Should I have children?

Considering the pros and cons of parenting

Dear Jubey,

I am 30 years old and I have been with my partner for four years. I am agonizing over the decision of whether I want to have children. I am worried that if I don’t have children now, I will regret it. Can you give me any advice?

Confused

Dear Confused,

I am the mother of two children aged five and three. Even though parenting is very difficult, I am very happy with my decision to have children. I have no regrets. Equally, I have friends that have consciously made a decision not to have children and they also have no regrets. I believe that regret comes when we let life sweep us in a direction without ever having made a conscious choice. My hope is that by sharing my experience of the pros and cons of parenting you can begin to find clarity around what may be right for you and your life.

Are you asking the right question?

Sometimes the scarier question that lies beneath “should I have children?” is, “do I want to have children with my current partner?” Having children with a person is the greatest commitment we can make. Marriage has the option of divorce, but the person that you have children with will be in your life forever.  If your question is really “should I have children with my current partner?” then the answer probably is, not yet.  If you aren’t sure that you want to be connected to this person for the rest of your life, then sit with that question first.

If you are clear that your question is “should I have children?”  below is list of compromises and joys that I have experienced as a parent that I hope may assist you in your decision.  

Compromises of parenting

1. It is more difficult to do what you want

Right now, you can wake up on Saturday and do whatever takes your fancy. I don’t even know the meaning of a “Netflix day”. As a parent with young children your days will largely be dictated by their needs.  You will likely go out less, certainly in the evening, and your lifestyle will shift to accommodate scheduled naps. Even if you think this won’t happen to you and you have grand dreams of bringing the baby along with you to the life that you had before you had children, you won’t. Everything will change.

2. It is more difficult to follow your dreams

If you dream of travelling the world or becoming an artist, writer or extend your career, fitting these things into an already full life becomes more difficult with children. For a time you may find it more difficult to progress in your career as you choose roles that give you flexibility over career growth.  Prior to having kids, I could flex my commitments to fit in new interests. If I wanted to take a dance class, I could see my friends one less time that week. After work and children, there is very little time left for you. It is not completely impossible to follow your dreams, but you need to find room in the cracks. Right now, I am writing this post while also singing my three year old to sleep.

3. You will never feel completely rested again

Before I had children, I declared to anyone that may have an interest that I needed 10 hours sleep a night. Well, it is lucky that I slept well in my pre-children years, because once you have children the sleeplessness is relentless. The newborn months are the worst, and as difficult as everyone tells you, but I am still up most nights with my three year old.

4. You have to really work on your relationship

If you are raising children with a partner, you have to make time for each other in a way that you didn’t have to think about before having kids. When you are both sleep deprived, it is easy to get into wars over who has had less sleep or who is doing more. After pragmatically arranging a roster of shared responsibilities so that neither of you feels that you got the short straw, you need to actively make time for each other. You need to consistently lean into your relationship even though at times you feel too exhausted to give any more of yourself to anyone.   

5. Having young kids is physically exhausting but parenting is mentally exhausting

While most of my challenges come from effectively accommodating the needs of my young children and giving them the love and attention they deserve, as they grow, I am faced with new challenges about how to best parent. How do we instil strong values into our children and equip them to navigate through the challenges that they will find in their own lives? Assessing and making these decisions can be mentally exhausting.

6. Children are expensive

The cost of childcare alone is eye watering. Taking a quick interstate trip, used to be relatively, inexpensive holiday for me and my husband. That quick trip can now quickly cost $1000 in flights. In developed economies, the days of having children who could work and provide financially for the family are gone. Nobody has children because it is financially responsible.

Joys of parenting

1. You will love your children more than you have ever loved before  

The depth of the love that I feel for my children is different to any other love I have felt in my life. There is nothing that gives me more joy than hearing my kids laugh. Watching my children grow and explore the world is hilarious and fun. They make me laugh every day.

2. Your relationship will grow stronger

While raising children is challenging on a relationship, when you support each other through the journey, you become stronger as a team. It is easy to love someone when they are their best selves, but there is deepening of the bond between you when you see your partner love you through times when you are far from your best self.  

It is pretty great to watch your partner grow into a loving parent. There is no one else in the world that will love your children as much as you do, except their other parent. When our kids are asleep, my husband and I can talk for hours about the funny things that they said during the day. Other than perhaps a grandparent, there are very few other people that will join you in that sort of obsessive conversation. We have become closer for it.

3. The challenge of parenting makes you grow

We could all attempt to live easy sheltered lives where we didn’t have to deal with challenges, but what is the fun in that? We grow when we are challenged. Raising children shows you where your weaknesses are. My kids have taught me resilience, kindness and compassion that I would never have learnt if I didn’t have them. They have enriched my life with a new type of experience. I am far less selfish and have more empathy for other people because of them.

Ultimately, whether to have children is a very personal decision. If you only use your rational brain, then the answer will always be, don’t do it. Wanting to have children comes from a yearning within your heart. If that yearning isn’t there for you, that is okay. I hope that sharing my experience can help you navigate your own heart and come to clarity on what you want for your life.

Jubey

Would you like to share your experience of deciding whether to have children? Please leave a comment below. If you have a question for Jubey, ask here.

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