Childfree

I’m 35 and I Don’t Know If I Want a Baby

(Two years later, I wrote a follow-up to this post: I’m 37 and I Can’t Have a Baby)

Sometimes I want a baby and sometimes I don’t.

Most of the time I say to myself, “I’m so glad I’m not pregnant. I’m so glad there’s nobody I have to worry about except me and my husband.” Then I get my period and I’m disappointed about it for a few days until I go back to feeling relieved.

It’s very strange. I have no idea what to do about it.

For some people, choosing to have a baby is easy. They take it for granted they’ll have a kid once they get married, reach a particular age, have a certain amount of money saved, or a specific job title achieved. I envy their sense of certainty.

The decision to have a baby has never been one I’ve considered an absolute. For years I’ve read articles about childfree women with interest, because I understand and admire their choice. I always have, and I always will, even if I do decide to become a mother one day.

The only thing I ever knew for sure is that I wouldn’t be a young mother. When I reached the point in my life where having kids of my own was a possibility (late teens / early 20s), I knew I didn’t want to be a mother until I was at least in my mid-30s. I’ve said this to people for as long as I can remember.

I’ve also said for many years that if I pass childbearing age and haven’t had children, I will not feel like my life has been worth less. I still feel this way.

Over the years, I watched many girls I grew up with have two to four children. Some of those kids are teenagers already. I’ve congratulated friends who became pregnant in their 20s, and consoled those who had to wait years longer than expected, or required medical intervention to make it happen. I watched all this unfold but I knew it wasn’t my time.

I’ve written about this topic a few times over the years. Eight years ago as a new contributor to BlogHer, I featured women who are childfree by choice. Six years ago, I was incensed when someone accused childfree women of lacking an essential humanity.

While I’ve given motherhood little thought for most of my life, the topic is at the forefront due to my upcoming 35th birthday in June. While I hypothetically have a few years remaining to make this decision (familial examples: my mom had her fifth kid at age 38, my older sister is currently pregnant and will turn 37 before her baby is born), I feel like if I would be ready to be a mother in two years I should probably be ready now.

I can’t see my life changing in any drastic way over the next few years. I have a good job; I’m not searching for another one or planning to make a career change. My husband and I purchased our first home not long ago, and we like where we live. There is no outstanding debt to rid ourselves of (the only debt we have is our mortgage). In other words, we’re stable. The only way things would change is if I become more baby-crazy.

I do like other people’s kids. Until I turned 30 or so, this wasn’t the case — I had little interest in holding babies or interacting with young children. These days I’m no longer immune to their chubby cheeks and bashful smiles. I find myself imagining scenarios in which a baby is part of my life – like making my husband wear the kid strapped to his chest whenever we leave the house, because I think fathers who do that are so darn adorable. I can see myself reading endless story books and making homemade baby food.

But do I get sad when I leave other people’s kids? Am I jealous of other parents? Do I cry over my empty womb? No, no, and…no. I don’t mind that I have no diapers to change, toys to put away, baths to give, or battles to wage over food choices or appropriate bedtimes.

What does my husband think about all this? Unfortunately, he’s an undecided as I am. It’s great that we can discuss our mutual hesitation without fear of upsetting the other person, but it would be easier for me if he felt strongly one way or the other. If Paul was very pro- or anti-kid, the choice would be easier for me to make. We’ve had multiple discussions over the past few months but we haven’t come away with a clear answer. There are too many unknown variables.

Some people refer to childfree couples as selfish. Although some of the so-called selfish reasons for not having a child would apply to us (we enjoy our long stretches of uninterrupted sleep; I relish the hours of free time I have after work to make dinner, read a book, or go for a walk; our weekends are mainly ours to fill as we please), those aren’t my biggest hesitations. I could deal with the loss of those luxuries if need be. I could adapt.

Here are things that come to mind when I think about reasons for and against having a baby:

Reasons to Have a Baby:

  • Joy, laughter, and love. I could use more of these in my life.
  • Paul and I would be kickass parents.
  • Commiserating with people we know who have kids; making new friends by participating in child-related functions; fun stuff like holidays, sports activities, and school plays.
  • Providing a positive influence and guidance to a human being who wouldn’t be on the earth if it wasn’t for us.
  • I have strong opinions when it comes to names and would relish the opportunity to choose one our child would carry throughout their life. (This one is meant to be humorous, but seriously…I do have strong opinions on names.)

