Notes

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Deciding to Become a Parent or Not: Your Stories
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Readers who are on the fence about whether to have kids—along with parents and child-free folks who have already made the decision—discuss their personal pros, cons, and gut-level reactions to the idea of parenthood. Read the article inspired by this discussion here.

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Conflicted About Having Kids: Your Thoughts

Ollanta Humala, the former president of Peru, holds his five-month-old son during a TV interview before his 2011 election. Mariana Bazo / Reuters

Many of you have responded to Olga’s call for stories about why you decided to have kids or not. One mother writes, “I know what it’s like to be undecided”:

When I was 37, my husband and I had been trying to get pregnant for six years on and off. We were really on the fence—try fertility treatments, or just live an unencumbered child-free life? Both options seemed okay.

I’m afraid this sounds selfish, but more than legacy or any other reason, I wanted to know firsthand what it was like to be a parent. It felt like I’d be missing out on a huge part of the human experience if my husband and I chose not to have a child.

Anyway, we took the necessary fertility measures, had a baby, and being a mother to this little boy is so much better than I could have imagined. Sometimes I think about how close we came to giving up on parenthood and I can’t believe it.

Of course, fertility measures can be costly and stressful, as our readers who have shared their experience with infertility can attest. If money was the deciding factor in your choice about parenthood, we’d like to hear about it.

For this next reader, it took some firsthand experience with childrearing to decide she didn’t want any biological kids of her own:

I never really gave it much thought: I assumed I’d have kids some day when I was older and married, just like everyone else. When I started dating my now-husband, who has kids, I thought it would be fine—I had worked as a nanny and thought I was good with kids. But I wasn't, and it was horrible.

The never-ending stream of chores that somehow quadrupled when they came to visit was overwhelming. I was clearing breakfast while trying to make lunch and wash ridiculous quantities of clothes, while the TV blared cartoon music and someone would be shouting “Daddy, watch me do this!” I am not a crier, but several times during each visit, I went into a bathroom and allowed myself a quick three-minute sob fest.

It was exhausting, and it would repeat day after day. I enjoyed none of it; I just grimly set to get through the days. When they’d go home, I would burst out in tears from relief.

And they weren’t bad kids! They were completely normal, well-behaved children who just needed to be taken care of by the adults. I have no illusions that my own kids would somehow be easier or better. Probably worse.

That’s when I started thinking: I don’t want this.

U.S. citizen Gordon Lake (R), his Spanish husband Manuel Santos, and their baby Carmen attend a news conference in Bangkok on April 29, 2016, after winning an appeal for parental rights over a baby born through a Thai mother before the Thai ban on commercial surrogacy came into effect last year. Jorge Silva / Reuters

Just call me the Ken Bone of procreation. I am hopelessly undecided about whether to have kids, even though it’s getting to be pretty late in the game, so to speak. My lists of pros and cons for both sides are equally lengthy—but something tells me the ultra-rational approach isn’t the right one here. Because of my job, I know all the stats about parenthood; I’ve read all the studies; I’ve even sat in on parenting classes. I still have no idea.

Unplanned pregnancies are at their lowest level in 30 years, which means increasingly, parenthood is a choice people make. And it’s one of the most important choices a person does make. The internet is filled with stories of people weighing the decision and concluding they are glad they had kids after all, or that remaining childless was ultimately best for them. (There’s also a smaller number of people who admit they regret having kids.) But there’s not as much out there about how people—those for whom parenthood was a choice—actually made that choice.

And so, like Bone, I stand before you, very torn, slightly nervous, and with an earnest question on my mind: What made you decide to have kids?

To begin a new reader discussion in Notes, we are interested in learning what ultimately made you throw the switch toward parenthood (or not). Was there a single moment that made up your mind, or was it something you gradually realized about yourself? Was it a partner’s opposition that made the difference, or your family’s insistence? Was it cost? Career plans? Or perhaps even a religious motivation? We’re especially interested in hearing from people who were on the fence about having kids, but jumped off it.

(No need to send us stories of how cute your kids are—though we’re sure it’s true. For this discussion, unlike in actual parenthood, the choice is more important than the outcomes. And if pregnancy isn’t a choice for you because of infertility, we are going to explore that issue as well, in an upcoming discussion. Update: It’s here.)

So, how did you make the choice to have children? And if you’re still weighing the decision, what major factors are you considering? Please send us your thoughts and personal experiences: hello@theatlantic.com.