"Have you ever regretted having children? I'm wrapped up in my work right now, and I feel pretty good about my life; I like having "me" time occasionally. But if I don't have kids, will I regret it later? I don't want to be alone when I get old. What's the right choice?"
Regret is a hot button. Parenthood, likewise. Put them together, it's explosive, and everyone has an opinion.
As a former therapist, who has currently hung up her shingle to be a commercial/editorial portrait photographer full-time, I still sometimes still get asked the BIG questions. I even spoke about navigating through work/family snags at the Inspire photography conference last year, and have mentored those in the arts as well as those in technology careers, pulling on both my mental health therapist and career counseling background.
Several folks I'm spoken with about potential parenthood have given me the feedback that my thoughts on this topic have been helpful. So, today I'm posting my personal .02 in the hopes it will be useful for those who might be debating if and how to juggle intense careers with the possibility of eventually hearing the pitter-patter (ha, mostly clomp-clomp) of little feet. Because I am of the female persuasion, most of what I write is from a woman's perspective, but I believe there's a lot in here that also will relate to men. Enjoy, and let me know if you found this post helpful.
- The right choice (e.g. right-for-you choice), to have or to not have kids, or how many to have, is based solely on you and your circumstances - not what others think or what you feel pressured to do by your friends, your family, or society-at-large. There is no right answer, only your answer. This bears repeating ad nauseum. Knowing yourself, and your spouse, if applicable, and your resources (time, support, energy, goals, financial situation), and sitting with that knowledge for awhile without judgement can be helpful when trying to figure out whether creating a family is right for you. You don't need to make a decision immediately - consider waiting for some clarity, instead.
- It is neither selfish nor unselfish to choose to be childfree or child-full. Human beings bring beautiful things into this world. Unfortunately, this world also has more than enough people, many of who desperately need more than they have. Does the world need more artists, inventors, visionaries? Yes. Is the world being stripped of resources because there are too many people? Yes. Does all of this really matter when making your own personal decision? That's up to you.
- Liking having personal time isn’t selfish; it’s healthy. Those of us who live in the US (the only country I can really significantly speak to personally) live in a strange culture where mothers are supposed to sacrifice all their time to care for others, mostly because we don’t have enough institutional help and support so that we can take time for ourselves. And most of us live in small nuclear families away from the support of an extended family. But it can be done with careful planning and family/friend support. This situation doesn't appear to be the same for my family in Argentina and Europe - there seems to be more acceptance/support for woman to have a life outside of motherhood. Motherhood/parenthood in those areas seems to be just one aspect of a personality, rather than being a Mom with a capital M.
- It is really hard to make a decision if you’re not sure about having a family, and sadly, everyone and their mother has an opinion if you’re a woman of child-bearing age. But it’s not their life. They’re not paying for childcare and college, they’re not going to be there on sleepless nights when you all have stomach flu and you’re trying to figure out who gets the last bucket.
- We will all ultimately die alone. Please don’t make the relatively short period at the end of life the sole justification as to whether you want to bring another life into the world (unless this works for you and/or your spouse, see disclaimer above).
- If you lose a child, whether it is an only child, or one of many, no one is going to replace that child. It is going to hurt, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent or ameliorate that pain except having loving souls around you to be there for you as you mourn. If you have any control over the number of kids you have, have the number that is right for you.
- Friends can be as close as family, conversely, family is no guarantee of love. But if you’re a person in a happy family situation who wants to be there, it can feel like there is love flowing through your veins. However, being in the midst of a bad family situation can feel beyond lonely.
- There’s no guarantee in life. Make good friends, be a good friend. Ultimately, love, whether romantic, familial, or platonic, is one thing that makes life worth living, in all of its beautiful permutations. #steppingoffthesoapbox
P.S. As for me, no regrets.