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I’m not shy about being childfree. The husband and I came to this decision (no kids) separately and simultaneously after we got married. Needless to say, we’re ecstatic that we agree on something that I believe is one of the biggest decisions people make in their lives… Right up there with faith and politics.
Obviously, this post is biased towards not having kids, but the intent is to show exactly why couples must discuss this ahead of time and understand exactly what the decision affects.
Why “Having Kids” (Or Not) is a Huge Decision
The “do we, don’t we” decision will affect your entire life. Even though you’re only “legally obligated” to care for and provide for a child until age 18, once you have a child, you are a parent for the rest of your life.
My sister and I are in our mid-late twenties, and our parents are in their mid-late sixties. We’re still highly involved in their lives, and they in ours. They’re grandparents to my niece.
When my parents chose to have children, they signed up for a lifetime of parenthood. I think most people go this route. Most people have children and become lifetime parents.
But a lot of things factor into that decision that perhaps not many people think about before they start trying for a baby.
According to Investopedia, raising one child from birth to age 18 costs $233,610. For most families, this “investment” is worth the return on having a bigger family than just the husband, wife, and optional pet.
Raising a child is not cheap. I hear many young parents lament about struggling to make ends meet and still provide for their children. It’s not impossible. But it’s often difficult (and, I hear, rewarding).
A consequence of the cost to raise a child is that families are having fewer children. The average birthrate in the United States is 1.8 births per woman (as of 2016), which is less than the 2.1 births per woman historically associated with the growth (or replacement) of a country’s population.
While cost by itself is not the only reason for this decline, it’s a huge factor, especially for the millennials of child-bearing age.
No matter how hard you try, your relationships with family, friends, and your spouse all take a hit when you become a parent. Many mothers feel like they lose their identities when they immerse themselves in being a mom. Outside of “mom”, who are they?
Sleep deprivation is a torture device, believe it or not. New parents lose 50 full nights of sleep in the first year of their child’s life. When we’re sleep deprived (and as a country, the United States is incredibly sleep deprived) we’re less affable, more irritated, feel worse, and rarely want to interact with people. At least that’s how I feel when I don’t get enough sleep.
And if I know myself well enough to know that, I know I’d never hack it as a parent. I’d go nuts in the first two weeks from sleep deprivation alone.
Women express worry and guilt about losing their identities as women. They become “mom” for so long that they end up losing much of what made them, them before a child came along. The decision to have kids in today’s day and age carries the risk that women lose who they are, I don’t find it surprising that so many couples are choosing to remain childfree.
I’m the kind of woman who reads a lot, has multiple creative outlets, and identifies as a person who does certain things a certain way. Without a doubt, I’d find it extremely difficult to keep that identity if I still had the mindset that I wanted kids.
I understand that part of becoming a parent is embracing a new identity. Consider if it’s worth it to you to risk losing or forgetting just what makes you, you—or go on an adventure in your new identity as a parent.
I’ve heard stories of women who gave up all creative passions in life when they had children and lament their loss when the kids are older and those passions are so far in the past.
What are you passionate about? Travel? Solitude? Crafting? Writing? Outdoor living?
Certainly, a family could find time to pursue all their passions with kids in the mix. It would take a lot of patience, planning, and willingness to be flexible.
It’s just important to realize and take into account before making the decision to have kids.
A blogger I followed who inspired me to reach beyond myself and push my limits shut down her blog because of an unexpected new addition to her family.
Among other things, the arrival of a new child took time from her passions and projects—enough that something had to give, and she gave up her blog. Her final post read bittersweet… As excited as she was to welcome a new family member, she expressed sadness that she wouldn’t be able to continue her writing and blogging journey.
Time flies as the years pass. My niece just turned seven and I’m still trying to wrap my brain around that. Sure, the time will pass anyway, but it makes me wonder what things in my life I would’ve missed out on had my husband and I decided to have kids.
It’s not quite an either-or, but it’s pretty dang close. What time would you give up on other things to raise a child?
I’ve mentioned before that I’m Christian. In the Christian faith, bringing children into the world means you have the responsibility to teach them about Jesus and bring them up learning about God.
I don’t agree with the idea that parents should take a backseat in matters of religious upbringing.
So this is yet another thing to think about before couples should make the decision to have kids. What will you teach them to believe about God?
And… What does your faith say about having children? God called humans to “fill the earth and subdue it.” Does that mean every single Christian needs to have a child? No. But it means that Christians who have children must accept the responsibility of raising those children in the faith.
When I was just starting college, I also started budgeting at the same time. It soon became clear what my priorities were, and I thought something was wrong with me that “children” never seemed to make it into a category for future savings.
How do you envision your future? Is it with a couple of children in the mix? Or maybe it’s just you and your partner and your dog, road-tripping across America while you freelance in the backseat.
Whatever your vision of the future is, it’s important to realize if children fit into that plan or not. It’s also important to think about what you’d do if children don’t fit into the mix, and your protections fail.
Would you regret having children?
This is a difficult question to answer, and not one that people like talking about. The idea that parents could regret having children is horrible, because who wants to wish that kind of emotional pain on a kid?
I know myself well enough to know that I’d regret having children.
Do you know yourself well enough to know if you’d regret not having kids?
What If You Have Different Answers?
Ideally, you and your partner agree on the decision to have kids. But what if you don’t?
From what I’ve seen and heard from other people, a mismatch in this value can very much destroy a relationship. This is why it’s important to talk about it before marriage.
I hear stories of one person or the other staying in the relationship, hoping to convince their partner to come around to their way of thinking.
This almost always ends in frustration, bitterness, heartache, and the wish that they’d just left when it first came up. People rarely change their minds about decisions such as these.
What if You’re a “Fence-Sitter”?
“Fence-sitter” is the term for someone who can’t decide either way if they want children. My advice for you is this: talk to people on both sides of the fence. Get both sides of the “argument.”
Ask questions: what do they like about their lives with or without kids? What were their reasons for having or not having offspring? If you know the person better, you might be able to ask more personal questions, such as whether or not they discussed children before getting married.
Your Decision is Yours
All of this being said, the decision to have a child or not is yours and yours alone, whether you’re a man or a woman. Whatever decision you make should be yours alone—not unduly influenced by an overbearing spouse or a mother-in-law who insists on grandchildren.
So where do you sit on this surprisingly controversial line? Kids, no kids, or perched on a fence?