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Decision Making

Pros and Cons


What are the costs and benefits of having or not having children?


One of the most common and popular approaches to decision-making is called a cost-benefit analysis. This involves considering the pros and cons and then weighing each of these based on what is more important to you in terms of your needs and your values.

In order to determine the costs and benefits of having children, it’s helpful to think about the “costs” as being the “cons” and the “benefits” as being the “pros”. Create two columns – one with the headings “Pros” and one with the heading “Cons”. Write down as many “Pros” for having kids that you can think of. Then write down as many “Cons” in the opposite column.

You may find that you can’t think of very many off the top of your head. You can set the list aside and come back to it after you give it a bit more thought. You can even do this over the course of a couple of days or a week, as things percolate and more pros and cons come to mind.

Once you make those lists, the next step is to weigh each item based on what is most important to you. This is where your values come in. For example, let’s say you have “Continue My Family Name” in the “Pros” column. Consider how much weight you give that benefit. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely important and 1 being not at all important, rank how important it is to you to continue your family name. If you already have nieces and nephews, maybe it isn’t at all important. So assign it a 1. However, if you are an only child and your family name will not continue after you’re gone, you may want to rank this a 10. If it is important to you but not critical, assign this item a 5.

Do this ranking for each item on your pros and cons list. When you’re finished, add up the weights in each column. Which weighs more? It may be that you have fewer items in the pros column, but the weighting is higher because those items are more important to you than the items in the cons column, or vice versa. That’s why the weighting is important rather than just relying on the length or number of items in each column.

If the combined weight in the “Pros” column is bigger than the “Cons” column, that tells you that you feel stronger about the benefits of having children. It could also be the opposite, where the number is higher in the “Cons” or costs column.

Now take a step back and think about what this exercise is telling you. How do the numbers sit with you? Does it make sense or feel right that there appear to be more benefits to having children, or that the costs seem to outweigh the benefits for you? Are you surprised with the outcome? Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with ourselves about how we feel and that might come through in the table.

It is recommended that you also do a cost-benefit analysis to explore the other side of this decision – the pros and cons of the choice to remain child-free. Ultimately, exploring both sides of this decision should give you a better idea about whether or not to have children – now, in the future, or ever.


What are the pros and cons of having children when you’re young vs. when you’re older?


There is no easy, one-size-fits all answer to the question of whether it is best to have children when you are younger versus when you are older. Twenty and thirty years ago people typically started their families when they were in their early to mid-20s. However, the trend these days, is towards later parenthood. In fact, in Canada and Britain, the majority of women are in their early 30s when they give birth to their first child. And more women than ever before are having kids in their 40s.

So what are the benefits and costs of having children when you are younger?

The available research and anecdotal literature suggests some of the following benefits to younger parenthood:

· ease of getting pregnant

· easier recovery from labour and delivery

· having more energy for their children

· having parents/grandparents who are younger and able to help out more

On the flipside, some of the potential costs to younger parents include:

· less financial stability

· incomplete educational goals

· less career stability

· compromised career advancement

What are the benefits and costs of having children when you are older?

The available research and anecdotal literature suggests some of the following benefits to older parenthood:

·  greater financial stability

·  more job security and stability

·  more career flexibility

·  more confidence and self assurance

·  greater maturity

·  more emotional “readiness”

·  greater relationship stability (for those in longer term relationships)

Some of the potential costs for older parents include:

· more difficulty becoming pregnant

·  the need for medical assistance to have children (e.g. IVF)

· having less energy

· having much older and less involved parents/grandparents

· having more health problems while trying to raise their children

· having less time alive to spend with their children and grandchildren

Ultimately, each individual/couple needs to weigh out their priorities and consider their life situation when it comes to determining the best time to have children.

These books may also be helpful in your decision-making:

The Parenthood Decision: Deciding Whether You are Ready and Willing to Become a Parent by Beverly Engel (2003).

Maybe Baby: 28 Writers Tell the Truth about Skepticism, Infertility, Baby Lust, Childlessness, Ambivalence, and How They made the Biggest Decision of their Lives edited by Lori Leibovich (1995).

Ready: Why Women are Embracing the New Later Motherhood by Elizabeth Gregory (2007).

Hot Flashes, Warm Bottles: First Time Mothers Over Forty by Nancy London (2001).


