Once upon a time, the path for women seemed to be clearly marked. Grow up, marry, have a child, run the home. As we hit the 21st century, the pathways of the past have split and now there is more than one route to take to old age. While society is sadly still struggling to grapple that not all women want to be mothers, the statistics are in and more women than ever before are choosing to remain childfree.
For some people its clear cut. They are sure they want to become parents, others are sure they don’t want to become parents. It seems the hardest place to be is on the fence. What if you just don’t know if you want children?
Cut Out the Noise
Say you aren’t sure if you want children and often the response is ‘Oh you will when you meet the right person’, or ‘it’s the best thing that ever happened’, or ‘you will change your mind and know’. It can be really hard to hear your own voice over the din of other people. For centuries women having children has simply been the norm, so trying to unravel your own stance on it vs what you have been told all your life is tricky business. Settling into your own inner voice around children isn’t easy, but the more time you make for deep ‘wants’ over ‘shoulds’ the clearer your answer may become.
Listen to Alternatives
Since someone pushed a baby doll in our hands as children, the message is clear – motherhood is your future. But with times changing, maybe its time to start listening outside the box. If you are unsure if being a parent is for you, then actively seek out literature, podcasts, interviews and articles from women who decided not to have children. By reading alternative stories you are able to re-balance the narrative in your head and to see whose point of view aligns with yours. If you find yourself nodding in agreement and identifying strongly with the tales and thought patterns of child-free women, then maybe you will come one step closer to picking a side.
Don’t Get Weighed Down in Regret
One of the biggest fears people have when it comes to childbearing is the niggle that maybe if they do or they don’t, they will regret their choice later. Don’t let this thought weigh too heavily on your soul. The feeling of regret wills how up no matter what you do; if you have them or you don’t there will always be that sister life waiting in the wings, the path you didn’t follow and you can drive yourself crazy with the what if’s. The finest decisions in life shouldn’t be made out of fear and it’s a huge gamble to base such a life-altering choice solely on FOMO.
When we think about having children sometimes we tend to over-romanticize it. We paint scenes of happy families, sweet cuddles on the sofa, beach days and Christmas carols with glowing cherubs. Of course, motherhood is sure to be full of these heart-warming moments, but the reality is much more varied. It will be hard and stressful, sacrifices will have to be made, patience will be worn as thin as rice paper, and if you don’t have a deep desire to ride this rocky barreling wave then it may be all the more difficult. Spend time with those who have children; not just an hour at the playpark but actually a few nights in the home, see the reality for yourself and ask honestly if it looks like something that would satisfy you.
Drop the Expectations
We think that if we don’t want kids then there is something inherently wrong with us, that if we loved someone enough we would crave children, and that by being on the fence makes us some kind of unmaternal monster who hates kids. But this isn’t true at all. In reality, there a million different kinds of women who are on the fence or who simply choose a different path. Also, there are a million ways to be a mother. You don’t have to birth children to be an integral role in a child’s life. From working with children to fostering and adoption, co-parenting with friends and family, and finding new innovative ways to have a positive impact on a child’s life – once you drop the expectations and stereotypes you crack open a world of possibility.
Are you on the fence about motherhood? It’s a conversation we need to start having aloud so that the thread of stigma comes undone. Share your thoughts in the comments and let’s start the dialogue.