Reasons to Stay Childfree:

  • An American Sociological Association study revealed that childfree couples are happier than any other group, including empty nesters. Daniel Gilbert has echoed this research. It has often been found that having kids affects couples’ overall marital satisfaction.
  • I am strongly opposed to working in a cubicle for the rest of my life (or until I reach a designated retirement age in my mid-60s, whichever comes first). If we stay childfree, we will reach our retirement goals much faster.
  • I’m not a fan of stress; I avoid it whenever possible and most of the time I’m successful. (This is why I work as an Executive Assistant rather than a more fast-paced or demanding job. I set up meetings for other people instead of attending them myself, and my deadlines are mostly recurring, expected, and manageable. Some days are busier than others but rarely do I have to put out fires — or even check work email once I leave the office.) A child, in addition to the joy of its existence, would inevitably bring stress.
  • I’m an introvert, and I relish my quiet and peaceful home life. I like being able to flop on the couch after work and read a book for hours before my husband gets home.
  • While we’re not jetsetters, Paul and I have both traveled abroad and would like to do so again (next time we’ll do it together, since all previous foreign travel happened before we became a couple). We would also love to go on an epic U.S. road trip where we visit friends who are scattered across the country. This isn’t impossible to do with a child, but it would definitely require more luggage, adherence to schedules, and a plethora of activities to keep a kid’s boredom at bay on the road.
  • Ever since I spent a semester abroad in college, it’s been my dream to actually live in a foreign country again, not just spend a few days or weeks. While some people accomplish this with kids, it would be easier and more achievable if it were just the two of us.
  • I would avoid: diapers, temper tantrums, sickness, whining, barf, sleepless nights, and the aforementioned accumulated expenses of raising a child for 18+ years.

I’m sure there are mothers out there who will tell me I’m looking at this all wrong. There’s no way for me to know the joy a child would bring until I have one myself. The reason I don’t feel close to other people’s children is because they’re not my own. Even though there are frustrating times, they don’t compare to the highs of watching a child take their first steps, teaching them to hit a baseball, or witnessing their excitement on Christmas Day. But making the choice to have a baby doesn’t mean the hard decisions are over.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Paul and I decide we’re going to get pregnant. We’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided we’re done with our childfree life. Now the question becomes, would I be able to stay home with my baby for a to-be-determined length of time, or would I take him/her to daycare after my 12-week maternity leave is over? (Maternity leave at my company is typical of other largeish U.S. organizations: several weeks fully paid, several weeks partially paid, several weeks unpaid.)

I admit, the ability to stay at home with my kid instead of going back to work is another large factor in my decision to have a child. Personally, if I had a child, it would be extremely difficult to leave them in someone else’s care while I work full-time – at least while they’re very young. While I enjoy my job, and my workplace is great, I don’t love it enough to want to be there for a majority of the day if it means I only get to interact with my baby before and after work.

I understand not everyone gets to make this choice, and some mothers would work whether they need the money or not. Some of you really love your jobs, and I envy you. I do not think staying at home is best for everyone; I’m only stating what my personal preference would be.

Having said that, here are reasons I’d like to stay at home while there are also compelling reasons to return to work.

Reasons to Stay at Home:

  • As previously stated, I avoid stress. Running from home to daycare to work and back again – while trying to keep a child healthy, clean, fed, and calm – on a prescribed daily schedule sounds pretty stressful to me.
  • I would have more time to do child-related, home-related, and life-related tasks, rather than cramming them into evening and weekend hours.
  • Trying to fit everything into the evening hours would be even more difficult to navigate when Paul is out of town on business trips and I would become a single parent. His business trips range from 3-5 days every four to six weeks or so.
  • I’m afraid if I tried to fit all my tasks into the too-short evening hours after work, I would end up resenting or fighting with my husband because I would still be responsible for the majority of the caregiving. I know Paul wants to be hands-on with childcare, but his wants and the reality of his job are two different things. I get home every day at least two hours before he does (sometimes even three or four hours, depending on his work load), which means it would fall on me to pick up the kid from day care, make dinner, feed the kid, bathe the kid, put kid to bed.
  • No daycare expenses.
  • Breastfeeding would be much easier.

Reasons to Return to Work:

  • My husband makes more money than I do and we could live off his salary, but I work for a larger company and my job feels a bit more stable because of it.
  • My husband could lose his job and we would both be unemployed. While Paul is a valued member of his company’s management team, people lose their jobs for random reasons all the time.
  • We both have health insurance through my employer because it costs substantially less than his (in addition to offering lower monthly fees, my employer contributes $1,000 per year to our Health Savings Account). If I left my job, not only would we not have my salary, we’d pay a heck of a lot more out of pocket for health insurance coverage.
  • If leave my job, it could be very difficult to find a comparable position – doing similar work for similar pay – once I’m ready to return to the workforce. I live in Buffalo; the job opportunities aren’t as plentiful here as they were when we lived in Washington, DC. I was fortunate to find a good position this time around, but if I take a break there’s a good chance I wouldn’t be so lucky a second time.
  • We could continue to make do with one car (which has been paid off for many years) because I take public transportation to work. If I stayed at home we’d likely need to buy a second car so I could get around during the day while Paul is at work (his hours and job location aren’t conducive to him taking public transportation).

Having said everything I’ve said, if I were to get pregnant tomorrow, I can’t imagine feeling anything other than happy. All of the questions and hesitations I have right now, I would figure them out. I would make it work.

Whatever I decide to do, I’m glad I took the time to write all this out. I wanted to show the decision isn’t automatic for everybody, and how many factors there are to take under consideration. I have a lot to think about and I may never have absolute clarity on which choice is the right one.

