There's nothing wrong with not knowing whether you want to have kids—unless it's making you feel like crap.
When I was in the process of deciding whether I wanted to have a child with my husband, I had what I considered a long list of "good" reasons to have a baby. But I also had a long list of good reasons not to have a baby. As you can probably guess, I was completely torn and stuck in indecision.
During this time, I found myself wondering: How do I know if my reasons are "good" reasons on which to base such a huge, life-altering decision? Determined to get perspective, feel better, and move forward with my life, I coached myself through my own baby decision, with help from some other talented life coaches.
I found that while making a baby decision is a very personal journey, for those of us with the freedom of choice there are indeed some good reasons to have a baby:
1. You want to have a baby—and all of your other reasons give you a good gut feeling.
Oftentimes, we have a long list of reasons we should have a baby, but we never question whether we actually like our reasons. Whether they actually feel good to us. If you make the decision to have a baby, you want to be able to say, "These are my reasons, and they all feel good to me."
If you make a decision based on reasons that don't feel good to you, then you set yourself up for a lot of unnecessary suffering. For example, when I was still undecided, one of my main reasons for wanting to have a baby was that it would make my mom happy. I assumed this was a good reason and that it made me feel good. After all, I love my mom, and I want to see her happy.
But when I dug into it—and was honest with myself—I realized that this reason made me feel like crap. I knew intellectually that nothing I did could make someone else feel happy because that was up to them. Yet I was telling myself it was possible and putting pressure on myself to make it happen. Once I saw all of this so clearly, I was able to let go of that reason.
Had I not, and had I gone through with having a child to make my mom happy, who knows how many hours, days, or months of my life I would've spent feeling resentful and then feeling guilty for feeling resentful and then beating myself up over all of it? Who knows how this would have affected my relationship with my mom, my husband, my child, and myself?
2. You want to have a baby—and you've accepted that you may need to mourn some things.
Deciding to have a baby after a conscious decision-making process doesn't mean that it's all rainbows and daisies moving forward. As we've all come to learn in life, most every big decision comes with some sort of loss. An important part of healthy decision-making is acknowledging the things you need to let go of and processing any emotions that come up for you.
For example, let's say you decide not to have kids. Maybe you'll then want to mourn the experiences you won't have or the child you won't bring into the world. For me, having decided that I do want to have a child, I need to mourn the things I may give up, like my former body, priorities, and possibly even health, in some respects.
Regardless of what you decide, it's possible to mourn whatever you need to mourn—to feel sadness, regret, etc.—and not make it mean that you chose wrong. Processing "negative" emotion is a part of life and decision-making, and there's room for all of it. Rather than push these emotions away, you can feel them and move forward with your life.
3. You want to have a baby—yet you've realized that you could be happy either way.
Happiness. Joy. Fulfillment. These are feelings we all want, regardless of whether we decide to have a baby.
The best news? Our emotions are caused by the thoughts we think. And all of our thoughts are optional. It doesn't always feel like it—in fact, most of the time we believe our thoughts as if they're facts—but they are, indeed, choices.
So when we're feeling crappy, we need to pay attention to what we're thinking, accept (with some self-compassion) that we're choosing to think it, and decide whether we want to keep thinking it. If we don't want to keep thinking it, we can choose thoughts that feel better, that are also believable to us, and practice them until they become our new habits.
I once had a client say, "Isn't this like brainwashing ourselves?" To which I replied, "Totally! But you've already been brainwashing yourself all of your life. The painful thoughts we believe are simply part of the patterns we've programmed ourselves to follow. In some areas of our lives, we're even carrying out patterns that we developed decades ago!
It's a beautiful thing that we're capable of deciding what to believe. Because of this, we don't have to feel like crap if we don't want to. This means that we can feel good about either decision—baby or no baby. We can always, always work through painful thoughts and then choose peace, love, and joy no matter our circumstances.
Ultimately, you do you
As you may have noticed, the most important reason to have a baby is that you want to have a baby. But taking into consideration the entirety of the points above will help ensure that you make a decision you love today, tomorrow, and long term.
I hope this is helpful to those of you who are torn over whether you want kids. I challenge you to look at the hard stuff, work through it, and move forward from your shiny new empowered place.
I can tell you that for me, it's been an unbelievably freeing experience. And I strongly believe that when more women in the world make conscious decisions about their futures, we'll see more women, mothers and non-mothers alike, loving their lives—and making the world a better place.