How do you know if you’re child-neutral or child-free?

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Onesie Confetti Question Marks from Etsy seller ConfettiMommaParty
Onesie Confetti Question Marks from Etsy seller ConfettiMommaParty
I’ve always said I wanted kids in a vague sense. My husband and I keep saying that we have to wait at least a year. We keep bringing up our “someday children” by discussing various potential house projects — we could create two extra bedrooms in our daylight basement, we have a big open yard for these kids, even our neighborhood schools are great! The idea is certainly there.

My husband definitely wants kids in a real, much more immediate sense than I do. I’ve never dealt with pangs of baby crack, but I do enjoy the company of children in certain doses. I have a toddler niece and nephews whom I love a lot, but I’ve never felt gooey for babies.

I realize that just about everyone who thinks about becoming a parent questions the decision, but I feel like I could be perfectly content to just be the cool, awesome aunt forever. Is there a point when you know that being child-free is truly what you want, and it’s not just cold feet? -Contented Introvert

I feel you on this so hard right now. I went from child free with a husband to talking about having a kid with my current partner. BUT! My feels about kids and babies haven’t changed — it still terrifies the hell out of me. And yet… something about it is intriguing? So like, what does that meeeeeean???

What I think we’re both asking is…

Homies that have been in similar positions, was there a moment that you knew, either way, whether you were just feeling child-neutral or child-free?

Comments on How do you know if you’re child-neutral or child-free?

  1. My partner and I are still in the same place as our question writer. I never grew up dreaming of kids. He thought he knew that he wanted them. When I asked him to marry me, I knew that I was signing up to have kids. It’s been 5 years and we’re still kid-less. We know that if we want them we are going to have to have a bit of help. I want them in the next few years if we’re going to have them, I’m already 34 and he’s turning 40, I don’t want to be running after toddlers when I’m 40. He keeps waiting for some mythical, “when I get this job, when money is better… ect.” (well it might be a little tight right now it will be resolved in next 6 months)
    So, I’ve asked him to decide in the next 6 months to a year what the plan is. Because I will be happy ether way. If we have children, I will love them, they will be a big part of my life, and they will be our next big adventure. But I won’t feel like I am missing out if we decide not to, there are a lot of different big adventures that I can enjoy.

  2. I was in your position a good many years. In high school, I’d tell people I’d want kids “in about 10 years from now”, and I kept thinking like that until I realized I didn’t have 10 years any more. I finally took the plunge the year I turned 35, basically because my doctor told me female fertility declines steeply after 35. I now have a second, and it turns out I loove babies. But I never ached for them, either, and I was perfectly content not having them before. Yet I turned out a happy mother. Cold feet was definitely a big issue for me, and I could imagine that that’s the case for you as well.

    • THIS! My now-husband and I would talk about having kids ‘in 5 years’. For me, it was always ‘in 5 years’, despite time passing in reality. For him, he was actually counting down the time and one day, when I said we were thinking of having kids ‘in 5 years’, he called me out on it and said, “you know, we have been together for 3 years now and you still keep saying 5 years, it should actually be 2 years!” … oh, sh**, guess I gotta ramp up this time line! luckly, I came around and we starting working on making a kid around the 5 year mark, so we weren’t too far off.

  3. When you figure out the answer, let me know! We can see ourselves being happy either way and we haven’t figured out a good way to make the choice.

  4. If anything, adopting a 2-months puppy earlier this year has shown me that I don’t like dealing with everyday hassles like poop, vet appointments and noise at night. That I hate the alienation and sense of self-effacement which comes with placing another being’s needs above my own all the time. That being responsible for his education and being the one in charge of making him a great dog someday is daunting.
    So if anything, adopting a puppy has shown me that nope, children are not happening for me and I’m definitely on the childfree side. I know this might ick a few persons to compare children with people. I don’t mean disrespect. But the feeling of being in charge would be so much more with a kid and if I’m overwhelmed now with a bloody puppy, there’s no reason I would feel comfortable raising a child.

    • I found that with becoming a mother, I developed a new ability to just suck it up for the sake of my offspring. May be hormonal, or instinct, or whatever. I wouldn’t necessarily expect this to happen with puppy children….

      • yeah, I would imagine it’s different when it’s your kid and not just a puppy. I have a dog, too, and I’m hoping that I feel differently when the kid comes around.

        • I am aware this is a far-fetched comparison, but for me, this is really the nail on the coffin of any tiny remaining doubts I might have had about becoming a human parent someday. I’m on the Asperger spectrum and I’m pretty confident I would fare a lot worse with a kid, because responsibilities are a hundred times more.

          • I’m with you, Nya. I don’t get why people get to discount your feelings (“Oh but it’s DIFFERENT when it’s your own!”) when you don’t want children, but no one ever questions whether it’s the right thing for you if you say you DO want them. What is with that?

