Decision Making


How do I decide if and when to have kids?

Throughout life we face numerous decisions – some more significant than others. The easy decisions we make almost spontaneously, often based on previous experience or gut instinct (how we feel in the moment). But the harder decisions – the ones that are really important in our lives and have bigger consequences if we get them wrong – we usually need to take more time to make. While we might use our instincts in making these big life decisions, we also use our heads and our hearts.

Whether or not to become a parent is one of those really big life decisions. It is one of the only life decisions that is irrevocable. If we don’t like our career, we can change it. If things don’t work out with our partner, we can end the relationships. But once we become a parent, or let that option slip away from us, the die is cast. That means if we decide we don’t want to have kids, there will be a point when we biologically will no longer have that choice. If we change our minds later, it may be too late. On the other hand, once we have a child, there is no going back – we are a parent for the rest of our children’s lives. And let’s face it, parenthood is a huge responsibility that comes with many sacrifices. So having or not having children is definitely not a decision to be taken lightly.

There are two other things that make this decision different from, and more significant than, most other decisions we make in our lives. First, if we decide to have a child, we are taking responsibility for bringing a new life into the world. We have no knowledge in advance about who this little person will be – what his or her unique personality and needs will be. Second, until we become parents and have a child in our lives, we can’t possibly know for certain what kind of parent we’ll be, or how our lives will have to change to accommodate this new person and this new role. We can speculate on these issues, based on our previous or current experience with the children of our friends or with our nieces and nephews. But that experience will not be the same as being 100% responsible, 24/7 for our own child. We don’t know what issues our child will face and we can’t know for certain whether we’re up to the many challenges of being a parent.

So how do you go about making such a life-altering decision? What kinds of things do you need to consider?

There are a number of things that are important to consider in making this decision:

·   your needs

·   your values

·   the costs and benefits of becoming a parent or remaining childfree

·   how you feel about your parenting potential

·   how you feel about your partner’s parenting potential

·   the possibility of future regrets

·   your partner’s feelings about becoming a parent

In the sections below we talk about ways you can work through and consider each of these important issues. You may already know where you stand on some of these issues, but not others. Considering each one should bring you closer to a decision that is right for you.

But if, after working your way through these issues, you still are uncertain about whether or not having children is the right decision for you, or if you and your partner don’t agree on if or when to have kids, you may want to see a counsellor. Sometimes it can be very helpful to get an outside, neutral perspective, particularly if you are feeling pressured to make a decision, or if you and your partner are deadlocked on this important issue.

These books might also be useful in considering this decision:

The Baby Dilemma? How to Confidently Decide Whether or Not to Have a Child and Feel Good About It by Ann Meredith (2011)

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)

Do I want to be a Mom: A Woman’s Guide to the Decision of a Lifetime by Diana Dell and Suzan Erem (2003)

There are also numerous blogs, and articles on the web about making the decision to have children that you might find helpful. Here are a few examples: