Reporter's Notebook

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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When Your Partner Is the Reason You Want Kids

Sebastien Nogier / Reuters

For our next few readers, one of the most important factors in the decision to have children was the person they’d be having children with. Tanya and her husband had different plans about parenthood at first:

Briefly, I babysat for hundreds of hours when I was a teen and grew to hate children. My husband and I never discussed whether we would have them before marriage, but for our third wedding anniversary, I cried and blubbered (over a few beers) that if he wanted children, he should leave me because I wasn't inclined toward motherhood. He said that although he would like having kids, he would never leave me, he loved our life, and we would just get more dogs. :)

For our fifth anniversary, I gave him prenatal vitamins as a gesture because I’d turned the corner. I knew I wanted the relationship that comes with adult children (my husband and I have great bonds with our parents). Plus, I’d decided that my real problem was with children under the age of 10, and I knew my husband would be a good enough parent to make up for my shortcomings as the mother of younger kids. It turns out I’ve loved every age that my two sons have been (oldest is 19, youngest is 16) and it was a great decision.

Other readers have also described their partners’ parenting skills and desire for kids as the final, most concrete factor that made them ready to take on parenthood. Katherine was on the fence about kids, but wanted to try the “adventure” of parenthood, and “thought my husband, who knew he wanted a child, would make a fantastic father.” Karine Bell was likewise ambivalent until she met her now-husband, who told her on their first date that he “couldn’t wait to become a father”:

He was just oozing with great-dad qualities. I’ve always said that I never knew I wanted children, until I knew that I wanted children with him: I wanted to co-create life with this amazing man.

And yet, a split decision about parenthood between two people who otherwise want to spend their lives together can also cause a great deal of tension and heartache. At 18, this reader was “madly in love” and sure she wanted kids with her 24-year-old partner, until an “oops” pregnancy made her realize she might not be ready:

The intensity of the relationship was replaced with stress and drama—a roller-coaster ride of do we keep or not keep this child? I decided no, he convinced me yes, and he got the baby girl he hoped for. Ultimately, this led to the destruction of our relationship.

Luckily, she adds of her daughter, “my oops was the best oops I ever made.” Meanwhile, this 44-year-old reader is currently conflicted:

I was married before, young, and had two miscarriages in my twenties. I figured that I would never have a baby and that was that. After I met a fabulous man in my mid-late thirties, I told him I couldn’t have kids. He seemed fine with that and glibly said we could adopt. Fast-forward to after we got married and it became apparent that he wanted to have children.

Reuters

When my colleague Olga wrote last month about how people decide whether to have children, she talked to a woman named Isabel Caliva, who’d been on the fence about parenthood until she read a Rumpus advice column that helped her think about the choice in terms of what losses she’d most regret later. For Isabel, that was a relief: “It changed my perspective from having to make the right choice to just deciding.”

But while parenthood is a deeply personal decision, it doesn’t just affect one person. And some readers faced a wrenching choice when they had to weigh their own desire for children or for a child-free life against potentially losing or damaging relationships with their significant others. One grandmother writes:

I became pregnant and delivered a child at age 28, five years into my marriage. Both my husband and I were thrilled at the time and still are delighted with our wonderful, loving, and successful daughter. The conflict came with the decision to have another child. We had talked about multiple children before marriage at at a very young age. After the birth of our daughter my husband was adamant: No more children. He “didn’t want the added responsibility.” I was hurt and shocked but deferred to his decision.

Now, at age 67, I wish I had another child and possibly more grandchildren. It has not changed my view of life, and I still am married to the same man, and I love him still. But I regret that decision, or at least that I did not resolve my feelings then.

Another reader ended a relationship over a disagreement like this one—and although she doesn’t regret it, her life has changed in ways she didn’t expect:

I never wanted kids growing up, but every single last person told me a switch would flip when I was in my late 20s because that’s what happens with women. I believed it, and when I met the love of my life who did want kids, I didn’t see it as an insurmountable issue. After all, I was supposed to change.

I moved in with my ex when we were 22 and the kids issue seemed light-years away—until it wasn’t. When we hit 29, the issue of whether or not to have kids came to a crisis point. He desperately wanted three or four kids, and I couldn’t stand the thought. It took us a year of arguing to finally decide to separate, and it was very traumatic since it was our only relationship issue.

Plot twist: I now want kids.