    • I agree that pets are a reasonable way to estimate your feelings about parenting. I know that I can get on a two-hour bus ride to take a crying, defecating cat to the vet without feeling much in the way of resentment, and I hope I’ll feel the same way about my kid.

    • On the flip side, getting a dog a few months ago has helped me learn that I’m capable of putting someone else’s needs above mine, and I can feel fulfilled while doing it. And seeing my husband do at least 50% of the work with the dog is reassuring that he could be an equal partner with kids. So I totally get how a dog (or other non-human animal) can help crystallize the decision-making, in either direction.

    • I have ALL THE FEELS about my three cats (& the two cats, now passed, before them, & the cats I grew up with), but I feel nothing about human babies, even ones I’m related to. If I could, I’d adopt every homeless cat ever & take care of them — seeing kitties at a shelter makes my insides melt, but looking at baby people, I’m totally meh & have to fake being interested in friends’ & relatives’ children. I will lovingly clean poop stuck in the fur of my long-haired cat’s butt, but the idea of changing a baby’s diaper triggers my gag reflex.

      Just saying that what a person feels for pets doesn’t always translate to what they feel for babies & vice versa!

      • So much this. I love my niece to bits, and have her once a month at my place, but until she was about 2 years old – I felt nothing really. I don’t think babies are cute, I feel uncomfortable around them. My cat, on the other hand, ALL the feels. And I know what you mean about faking interest in other people’s children. I ask how their kids are doing… but I have no vested interest.

    • I think it’s a fair equation, and that’s as a happy mother of 3 human kids and 3 fur kids. There are a lot of similarities between dogs and children, and having worked in a vet surgery definitely helped prepare me for having kids. It’s perfectly okay to say “A pet is enough for me.” and leave things at that!

  5. This is fascinating me, because I came to being childfree kind of the opposite way: always figured I’d have kids, but my partner has never wanted them. After a lot of research and soul-searching I decided I was happier being with him than holding out for hypothetical children. Relieved, in a lot of ways: I feel like my options for how my life plays out have really opened up! And yet if he had wanted kids, or if I were with a different partner who wanted them, I probably would have been happy becoming a parent too. So a lot of it has to do with those other life contexts.

    I’m not sure if that’s a helpful answer, but: is there some part of your life that, if it were different, would make you feel more comfortable or even excited about having children? Are there personal goals that, if you completed them, would potentially help you feel ready? What’s your gut reaction to your partner’s eagerness for parenthood–does it make you anxious, or excited, or what?

    • Are you basing your desires regarding children on just what your partner wants? If something happened to them tomorrow, how would you feel about not having children?

      • I can’t speak for Urspotstrophe but I moved from assuming I’d always have children to a position of being child neutral (I far prefer this to child-free or childless). This means that I don’t have a desire either way, so I could be partnered to someone who does want children or someone who doesn’t and be equally happy.

        This does not mean my partner makes the decision, it means they care more about it than I do so their desire will be the driver. I don’t think this is so very radical, I think most couples have issues where one is neutral and one is the driver. I am definitely the driver on purchasing mid century modern furniture for instance whereas my wife is decidedly neutral! All actions and decisions are however mutual and I think this is the key.

        If the relationship ended there is no reason for me to suddenly feel I had been denied children unless I had been kidding myself about my neutrality about having kids but I know I am not. I have spent my entire adult life dealing with horrible endometriosis and PCOS and in order to be able to make choices about treatments I have had to look deep into my assumptions that I wanted children and check if they were actual real desires or just assumptions. To reach a position of neutrality has been utterly liberating.

      • I’ve thought about that a lot, and I think I could truly be happy either way, but there’s only one path I can choose. If we got a divorce or my husband died today, and within a few years I fell in love with someone who wanted children, then…maybe? I could see it happening, but I’d have to go through the exact same process over again, just reversed–a lot of introspection, a lot of research–to envision myself as a parent.

        I’m grateful now that I’m with someone with no interest in kids, as I had always kind of assumed I’d be having kids one day because “that’s what people do,” and I’m not sure that was entirely healthy. If I were to have kids, I’d want to really really want them with my whole heart, and I don’t see that happening for me.

    • I’m sort of in the same boat, really. I’m okay with having them, and I’m okay without having them. I always thought that’s what true child-neutrality was about – either way is fine, there’s no clear tug in either direction.

      I’m only anxious now about it because I’m near 40 with a tubal (due to my belief in my 20’s that I didn’t want kids – turned out I didn’t want kids with my ex-husband), and a decision has to be made SOON before the baby factory will be permanently closed. I’m waiting for my fiance to decide WHEN is the right time, as he’s also an equal partner in this venture, and he has made it clear that he’s always wanted to have children with me since high school. (Life kind of got in the way in our 20’s and early 30’s is all.)