I do know that I have never, and will never, feel swayed by anyone’s opinion (other than my husband’s) on whether I should have a child or not. Those people who give you a hard time, or make you feel guilty? They’re not the ones who have to do the work.

Maybe I’ll decide to put off the decision for a while, even though I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a cop-out. However, as time goes by I could feel more certain that our family should have three members instead of two, or I could be thanking my lucky stars I didn’t rush into making a decision I might regret.

******************************************

[This is cross-posted at BlogHer.]

Syndicated on BlogHer.com

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39 Comments

  • Reply Anya April 20, 2015 at 7:57 am

    So glad you wrote this. This is one of my favorite topics. Like you, I’ve never been sold on the whole baby thing. I didn’t care for chubby cheeks and still don’t (but don’t get me started on the furry, four-legged kind). I love my nieces and nephew but in small doses. In fact, I didn’t even see myself getting married until my 30s. Well, it happened in my early 20s and right away, we had excuses not to have a baby: we’re finishing our undergrads, I’m starting grad school, we’re job hunting, money is tight, we want to travel. The excuses persisted until 2012. That was the year hubby finished grad school and suddenly we ran out of excuses. The thought process was to have one kid and leave it at that. Hubby always wanted a girl like me, and I would have preferred a boy. One kid would still allow us to live comfortably and travel (kids are expensive!). After seven months of trying, we found out hubby was infertile. We attempted fertility treatments which took a physical toll on him, so we decided neither one of us wanted a kid that badly. It was a painful realization, but we got over it pretty quickly because the reality is, our life is great right now. A kid wouldn’t make it worse, it would change it drastically. We set financials goals to be debt free (mortgage and student loans) by 2020 and are currently on track. Like you, I hate the cube life and want to retire early. A kid would derail those plans. Realistically, we could try the fertility treatments again and after about a month, we would qualify for in vitro, but we’ve both decided we don’t want a kid that badly. Because of this I consider ourselves both childless and childfree. The reality is, our world is overpopulated. We’re approaching 7 billion people and I personally think it’s selfish to have kids (from a sustainability perspective). Science has shown that we need to cut our population in half. So I like to think we’re doing our part for the planet. 🙂

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 5:31 pm

      Thank you for your insightful comment! It’s so nice to get a response like this from someone who understands what I’m going through. I’ve already told my husband that if we require fertility treatments to get pregnant, I wouldn’t want to do it — I’ve heard too many stories about how difficult and stressful it is, and often you don’t end up with the desired result (or too much of the desired result, like twins).

      Congrats on your financial goals! 2020 isn’t far away and I’m sure it’s so exciting to think you’ll be completely debt-free by then (not having a mortgage sounds like a wonderful thing!).

  • Reply Jennifer April 20, 2015 at 10:09 am

    The most important part of all this is you and Paul being on the same page. xoxo

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 5:32 pm

      I agree completely. Thank you, sweet friend. 🙂

  • Reply Emily April 20, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Really great post. So glad you shared!

    I have always felt the exact same way – I’ve never wanted to be a young mother. It wasn’t until the last 4 years or so that I’ve even thought that I *might* want kids. I have always said I’d wait until my mid-30s. I turn 31 this year, and can completely picture myself in the exact same boat as you in a few years – wondering when exactly I’m supposed to feel like I’m ready or that I definitely want to.

    I related to the majority of your pros and cons list. I have one major addition to each. For me, a pro is that I think I would really enjoy the time when my kids are grown up. (Once they get past any terrible teen years). Not in a selfish “I want kids to take care of me in old age” way, but just in the great, positive ways adult kids can add to your life: family visits, big holiday gatherings, phone calls, etc. I’m not really worried I’ll regret not having the young years (although I know those can be full of joy too) – I’m worried I’ll regret not having the older years! 🙂

    And for me a major con is that the future seems to be a more and more uncertain place. I worry about bringing a child into a world that’s overpopulated and not dealing well with our environmental crises. I worry about it enough that I think if I’m ready to have kids, I’ll strongly consider adopting, even if it means adopting a non-infant, a child a bit older.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think it’s a very important discussion. I get upset when society seems to judge women who decide they don’t want children, or if they are unsure. I think having kids is an amazing thing to do, but it’s not the only thing that gives life meaning.

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 5:36 pm

      I think your two additions are spot-on. I may have to steal them if I ever do a follow-up post! One of the things my husband brings up when we discuss our pros/cons is his close relationship with his parents and how he’d love to have the same with his kid when he’s old. I completely understand that, and if it was a guarantee, I may very well feel differently about this. There are so many variables, though. Like our child growing up to be an asshole. Ha! Or maybe they’ll be wonderful but move far away from us as soon as they turn 18, only to return home for holidays. For that reason, I can’t let that be a driving force in my decision.

