Think Twice Before Having Kids

My husband and I have been trying to decide whether or not to have a kid. He’s on the fence about it, and I’m leaning more towards not doing it. We’ve been struggling with this question for years, although the topic originally came up in our first month of dating. I told him straight up, “I don’t think I want children, so if you’re going to date me, you need to be cool with that.” He was genuinely cool with it.

I tend to research obsessively about decisions that scare me. There are many things that concern me about having a child, and I have read articles, books, and scientific papers about it. I’ve discussed the pros and cons of having children with my husband extensively and we tend to revisit the topic at least once a year. We have also consulted pretty much all of our friends who have kids or are planning to have kids.

Turns out, not many couples are obsessing about this question as much as we are. In fact, most couples don’t think twice. But what really disturbs me is that about 50% of all pregnancies in the U.S. are unplanned.

According to the National Survey of Human Growth, women who get pregnant accidentally are not happy with their predicament. Women who get pregnant more than two years earlier than they planned are not happy campers either. Women who have planned pregnancies are very happy to have conceived, and if I had to guess, are probably more likely to raise a well-adjusted child.

For the parents who actually intended to procreate, I suspect many of them did it without thinking deeply about their own motivations to have a kid. In our culture, having children is the default choice, so when couples get the urge, many of them don’t question it. Others are motivated by tradition, culture, religion, or pressure from family and friends. Some people get pregnant for even more unhealthy reasons, like to fill a void, trap a man, or save a marriage, all of which conflict with the best interest of the child.

There are, however, an increasing minority of women going forth without a brood. Based on a survey by The Pew Research Center in 2010, “nearly one-in-five American women ends her childbearing years without having borne a child, compared with one-in-ten in the 1970s,” and most of these women are highly educated. This could indicate an openness to question the value of parenthood and a more accepting attitude toward childlessness. It could also reflect the infertility faced by the many women who are choosing to have kids later. Regardless, the women who choose to be childless don’t get there accidentally.

That is not to say that people who get pregnant accidentally or without careful deliberation end up being bad parents. But I think that prepared, informed, and self-aware parents can provide a better environment for their kids (and marriages). And by preparation, I don’t mean fantasizing about what your kid will be like and what he or she will accomplish and what you can do now to assure your hypothetical kid gets into an ivy league college. That would be a waste of energy and also set you up to become a helicopter parent, which is problematic.

What you can do is consider the financial, logistical, biological, psychological, and ethical concerns of having a kid, and in turn, make a more informed decision. Stay tuned as I elaborate on that in the next post.

Continue reading “What To Consider Before Having Kids, Part 1.”

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