      So, yeah, I’m looking at the clock right now simply because of biology, not because “OMG TIME RUNNING OUT WANT BABY NOWWW”. If it never becomes the right time for him, I’m good with it. If he says “Let’s do this”, I’ll be right there … provided my body still can.

  6. Thus far in my life, I’ve been the opposite. I always assumed I’d have kids, but when I found a partner who didn’t want them at all, I felt nothing but relief. I think it’s a super personal decision for you, OP and OBH editor, but here’s how I look at it.

    When you get ready for bed, imagine going into your kid’s bedroom and watching the sleep for a few minutes. Try to really see his chest rising and falling and feel the love you have for him. Do you want that?
    When you’re in the car, listen to the silence. Imagine it filled with screaming and crying and complaining and kids throwing things. Do you want that? Now imagine it filled with awesome music as your kid rocks out to the same thing you like and tells you about his day. Do you want that?
    Imagine getting interrupted during sex by a kid’s nightmare. Do you want that?
    Imagine snuggling on the couch on Saturday morning with your kid, watching cartoons and laughing over nothing. Do you want that?
    I’ve been told that having kids widens your spectrum of feelings. The highs are higher and the lows are lower. Do you want that?
    Do you want to feel more every day than you ever have, to love someone more fiercely than you love anyone, to spend more money and more nights worrying than you can imagine, to carry more stuff out of the house every time you leave and still forget things, all the while knowing you can’t stop for years?
    Kids are a game changer. Do you want your game changed?

    • Yes! I always assumed I’d have kids until I met my non-kid-wanting partner. After spending time with my nephews and nieces, he said he was happy to go with whatever I wanted, but it made me start questioning what I ACTUALLY wanted, rather than what society expected. I really thought about all those things – and what I have now. Is having something that brings joy into your life, but also with it REALLY hard times, a lack of money, and a lot of responsibility for the rest of your life, more worth it than giving up a lot of the stuff I currently have in my life that really fulfils me (e.g. career, business, creative endeavours, a good relationship, potential to travel)? I decided I would rather regret NOT having children (and knowing I can adopt if this is the case), than have children and potentially regret that and have it impact the child.

    • My highs and lows are plenty extreme with just me, and I can’t imagine widening my range of emotions! I feel icky about noise and poop and the responsibility of helping someone become able to handle this world. I don’t hate kids, but I do hate people who are throwing tantrums (whether they’re children or adults!) and I do take pleasure in distracting people and calming them down and making their tantrums end. I also love mentoring the undergraduate students that I work with, but they’re adults, I guess!

      That said, my partner is so patient, attentive, and gentle, and I feel like he’d make such a terrific parent. I don’t want to deny him that experience if it’s something he wants. We are young, but he’s unsure, so I have to keep my options open for a little bit longer? But I definitely wouldn’t choose to do it alone.

  7. This is a great question, and I can’t tell you how glad I am that it’s being written about. For me, it came down to looking at the rest of my life. I felt like I could have a kid if my life were going to be structured in such a way that I wasn’t going to have huge issues with child care, time, energy, etc. I see a lot of parents struggling, and ultimately, I just felt like if I didn’t have strong feelings of really wanting a child, why do it if it meant sacrificing everything else that felt important to me. I don’t have family nearby for help. I work a full time job and have a side business I’m trying to grow, and my partner has a job that is pretty physically demanding. That all conspires to make parenting tough. At a certain point, I looked at my age, and the likelihood that things were going to change (circumstances or my feelings), and a child free picture just came into focus. We still talk about maybe fostering some day, down the road, because there aren’t really age restrictions on that. But that’s a whole different deal.

  8. I just typed a long and detailed answer to this question based on my experience, and with one tap of a tiny hand, my one-year old son deleted EVERYTHING. This is real life with a toddler, you guys. The short version is, talk about it honestly and as non-emotionally (maybe write a letter) as possible with your spouse. Saying you’ll revisit the topic in a year is a fine idea, but be honest about not being sure if, in a year, you’ll want kids. DO NOT have kids for any other reason other than that you want them. Life circumstances can change and may change your mind about wanting kids (they did for me), and maybe they won’t. And if the idea of a toddler destroying everything all the time terrifies you beyond belief, kids might not be for you.