  • Reply Brenna April 20, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Thank you for sharing this with us! This is a really wonderful post. Whether or not you and Paul have children is really only the business of you and Paul, though as someone who has pretty firmly decided I don’t want them, I know that others make it their business all the time. I wish everyone who had children thought about this as seriously as you do – further proof that you and Paul *would* be awesome parents if you decided to have children – but sadly, many people in this world think it’s the only path and/or the right path. Even today, as a 33-year-old woman in the career-driven metropolis that is Manhattan, I am told “just wait” or “you’ll change your mind” when I say I don’t want children. There are so many reasons for and against it, and I sincerely hope whatever decide or whatever happens (because we all know that often this is out of our control), you and Paul have a long, healthy, happy life together.

    And one more thing – thank you for using the term childfree, rather than childless. It’s a small thing, but I notice it in many articles like this. Childfree sounds like I have agency, and that I’m not lacking something that I should have. To some women who try to have children and can’t, I understand that they may feel that way, but for those of us who aren’t sure or who don’t want to have children, we don’t feel like we are lacking anything. I’m very fulfilled in other areas of my life, and it sounds like you are too, based on this post. We should all be so supportive of women (and their partners) who are looking at a path that is different from the “norm.”

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 6:03 pm

      I agree it’s completely insulting to be told “you’ll change your mind” if you tell someone you are 100% sure you don’t want kids. Unfortunately, people feel justified in saying that because there ARE women out there who say they don’t want kids and end up changing their minds later. Which they are allowed to do, of course; it just makes it more difficult for those who DON’T change their minds.

      ChildFREE is the only term I considered using; like you said, childLESS includes women who are infertile, or women who want kids but aren’t in the kind of committed relationship they would require first. Childfree is rapidly becoming the standard in these types of conversations (at least from what I’ve seen), and the more people we have talking about it, the more widespread the term will become.

      Thank you again for your kind words!

  • Reply Elissa April 20, 2015 at 10:32 am

    I have much more to say than I wish to comment here. You shall receive an email later. I will say 2 things: I live and respect that you and Paul are on the same page. Disagreements of such nature would be way more difficult than even the challenges of inviting a child into your lives. Also I will comment on your last statement where you mention regret. Sis, even though you will have many decisions to make and some potential stress when/if the time comes I cannot fathom that would ever experience actual regret. It’s just not in you.

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 5:38 pm

      Good point, sis. I wrote that last paragraph about regret mainly for the impact factor. I don’t really think I’d REGRET childbirth, per se, because even with the things I’ve done in life so far that I wish I HADN’T done, or done differently, I don’t regret them. I should have worded that differently.

  • Reply Dad April 20, 2015 at 10:52 am

    Yes…Dad will pop up on this one. Two things. (1) For all that you have written and investigated tear it up! When you decide that its no longer about you but about a Child then you will be fine with it. Not a choice rather an agreement with someone you believe is out there and needs to come home. But ultimately its Gods decision. Listen to Him! (2) Tick Tick Tick Tick….love you sweet heart.

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      This is why I don’t ask for your opinion, dad!

  • Reply Janet April 20, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    This is a really wonderful and comprehensive and honest piece of writing. I have so many thoughts but mostly I’m just impressed at how clear-headed and thoughtful your approach is. As some point, the decision becomes a leap of faith because all the thinking and preparing in the world doesn’t quite get you to a rational outcome. And that’s ok. 🙂 Having kids is somewhat irrational!

    Having a kid can completely up-end your life, but I think you and Paul would just make it work. Life gets less predictable in some ways (because the baby is kind of the boss for awhile) and more predictable in other ways (just because of things like what babies/kids need, keeping things stable for the sake of your family, etc). It’s hard work, but it’s rewarding work. It’s sometimes maddening work but it also makes your heart grow several times bigger. It’s exhausting and relentless though, too.

    I think the bottom line is that you and Paul will have a happy and fulfilling life either way. I truly don’t know how you make a decision once you’ve accepted that either outcome is a happy outcome. I’ve always envied people who knew they didn’t want kids, but I imagine it’s very hard to feel on the fence.

    And lastly, yes, you and Paul would make kickass parents and your kiddo(s) would be lucky to have you. I don’t say that to sway or pressure you, just to affirm that I think it’s very true!

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 5:45 pm

      That is a wonderful compliment coming from you, dear friend! Thank you so much. For weeks I was just jotting down random stuff as it occurred to me, so knowing I was able to (finally) put it down in a cohesive manner means a lot to me. Paul said he thinks this is the most thought-provoking post I’ve ever written, and I think he’s probably right.

      After reading posts on this subject for years, I’m glad I decided to add my voice to the mix. Truthfully, I also figured it might have more of an impact given my age. Some of the posts I read about being undecided on motherhood are written by 20-somethings (and while plenty of them know for sure right now that they don’t want kids, just as many of them will change their minds — there’s a good chance they’ll feel differently about it when they’re 10 years older).

      You’re completely right about the kid-decision being somewhat irrational and a leap of faith. If that’s the route we decide to go, I firmly believe it will be a complete leap of faith for us!

