To Be Or Not To Be? Part 2

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To be a parent, or not?

Many people have asked themselves if it’s even possible to make a decision, in the negative, about an important question like this.  Comments like, ‘Naturally, you’ll want to have children’, leave many in a frozen position – paralysed in a space that can be riddled with anxiety.

So many of us forget that there is even a choice to be made here.  We might have bought into the idea that it is only natural to have a family and consequently believe there is no question of choosing to have a baby or not.  Some of us may have begun our child bearing as soon as possible with great enthusiasm, some with hours of careful planning and strategising.  For others, it was an unintentional event… ‘just an accident’ – and now that we’ve made one, the responsible thing to do is keep making them.

So for some people, having a family is a forgone conclusion.  A predetermined chapter of their story.  There are often a number of important stakeholders in the story; partners, parents and grandparents, all with their own stories plus expectations as to how your story should go.  Having children can seem the most obvious, expected and agreeable of roads to take. 

There are many reasons why someone might decide not to have a child.  Sometimes our physiology seems to make the choice for us and sometimes we ‘can’ – but choose not to.

Some of us decide that not having children (biological or adopted) is an obvious good choice for us while others just put the decision off and put it off and put it off and suddenly realise there just doesn’t seem to have been the right time or space for making (or adopting) small people.  ‘So perhaps I just won’t.’

Many are stuck in the place of indecision as this conundrum can carry a lot of anxiety. 

“Will people think I’m selfish?”

“What if I regret my decision later?”

“What if I’m too old to have children by the time I grow into the idea?”

“Should I hedge my bets and freeze something?”

“Will I be happier later if I just bite the bullet, even though I’m scared of having kids right now?”

“We don’t even want kids but our parents/grandparents/friends really want us to want them.”

Believe it or not, it can be helpful for the stuck ones to know there is no anxiety free option here (or with any important decision).

Whatever way you choose to go there will always be a certain level of anxiety about whether the decision was a good one or if it will lead to regret.  If you have a baby, there will be both wonderful and difficult things that were always going to be part of the deal – and you might have moments of regretting your decision.  If you don’t have a baby, there will always be the potential for challenges along with the joys of that decision.  If you think about it, there are losses and gains either way.

Since none of us ever have an anxiety free option, working out how to deal with the anxiety could be the key – not just to making the decision in the first place but living with the outcome and being reasonably content with the choice.  Knowing there were always going to be losses (and all the apprehension that goes with those) if we’d chosen the other path, can help to lessen the amount of worry and regret we might feel about the path we did choose.

Non-parents of a certain age are often regaled with, ‘Just wait till you’ve got kids’, or, ‘You’re so lucky, you’ve got nothing to do on the weekends except party’, or ‘You should enjoy all that sleep you’re getting because it won’t last once you’ve got kids’ or ‘Since you’ve got nothing else to do, you should babysit our kids’.  It surely can’t be a surprise, however, to hear how hurtful (and yes, annoying), it is to be bashed with these kinds of comments – whether you’re planning one day to have children or not.

Perhaps we can consider offering understanding instead of wisecracks, respect instead of judgement when relating with friends or family who have decided for child-free living and acknowledge the fact that we probably know very little about the thoughts and situations that support that decision.

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