If you don't want to have kids, that's completely OK. For some, whether they want to have kids or not is not so clear cut. As you get older, there's more and more of a societal pressure to get pregnant — and when your friends start families of their own, there can be a peer pressure element as well. So how do you know if you have a maternal instinct — or if you don't?
Firstly, it's important to realize that lacking maternal instinct is not necessarily the same thing as not wanting to have a baby. "For many women, maternal instinct happens after the baby is born, the mommy hormone kicks in," Dr. Dawn Michael, M.A. PhD ACS CSC, tells Bustle. "For some women, they feel it before having kids and others do not. The truth is, if you are lacking mommy instincts, not to worry. Once baby arrives they most likely will be there."
But what if you don't want to have kids? "For women who don't want to have children that is different than lacking the mommy instinct," Dr. Michael says. "If a person does not want to have children that is a choice... When a person makes that choice they should embrace it and not feel pressure to have children if that is not what they want." Amen to that.
So how do you know if the maternal instinct just isn't running strong? Here are the signs.
1. You Don't Find Kids Appealing
Some people are just not drawn to children — and that's fine. Some behaviors include if you "bristle at the sound of children's screaming or crying, won't carry babies, won't sit near children at restaurants, stand in lines with kids, or frequent places with many children," Dr. Erika Martinez, licensed psychologist, tells Bustle. If you cringe at the baby next to you at the table at brunch, those instincts probably aren't there— or aren't there yet.
Remember, some people like children and still don't want to have them, but if you don't even like being around them then it may be a sign.
2. You've Only Ever Wanted It For The Wrong Reasons
Maybe you have thought about getting pregnant— but not because you actually want kids. "Only considering having kids because you're afraid you'll miss out and regret it later (like everyone says you will), or think it'll make your partner happy (or improve the relationship)," Martinez says are some of the wrong reasons to try and have a baby. That's not about wanting to be a mother, it's about using kids to fix a problem — and it almost certainly won't work.
3. You Can't Imagine Cutting Back On Work
For some people, their job is and will always be the focus of all of their attention. And that's a totally legitimate choice, so don't feel guilty about it. But if you can't imagine it budging your priorities a little, that could be an indication you don't have maternal instinct.
But that being said, wanting to push back having kids to make sure you reach a certain level with your career isn't a sign of your instincts. "Let’s not confuse the conscious choice to delay having children because of your career, life placement or finances," Clarissa Silva, Behavioral Scientist and owner of relationship blog You're Just A Dumbass, tells Bustle. "The drive to have them is separate for from caring for them. Research shows that your desire changes as you approach childbearing mortality. Don’t allow society to make you feel inferior about not wanting to have children because your peers are."
4. You Never Think About What Goes Into It
If you're confused about what other parents are doing, it might mean that you don't have the instinct, but, again, that doesn't mean you can't be a parent. "Not realizing that your friends with kids have to stick to a schedule and why that is so important," Sarah Watson, licensed professional counselor and sex therapist, tells Bustle, is a sign. If you are just oblivious to kids and what their needs might be, that is probably a red flag. Nothing is abnormal about this and frankly it's OK!"
If this sounds like you, but you still want kids then don't panic. "If someone is concerned about this, I would encouraged them to explore where the concern is coming from," she says. "You only need maternal instinct if you are looking to expand your family. It will come when you have a child in your care. Your brain goes into [mother] drive to make sure this little being is safe and cared for."
5. You Just Know It's Not For You
Having kids or not having kids is a deeply personal choice — so, ultimately, it all comes down to you. Even if you love kids, like having a nice home in the suburbs, and have no work commitments, you might still know that you don't want kids. That's totally fine. Because sometimes your life is happy just as it is. "Your life now is very satisfying, and you don't have that 'empty' feeling or longing for children," Licensed clinical psychotherapist Dr. LeslieBeth Wish tells Bustle is a sign that you just don't have the urge.
Not everyone has a maternal instinct and you should never feel guilty about that. Know the signs and know yourself, because it all comes down to what you want to do.