  • Reply Lyndsey April 20, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I find myself similarly trying to determine what life has in store for me.

    I’ve always wanted kids but then as I’ve aged, I’ve become more set in my ways and have a current life that would definitely change.

    There is uncertainty as to help much support I would have when I need a break.

    Up until now, I haven’t had a solid man in my life and I’ve had various health issues which would have been challenging for myself and a kid.

    But things are looking on the up, as I soon reach 38. a baby or two by my early 40s would be nice .. Only time can tell. The decision has to be mutual, the stars must align..

    The next few years will be special no matter what choices are made.

    • Reply Zandria April 20, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Well said, Lyndsey! I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that we can have wonderful, fulfilled lives no matter what we decide to do (and it also depends on if our bodies decide to cooperate or not). I feel like I’ve certainly become more “set in my ways” in a lot of instances, too. Peace and quiet being high on the list!

  • Reply Jaclyn April 20, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    Zan, this is such a wonderful post – honest, real, and brave, because I think it is still brave to acknowledge, in this society, that you are unsure about whether you want kids or not (or to acknowledge that you don’t want them). We’re still conditioned to think that parenthood is required, and women in particular are constantly having these messages shoved down their throats. For some people, parenthood is the next logical step in their life plans – first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage, and all that. But if it’s NOT the next logical step in your particular life, that should be fine too. Lately I’ve seen much more discourse on choosing a childfree life – quite a few of my friends seem to be making this decision – and I think it’s great that people can finally talk about this! It’s a totally valid choice.

    I was just talking about this with my mom the other day. She expressed the view, which I think is pretty common among her generation, that choosing to remain childfree is “selfish.” I said that I disagree – I think it’s more selfish to bring a child into this world if you’re not 100% sure that you want to be a parent. Kids are expensive, and they’re a huge time commitment, and they drive you insane sometimes, and no child deserves to be born to parents who are ambivalent about the child’s presence in their lives. (Not saying you would be – on the contrary, I agree with you that you and Paul would be kickass parents!)

    As you know, I didn’t struggle with the decision whether or not I wanted kids. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a mother. And you also know that getting there didn’t come easily for me. (Although other people struggled much longer and harder for their babies.) But motherhood IS hard. It’s hard work. It’s a lot of scrambling around and not always having a clean house because it’s more important to have a clean kid, and daycare pickups, and thrown together dinners, and not much free time to pursue my own interests – that’s all true. But I think that for me, the hardest thing about motherhood is not the sleep deprivation or the expense or the sacrifices or the chaos. The hardest thing (for me) about motherhood is also the best. I can’t remember where this quote originated, but someone (probably Eleanor Roosevelt, she always says all the best stuff) said that parenthood is consenting to have a piece of your heart go walking around outside your body. I love Emily and Nate more than I can possibly express – I love them so much that sometimes I feel like I might explode. And with that love comes intense fear that someone or something might hurt them sometime and I won’t be able to protect them from it and if anything happened to them I don’t know if I could go on. It’s intense and it’s a different sort of love than what I have for Steve (I love him just as much, but he can take care of himself). I tend to be a worrier anyway and I have always had a lot of anxiety, but I think most if not all moms feel this way. Sometimes it seems like letting your heart go walking around outside of your body is just asking for trouble – but I wouldn’t trade it.

    This comment is turning into a novel, so I’ll just add that I think it’s wonderful that you’re putting so much thought into this major life decision, and that I know you’ll make the right choice for you and Paul. And if that choice is to have a child, that child will be lucky to be born into a wonderful family. And if the choice is not to have a child, you’re still a wonderful family. Hugs to you!

    • Reply Zandria April 21, 2015 at 12:13 pm

      It’s been extremely gratifying how many people have taken the time to write such heartfelt, in-depth comments on this blog post and on Facebook. I smiled reading your kind words.

      I liked when you said the biggest source of stress you feel is due to loving your kids so much, and being concerned for their happiness and well being. You’re the first person to point this out and it makes complete sense. With the other sources of stress, you at least tend to get used to them and can do things to mitigate it. With the kind you’re talking about…not so much. It’ll always be there to some extent.

      I’m also glad you set your mom straight on the whole “childfree women are selfish” thing. It’ll take a while to bust through the stereotypes but I can see it becoming more commonplace during our lifetime.

      Hugs to YOU, too!

  • Reply Ralph April 21, 2015 at 12:51 am

    Hi Zandria

    I don’t think checklists are very reliable, because life just happens, and hey, that’s what life does. I see having children as a emotional choice, not an intellectual one (although after a certain age you need to think if you would be up to raising a child with Down syndrome).

    Extract from “The Crossroads of Should and Must”:

    „Should is how others want us to show up in the world — how we’re supposed to think, what we ought to say, what we should or shouldn’t do. It’s the vast array of expectations that others layer upon us. When we choose Should the journey is smooth, the risk is small.

    Must is different—there aren’t options and we don’t have a choice.