  9. Back in high school my ex and I would vaguely talk about hypothetical children and I’d create SIM families of us. That’s as far as my desire for children ever went.
    I think I knew when I was about sixteen that children were not something I wanted in my life. I didn’t voice that until I was in my early 20s and got hit with a lot of “oh, you’ll change your mind, you’re still young, blah blah blah” My ex was one of that chorus too. He was big into the idea of passing on his family name because he was his grandfather’s only grandson and all that jazz.
    Now, I’m nearly five years out of that relationship and five months into my marriage with my child-free husband. I think being with someone else who felt the same way as I did about children (except for the fact that he actually can stand them for more than five minutes) allowed me to tell the truth to both myself, my family, and my community. The truth is that I do not like children and I do not want them.
    So for me, there was a moment where I realized I was child-free. It was another moment many years later when I realized that it was okay to be that way.

  10. Growing up I’d always assumed I’d have kids. I love kids. I love babies. I love everything about pregnancy (I’m a birth doula <-Minor obsession much?).
    But as I got older (now in my mid-30s) I realized I'm actually a very "selfish" person.
    I *like* getting 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. Not only do I like it, I *need* it.
    Though I'm a doula, I don't do it "professionally" (as in hired by people I don't know ahead of time). I only doula for friends and family. I found the fact that babies like to arrive at all hours was making me neurotic.
    I like having my own time, my own space, pee-ing by myself, etc. (I have nieces so I know. I knoooOOOOoooow). When you have kids, if you're going to be a good parent, you need to set your own selfishness aside. Yes, take care of yourself (you NEED to take care of yourself!), but your child needs to become #1.

    Now certainly, as people have stated, things can and often *do* change when the child is your own. Having a baby *does* change you; and I know it'd change me too: into a bitter, sleep-deprived, screaming-at-my-kids-in-the-grocery store type of parent and I don't want that.

    Hubby has always wanted kids and we *did* have a serious sit-down chat about the kid issue as my feelings solidified several years ago. Happily he's content doting on our nieces (they really ARE sweet!)
    That's not to say hubby and I will be forever childless. I have every intention of fostering when we're older (and I'm more mellow), but now's not that time. I've got too many extracurricular actives that I enjoy and I have NO desire to give them up at present.

    • I totally could have written this 3 years ago. I too, have been obsessed with pregnancy and childbirth forever, and I’m a doula just for friends and family because I couldn’t handle the on call hours, and I am a terrible person when I haven’t had enough sleep. Also, when I trained to be a doula 7 years ago, I was partying a lot and I didn’t want to stop. I still needed to be selfish. Traveling all over the world, studying and deciding what I really wanted to do with my life.
      I had had total moments of baby crack. About 6 months after I met the man who would become my husband, I heard my genes speak to me “HAVE HIS BABY!”. He was the first person I could imagine actually making a person with.

      He already had a daughter and really didn’t want another kid, but we talked about having a child theoretically for years and even though I wasn’t sure I would ever pull the trigger, I started preparing my life. Saving money, doing tons of research etc.

      This summer we have gotten to the place where we were thinking about doing it next year. So it was close. Then after coming home from a music festival without him, I jumped his bones bareback (we were off hormonal BC at that point) and with that one shot, I got pregnant. It was perfect timing, even though it wasn’t quite on our schedule. We’ve been together 7 years, I had done all the world traveling I was itching to do. I had my career well under way (actually started teaching dance to kids a few years ago, which prepared me better than anything), etc. Plus, turns out a ton of friends got pregnant just before and after me.

      I’m due next week. Hoping to go into labor today. Moral of my story, it was a super gradual process of becoming ready, then a bit of a “Fuck it!” moment that happened one day and it was all perfect.

  11. For me, I really feel that having children is something I should feel passionate about. Bringing another life into this world and committing to taking care of it and making sure that it grows into a responsible member of society is a HUGE undertaking. I really respect people who take that on with their eyes open, but it’s not for me. I do kind of feel like some people just kind of have kids because that’s what you’re *supposed* to do, and they don’t really think critically about how they want to raise those kids beforehand.

    The thought of pregnancy/another human being GROWING INSIDE OF MY BODY WTF also freaks me out in a very visceral way. My husband is adopted, and we have decided that if at some point down the line we both change our minds on the issues mentioned above, we will adopt. Right now, though, we can only see ourselves adopting a bunch of cats.

    • I totally feel you on the pregnancy issue. The thought of be pregnant and then enduring labor and delivery makes me physically ill. I’ve actually had nightmares about it and woken up feeling like I’m going to vomit. Even before coming to the realization that I didn’t want children at all I knew that I didn’t want to physically have them. If I ever changed my mind and wanted them adoption or a surrogate would be the only options I’d consider.

      • I HAVE HAD THOSE SAME NIGHTMARES. Aren’t they the WORST? Although waking up and realizing you’re NOT pregnant and feeling an overwhelming sense of relief is pretty nice.

      • My friend and I were having this discussion, actually creating the babies can be the scariest part. Plus all the stigmas of what pregnant women can and can’t do. Ugh. When are we going to get our test tube babies?

