How many major life decisions are you expected to “just know” in advance? You put time and growth into your career — and sometimes change course. Choosing a partner can take a lifetime of trial-and-error. So why is it women are expected to “just know” whether they’ll someday want kids?
Feeling indecisive, and feeling bad about yourself because of it, only makes finding clarity even more difficult. If you’re ambivalent, you’re definitely not alone. After more than 25 years of helping women make this life-defining decision, and listening to them describe how tortured they feel for not knowing one way or the other, I can tell you there are more of you than you know.
Part of the difficulty for many people is getting bogged down in the how part of the decision, as in, how might a child come into my life? Before you can entertain whether you’ll someday have a biological child; adopt; become a single parent, part-time parent, co-parent, or step-parent, you need to know if you want to become a parent at all. You need to know whether you want to raise the next generation and why. The why is important — not because you owe anyone an explanation or need to defend your position, but so that you know what’s driving your desire.
And turning to your friends or loved ones won’t necessarily help. When people don’t know whether they want kids or would rather pursue a childfree life, they tend to poll people, and then the question becomes more of a debate about which choice is “better.” This may include looking at external factors, such as your age, career, where you live, whether you’re partnered or single, whether you have a certain amount of money saved, and so forth. But this line of thinking doesn’t get you any closer to knowing what you want.
Others can only tell you about their experience; no one can tell you what it will be like for you, just as no one can tell you what’s true for you. The six questions ahead can get you closer to knowing what is.
Ann Davidman, co-author with Denise L. Carlini Motherhood—Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity, is a marriage and family therapist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She offers pre-parenting consultations for couples and individuals, as well as Motherhood Clarity Courses based on the book.