    Must is who we are, what we believe, and what we do when we are alone with our truest, most authentic self. It’s our instincts, our cravings and longings, the things and places and ideas we burn for, the intuition that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us. Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer looking for inspiration out there. Instead, we are listening to our calling from within, from some luminous, mysterious place.„

    https://medium.com/@elleluna/the-crossroads-of-should-and-must-90c75eb7c5b0

    Ralph

    • Reply Zandria April 21, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      My brother-in-law Travis said something very similar in a Facebook comment when I linked to the post. My sister is currently pregnant with his first baby (he’ll be a father for the first time in his late 40s), and he said he probably wouldn’t have gone through with it if he’d over-thought it too much. He said at some point over-thinking becomes detrimental. Thanks for taking the time to point that out. 🙂

  • Reply Megan April 21, 2015 at 10:34 am

    I’m about 6 months younger than you, and I’m in a similar position – though I’m single, which makes the decision less imminent. I wanted kids when I was younger. Then I didn’t. Now… I don’t know. I think there are perks to both sides and it’s tough to pick a side. I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    • Reply Zandria April 21, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      You and I are far from being the only ones, Megan! With the comments I’m getting, I’m seeing how many people have these thoughts (even women who have known for a long time that they want to be mothers). I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to decide just by looking at my pros and cons, at some point I’m either going to have to go for it or not. It’s very scary, but inevitable.

  • Reply Leah April 21, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I’m still reading your thoughtful and in-depth post, but I wanted to comment on the stress and work. For me, going back to work was the less stressful choice. I appreciate having some time without my baby all over me. She can be clingy at times 😉 I get adult interaction and stuff to do. I am excited to pick her up every day after school gets out. Continuing to work isn’t the right choice for everyone, but I’m so grateful for the option. It hasn’t been easy, but I am pretty sure I like this better than staying home all day.

    It really helps that we found a nice place where my kid is happy. She gets so excited to see her teachers each morning, and that helps set me at ease.

    • Reply Zandria April 21, 2015 at 12:33 pm

      I’m glad to hear from someone who sends their baby to daycare and feels like it’s the best possible situation for them. 🙂 However….I do think you’re in a bit of an abnormal situation, based on the fact that you live and work at your school, and your baby probably isn’t very far away at any given time. (Do you have the ability to walk over and see her on your lunch break, for instance?) Also, unlike me, you really like your job — at least that’s the impression I get — and you get joy from transferring your knowledge to others in the classroom.

      I think I would feel differently about wanting to go back to work if I really loved what I do. It would be very hard for me to be at work all day if I thought I’d be enjoying myself a lot more being at home with my kid.

      • Reply Ralph April 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

        My wife was happy to be able to go to work part-time, just to get away for a while and feel “normal” again 🙂

        • Reply Zandria April 21, 2015 at 3:53 pm

          I’m not dismissing that possibility; I just can’t be sure it would work out the way I want it to. I have to look at worse case scenarios and hope for the best. 🙂

  • Reply Jen April 22, 2015 at 5:49 pm

    I agree with Janet (Love is Blonde) – having a child is a completely irrational choice. You can make pros and cons lists all day long, but at the end of the day…you just decide one or the other and see where it takes you.

    I was totally where you are though. I was raised Mormon and it was pretty much engrained at a very young age that women become mothers and that’s JUST WHAT YOU DO. No choice. It’s your God-given calling and purpose for being on Earth and all that. When I left the religion at 23, I spent a long time figuring out what I honestly thought about parenthood — did I really want to be a mother? Did I want to be child free just to stick it to my upbringing (as a way to shout “you didn’t brainwash me! i think for myself now!”)?…

    And then there was also the fact that we were blissfully happy without a child. A good marriage, good jobs, plenty of disposable income to travel and do whatever we wanted. We decided that we would be totally fine not having a child but we would also be completely thrilled if we got pregnant. The trouble with that with birth control, you actually do have to make a choice at some point. We often joked that getting pregnant accidentally would be the best thing in the world because we’d never have to actually make the decision ourselves!

    Long story short, we decided to stop preventing pregnancy and see where it took us. If nothing happened, then we were fine with it. Less than a year later, we were pregnant and now we have a two year old daughter. Like the poster above, there are days that she drives me absolutely insane and then days (like today, thank God) that I look at her and my heart is so full of love that it feels like it will explode.

    I can’t think of anything LESS selfish than NOT having a child if you know you don’t want one. If you’re on the fence, like we were…then at some point you get off on one side of that fence and embrace the decision. Not having a kid doesn’t mean you can’t be a kick-ass aunt/uncle or have children in your life and having a child doesn’t mean you’re going to like it.

    No easy answer, but I really enjoyed reading your thought process!

    • Reply Zandria April 24, 2015 at 9:34 am

      I really enjoyed reading your feedback, Jen! Thank you for taking the time to go into such detail. A few people have said what you did – that the decision to have a child is a completely irrational choice. I think I was hoping my lists would FORCE my decision to be more rational, but I’m coming around to the realization that although my list of questions will help me better prepare myself for having a baby, I will never know for sure if it’s the “right thing to do.”