        • I didn’t even think about all the restrictions placed on pregnant women, but you’re so right! I swear that half the stuff they “aren’t allowed” to do is completely made up because it’s constantly changing. When my mother was pregnant with me she was told that a glass of red wine a day was good.
          My friend had a baby two years ago and was told no alcohol whatsoever was okay. Both me and my friend’s baby came out fine so I guess the red wine didn’t hurt! I would probably be that pregnant woman everyone would be appalled with for drinking coffee and probably sneaking a cigarette or two … or twenty! Yup, pregnancy is definitely not for me.

    • Just wanted to let you know that you’re not alone in being freaked out about having something growing inside you. I know, rationally, that it’s totally normal and natural…but it’s not for me. No thanks.

    • And on the other side of the fence are people like me. Being pregnant and giving birth are the only parts of parenthood that I want. But it’s not in the cards for me during this lifetime.

    • As someone who has a 2 week old baby right now, I absolutely hear you on the not wanting to be pregnant thing. I have always known I’d HATE pregnancy, everything from the symptoms and side effects to the idea of someone controlling my body for 9+ months. And when I finally pulled the trigger and got knocked up, I hated every damn second of those months until he came out. Now that he’s out? He’s my favorite thing in the world, but I’m only having one, because I don’t love kids enough to have more, and I especially don’t want to be pregnant again, ever ever ever ever. And when people seem interested in how I felt about pregnancy I never ever sugar coat it, it was NOT for me. And it’s a perfectly valid reason, looking back on it, to not want to have children. Like, it can be worth it once it’s over, but I don’t blame anyone for simply never wanting to put themselves through that.

      • THANK YOU for being honest about your pregnancy experience! I feel like so many women, even most, sugar coat the experience because they think it makes them seem like a bad mother or something to have hated being pregnant. I’ve heard a lot of women say “Oh, the morning sickness was hard to get through but it wasn’t so bad” or some phrase that mitigates it.
        Whenever I’ve said that being pregnant grosses me out I get hit with all the “Oh, but it’s so natural and beautiful” or “it’s worth it in the end”
        or “it’s really not so bad.” Good for you for being open about it, and for going through it because I know that I never ever could.

        • Oh I agree. It’s partly that people feel they will be seen as a terrible mother if they hated it, but also nature does this thing where it deletes the truly horrible parts at least a little bit and makes your brain fuzzy in order to get you to procreate again I think, haha. Thankfully I wrote my entire experience down in a journal so that I could go back and remind myself how brutal it was and not to do it again! My one little dude is plenty.

  12. I’ve always wanted children, but I was ok if I never had them.

    When my fiance and I got first started hooking up (before actually dating), he didn’t want his own biological kids. I was like ‘whatever’ because at the time we weren’t serious. Somewhere along the way, we got serious and he softened his stance on no bio kids (I was always open to adoption, but it’s SO expensive, and no, I don’t want to foster).

    And then……..I got pregnant (due next month!). We weren’t trying, but we weren’t not trying either if you know what I mean. I’m 36, and I know my time was limited. We had talked about things well before, and I said that if I wasn’t pregnant by 37, then we’d have to look into what was going on with both of us, and perhaps talk about infertility treatments. Guess my ovaries heard me lol.

  13. Unfortunately, I’m not sure there is a definitive answer to this question. As for me, I also came at it backward. In my twenties, I had baby fever something fierce, while my husband was more ambivalent. In my thirties, were both ready but then we had to make decisions about advanced fertility treatments/adoption/foster care. We did a lot of research and even took the foster care certification classes. In the end, we chose not to pursue any of those options. It was a very hard decision and I second guessed myself for a long time. It wasn’t until I reached my forties that I became content with the decision we had made. It seems strange, but now I am also certain that I would have been equally content with pursuing any of the other options. I have other friends who never planned to have kids, but “somehow” 😉 ended up with two and are very happy and very good parents. Life sometimes unfolds differently than we expect. It may be that there is no “right” answer for a lot of folks. More importantly, for those who do not have strong feelings on the issue, there doesn’t seem to be a “wrong” answer either. This is not to suggest that thought and planning aren’t necessary or important. We all need to try to be true to ourselves. It is just that from my experience and conversations with others, it seems to me that most people find contentment with whatever decision they make.

    Sorry if this isn’t helpful, it is meant to be comforting.

    • Thank you! I have always been baby crazy but have PCOS and my husband is trans so there are multiple layers to our fertility issues. We had become certified foster parents but realized quickly that scenario would not work for us. My husband also has several health issues that we are working on resolving so we are currently on a intentional break before we decide what to do. We are using this time to see how well we like our life just as it is, in a year from now we are hoping we have an answer about going further with fertility treatments.

