The Ultimate Guide To Deciding Whether You Should Have Kids
More Millennials are choosing not to.
"I don't want my life to change right now but that stupid biological clock is ticking."
"Parenting seems so hard and tiring but then why do all these people do it?"
"I'm on the fence; I think I'd be happy either way."
"Blargh…why do I even have to make choice?"
Parents will never know how it feels to not be parents (and vice versa)
First of all, I'm going to attempt to be as objective and non-partisan as possible in this article.
However, I am a mom (currently 6 months pregnant with a 3-year-old running around in my living room); so obviously, I've made my decision.
I will never know how it feels to not have children.
And someone who did not have children will never know how it feels to have them.
So I'd suggest you read a childless person's blog on this after you've read mine.
Just because I decided to have kids doesn't mean I think everyone should, that it's the greatest and most wonderful thing in the world and all women should vacate their uteruses or get adoption papers ready to experience this joy.
Throwing up just a bit…and it's not morning sickness.
I'm here to give my honest and realistic perspective, guiding you to a decision that is entirely yours to make.
Millennials (specifically, women) don't want kids
I'm 34 and I'm a Millennial.
More women have decided to live a childless life and the option to do so makes either path equally tempting.
From Oprah, Ellen, to Jennifer Aniston (and many more), these women have publicly shown that a fulfilling life doesn't necessarily need to involve becoming mothers.
Social expectations have changed and are continually changing as so-called 'alternative' lifestyles (ie. a single woman in her 50's) have become widely accepted so that women really do have the choice to live the life they want.
Therefore, women of childbearing age are sitting on the fence, debating which path is worth their investment.
Having a choice can be empowering but burdensome unless…
You know what you want.
But how do you know what you want if it's something you haven't deeply thought about because you always knew you had a choice when the time came?
It's like going to a restaurant and not knowing what you're going to order. But you know it's an Italian place and they'll have pizza and pasta; so you wait until you look at the menu to make a decision.
But when you sit down at the table, you don't know what to order and you struggle to make a decision.
Now imagine you've been craving pizza for weeks, looked at the menu online and knew that you wanted pepperoni and mushroom. You would know exactly what you wanted when you sat down.
So ultimately, if you had taken the time to think about the decision, got to know yourself, who you are, your values, beliefs, hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities, you would be confident in making your decision without regret.
Obviously, the consequences of picking pizza when you really wanted pasta aren't the same as not having kids when you really wanted them.
The first step to making any life decision is to self-reflect so you know yourself better and understand your reasons for making that decision.
How to know yourself and your 'Why'
Here are some questions to help guide you in figuring out whether having kids is something you want to pursue.
Whatever answers you give need to be true to you and aligned to your values and only yours.
Imagine yourself in your 70's or 80's or even 90's, what would you want your life to look like?
In this future:
Who would be in your social circle? Who would you be hanging out with?
What would a typical day look like?
What would be your hobbies?
Where would you have travelled?
What bucket list items would you have checked off?
Would you still be working or retired?
If still working, where and what would you be doing?
If retired, where and what would you be doing?
Would you be married? Single? Dating?
Where would you be living?
What would be your greatest achievements?
Flesh out all these details and let your imagination go wild.
Visualize yourself as this old person reflecting back on your own life with no regrets, just pure contentment and joy, having done everything you wanted to do.
Now ask yourself this:
Did you have kids?
Still don't know?
Reasons why you shouldn't have kids
Don't have kids because you want to fill a void, hoping they will make you happy.
It's like when you get into a relationship with someone, you absolutely cannot expect them to be your source of happiness, always depending on them to make you feel better.
We are in charge of our own happiness and it's up to you to take action and live a fulfilling life.
With or without kids, you're still going to have to continually work on your mental, emotional and physical well-being. And working on ourselves is a tough thing to do whether you're a parent or not.
If I were to be completely honest, when I have a bad day and my anxiety levels are high and I'm irritated, seeing my daughter doesn't make everything better. I still have to deal with my own shit day-in, day-out, just like everyone else.
Don't have kids just because you want to fit in.
Is everyone you know having kids? And you feel left out?
Following what everyone else is doing is what our parents and our grandparents' generations did because they feared judgement and embarrassment for going against the social norm. There was a lot more pressure to procreate.
Back in the day, people got married and had kids. Those who didn't were more likely to get shunned and outcasted compared to nowadays.
What's the best way to deal with feelings of being left out?
I believe in abundance and empowering ourselves to take control over what and who we surround ourselves with.
Find a group that you can relate to, one that accepts who you are and make new connections with people who share your lifestyle. Move to another community, city or country if you need to or be resourceful and find friends via the wonderful Internet.
Don't have kids just because someone is pressuring you to.
"You're 35 and still don't have kids?"
"I can't be with you unless we have a baby."
"How long have you guys been married? Have some damn kids already!"
"I want to be a grandma/grandpa before I die."
"Kids are so worth it. You're missing out!"
Your partner, parents, sister, brother, best friend, the news, some article written by a crazy person, a random family member you see once a year etc.
If someone is guilt-tripping you or giving you an ultimatum that makes you feel like you're backed into a corner, it doesn't mean you should have a kid.
What do YOU want?
Have kids for your own reasons, not someone else's.
Do not sacrifice your values for another person because you will ultimately resent that person and the child that comes along with it.
Don't have kids because you want to live your dreams through them
From taking over the family's business to pressuring him to be a professional hockey player to forcing her to keep applying to medical school, whatever you fucked up in life doesn't mean your child is responsible to right your wrongs.
FYI: your child would have their own identity just like you do
If you think you can control your child's identity and all their life choices, you really shouldn't have kids.
As a parent, you can guide, influence, support, encourage, coach, and lead your child to water but you can't make them drink.
Parenting: the good, the bad and the ugly
Here's the part where I can give some insight into being a parent, the good, the bad and the ugly.
When I talk to women who are on the fence about having kids, they often want me to confirm or deny things they've heard or seen. And almost always, I'll answer, "It depends."
Do you even get to sleep?
Yes, I get to sleep. Some nights are good and some nights are tough; but doesn't everyone have trouble sleeping?
From snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, sleep deprivation, to restless legs syndrome, these issues are common for everyone whether they're parents or not.
Do I get the best quality sleep?
Not always but even before kids, I had issues sleeping so I don't know.
The worst sleep I got was during the first 3 months after she was born, as in I don't really remember sleeping. So that sucked.
But in the grand scheme of things, 3 months of my life doesn't make a dent in my overall wellbeing.
Kids' sleeping patterns change all the time and you constantly have to adjust. Eventually, they sleep through the night, learn to go to bed by themselves, set their own schedules and move out.
Do you get to go out to eat? What do they eat? Do you have to cook all the time and buy everything organic?
Yes, I get to eat out but do I get to go to any restaurant I want?
Pubs, bars, fine dining aren't exactly kid-friendly and there's a lot of planning involved when you want a date night with your partner (at least until the kids can stay at home by themselves).
However, it's not impossible and when you do get to go, you'll either appreciate the experience more or you'll realize you didn't miss it in the first place.
Kids eat food (duh!) but their tastes change all the time. Babies become toddlers; toddlers become kids and kids become young adults. Some days they love yogurt and some days they hate it. But when they're hungry enough, they'll eat anything.
The thing with cooking is that I've been cooking since I was a kid so I haven't noticed a huge difference since I became a parent.
But for those who barely know how to make boxed mac and cheese, what do you eat? Feed your kid that and if you don't want to, then learn to cook.
But if you don't want to cook and you're using that as a reason to not have a kid then you really shouldn't have a kid.
Is everything organic?
How do you deal with all that kid stuff shit in your house? You must be constantly cleaning!
It's called managing expectations, letting go and not caring about what others think.
No matter how hard you try to minimize the sheer amount of shit you accumulate as a parent, you can't control it.
From gifts, hand-me-downs, practical items you needed to buy for those first years to all those random crafts your kid makes, eventually you will get rid of them.
You won't need that nursing set-up (pillows, pump, bottles, rocking chair) forever.
Babies learn to walk without falling so say goodbye to your eyesore playmats and hello to your beautifully preserved hardwood floors.
As toddlers walk longer distances, your stroller collects more dust in the basement.
Toddlers grow out of their high chairs.
Kids stop playing with their toys (I mean have you seen Toy Story?).
At the end of the day, it's just stuff and if you care about how stuff gets put away, it's going to bother you; however, it doesn't last a lifetime.
You should see how immaculate my parents' house was by the time we were teenagers.
How do you make time for yourself? Aren't they always in your space? Does it seem like you can't even have an adult conversation without being interrupted?
We all have commitments (job, husband, wife, friends, boyfriend, girlfriend, ageing parents, deadbeat brothers, failure to launch sisters, pet cat, pet dog, your pet iguana, volunteer work, business, job, side hustle etc.).
So I'd ask you the same question: how do you make time for yourself?
Prioritizing ourselves, practicing self-care and self-growth are things everyone should strive to do.
It only becomes more apparent when you have kids because you have to learn a new way of managing your time. Learning how to make time for ourselves is hard because it's easy to use kids as an excuse not to do it.
And there's this unfortunate bullshit social expectation that mothers are supposed to give up everything for their kids.
But you have a choice in how you define what being a good parent means and I choose not to succumb to social pressures.
Kids test your patience every damn day.
Yes, they interrupt me. It's annoying AF.
Yes, they invade my privacy (try taking a dump while your toddler glares at you, screaming incessantly, 'Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!')
Then again, it's all a phase.
As your child grows, you teach them not to do these things and they change, hopefully becoming decent human beings.
They learn how to give you space because they seek it.
They learn how to be patient and polite individuals because they want to be treated that way (and hopefully you've demonstrated that as well).
They learn to wait for their turn, interrupting you less because they've been interrupted and they understand respect.
Kids are so expensive. How are you able to afford them?
Yes, it costs money to raise children. I'm definitely not denying that.
But the affordability piece is unique to the individual making the decision.
