In early adulthood and even our teen years, we seem to be forced to take a stance on whether or not we want to have kids. It’s even part of some school curricula.
When I was little, I had dozens of baby cousins. My sister and I were the older girls who loved chasing the little ones and looking out for them. We’re good with kids because we had plenty of practice.
Then, in my public middle school, I was taught that having children is bad for the world and that if I wanted to “save the planet” I should have no more than two kids. Anyone who did was a bad person.
By my teens, I swore I didn’t want to have any children, just like I swore I never wanted to get married or own a house, because all of these things were “systematically” vilified. I had trouble committing in my relationships, finding purpose in my life, and planning for my future. But I eventually changed my mind, and now I have four kids whom I love very much.
So how do you know if you want kids or if you will in the future? Based on my experience, that’s not something you can just decide at any given minute, but there are some signs.
Understanding Yourself in a World of Persuasive Messaging
So many women have been persuaded and taught to look down on motherhood. Getting married and having babies is considered old-fashioned or bad or “racist” or any number of ridiculous and completely untrue things.
It took me a long time to get over my indoctrination. Thankfully, some wonderful women influenced me along the way. Initially, I was with the women who wanted to get my tubes tied. But then I met a few who’d had it done after having one or two children, and not only were they severely depressed about no longer having the option to have another kid, but they also were experiencing serious side-effects.
One of my managers at the store where I worked when I was 19 explained, “Once you turn 25 you’re going to want children.” I laughed at her, but she was right. And this is not uncommon. A lot of women admit that once they hit their mid-twenties or turn 30, suddenly, the desire for those maternal connections increases infinitely.
Give yourself time to really examine your motives for questioning motherhood.
I recommend giving yourself time to really go through what you’ve learned and examine your motives for questioning your desire for motherhood. Are you hesitant because you think the world is overpopulated, because you don’t want to have to juggle yet another responsibility, or because you fear screwing up a small child?
These are all reasonable concerns, but they’re being exaggerated in society. In truth, I fell for all of it. Because my parents were not stable, I feared messing up another person, because I wanted to “save the world” I swore off having children, and because I already had enough baggage I feared adding yet one more huge responsibility. I thought I shouldn’t be a mother, but all of that dissolved when I realized how precious babies are and just how equipped women were made to nurture babies when they embrace their femininity. Marriage can also change your mind – you’re united with a man you love and you desire the natural fruit of your union, a child of your bodies.
For me, buying a house was another step towards motherhood. Once I embraced adulthood instead of running away from it, I felt readier to raise children. Now that doesn’t mean a woman has to be a homeowner to have children because that’s not always feasible. I was raised in rinky-dink apartments. But if you’re living somewhere you feel safe and comfortable, that makes it easier to think ahead and really imagine your life as you age.
Gauging the Unknown
When we’re young it’s easy to pretend about the distant future, but as it draws near it’s a little scary. When people ask me what being a mother is like, I ask them to remember what it was like before they got their driver’s license. I used to look at the driver from the backseat with awe, completely unable to imagine that driving was just something you learn to do over time.
Parenting is like that. Most people, even those who adopt, have a preparation period. It’s not like one day you wake up and suddenly there’s a baby to look after. Throughout pregnancy or seeking a child in need, there’s time to buy booties and blankets and toys. To read books or talk to other parents. To learn how to change a diaper and how to make a bottle. This period is where that love is born. It grows like your unborn child until you’re so ready you just can’t wait to cuddle your little one.
Throughout pregnancy or the adoption process, there’s time to prepare and to learn.
Having children is might be an uncertain topic for women because there aren’t as many big families as there used to be. But I assure you, that instinct is there. In every woman. No matter how tomboyish you are or how not-domestic you feel.
I took for granted all the love and laughter my cousins brought me when I was younger. I didn’t know that it wasn’t what everyone else experienced. For women who just aren’t sure, I would say to get involved with little kids to help you discern. Babysit for a friend or family member (even a cousin might need a night off). Volunteer at a crisis nursery or for a summer camp. Being around children helps to quell doubts, fears, and concerns, and it also offers perspective.
Making the Decision
Depending on your age, making the decision now is probably not an issue. Women have healthy babies well into their 40s, and although I do want to express that it’s easier on parents to have children when their body is still young and flexible and at its most fertile, sometimes the question of “Do I want kids, or do I not want kids?” can only be answered in time.
There are a lot of older women who reach a certain age and realize they missed out. Dr. Laura Schlessinger was one of them, and she openly writes about it in her books. Thankfully, she was in her mid to late 30s when this realization occurred and was able to become a happy wife and mother, but for young women who think they don’t want to be moms, women in their 20s and even teens, I want to ask them to imagine their old age. What do you see?
Having kids is not a burden. It’s not even as expensive or as scary as everyone likes to pretend.
Do you truly envision being an old lady, alone? Do you hope to maybe share the end of life with someone you love, or are you planning to live in a nursing home? Do you want children and grandchildren to visit you?
Loneliness is a pervasive problem in human experience – whether you’re a teenager, a 30-something and single, or in your sixties and your parents have died and you don’t have children. Having children and grandchildren to visit you makes life rich in a way that a career, retirement, and travel can’t.
My female co-workers recently teased me about having four kids and asked if I wanted a few more. When I responded, “I love babies!”, everyone got silent.
I wonder if most women’s apprehension toward motherhood is based on the fact that it isn’t popular anymore. Not just that, it’s vilified to a degree.
No woman should have to make the decision in a split second, but having kids is not a burden. It’s not even as expensive or as scary as everyone likes to pretend. You learn as you go. The same way you learned to drive, kiss a cute boy, or do your job. Time and experience will tell you if you want to be a mother.
Honestly though, if you’re asking the question, you might just be looking for validation. Because if you didn’t want kids, you would know. So think about it.
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