To Have Or Not to Have Kids: Who Decides?

On Babble.com yesterday, Casey Mullins posted “An Open Letter to All Women Who Chose Not to Have Kids”.  In it, she wrote about the expectations from religion, society, and women themselves, regarding whether, when, and how many children women “should” have.

Ms. Mullins brought up several thought-provoking points surrounding this controversial topic.  One point she discussed was the comment people make about not knowing “the joys of parenthood until you experience it yourself.”  While it is true that personal experience gives us credibility in having gone through certain situations or life circumstances, we each have our own ideas and desires of what experiences will bring us joy.  Parenthood is not the only life experience that can bring us the personal fulfillment we seek.  Although I find great joy in being a parent, there are other life experiences that also bring me joy, such as spending time with family and friends, traveling, and yoga retreats.

Another point Ms. Mullins considered is how people have differing opinions about not only whether to have kids, but also when and how many.  Some people want to have kids early in life, while they have more physical strength and energy and fewer health concerns.  Others want to have kids later in life, after they have established their career and have built up their finances.  Some people prefer having children back-to-back, so that the kids can grow up together.  Others like to have a certain age gap between their kids, so that they can have a mix of different age groups.  Many people believe that two kids is a good number to have, while others prefer having only one, and still others choose to have none.  In my own life, I had wanted two children.  I ended up with only one.  People to this day still tell me that I should have had at least two children, that it is selfish for me to have an only child who will “grow up lonely”, and that I should have tried for a girl, so I could have a child of each sex.  The reality is that I would have loved to have more children  —  but I was physically unable to have more than one.  Of course, the people who have negative opinions about my having only one child are also the ones who do not know about my desire to have more if I were physically able to do so.

This brings me to the gist of Ms. Mullins’ article, which is that our personal opinions of others’ life choices are based on our OWN individual perspective and expectations of how life “should” be.  As Ms. Mullins mentioned (and as I have personally experienced), people may judge our life choices without ever knowing the reasons behind those choices  —  or whether the choices were made for us, as a result of our personal life circumstances that were beyond our control.

The bottom line is that only WE can ultimately make the life choices that will bring us the most joy and fulfillment  —  given whatever life circumstances we face, both within AND beyond our control.

There may be times when it can be a struggle to figure out which life choices will bring you the most joy and fulfillment.  During those times, it may be helpful to talk with a licensed family counselor, who can help you make the life choices which will be most beneficial and personally rewarding for YOU.

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