It’s pretty much assumed that, at some point in your life, you’ll wonder to yourself, “Should I have kids?” And it’s assumed that when you do, your answer will probably be, “Of course! Why wouldn’t I?” After all, once you hit a certain age, friends, relatives, and even perfect strangers will ask about your baby-making plans.
But what happens if you’re not really sure where you stand on this question? Having kids one day is kind of a BFD, and it’s understandable that not everyone knows upfront. “This is a big and life-changing decision,” licensed clinical psychologist Ramani Durvasula, Ph.D., author of Should I Stay or Should I Go?, points out. “Some people have 100 percent conviction. Others aren’t sure.”
However, some people figure out at some point that kids just aren’t something they want in the future. Think that might be you? Durvsula says these are usually big tip-offs that children aren’t your thing:
While some people say that having a dog is a good precursor to being a parent, Durvasula points out that kids are a little more complicated. “Kids can’t be left at home when you run to the grocery and can’t be put in kennels when you go out of town,” she says. “Kids grow up and become independent and talk back.”
It seems weird to think about all this now when you realistically wouldn’t see yourself having kids for a few years regardless, but psychiatrist and relationship expert Scott Carroll, M.D., a professor at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, says it’s important to know where you stand on things before you enter into a committed relationship that could (or couldn’t) involve kids one day. However, he admits, it’s not always easy. “It is very hard for many people to think about children before they have met their partner and see how the relationship works,” he says. “That said, it’s less complicated if you know ahead of time how you will feel if you never have children.” It’s kind of heavy, but he recommends thinking about how you would feel if you were about to die and never had kids. “Many of my students have thought that they didn’t want kids, but this exercise showed them that deep down, they did,” he says.
If you’re already in a committed relationship, it’s a good idea to talk to your partner about what they think about the kids one day, if you haven’t already. “If the relationship is veering into a more committed and permanent direction, this is a conversation that has to be had,” Durvasula says. If your S.O. is set against having kids, you’re not likely to change their mind (if you want to), but if they’re ambivalent it may be an evolving conversation, she says.
To help you sort out your own feelings, Durvasula says it’s not a bad idea to consider therapy with a good and nonjudgmental professional to help you figure it out. “It is such a loaded topic that many people feel judged when discussing it,” she explains. “It tends to be a moving target, and people often cycle in and out of wanting kids.”
Of course, you don’t have to decide whether kids are right for you tomorrow. But if you’re not sure how you feel about them, it’s a good idea to keep all of this on the back-burner. “It’s the single biggest life decision a person will make,” Durvasula says. “But ultimately, it’s a leap of faith.”