Some Thoughts on the Decision to Have Children…Or Not

May 11, 2015

I wrote a letter last month. It was to Pip from Meet Me At Mike’s as part of her 52 Hellos project. I’ve never met Pip, but her blog is so chatty and friendly that I feel like I know her. In this letter, I waxed lyrical about various things, including my fears about maybe one day becoming a parent, and what a big decision it is, and what it might mean for my life, and freedom, and so on. A lot of my peers are having babies, and this has been on my mind of late. I really got quite personal. You can read my letter here.

The letter was published on her blog today. When I saw it up there, at first I felt excited, and then when I started reading it and considering how other people might view me, I became consumed by fear and self-consciousness. What might people think? Maybe I sound like a crazy person, ranting on about the decision to have a child, about personal choice and societal pressure, to someone I have never even met?!

Well, I am over that now. Because the decision over whether or not to have children may well be one of the biggest life throws at you. It is deeply personal. Some people want to have children but can’t, for many, many reasons. Some people want to adopt children. Some people don’t want to have children. Some couples feel that they should want to have children, even if maybe they don’t feel it is right for them.

Last year someone said to me, ‘So next year, when you’re back from China and pregnant…’. I laughed it off, but to say something like this, as well meaning as it is, is so full of assumptions about another person’s desires, and means, and health situation, and everything else, that I feel it’s worth talking about here. This person assumed that because I am 30, and recently married, I will soon be pregnant. It is the ‘obvious’ course of events.

People often want other people to make the same choices as them. It makes them feel safer, as if they have made ‘the right choice’, when their peers go along the same path. I’m the same. If someone I know does the same uni course as me, or gets the same phone plan, or lives in the same suburb, it’s like a little pat on the back that a decision I have made is somehow validated. Weird. But true.

I had a conversation with a friend a few months ago, as we were hiking around Daylesford one summer day – we’ll call her Daisy. Daisy’s friend had recently got married and had two children. Previously, they’d never talked about it much, but now that she had young kids, she had started putting the hard word on Daisy. ‘When are you going to have kids? Shouldn’t you start getting on to it? What are you waiting for?’ Daisy was pretty annoyed about it all. ‘She’s so judgmental!’ she said, and then guiltily continued ‘But I judge her too. She’s given up her job to look after the kids and I’m like, what are you doing?’ We all do it. And it goes both ways.

Living in China, the pressure to have kids hits home every day. Today in class, we learnt a toast that is said at weddings: 早生贵子 zǎoshēngguìzǐ which means ‘may you soon give birth to a son’. Wow. Talk about pressure to procreate. And to do it soon. And to have a son instead of a daughter.

The reality is that Steve and I will probably have a child, maybe more than one, if we can. But it is a decision, not a given, and it is a scary one. Most likely, having a child will be wonderful and challenging and rewarding…but what if it isn’t? And what will happen to our current lives full of freedom, pursuing our own interests and ambitions? Will we have to give this up, or some of this, if we have a child? If so, would we resent the child for that? Do we want to have a child because we really want to, or because we feel we should want to? Because that is what society says is the next step? These are the big questions and there are no obvious answers.

How about you – what do you think?

Feature image courtesy of Meet Me At Mikes

More about isabelrobinson

Isabel is a writer from Melbourne. She loves long train journeys, Vegemite toast and cryptic crosswords, preferably all at once.