I'm neither a millionaire nor am I broke. I can afford to have them because I make having them affordable.
Regarding how expensive kids are, it's really up to you how much you want to spend.
You don't have to have the dream house and white picket fence.
You don't have to have the mini-van with the sliding doors.
You don't have to buy brand-name diapers, a fancy stroller, a top-of-the-line car seat etc.
You don't have to put your kid in ballet, hockey, soccer, swimming, skating, gymnastics, piano, sailing, skiing, private school etc.
You don't have to spend a fortune on birthdays, gifts, gender reveal parties etc
You don't have to buy all the latest gadgets and toys.
You don't have to buy organic food, soap, shampoo, lotions.
You don't have to buy new clothes. It's called hand-me-downs, swap and shop or Craigslist.
If you can't live without the finer things in life, can you afford to maintain that expensive lifestyle in addition to the costs of having a kid?
If not, are you willing to adjust?
If not, then don't have kids.
What do you do when they whine and have tantrums, especially in the public? It seems so emotionally exhausting!
To be honest, my child's public tantrums probably bother you more than it bothers me since you're not used to them.
From breathing techniques, stern lectures, distracting tactics to leaving the situation, I've conditioned myself to manage these moments for years.
But it's still hard and tiring and the emotional rollercoaster changes as your kid changes.
A mom with grown kids once told me this:
"Little kids, many little problems. Big kids, fewer little problems but more big problems."
I'm still in the little problem phase where hugs, kisses, silly faces, a little bit of Peppa Pig and some ice cream will do wonders.
But I know the big problems are coming which brings me to the next question that I get asked.
What are you going to do when they get older and you have to talk to them about puberty, sex, drugs, alcohol, vaping, social media, murderers, shootings, pedophiles, everything on the big, scary Internet?
Easy. You talk to them about it and make sure the conversation stays an open one.
Okay, obviously it's not that easy but that's really all you can do.
When people are uncomfortable talking about certain things with their kids, it's either because they don't know enough about it or because it's something they're insecure or ashamed about.
We want our kids to know we are flawed beings, that we've made bad decisions, have colourful histories, aren't experts at everything and that some nights, we also fear the boogeyman.
I'm not at this phase with my kid(s) yet but there's a reason I blog which is to talk about things that never got talked about when I was growing up.
What about if they get sick or have an allergic reaction or fall from a tree and break their arm or get diagnosed with a medical condition/learning disability/cancer/life-threatening disease where they can't be out in the sun for more than 30 seconds or they'll turn to dust like a vampire?
First of all, BREATHE!
I don't know what I don't know and I don't have a crystal ball that tells me what's going to happen in the next minute.
I don't know what's scarier:
Getting an emergency call from your kid's daycare/school/childcare provider in the middle of the day or sitting at the doctor's office waiting to hear your kid's test results.
Indirect ambiguity is a price you pay as a parent because you're not just dealing with the uncertainties of your own life, you're dealing with someone else's that you're fully responsible for (at least until they have to start 'adulting')
Parenting makes you face your fears and it's not for the faint of heart; however, those who choose to do this trudge along, constantly replenishing their faith that everything will work out in the end.
How do you deal with the monotonous routine? Isn't it boring having to do the same thing, every single day?
Yes, the routine can be boring, especially in the beginning for new moms.
Change diapers, feed, watch them look around and fall asleep. Repeat.
But the funny thing is that it was during this time when my creative juices got reinvigorated and I started writing again. Boredom isn't necessarily a bad thing because that's when you get to think deeply about what you care about, setting goals for what you want in life.
Once babies start talking and making sense, it's like free entertainment.
Kids are never boring. Kids are the weirdest and most random people I know and seeing things from their eyes changes the perspective you have about the world.
You're always a parent but the journey is never the same
There's no sugarcoating that being a parent is hard work but it's not complicated. You keep them alive, love them and show them how to be decent human beings, with the best intentions that you got through to them by the time they turn 18.
Ultimately, my role as a mother is permanent but my experiences are temporary and constantly changing. One moment it's all about getting them to eat broccoli; then the next moment, you're cleaning puke off the floor.
Everything you worried about months ago doesn't matter because something new always comes up.
Your resilience is tested time and time again as you continue to care for this little person who will need you less and less.
A fulfilling life needs to include service to others and resilience building
A fulfilling life needs to include service to others and experiences that challenge our resiliency. You have the autonomy to choose how want to achieve this.
At the end of the day, becoming a parent is one of the many different ways a person can choose to help them achieve a fulfilling life.
Whether you put your efforts into your business, volunteer work, job, humanitarian causes, helping family, supporting friends, travelling the world, and/or raising children, whichever paths you choose, you will adjust and grow as an individual.
Own your choice; embrace what's to come and be confident in your journey.
So Readers, do you have kids? How did you know? If you're not sure, let me know if you found my article helpful.
About the author
Sum (心, ♡) on Sleeve | Author. Speaker. Wife. Mom of 2 | Embrace Culture. Love Yourself. Improve Relationships | Empowering you to talk about your feelings despite growing up in a culture that hid them | sumonsleeve.com/books