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Let me put it out there: This post is an opinion. After talking with many mothers about the experience of parenting, asking questions, gathering information and doing my own research, I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned from a wide variety of mom perspectives. Take this—and all other information you hear about having kids- with a grain of salt. The fact is, only you can determine what’s right for you and your family, and there is no one stereotypical “best parent type”. You are the parent your children need. And you will do a killer job, if you make the effort (which you will…hello, you’re reading posts on whether or not you should have kids. You’re already awesome.) This post is specifically for those who are searching and wanting to know what criteria they might make that call on.
Do you have kids?
Then you should. And you’re doing a fantastic job. Love those precious babies of yours, lean on family and other women around you, and enjoy these fleeting years with your littles.
Do You Want Kids?
This seems kind of obvious, but it’s not. You really need to want children. Which can often be mistaken for wanting to keep having the option of having kids. Or wanting to experience a different aspect of life, or a new role. This is not the same as wanting actual, physical children who do crazy things and are a beautiful load of actual, hands-on work. It’s easy as rational adults to think in theories and ideas. There is nothing theoretical about children. Nothing. They are all hands on deck, all the time. So…do you want that?
Are you in a sweet spot?
A hilarious mom friend of mine has a saying: If you like your life, don’t have kids. That isn’t meant to be harsh; she totally loves her children. It’s just that enjoying kids- and all the craziness that comes with them- can be some really tricky stuff, especially if you’re a person who has a good thing going without little ones. I read a tweet the other day that said "Before having kids, the most important thing to ask yourself is "Am I ready to watch the exact same cartoon on repeat for the next four years?"' It's funny but kinda true, except for one thing- you're in the cartoon. So if you’re feeling like you’re in a good groove, feeling fulfilled and on course with life goals and just loving where you are, you might consider waiting. Kids are known for throwing off a groove. On the other hand, if there’s a missing piece in your heart that would only be fulfilled with a family, or if you’ve dreamed of having kids and nows the time- kids can be incredible fulfilling.
Do you feel balanced?
This *might be a trick question. Because let’s face it: balance is a magical unicorn that doesn’t actually exist. That said, in mom-land balance is solidly impossible. Be not deceived by women who look like they’re having and doing it all- they’re actually not. Really. Finding the right amount of time for family and child-rearing, and the right amount of time and energy for your professional life (not to mention every other hat you wear, including keeping yourself healthy and enjoying your relationships) becomes not just a balancing act, but an act of impossibility where something is giving- there is just no way to keep all the balls in the air to your exact preference. You’ll give somewhere- and sometimes the choice of what gives can be excruciating. All of this is not made easier a society that expects moms to balance this impossible load flawlessly or stay home.
Are your relationships difficult?
If the relationship between you and your partner is strained in any way, please do not think a baby will ‘help’. Babies are not known to be fixers… particularly to the relationships closest to you. What is difficult will get more difficult. What is easy will get difficult. Please do not think a child will bring you “closer” or mend anything between you and your significant other. As I say this, I'm thinking of the fact that good things happened between my mother and I when she became a grandmother, at the birth of my first child. Children can definitely be a binding force. But for the primary caretakers, the work and all consuming nature of childrearing is much more likely to strain than to fix.)
Are you a natural-born mother?
Let me preface this by saying: I am not a natural born mother. A natural born mom is a woman whose life goals include having babies. A woman who has grown up with the hopes and dreams to marry and raise little ones. Who loves loves LOVES the idea of being with children, and looks forward to doing so. The thing is, there are a million incredible moms who are not natural born mothers, and a million more who find that they adore mothering and want to do nothing else once they get into it. So if you happen to be one who finds fulfillment in raising kids, it definitely makes the job easier.
Do you like kids?
Now here’s the thing. You don’t have to be a kid person to be an amazing mom. Your own kids are different, everyone will say. And that’s true. You really will have such an affinity for your own spawn, even if you’re not a “kid person.” That said, if you don’t love to spend hours and hours just snuggling and playing make believe, or if you don’t generally find children fun, it's a serious mental shift to be fully invested in what kids are interested in- all day long for years. It’s a lot of hours for a job you feel ‘meh’ about. No doubt you'll change your preferences - moms are constantly morphing to meet the needs of their little ones- but if there is zero love for kid-ness, more effort is required to play chase or dress up or sit for hours and make up stories. If childlike wonder, play, and energy are a joy for you, it’ll definitely help.
How do you feel about your professional life?
Mothering is definitely a full time job, and one that will take you away from your career even if and when you go back to work. Your focus, energies, and time will be split (which is a good thing—as a mom, your babes should get the lions share of your energy). But if you LOVE the work you do, this can get super tricky. It's difficult to have less to offer, and sometimes the pressure of keeping up professionally can become intense. So can the regret (or worse, resentment) for not taking advancements and good career moves as a result of your kids. If you feel totally professionally fulfilled, and you don’t feel that children would bring any particular fulfillment, keep it in mind when figuring out family plans.
Are you and your partner in agreement?
If just one of you wants babies—this is a thing. It might be worth talking through the questions above to see how eye-to-eye you are on the subject of children. Because if you have kids for your partner, or vice versa, youmay need some extra support when the going gets tough. Or you may want to wait until you’re both on board.
The thing about kids…
We mommas are able to make the best of our situations, and derive joy and fulfillment in the midst of less than ideal circumstances. You can be a great mom because you choose to become one, all preferences and life circumstances aside. There are beautiful things to be learned by every type of woman in every mothering circumstance. You are amazing, and you’ll do great if you choose to do this.
Best of luck to you as you decide these huge things. And if you decide to start a family…we’ve got your back.