7 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Have Kids

Mother and Daughter, Mother's Day
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We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. Now, onto today's topic: how to know whether or not you should have kids.

Q: “I’m a 29-year-old straight, single woman. I've been dating my partner for a few years, and we're talking about our future together. I'm excited about taking the next steps, but I can’t help but feel like I’m totally behind where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life. All of my friends are married, and most of them have kids. When I pictured my late twenties, I always thought I’d be married with kids too. The thing is, the more time that goes by, the more I wonder if I actually want kids. I don’t think I ever considered whether or not I wanted them; I just assumed I would have them. How do you know if you should have kids? It feels like something you should be certain about before doing, but I also don’t want to get to a point where I regret not having them. I don’t know anyone who has chosen not to have kids, so it’s hard not to feel like I’d be a freak for choosing a different path.”

A: Thanks for the question! Whether or not to have kids is one of the biggest decisions we have to make in our entire lives. Unfortunately, so many people don’t take the time to make an actual decision; they just have kids because they think that’s what they’re “supposed” to do. I know it’s difficult to try to figure out the right decision for you, but I also commend you for taking the time to think about what you want.

To help you out, here are seven questions to ask yourself if you’re not sure about having kids.

1. “Do I Understand How Big This Decision Is?”

Having children changes every single aspect of your life. Many of those changes are incredibly joyful, but many of them are incredibly challenging. I think we don’t have enough honest conversations about how difficult raising children can be. (Have you ever had an honest conversation with your friends about the challenges of having kids? If not, you should.) We all seem to be afraid that acknowledging the challenges of childrearing will make us seem like “bad people,” or worse, “bad parents.” But I think we do ourselves a huge disservice. There are so many people who don’t know what to expect from having kids, then feel completely overwhelmed and caught off guard when they do.

You’re probably already familiar with the joys of having kids, so let’s focus on some of the challenges: Are you ready to say goodbye to a good night’s sleep? To never have a spare moment of privacy? To completely change your relationship with your body? To potentially suffer from postpartum depression or a loss of your libido? To feel distant from your partner? To constantly worry about your child’s safety and wellbeing, and feel anxious about whether or not you’re doing a good job? If you adopt, are you ready for lengthy applications and a long wait time?

There’s no way to fully prepare for kids, but you shouldn’t have them unless you understand the enormity of the decision.

2. “Can I Give Myself Permission To Not Have Kids?”

A decision isn’t really a decision if you only give yourself one possible response. You shouldn’t make the decision to have kids if you can’t give yourself permission to say “no.” I've worked with a lot of people on the decision of whether or not to have kids, and I can tell you that there are a ton of people out there who don’t think it’s the right choice for them. There’s an undeniable stigma against deciding not to have children, so it is a difficult choice to allow yourself to make. People fear being called “selfish” or “immature,” or constantly being told how they’re missing out. Nonetheless, it is absolutely the right decision to make for a lot of people.

3. “Do I Have The Means To Raise Children?”

Kids are an unbelievable amount of work! They take up a tremendous amount of time, money, and effort. Do you have those kinds of resources? Do you have any money saved up? Does your job offer maternity leave? What would you do for childcare? Do you have the space in your home for a child? What role would your partner play in raising the kids?

Of course, you don’t have the answers to all of these questions right now. Plus, there’s never a perfect time to have kids. You’re always going need more time, more money, and more support. That being said, you still have to have some sort of plan in place, and a belief that you could make it work.

4. “Have I Confronted My Own Childhood Issues?”

Kids require a lot of emotional resources, too. A lot of people have kids without dealing with some of their own emotional baggage from their childhoods. What was your experience like as a kid? Did your parents want you? How did they treat you? It’s not like you’re ever going to reach perfect, enlightened Nirvana, but a couple of sessions with a therapist couldn’t hurt!

5. “Have I Ever Had A Test Run?”

If you have a lot of friends with kids, try asking if you could babysit for the day, or follow your friends around at home. If possible, see if you can arrange for a sleepover with an older kid. It’s hard to get a sense of exactly what being a parent is like until you are one, but the more hands-on experience you have with children, the better you’ll be able to get a sense of if it feels right to you.

Pets can also be an interesting way to gauge your interest in kids. To be clear — you should never get a pet for the sole reason of “testing” whether or not you should have kid, and caring for an animal is absolutely not the same thing as raising a child. But still, you can learn what it’s like to be responsible for another creature’s well-being. You learn about the compromises that are required, like giving up your vacation to fund your dog’s hip surgery, or having to turn down a camping trip invite because you can’t find a sitter.

6. “Do I Want To Bring A Kid Into This World?”

In the conversations I’ve had with people who don’t want to have kids, one of the major motivating factors that comes up is concern about what their potential child’s life might look like (this is for biological children only, of course. Adoption is always a good option if this is a sticking point, since there are certainly lots of kids who need loving homes.). We are facing some pretty grave concerns with global warming, overpopulation, poverty, and pollution. Sure, some might call it pessimistic, but others might call it realistic. This isn’t the place to debate what the world is going to look like in 10, 20, or 30 years, but you can ask yourself how you would feel about bringing a child into this world.

7. “Do I Feel The Desire To Have Kids?”

This question might sound really obvious, but so many of us never take the time to ask it. As I mentioned above, most people go along with having kids because they feel like that’s the next step they’re supposed to take. Other people, like you, are reacting to a sense of feeling behind. But kids deserve to be wanted. It’s normal to feel some fears or concerns, but you shouldn’t have a child if you don’t actively feel the desire to have them.

An easy test is to see how you respond when you watch children out and about in the world. What kinds of emotions surface when you watch a mom snuggle with her newborn? When you watch kids playing on the playground? When you hear kids throwing serious temper tantrums at the grocery store, or on a flight?

Your point about regret is a good one. A lot of people worry about feeling regret at some point in the future. But the thing is, nobody knows what the future holds. Maybe you’d feel regret, or maybe you’d feel a massive amount of relief. There’s just no way to know. Bottom line: you can’t make a decision now based on anticipated regret later. Go with what your heart is telling — or not telling — you.

Images: Drs Producoes/E+/Getty Images; Giphy