The decision to have a child, or multiple children, and to establish a family is no easy task. Assuming that you found a mate who wants the same things in life as you do, it can still be very tricky territory to navigate, especially if you are not quite clear yourself. Going childfree can be a very tricky and laborious decision, but it could be the right one for you and your mate.
The decision to go childfree, in my opinion, is a lot harder for women, but I talk with a number of guys who struggle with whether not to have kids for themselves. For a variety of reasons, not excluding the sheer cost of having kids, a lot of people are now opting to be childfree or to try to get their needs met in other ways rather than having kids.
I think it takes a level of sophistication (introspection, deeper communication with your spouse) to really challenge whether not you want to have a child, because we are inundated with so many messages about having kids, from parents, from our religious upbringing, our friends, our social circles, and the media. A lot of the times, kids are just something that have always been in the plan, but never really giving any consideration to anything other than that decision.
For many, the reality of our economic situations now, paired with the fact that relationships have become a lot more disposable, means that the decision to have a kid really is quite pronounced. Plenty of people are in quite a lot of debt these days, be it student loan debt, housing dad, our credit card debt, and it doesn’t become financially responsible to think about having more than one child, or any children at all. I think people, including younger people like millennials, are challenging tried and true ways of doing things from the past, and are doing it their own way. Many are opting out of having children, and are okay with it.
I do think it is critically important that if you want a long-term relationship, that you and your significant other are on the same page about whether to have a child or not. A lot of the time, couples don’t even talk about this topic, but when they do, it’s usually fighting or someone dragging their feet about it, not talking about it productively. They are often times not productive conversations, or no one has cared to ask or has been too intimidated to broach the topic early in their dating.
Sometimes, deeper into the relationship, whether to have a child or not becomes a severe relationship rift. One person wants it, and the other doesn’t, so this can often times be a dealbreaker for the relationship. It may inevitably end.
It’s important to start with asking yourself why you want a child in the first place. A lot of the times, we don’t really question the fundamental messages we have gotten from growing up, and from those close to us in our lives. We just take it for granted that we would have kids, or not to, but don’t really critically analyze it for ourselves.
You have to be really clear with your own motivations, as well as confident about what you want, because it is obviously a very big decision to make. If your partner is not on the same pages you, it’s still important to hold to what you want, because if you’re acquiescing and giving in, you’re doing it out of obligation to your partner, and you’re going to carry resentment towards that person for the duration. And that does not make for a very healthy relationship, and your child would certainly pick that up from you.
If you choose not to have a child, it’s important to get counseling or therapy to help you deal with this, because there may be a lot of emotional attachments to wanting to have a child even if you don’t necessarily follow through with it. There may be expectations from your parents or family, from your religious background or association, or messages that you’ve been telling yourself about having kids and how you see your own life. If you really dig, you may find that you could also have a happy life without kids, as an option.
It’s also important to do some grief work around the kid or kids you end up not having. Just because we don’t have a child does not mean that we get rid of the emotional attachments or emotional residue associated with having one, so it’s important to find a professional that understands this and can work with you to help you work through some of that emotional build up. I think for many people, including women, the concepts of things like weddings, marriage, and having children have very strong, evolutionary response systems that need to be challenged, and if they turn out to be correct, then at least you’ve done your due diligence.
For men choosing to go child free, I think that there are other alternatives to getting the fulfillment that you might from having a child, albeit in different ways. I think you can certainly give that energy to nieces or nephews if you have siblings that have kids, or through volunteering. Yes, it’s not the exact same as having a child, but I think if there are needs going unmet for you, it’s important for you to recognize what are those unmet needs and how could you try to come up with a substitute to have those fulfilled.
You might start by really doing some deep introspection asking yourself why you want to have a child in the first place. What really drives you to have a child, or what drives you to not have a child? How can you recognize the imprinted messages that you’ve picked up over your life, and how can you strip those away and differentiate those from the voice that’s maybe telling you what you really want, and not what others want for you?