      I was raised Baptist but stopped going to church after my parents divorced when I was 16. I have no doubt that if I was still a devout churchgoer, the pressure to have a child would be much greater – the emphasis on kids tends to be pretty strong in religious communities.

      I have a feeling my husband and I would be like you and your husband – if we DO decide to go through with this, it’s going to be a casual thing and if it happens, it happens. If it turns out I’m infertile, I don’t want any expensive and stressful treatments to make it happen.

      Thanks again for sharing your perspective. 🙂

  • Reply Kate December 6, 2015 at 2:40 am

    Every few months I find myself searching for this conversation online and this is one of the best threads I have found on the topic yet. I think I am hoping that someone’s words will hit home for me and I will suddenly “know”. Honestly I feel like I am trying to convince myself to have a child because my closest friends want it for me so badly. Knowing me they can’t imagine me not having the experience of parenthood. I just don’t have the same conviction.

    I am about to turn 40 and have been at this crossroads for the past 3 years. My parents both became terminally ill and my attention went to them and derailed the baby decision. But now I have lost both parents and “life is short” is staring me in the face in a way it never has before. After participating in their care and the stress of major medical decisions for almost 2 years, I am not eager to take on the full time intensity of caring for a new baby. My time is running out, but I just can’t get myself there emotionally. At the same time, I had an amazing adult relationship with my parents and can imagine the love my friends describe for a child. It’s like I am wishing I wanted it in the way they did, but I don’t have any internal drive pushing me to do it. I am typically someone who knows what they want and goes after it. This is the only thing I have ever been so ambivilant about. I honestly feel tortured.

    My husband is also ambivalent, and I think my hesitation makes him more so. He is more attracted to adoption so maybe that is our fate. I think adoption takes more courage and determination though, so I question how I will suddenly find the inner drive to take that on. If I don’t act soon time will just make the decision for me. This decision haunts me.

    Finally – I just don’t get the argument that it’s selfish not to have a child. Creating a “mini me” in your likeness so that you can carry on after death seems self absorbed. If you devoted yourself to service in the world with the same intensity, surely you would have a far greater impact of good in the world than creating one more human. Maybe this is why I find adoption more honorable.

    Thank you for taking the time to write this and to respond to everyone. Your bravery has been a help to me in my turmoil.

    • Reply Zandria December 6, 2015 at 2:56 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! I know how important it is to find stories written by people who have found themselves in similar situations. In that post, I think I mainly wanted to point out that for some people, the choice to have a kid is not as cut and dry as society leads us to believe. It still blows my mind that certain people cannot comprehend there are women who don’t want to have kids (or at least may be struggling with the decision).

      My husband and I may very well decide to go through with the baby-thing, but if it never happens for us, it will be okay. Just as it will be for you. Best of luck with your decision making!

  • Reply Quinton December 7, 2015 at 11:15 am

    See, that’s my feeling too if I were going on a fhlgit longer than 3 hours I would absolutely pay to sit in a separate section from children. It’s not that I can’t keep my eye rolling and sighing to myself, it’s that in today’s world a lot of mommies seem to think the entire world should bow to they and their children’s needs and problems. Oh sorry but kids cry and scream! Kids get bored and need to run up and down the aisles! I know we are complete strangers and you are less than two inches away from me but I’m going to breastfeed right now! Deal with it! No, sorry, no. If I wanted to deal with that kind of shit I’d have kids of my own. Sorry but I want to slam a couple of gin rickeys and take a nap, and I don’t want to worry that your kid is going to start a tantrum just as I finally fall asleep. Deal with it.

  • Reply Anonymous January 6, 2016 at 4:46 pm

    Here’s my story in brief. I got married at age 38 and I am now 40. I thought I always wanted kids but figured I’d never get married so it wasn’t going to happen anyways. Then I met my husband (who coincidentally has two young children – a boy and a girl – I thought GREAT! Now I can experience part-time motherhood and not have to have my own). I am too old anyhow. Step-mothering is just fine. But deep down I know I am not the children’s “real” mother and it hurts. So I’m thinking about having one of my own but I’m 40. 40 brings so many more problems to motherhood including higher risks of birth defects, miscarriage and even maternal death. That scares the he** out of me – but the biggest thing is I can’t decide if I really want my own children. My heart is 50/50. My head is 50/50. My age frightens me – this is not what I wanted to be doing at 40 – at 30 maybe but not 40. I’ve been going back and forth on the issue in my head since the summer. I can’t make a decision to the point of tears. It was so nice to read your blog and know that other women out there can’t decide either. My husband would like a child with me but supports either decision I make and will be happy either way. It’s such a huge decision and time is just about out. 🙁

    • Reply Knps January 6, 2016 at 9:36 pm

      One thing I will tell you, because I am 40 now too, is that I have other friends in this same boat & they have been speaking with their doctors at length & they are hearing that they have upped that “safe zone” number to be something closer to 42. Their doctors were saying go for it at 40. They are seeing more and more healthy pregnancies later on. I know EXACTLY how you feel.

