Whether it comes from a well-meaning family member or a curious colleague, the question “When are you going to have kids?” can be uncomfortable to answer. For many people, that answer feels uncertain. Having children is an extremely personal choice influenced by a variety of factors, from your relationship status or financial status to your access to important resources — or even just your desire.
So, how do you know if you want kids? We want to reassure you it’s OK to be on the fence — the decision to not have kids is just as valid as the decision to try to conceive. Here are five questions to weigh as you figure it out.
Question 1: What are my reasons to have kids? Or reasons not to have kids?
If you feel like your mind changes daily on whether or not to have kids, take time to organize those thoughts in a tangible way. That could look like a simple pros-and-cons list, which can help you approach the choice through a more objective, thorough lens. While everyone’s list will be different based on their circumstances, an example could look something like this:
You might use a list like the one above, a journal, a mind map or another format, but any way you jot it down, articulating and organizing your thoughts can get you to a greater understanding of what’s guiding you.
Question 2: Am I feeling pressure from other people?
Societal pressures are a looming factor in deciding if it’s time to have children, and the expectations of others can alienate women, men and couples who aren’t sure yet. Rest assured, you’re not the odd ones out. Birth rates in the United States are at their lowest since 1979.1 More women are deciding to either not have kids at all, or choosing to have them later in life, both of which are perfectly viable options. Here are a few ideas on how to navigate specific pressures:
From your parents or family
While grandkids are a blast, your family members aren’t the ones staying up all night with a baby or paying for childcare. As important as it is to respect our family members and their input, it’s also crucial to stay firm in your boundaries. Be honest with your family about your reasoning, while guarding yourself against guilt trips.
From your friends
Did you wake up one day to realize all your friends are having babies except you? It’s easy to panic and think you’re behind, but that’s not the case. Try to focus on your journey without comparing it with others’. And find joy in being the cool aunt or uncle to any newborns in your life!
From your partner
One of the most intense pressures to have children may come from your spouse or partner. If you aren’t seeing eye to eye, look for ways to compromise. Make space for candid conversations so you can get to the root of potential pain points. Is it timing? The number of kids? The physical or emotional stress of childbirth? Getting to the bottom of what matters to both of you is key to finding common ground.
OK, this one might not be a person, but the pressures of the biological clock are still very real. While it’s important to note that fertility starts to decline in your 30s and rapidly declines from your mid-30s,2 women ages 30 to 34 currently have the highest birth rate in the US.1 There are both risks and benefits to waiting, but that shouldn’t be your sole deciding factor.
If biological children aren’t a good fit, plenty of opportunities exist for raising or nurturing children, from adoption and fostering to volunteering, mentorship and tutoring.
Question 3: How will I approach parenting?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of having a baby, but that’s only the first step. How will you share parenting duties with your partner? Who will be the caregiver for your child during the day? How will you set boundaries and discipline your kid? What will communication look like as they grow up? Detailing your personal parenting philosophy — whether it’s very similar or vastly different than the one you grew up with — is a foundational step that might reveal if children are a good fit for your vision of the future.
Question 4: What factors need to align for me to have kids?
Logistics such as finances, your living situation, your life partner and more might be the biggest considerations for becoming a parent. Waiting until you feel emotionally, physically and financially prepared is a wise action plan to prepare for kids. Keep in mind, even trying to get pregnant can trigger a wide range of emotions.
Question 5: Am I respecting my own autonomy?
If you’re still on the fence, you’re not alone. The uncertainty you’re facing is a normal experience when approaching such a life-changing choice. Amidst all the above considerations, remember that you hold the ultimate authority on whether or not you have kids. Honor and recognize that the decision is yours — not anyone else’s.
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Hamilton, B., Martin, J., Osterman, M., (May 2021), Births: Provisional Data for 2020 [PDF], NVSS, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/vsrr012-508.pdf.
Have a Baby After 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy,” (October 2020), The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/having-a-baby-after-age-35-how-aging-affects-fertility-and-pregnancy.