Probably most of you authentically want to have children, and that’s wonderful. It’s a beautiful thing. But I want to speak to the perhaps not-so-small minority that isn’t so sure, or even downright doesn’t want kids. It’s okay. You don’t have to.
I’ve never felt particularly called to have children. When I was young, however, I simply assumed I would someday. That’s what people do, after all. It wasn’t until I started dating seriously and started talking about children that I realized I didn’t feel at all ready.
At first, I thought that’s all it was: I wasn’t ready. I was too young and had too many things I wanted to do first. I also didn’t want to get married for similar reasons (I’ll have to do a separate article on that). Most of my serious relationships ended for this reason. I wasn’t ready for a real commitment (real = marriage and kids). I was a typical male “commitment-phobe.”
I believed this for a while. I devoted a couple years in therapy to figuring out what was blocking me from commitment. I learned I had no blocks, actually, to making a long-term commitment to a partner. I wasn’t a commitment-phobe at all, I just had pretty good reasons for not wanting children or marriage.
I’ve had more conversations than I can count. Usually they go something like this:
Other: *Look of surprise* Really? You don’t want to have kids?
Me: I’m on the fence, and I think if I’m on the fence, I probably shouldn’t.
Other: But you would make a great father!
Me: Well thanks, but I don’t know. I have a lot of anxiety and depression and so many things in life that I want to do that would compete for my time.
Other: Well, I just think I would be sad if I missed the opportunity to be a parent.
Me: I might be too, but I can’t make this decision in clear conscience without giving full weight to the perspective of the child-to-be as well. Given the likelihood of inheriting the mental illness that runs in my family and the chance I will be somewhat absent as a parent, I can’t be sure they’d be happy.
This is where the conversation usually ends, because we are now venturing into a heady, philosophical space: how to make ethical choices for the unborn. Unfortunately (or fortunately) that’s the space I live most of my life. And I think it’s worth going there before making the all-important decision to bring life into the world. What would the child want?
When you fully consider your wants and those of the child-to-be, it’s absolutely okay to choose not to go through with it, whatever your reasons. This is your life and you have to live it for you, as well as for others, in the best way for all. The pressure from others to conform is real, but don’t let it guide you to an inauthentic choice. Having children, when you don’t really want to, isn’t good for anyone.
I say all this to empower those of you who secretly suspect you’d be better off without kids but are scared to admit it. It’s scary to go against the grain, to deny your parents grandchildren, and to think of growing old on your own. But you will never be alone and you might be happier, much happier even. It’s a brave choice to choose your happiness over the conventional path. You won’t regret it.
I must end this conversation, as I always do, with a big caveat: always keep an open mind. Allow your thoughts to change. We can’t make a decision like this out of context. It matters who we become, who we are with, and how our life circumstances change. As I tell my partner (who has always wanted children): these are my honest feelings right now, but anything is possible and being with you changes me every day… but don’t get your hopes up! *wink*