    • This is very late to the party, but I just read this and wanted to say that this was wonderful to read.
      I’ve shifted from baby-crazies to “you know, sleep is good” to infertility due to medical issues that are making us start to wonder if it’ll be worth the money/stress/emotional upheaval to try any of the other options. And it’s all academic at this point because there is no money for any of it.
      Still trying to find a point of peace on this, but knowing other people have found it is just what I really needed to hear right now. Thank you for sharing this.

  14. My husband and I are both so indecisive. We can barely decide where to have dinner because ALL of the options will be GREAT. (We laugh about it being a pisces/pisces thing.) We had a long conversation the other day about how we could both be entirely happy with or without children, and we can imagine a life where both options are completely fulfilling. It’s too bad there’s no middle option – we either do it, or we don’t – such a major decision can be quite paralyzing sometimes!

    I always imagined that I’d get pregnant accidentally (like we both did by our too-young-for-their-own-good mothers) but it turns out birth control is SO damn effective these days! We jokingly talked about playing “baby-roulette” by poking holes in 50% of the condoms in a pack, and leaving it to a game of really fun chance.

    I feel so pressured to make a decision, rather than to let life happen. I’m not terrified to actually grow or birth a child, I’m terrified to DECIDE to have a child. Because, what if for whatever reason, I can’t get pregnant!? Offbeat home has talked about this before, but I feel like the conversation with our friends and family always starts “When are you going to have kids?” rather than “ARE you going to have kids?” but both questions create a lot of stress for those of us who are REALLY on the fence.

    • Yes, these questions are very stressful. Eventually, not deciding becomes its own decision, even if we let time or chance have the final say. And that is OK too. The worst things are to push or punish ourselves.

  15. One thing nobody has addressed is how would you feel if you have a baby that is disabled – either physically or mentally? Everybody assumes they are going to have a happy healthy baby that is going to grow up & be “normal” but the reality is nobody knows how the child will be from birth to adulthood. I always assumed I would have kids & so did my husband but we married in our 30’s & after dealing with infertility decided to become foster parents – we eventually adopted 3 of the kids we fostered. Two had mental disabilities but we loved them but were naive because we didn’t have other children to measure there progress against. As they grew older reality has hit. My oldest son is now in in late 20’s & will never be able to live on his own. My other son has been diagnosed as being bi-polar (meds help control mood swings) but barely passed school & can’t hold a job. Daughter is into drugs (something birth parents dealt with). I’m now in my 60’s & can’t plan to retire because I have to support my sons. Daughter on her own with 3 kids of her own. Divorced hubby 10 years ago from stress put on marriage. Highest divorce rate is for couples with disabled kids. So if indecisive about having kids think how you would handle disabilities or drugs. My sister never had kids & she & her hubby married over 40 years – travel, treat nieces & nephews great & have a wonderful life – wish I was them many days.

    • Oh absolutely! I’m sorry to hear that you’re suffering from so much stress, but you’re so right that it’s something to consider. Children come with a lot of potential complications, from the very bad to the very good. On the other end of the spectrum, you could have an extremely gifted child who requires therapy and special education to deal with their own mental issues, or you could have an extremely talented athlete or artist who requires expensive lessons and equipment.

      • Oh yes there can always be expenses (& time involved) depending on talents – sports,musical , etc. but hopefully those kids can benefit from their talents for their future (& maybe take care of mom & dad when they land on Broadway or in the major leagues – lol). There really is no way of predicting future & trying to wait for perfect time to have kids will never happen. Just have to put faith in God & make decision based on true gut feelings.

    • First, I just want to offer hugs. That is a hard situation to be in.

      My husband and I have both held positions in the social services industry and have experience working with disabled individuals and while we found the work fulfilling we got to go home at the end of the day. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be the parent of a child with disabilities, either physical or mental. You bring up a fantastic point about people assuming their baby will be a healthy one. I don’t think a lot of people consider another possibility until it’s upon them.

    • Thank you. This is exactly why I am on the fence about having children. My husband and I both have mood disorders, and I am afraid of putting another person through a childhood similar to mine (which was pretty awful thanks to childhood onset depression) or of raising a child with mental health problems serious enough to cause lifelong dependence. I work in social services, so I have seen firsthand the toll that that can take on families. I think it is crucial to mention, though, that most of the problem comes from the lack of access in the USA to the kinds of supports and services that would help disabled people and their families to lead full, happy, lives, rather than from the disability itself. Things don’t have to be as hard as they are.

      Back to my own situation. My husband and I have talked about adopting a newborn in order to bypass our combined crappy genes but we are polyamorous, which would complicate the process significantly, and might make it impossible. My husband is also very invested in having a biological child, much more than I am. He recognizes, though, that the risks of that would be to me and the child rather than to him, and is willing to go with it if I decide that I am unprepared to carry a child, or am unwilling to raise children at all. I alternate between feeling liberated and abandoned by having the final say rather than being the “child neutral” party when I am undecided myself.