What are the pros and cons of using third-party reproduction options (sperm donation; egg donation; gestational care; anonymous vs. known donor)?


A cost-benefit analysis can be a useful way to sort through your beliefs, values and feelings if you are faced with having to use third party reproduction to create your family. You can use this process in considering the pros and cons of using donor sperm, donor eggs, donor embryos, or a gestational surrogate to help you have a child.

But before you begin listing the pros and cons, and assigning weightings to each, it may be helpful to get more information on the topic. If you want to read more about third party reproduction, see our Fertility Information section on Third Party Reproduction. You can also read more about the practical, legal, and emotional aspects of various third-party options on these web sites:

Resolve: The National Fertility Association has an entire section on Donor options – keep in mind this is information from the US but has some relevance to Canadian audiences. Check out their website here.

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine has put together a booklet on third party reproduction, some of which is relevant to Canadian audiences. Access this booklet here.

This article talks about the emotional aspects of considering Third-party reproduction. Read it here.

Once you’re informed, set up a table listing the “Pros” and “Cons” of the third-party option that you are considering. Once you have completed your list, the next step is to assign a weight to each item on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely important and 1 being not at all important. If it is important to you but not critical, assign this item a 5.

Do this ranking for each item on your pros and cons list. When you’re finished, add up the weights in each column. Which weighs more? It may be that you have fewer items in the pros column, but the weighting is higher because those items are more important to you than the items in the cons column, or vice versa. That’s why the weighting is important rather than just relying on the length, or number of items, in each column.

If the combined weight in the “Pros” column is bigger than the “Cons” column, that tells you that you feel stronger about the benefits of using that third party option to build your family. It could also be the opposite, where the number is higher in the “Cons” or costs column.

Now take a step back and think about what this exercise is telling you. How do the numbers sit with you? Does it make sense or feel right that there appear to be more benefits to using donor eggs or sperm or embryos, or that the costs seem to outweigh the benefits for you? Are you surprised with the outcome? Now look at each of the pros and cons and ask yourself if there is any item that is a deal breaker for you – perhaps you want to be able to see your partner’s features in your potential child, and so using a sperm donor is not an option for you.

It is recommended that you also do a cost-benefit analysis to explore the other side of this decision – the pros and cons of the choice of not using third party family building options. Ultimately, exploring both sides of this decision should give you a better idea about whether the option that you are considering is acceptable to you and worth pursuing.

If you are considering third party reproduction with a partner, it will be helpful for you each to come up with your own pros and cons list and weightings, and then compare these lists. You may find that what you have listed as a con, your partner has actually listed in the pro column. You may also find that that you have weighted the same item differently than your partner – which can be an important point of discussion for the two of you as you move forward in your decision making.


What are the pros and cons of having a child without a partner?


A cost-benefit analysis can be a useful way to sort through your thoughts and feelings about the decision to have a child without a partner. Create a table with two columns – one with the “Pros” of having a child on your own and another with “Cons”. Once you make those lists, the next step is to weigh each item based on what is most important to you. This is where your values come in. For example, let’s say you have “Not ending up childless by default” in the “Pros” column. Consider how much weight you give that benefit. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely important and 1 being not at all important, rank how important it is to you that you don’t end up childless. If it is important to you but not critical, assign this item a 5. On the “Cons” side you might have an item about your child not having or knowing his or her father. You might rank that issue higher or lower than your fear of ending up permanently childless.

Add up the numbers for each item column. Which number is higher – the “Pros” or “Cons”? You may find that even though the “Cons” column is higher, you are willing to take on these costs in order to become a parent. You may feel this is your only or final option. This may help you make a decision.

Here are some books you also might find useful as you contemplate this important decision:

Choosing You: Deciding to Have a Baby on My Own by Alexandra Soiseth (2008).

Choosing Single Motherhood: The Thinking Woman’s Guide by Mikki Morrissette (2008).

Single Mothers by Choice: A Guide for Single Women Who Are Considering Or Have Chosen Motherhood by Jane Mattes (1994).

NOTE: The Single Mothers by Choice group was formed by Jane Mattes and has chapters all over North America. Visit their website here.

Other on-line resources that you might find helpful include:

www.ChoiceMoms.org

www.singledad.com

www.singlefather.org

You might want to read some of our Personal Stories related to single parenthood. Also read our section on Options for Singles.


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