      Also on the step-mom note, being an adopted child myself – family is who loves you. You may not be their biological mom, but I have plenty of friends whose step parent ended up being their major influencer in life. It might take longer to organically evolve, but it’s not impossible. Love is a language that can trump genes. Just show up authentically & time will tell. Sending you a HUGE hug. I know how tormenting this decision is. It feels like the most important one in life & it sucks not having a strong gut feeling. Good news is it sounds like you already have a beautiful family. 😉

      • Reply Zandria January 7, 2016 at 8:18 pm

        Thank you for taking the time to write this. While women do have to keep age in mind, it’s good to know the “time limit” may be higher than we thought.

    • Reply Zandria January 7, 2016 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story! If there’s anything writing this post has shown me, is that pretty much every woman questions something about this process — even if they’ve always known they wanted a child. You are definitely not alone.

  • Reply Silvana March 5, 2016 at 10:31 am

    Thank you for writing this, means so much to me. I am 38 going on 39 in 2 months. My amacing husband and I been married for 6 years and are very much in love with each other till this day. Back in 2012 I got diagnosed with endometriosis, ovarian cysts and fibroids. After surgeries, treatments and tears I now found out, this past Tuesday that I’m completly cured of everything! Husband and I will love to have a baby, one, always talk about kids, love them, but he is waiting for that perfect moment…. Meanwhile my clock is ticking very loud…. After much thinking and going back and forth with this idea of having a baby I decided I do want to be a mommy…. But because waiting for him to decide will meant it will never happened I decided to take the bull by the horns and drop my pills….. I feel a bit sad cause we adore each other, but every time I made the decision for the both of us on whatever needed to be done he was thankful I did……. So, here we go….. We’ll see .

  • Reply Jaime March 16, 2016 at 2:24 am

    Thanks for writing this post. I most of my life have always felt that I wanted children. But now i wonder if that’s what I really wanted or if it was the next “logical step” in a marriage. My husband and I have been married for two years now. We had both said we wanted children before we got married. Lately we both agree we really like our life just the way it is right now. Maybe kids were in the future, maybe they weren’t. My husband has recently decided he no longer wants children at all, not now, not in the future. I still don’t know if I want them or not. But having the idea completely taken off the table (according to him) has me even more confused. Reading your post has helped me some what sort out some of my feelings. Still haven’t made up my mind. But thank you for sharing and being so honest …

  • Reply Becky April 27, 2017 at 10:31 am

    I really enjoyed reading your post. My husband and I just had this conversation last night, so it is nice to know there are others out there in the same boat as us. I am 31 and he is 33 and we are no closer now to deciding if we want kids or not than we were when we were 21 and enjoying the college life. For many years I didn’t even know if I wanted to get married, but that all changed when I met Dustin. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he was different and that I needed him in my life forever. 🙂 We have been married for just under 2 years now and everyone seems to be questioning us on the kid issue. When I tell them we aren’t sure if we want kids, I get all kinds of looks and responses, especially from my own mother, who wants grandkids. But I have never been the maternal type. I used to think I wanted kids when I was younger, but now I’m not so sure. I’ve never been able to genuinely imagine myself as a mother. Even when I try, it seems so fictional and so surreal. I relate to every single pro and con that you listed above. We love to travel. We like to be spontaneous. We both have good jobs and are stable. We are best friends and have an amazing relationship and are afraid of messing it up with the added stress of having a baby. Our lives would change so drastically and we like the way it is right now. Every couple that we know who has kids talk about how much better their relationship with each other was before kids. I’m not sure that’s something that I’m willing to jeopardize. The thing that scares me most is whether or not I will regret not having a family once we are older because I have a great relationship with my parents and see them multiple times each week and I wonder if I will miss having that same kind of relationship with my adult children someday. And I’ll say what no one wants to say….what if something happened to my husband or I? Would we then regret not having had a baby to at least have a part of the other person still with us? (Let’s all just knock on wood right now!) My mind goes back and forth all the time. I have two dogs that I love dearly. I’ve had one for 13 years and throughout those 13 years, he has chewed up countless shoes/clothes, peed on every surface I own, shed all over my house and car, puked on the carpet in my house, cost me thousands of dollars I’m sure with all of the vet visits and dog food and toys and treats- but I wouldn’t change any of it for the world because he brings so much joy and love to my life. I have to imagine having a kid would be the same way. The joys offset the struggles. Yet still, I remain stuck in indecision. Hopefully one day God will speak to our hearts and show us which path is right for us, but until then, I plan to just be happy with who we are and the story we are writing- whether it end up with or without a baby in it along the way. 🙂

    • Reply Zandria May 2, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment! It’s been gratifying to see how many responses I’ve received on this post, and how many women look up information on this topic. I’m doing final edits on a follow-up post to describe where I am two years later, so you can look out for that over the next week or two. Best of luck in your decision making!

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