Decision Making


What are my values and beliefs about having children?

Another very important issue in deciding whether or not to have children has to do with your values. Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your actions and your understanding of the world and our place in the world. To varying degrees, your values are shaped by your own individual characteristics, by your families, and by your culture. Sometimes what you value, what your family values, and what is valued in your culture are not the same – creating confusion and uncertainty. So it is important to separate out these three sources in terms of the value placed on having children – so that you can get a better sense of where you stand on this important issue.

One way of doing this is to start by listing your own values and beliefs related to having children or remaining child-free. For example, do you believe that having children is necessary for a meaningful life? Do you believe that becoming a parent will make you a better person? Do you believe that having children will ensure that you aren’t lonely when you’re older? Perhaps you believe that the world is already overpopulated and that it is irresponsible to add more children to the world? And what do you believe about people who don’t have children? Do you believe they are selfish? Do you believe that they will be lonely when they are older? Or do you believe that choosing not to have children is a socially and environmentally responsible decision?

Keep writing down all of your beliefs about the importance of having children and your beliefs about people who remain child-free. When you’re done, go back over the list and ask yourself where those beliefs came from. Which beliefs come from your family? Which ones come from your culture? Which ones do you actually believe are true – for you?

Sorting out what you personally value in terms of children, nurturing, and what you believe is important in creating a meaningful life is one important step in this process.

And if you are in a relationship, sorting out your partner’s values and beliefs about having children is also critical in this decision. If you and your partner don’t value the same things in life – if your beliefs and values about the importance of having children are discrepant – you will have a very difficult time reconciling whether or not to have children. Over the long haul, it will also be challenging to create a life together that is meaningful and satisfying and fulfilling to you both.

I think I want to be a parent, but I love my independent lifestyle. I’m not sure I can deal with the loss of freedom. How do I decide what is more important to me?

You’ve identified two competing values – a desire to become a parent and a desire for an independent lifestyle. Start unpacking and exploring each of these values. Take a piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. Title one column Independent Lifestyle and the other Being a Parent. Under the independent lifestyle column, list all the things you value about having an independent life. These might include freedom to come and go as you please, the ability to travel, having a flexible schedule, pursuing other passions, mobility to enhance your career progress, etc. Do the same under the being a parent column. For example, you might list making a positive impact on a child’s life, feeling needed, seeing the things I love about my partner reflected in our child, moving our relationship to the next level, becoming a family, giving my parents grandchildren, fitting into my culture, etc. Now take all of the items together and rate them in terms of their importance to you. Give them a number between 1 and 4 with 1 being very important and 4 being not very important. Take another sheet of paper and list all of the items that you rated as 1 – very important. Can you prioritize any of these within the list? After you’ve done this, look and see what is at the top of your list in the very important section? Do most of these top items support an independent lifestyle or parenthood?

Generally, there is one area that rises above the other. Now ask yourself, what is it about an independent lifestyle and/or parenthood that is really important to me? Perhaps you love travelling. If that is something that is very important to you, is it still possible to make travelling a priority once you have a child? Or maybe you value teaching children, but do you have to become a parent to do this – or are there other ways to teach children while still maintaining your independent lifestyle?

Hopefully this exercise has helped you begin to unpack what is more important to you. If you find yourself still uncertain, you may want to see a counsellor who can help you work through this decision.