“Do you have any kids?”
“When are you having kids?”
We live in a culture where these questions are part of small-talk – the questions around whether or not you have kids, whether or when you are going to have them, and all the surrounding inquiries can easily be asked and answered in the course of a trip to the grocery store or a friend’s birthday party where you do not know most of the people there.
This is not necessarily good or bad – it just is. And it speaks to our culture’s assumption: That everyone is going to have kids. And yet, we live in a time where more and more people are choosing to not have children.
As a mental health professional, I find it encouraging that people are putting more thought into the choice of whether or not to have children. After all, it’s an enormous decision that will affect the rest of your life.
Some of the folks that I have worked with have had parents who struggled to be parents for various reasons. Some lived with mental health conditions or drug and alcohol dependence. Some simply didn’t know how to parent as they were never parented. When you have lived through a childhood where some of your basic needs were not met, it’s completely understandable that you would question whether or not you want to parent anyone. In some cases, client have been parentified– i.e., put in the position of having to be a parent to their parent – and they are simply burned out on having to take care of anyone else other than themselves.
Parenting is hard work. And let me be clear, I do not think parenting is a terrible idea in general. There are a great many rewards to parenting, and for many people it is a great joy even as it is hard work. I simply believe that as with your physical health, your mental health should be given consideration when it comes to having children. Although none of us has a crystal ball, it is healthy to consider how parenting will impact your mental health.
And by the way, there are people who simply know they do not want to have kids, and aren’t at all interested, and that is perfectly fine. It does NOT mean there is anything “wrong” with that person, or they are “missing out” or “will never know what love is.” That is baloney. Not everyone needs to have kids, and people who don’t want to certainly should NOT do it.
Whether it’s about the lifestyle you want to keep, caring for your own mental health, managing your finances in a way that feels sustainable, or simply because you do not desire to be parent, it is a completely acceptable option to remain childfree.
And by the way, if you’d like to get some support around this particular issue, there is a terrific support group I started years ago that someone else has taken over (Sara, she is awesome!) and made into a Meetup. They meet once a month and you are cordially invited to check it out for yourself!
Photo by Daniel Cheung