people are opting out of parenthood altogether. We take a hard look at our life goals, assess the costs and benefits of raising children, and decide it’s not for us.
Many of us choose not to have children because we don’t want the responsibility of raising another human, while others feel that having kids would negatively impact their lives and goals.
I’m in the child-free camp. I’ve never been inclined toward motherhood. For most of my adult life, parenthood wasn’t something I gave much thought to. I was too busy building my career, traveling, and enjoying time with friends to consider it.
As I got older, I became more and more set in my childfree ways. I examined the pros and cons of parenthood, took a hard look at my life goals, and considered whether I wanted to have children.
During my thirties, I had a few moments of pause and longing, but now that I’m in my forties, I’m 100% secure in my child-free position.
Childfree Due to Circumstances
Some people opt out of parenthood, not because of a lack of desire but because they take a realistic approach to their ability to parent.
Financial circumstances, worries about the future and the fear of being an awful parent are often cited as reasons not to have kids.
Amanda Kay, owner of the career-focused website My Life I Guess, falls into this group. “I always thought I would have kids, but my financial struggles made it an unrealistic goal,” Kay said.
“I spent most of my late 20s and 30s just trying to find a steady job. Between a low-paying toxic work environment, being underemployed for several years, and being wrongfully fired, having a child just wasn’t feasible. Even though I eventually found a stable and well-paying job, I’m still playing catch up. My student loan debt left me living paycheck to paycheck, which made it too difficult to save for a family.”
Kay added that while she’s always loved kids and thought she’d have some of her own someday, she doesn’t regret her decision. “It wouldn’t have been an easy life, financially speaking, so I know my husband, and I made the right choice. Our four cats are the right family for us.”
Having a Baby Because It’s What You Do
Though child-free folk are on the rise, the default choice for many is to have a baby. However, some still do it because they think it’s what they’re supposed to do rather than because they genuinely want to.
I had an eye-opening conversation with an old friend about her decision to have kids. I was still in my contemplative phase, and she had two children, so I asked her what made her want to be a mom.
She replied, “it’s just something you did.”
Her response made me wonder how many people have kids without giving it any thought because society bombards us with the idea that having kids is what adults do. Some folks never even consider that they have a choice.
Choosing to Have a Baby
Many parents choose parenthood. They decide they want the challenge of rearing the next generation, and some even go through great ordeals to achieve their goal.
I applaud these folks. The world needs people who actively want to have children, who will give up their lives to nurture the next generation, and who raise new humans to be contributing members of society. We need parents.
However, that doesn’t mean everyone should have a baby. Those who actively choose parenthood examined the entire process and said, “yes, I want that.” They rise to the challenge every day.
What if I’m on the Fence about Having Children?
Some people haven’t decided yet, and that’s okay. You should take your time before diving into such a life-changing decision.
The decision to have children is deeply personal. No one can tell you which path is right for you.
Which Regret is Better?
It’s far better to regret not having children than to regret having them. Once a child is in this world, you can’t take it back. They deserve a parent who will take care of them. You must be confident you can handle the responsibility, even if you discover parenthood isn’t for you.
Although there’s a stigma against discussing true feelings of regret upon becoming a parent, you can find small communities all over the internet where people share remorse. Some say they didn’t realize it would be so hard, others lack supportive partners, and others simply weren’t ready for the burdens of being a parent.
Parental regret isn’t that common, but we don’t know if that’s because of the stigma surrounding it or because most people genuinely don’t regret becoming parents. We will never know until people feel more comfortable discussing their true feelings about parenthood.
It’s the Greatest Joy
Most articles on parenthood claim that raising children is the “greatest joy.” Millions of people love being parents. Mothers find meaning in developing their children to adulthood. The commonly accepted view is that parenthood is the most rewarding thing you can do.
As a non-parent, I can’t refute that claim. However, as that’s the most widely published perspective, I feel it’s essential to give space to the other side of the argument. A simple Google search will showcase thousands of articles, videos, and opinion pieces related to the joys of parenthood.
The consensus is that although it’s challenging, the awards are immense, and most parents wouldn’t change it for anything in the world.
What I Wish I Had Known
Although most parents wouldn’t change anything, some wish they better understood what raising kids really entails.
Society loves to push the narrative that it’s a great joy with no downside, but the idealization of parenthood (motherhood specifically) makes parents struggle needlessly.
Alicia, a family travel blogger, says she wishes she had better understood that parenting is a lifelong commitment. “I wish I knew how difficult having adult kids was,” she admitted. “I was prepared for the tricky toddler stage, the emotional teenage years, and all the sleepless nights that come with both.
I didn’t realize how much adult children worry you, need you, and depend on you. I’m slowly figuring it out, but it really is a lifelong job.”
A casual scroll through parental regret communities will showcase parental regret for numerous reasons, including choosing the wrong co-parent, losing their free time, struggling financially, and not realizing how difficult parenting is.
Contemplating Whether To Have Children or Not
Though firmly child-free for most of my life, I did have an internal struggle in my mid-thirties. If I was going to have children, I’d have to do it soon.
Entering a relationship with a father sparked the struggle. His daughter was a joy. I fell in love with her more than with the dad! She was an incredible little girl full of heart and personality. As my relationship with her grew, I got a tiny taste of what it would be like to be a mom, and I liked it.
I started imagining what it would be like to have my own family and couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Examining My Feelings
Having a kid isn’t something to rush into, especially after being adamant about not wanting kids for so long. I took time to examine these new feelings. Do I want my own child, or could I be happy having his daughter part-time? What about being around her made me want to have my own kids? Why have I been so opposed to the idea of children?
Also, I had just started a new hormonal birth control, so I wanted to make sure that these new feelings weren’t a weird hormonal thing. I’ve had weird bad reactions to birth control pills in the past, so this wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility.
I thought about these questions at length (and had many girl-talk sessions with my besties) to be sure that my change of heart was real and for the right reason.
Ultimately Deciding Against Children
I ultimately decided motherhood wasn’t for me. My desire to be a mother faded and the relationship eventually ended for unrelated reasons.
Now that I’m in my forties, I look back on that time with understanding. I was approaching the end of my fertility. If I wanted to have children, I needed to do it. I’m glad I had the internal struggle and questioned my motives, life goals, and innermost desires.
I came through the struggle secure in my decision not to have children, and so far, I’ve had no regrets.
Popular Reading: What Should I Do with My Life?
Your Choice is Your Own
It’s okay to be on the fence about having children. Raising kids is a tremendous responsibility. It changes your life. It’s better to consider the joys, benefits, and ramifications before committing.
You can find parents claiming it was the best decision they’ve ever made or the worst mistake of their life. You can find communities saying that having kids is horrible for the kids and the planet and others saying more people need to have kids.
Ultimately, the choice is yours. If you genuinely want to raise kids, you will probably enjoy parenthood, and be happy you chose that path. If it already seems like a burden, but you’re considering it because “that’s what you’re supposed to do,” take a moment to reconsider. There’s no rule book saying you have to do anything. If you don’t think you will be a good parent, you don’t have to have kids.
Examine your hopes, dreams, and life goals, and make the decision that feels right for you.
We can’t guarantee you won’t have regrets, but making an informed decision is the best way to prevent them.
Melanie Allen is an American journalist and happiness expert. She has bylines on MSN, the AP News Wire, Wealth of Geeks, Media Decision, and numerous media outlets across the nation. She covers a wide range of topics centered around self-actualization and the quest for a fulfilling life.