      • Per your text the good news is one- you both are aware of your background genes and two- you know what you went through. The bad news is as you stated is our society basically throws disabled people out on their own. My kids school system wasn’t the worst but I had to fight for everything for them which was very stressful for all of us. We had access to Kennedy Kreiger Institute- one of the best facilities in the world for people w/handicaps for testing & diagnosis but unfortunately once my oldest son finished school with a “certificate” @ age 22 (he tuned 21 three months before end of school year so was allowed to stay to end of school year) he was left with nothing to do except sit home & watch tv. Took almost 3 yrs to get him into program for disabled adults (there were no openings avail anywhere). In someways he is not as handicapped as some (he can stay home by self for several hrs while I work) but will have to live in group home when I’m gone. Yes he gets some social security but that would never cover rent/food etc. To be honest looking back if I knew then what I know now probably would never have adopted. I have severe health problems brought on by stress & I worry about my kids who I love dearly everyday. You mentioned adoption but with today’s high drug use you would even be more likely to get a child with health problems & you really don’t get much info on their background so you better be prepared to face a lot of challenges. At least you know your own genetics. Also as I said couples with handicap kids have highest divorce rates & sadly lose many friends because the friends have trouble dealing with handicap kids depending on the disability. So think hard about what you want in your future. Good luck.

  16. In my twenties I did. not. want. kids. Felt zero desire for them, seriously thought about getting my tubes tied.

    Starting about three years ago though (early 30s), I wanted kids with my husband. The thing is I don’t want “kids” – generic little hypothetical human beings. What I want is the very specific kids I would have with my husband.

  17. I think Megan (and some other commenters) brings up a good point- sometimes it is the person you may or may not want to have kids with. I wasn’t looking for a “child-free” life in my 20s but I just never thought about it. Until I met my now current husband and I started to think about it. Sometimes I flip and flop. Somedays I can’t think of anything else and think of all the ooshy-gooshy family crap that people do like making themed birthday parties, playing in the backyard, and making a gingerbread house as a family. Then other days I think that I could just travel and keep all our hard earned cash, or that I couldn’t take driving around having to listen to my kids scream (like when I was stuck in my sister’s car with my nieces for 2 1/2 hours)

    I didn’t think much of my waffling since the internet has provided me with some honest looks into parenting and pregnancy. Pretty much I’ve learned that there is no logical reason to have kids. PERIOD. I mean you could say that you like kids, but the amount of money and time can be crippling. Your body changes, your life changes, and your friends will likely change to a certain degree too. So I totally get why people want to be childfree.

    I pretty much told my husband I didn’t want to have kids at too old of an age. I am not talking in my 40 but more like early 30s. I just don’t want to have to deal with too many stressors as my body starts to age. If I find that I have trouble conceiving, I don’t want to start going down the rabbit hole of fertility drugs. I am not sure if I want to adopt because I know it can be expensive, nor do I want to foster since we are a vegan family and I think it would be a drastically different household for the child to get use to (though I know some vegans do it and make it work). I told my friend all of this and she thought it was odd, but refreshing to hear someone who could go either way. I guess maybe she hears too many of her friends say that they never want kids or could only imagine their lives that way. And I think it was nice to hear someone who thought the same way she did.

    And as for the question of how to “know” if you want kids or not. I say try not to get too hung up on certain parts. Like if you think you’ll hate pregnancy, don’t out rule kids. Or if you not fond of newborn babies. I am not looking forward for years 0-2. I use to watch my niece then and I just didn’t make much a connection. I’ve read some mother say it isn’t their favorite time. I am excited for my kids to be able to talk and heck I’m even excited about having a teenager, though I have low expectations of how much bonding will occur then. I guess be glad that you will be happy either way, and that you can make adult decisions like “do I have enough money?” or “will someone stop working to stay at home with the baby?” and not get all emotional.

  18. For me, the ‘clock’ just never went off. That in itself is odd, because I was a live-in nanny to a single parent for 2 years, and – I *love* kids. I mean, I totally adore them!!! Anyhow, a few years after we got married, my husband & I realized that if we didn’t start soon, we’d never actually be able to have kids, probably. And all we felt was….nothing. Complete ambivalence. A year later, my husband got a vasectomy. I think if I’d been with someone who really wanted kids, they could’ve twisted my metaphorical arm….but only if they’d have been willing and able (and eager!) to do a good half of all the work….the late night feedings, the clean ups, the being solely responsible for the kids at times, & not just ‘assuming’ I would always be the default. I’ve seen too many women end up being the one constantly on-call for the children, the house, the social/extended family life, etc and often a career too, and holy crap, how exhausting must that be?! No, no, and NO. We’ve gotten our kid-kicks in other ways…I volunteer with a high needs youth, and we have an assortment of nieces/nephews and kids-of-friends that we both baby-sit AND spend a lot of chosen time with. Sort of the best of both worlds. No regrets.

