Straight up – I’m not the type of woman who has always wanted children and honestly I’m kind of self-conscious about it particularly now that I have a child.
Like when my daughter is a teenager and goes ‘Hey mum, you always knew you wanted children, right?’ and I’ll go ‘Sorry? What? I can’t hear you, I just drove through a tunnel!’ and then I’ll run away.
Our baby was planned and very wanted, but she wasn’t born to parents who yearned for her. She was born to parents who could see a beautiful life with or without children who consciously chose parenthood.
Women like me are an interesting subset of people. We are either scarce, or we’re just too scared to talk about how we really feel.
I haven’t met too many women who are like me in this regard.
Some women know they want children. They feel it in their bones. Some women know they DON’T want children. They feel it in THEIR bones. I was neither of these women. When my partner and I announced our pregnancy over 2 years ago, I had lots of people telling me they knew I’d ‘change my mind’ and that really pissed me off. I never changed my mind, it was never made up, to begin with. I literally had no opinion either way – both options looked great to me in entirely different ways, so I was totally stumped. How can you make an intelligent decision about something so emotional?
This also isn’t something you can Google and not a lot of people talk about it. I’ve had a few people ask me about making the decision to have a baby when it was pretty clear we were on the fence.
In the interest of helping anyone out there in the same position, here are my thoughts on having a baby when you haven’t always wanted to have a baby.
1. Imagine your future
A friend of mine had a planned third baby a few years ago when her older children were 7 and 9. I asked her how she knew a third was in her future and she said ‘I looked into my retirement and for some reason I had 3 grown-up kids sitting at my table.’
So I looked into my retirement, and I saw a grown-up kid.
Obviously, anything could happen, but when I looked into my life when I was 70, I had a grown-up kid. I can’t explain it, it was just there. My partner saw the same thing. I saw myself with a grown-up kid in the future and then I realised I had to have a baby kid to do that. Damn. Lucky they’re cute. Check back in 12 years for a report on a teenage kid. I hear they’re quite hard work. Stay tuned.
2. Own your choice
When we decided to have a child, that’s the path we chose to go down, and that’s our life now. We have friends who were in the same position as us (undecided on children), and they chose not to have children, and that’s their life now.
When you’re undecided, I don’t believe there’s necessarily a correct choice. When you have the luxury of choice, the decision you make is the right one. For us we chose parenthood and have totally embraced every messy, exhausting, exhilarating, heartbreaking moment of it.
3. Just because you didn’t dream about it for your whole life doesn’t mean you won’t love it/be good at it
When we decided to have a baby, I was worried that I wouldn’t be a good mother because I didn’t have the built-in yearning. For me becoming a mother was a conscious decision rather than an uncontrollable desire. I thought that mothers who wanted it their whole lives would be better mothers than me. That their instincts would be more reliable, they’d bond effortlessly with their children, and they’d love their kids in a more pure way than I never could. That those mothers would experience more joy and satisfaction than I ever could from bringing a child into the world.
Thankfully, that’s not how things panned out at all. The first year of my daughter’s life has genuinely been the best year of my life. I know I’m lucky, I had a very positive first year of parenting, and I know that’s not the case for everyone. Still, my enjoyment of parenthood had nothing to do with whether or not I made the decision to one day have children when I was in primary school or as an adult. I really, really love being a parent and I don’t regret it for a second. Conversely there are people out there who have wanted children their whole lives who don’t have a positive experience with early parenting. The point is, you don’t need to have your future kids’ names picked out by your 9th birthday in order to have a fulfilling experience as a parent. Note: Being a fan of toilet humour helps. If you can laugh instead of cry when your kid drops a log in the bath, you’ll find the first of year parenting a lot easier. You will talk about nappies (Little One’s nappies are the bomb btw – they’re only ones I use and you can get them from Woolies!) and poo more than you ever thought was possible.
I made a conscious, informed choice to become a parent, and I am loving it. Yeah, we have hard days, we have frustrating days, we have days where we wish we had 5 god-damn minutes to ourselves. Then our little girl throws her chubby hands around our necks and gives us snotty, sloppy kisses directly on our mouths and it’s so gross and so supremely excellent it all just makes sense.
There are days (lots and lots) of days when our daughter decides that constant shrieking coupled with flinging cereal on the walls is a super cool way to live. On those days we hang out for her bedtime so we can sit and stare at the TV before falling into bed in an exhausted heap only to do the same thing again tomorrow. Still, if I could go back in time and have a do-over, I wouldn’t think twice about it. She was 100% the right choice for us.
So here are some thoughts from someone who wasn’t sure about having kids who now has kids.
- Give it time if you can. We didn’t rush our decision which I believe made a massive difference.
- As someone who has not had a child and now has a child, both ways of life are great. I don’t think it’s helpful to frame one way of life as more desirable than the other. They’re different.
- I don’t want to encourage anyone to have a child if they’re leaning towards not doing it. However, in my experience, having kids is not quite the life-ending explosion many people will try to have you believe. I remember looking at people with kids and wondering how the hell they didn’t fall over from exhaustion. I have a niece who I adore and I looked after her for 24 hours once when she was 7 and
I needed a week of 12 hour sleeps to recover. From the outside, parenting often doesn’t look that appealing. My cousin told me years ago that you have endless energy for your own children and that’s been (almost) entirely correct. I like kids, I always have, but I’ve been pretty pleased to hand back anyone’s rambunctious toddler I’d been minding for them but my own kid? She’s heaven, (on a good day) I could hang out with her all day and then miss her when I put her to bed. That’s biology for you.
So yeah, those are my thoughts on having a kid when you’re a bit ambivalent about the whole thing.
Note – for women who want to have children and can’t for whatever reason, I think about you every day. I sincerely recognise my own privilege at even being able to have this choice. Infertility is so horrifically unfair. Please know that I see you and this piece exists only to help the undecided get some clarity.
What would you say to a woman who is undecided about having a baby? Did you always know you wanted to be a Mum? We’d love you to share in the comments below!
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