  19. My husband and I always assumed we would have kids although we also both talked about what we HAD to do differently from our own parents for that to be an option. Before I met him I had been wondering if I really wanted kids or had just assumed that kids would be part of life because that’s what life is when you are a woman (plus some parental pressure), so I’d had the thought of life without kids. I also had found out that I might have issues with fertility and I have no interest in dealing with fertility treatments. I’m pro adoption, but not for me. Honestly, never really been into babies and I’m happier with kids who are older too because otherwise I am just not quite sure of the appeal. But hubby and I felt like it would be okay and if it happened, awesome. Then our situation changed. A new health discovery meant that a lot of time and energy had to go to figuring out my hubby, dealing with things for him. It also increased the chances that a child would also have issues and it could be more difficult. We talked and agreed that I don’t have energy to look after the hubby and also look after a child, especially if the child ended up having more health issues than the hubby (and the risk is high). So we are child free although not totally open about it to everyone (mostly the parent from whom the pressure comes). For us, having a child together is no longer an option but being together is more important than having a child. Also, we happen to love our life. We want to travel more, we both love having time and freedom to do as we wish. I can be the cool aunt when it suits me.

  20. Do I want children?

    The me of 1 year ago is in disbelief to hear that question. Up until 6 months ago, I was feeling the baby fever HARD. I wanted one SO BAD. And I had wanted one since high school. I was counting down the days until my husband said he’d probably feel ready. And then something changed; I don’t know what or why.
    I no longer have the fever. I’m still unsure how to feel about it! I have no clue why I *stopped* having baby fever…but its gone. I still love babies, I think they’re adorable and cute and squishy, but the desire to go get pregnant RIGHT NOW is gone.
    I think I *do* still want kids….but later. In a few years I’d consider trying. Maybe my husband and I are finally on the same page about all of this.

  21. I realize my view is probably fairly unique based on my own situation (at least I hope so, but High-5’s to anyone in my boat).
    Growing up, I had an abusive parent, and a parent who was depressed and unable to care for herself, let alone myself and my brother. As a result I grew up very young.

    With that said, I also grew up with a “baby”. My brother being 4 years younger than myself needed care that my parents were unable/unwilling to provide. So I’ve always been a “mom”. I’m also the oldest in my family and helped to raise via babysitting and summers of “nanny” type babysitting, all of my cousins. So I have always had kids, in one way or another. Granted they weren’t my own, but from as far back as I can remember there have been little people who’s lives were placed into my care for one reason or another.

    Now let me preface this next part by saying I LOOOOOVE babies….

    With that said, from as far back as I could remember I knew I didn’t want kids of my own. My stance has always been A) I am dreaming of a time I am not responsible for anyone except myself and B) I vowed to never, EVER, have a child unless I was 100% certain I would not do to it like my parents did to me.

    As an adult, I have anxiety issues and battle depression myself, so I crave alone time, and having to do too many things for too long burns me out very easily. For this fact, it doesn’t matter how much I love kids.. I am not selfish enough to have one, because I cannot say with certainty that my mental illness wouldn’t effect him/her.

    I am NOT saying that people who have mental illness shouldn’t have children.. I am only saying because of how I grew up, and knowing my own current limitations, and the fact that it is sometimes challenging for me to take care of myself, or my spouse.. I know giving in to my urge to have a baby would be selfish on my part.. Like those parents who buy their kids a bunny at Easter, and it’s great for a few weeks and then you realize what you’ve done and OMG THERE’S A BUNNY AHH I HATE BUNNIES and the poor bunny ends up in the pound. Yep, do not want to go there.

    I am very happy being an Aunt to my friends children, and have no issue with sleep over’s and taking the kids for a week or so, so that Mom and Dad can have a wee break.. But to date, I have never regretted my choice to be child free.

    I love kids, just not for me 🙂

  22. I am not sure how much this will help but I always knew I didn’t want children. It took me a bit to accept it because, expectations. One boyfriend wanted to get married way early and then have a flock of kids that I wasn’t comfortable with, but, that is what you do. I ended up breaking up with him and making sure that the now husband was okay with that on date 2.

    That being said, I think the others are right at looking at your feelings on different situations. Have you recently had a scare, what were you feeling? Complete panic, I think you have you answer. Mostly panic but a little excitement, it gets murkier here.

    Think about if you received test results that you couldn’t have kids and the decision was taken away, how do you feel? Me, the “I never wanted them” person, grateful I don’t have to do it myself. You?

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