Now that the wave of reader reactions to last month’s presidential election has slowed, we’re circling back to our discussion about the decision to become a parent—a choice that some people in the U.S. may be even more unsure about now, in the general climate of uncertainty following Trump’s unexpected win. To start us off, this recently married reader shares her dilemma:
As I was warned, the questions about when we are having kids started immediately after the wedding. Growing up, I always anticipated having a child, and having benefited from a young extended family (my grandmother was 44 when I was born), I was adamant that I wanted to be done having children by 30. As that cutoff age rapidly approaches, however, I'm more acutely feeling the realities of potentially being a mother and questioning whether parenthood is truly best for our family.
The cons to being parents, at least in how easy it is to articulate them, seem to outweigh the pros. My husband is fortunate in the sense that he loves what he does, but at certain times of year, his schedule is brutal (i.e., out-of-town travel, 12+ hour days, no days off for months on end). I don't have the financial luxury nor the desire not to work, and I worry that the strain of more or less being a single parent for parts of the year is beyond me and would create resentment in my relationship.
Another tally in the “against” column is selfish self-preservation. In 2012, I received a long-overdue diagnosis of anxiety, which generally manifests itself in obsessions about physical safety, as well as separation anxiety. While currently manageable with consistency in routine and medication, I am fearful that my anxiety would be exacerbated by a child, both in the sense of the chemical changes accompanying pregnancy and the life to follow. For my well-being among other reasons, we have discussed adoption, but that doesn't circumvent the fact that caring and worrying are two sides of the same coin for me.
And yet, my husband and I are both nurturers by nature. Presently, while my husband channels his caregiving into his work in as a health-care provider, I dote on our puppy (and the cat when he lets me), but that does not satiate my longing to be a parent. While the reasons not to choose the path of parenthood are clear and not insignificant to us, it's impossible not to acknowledge the visceral urge to raise a child.
I’m years away from even considering parenthood myself, but I can relate to this reader’s worries: I was the “nurturing” one in my group of college friends, and the women I knew who didn’t want kids of their own used to joke that I’d have to have godchildren for them. But a couple years later, during a particularly rough period of anxiety and depression, I started questioning the idea that I would make a good mother; I worried that I wouldn’t be able to care for my future kids, or that I’d pass the scarier parts of my psyche on to them. That possibility—that I might not actually be capable of something I always assumed was a part of my personality and would be part of my future—was pretty frightening, even though at the time it was purely hypothetical.
Has your mental or physical health been a factor in deciding whether to have kids? Or, if you’re already a parent, how have you managed health conditions on top of that very demanding job? I’d like to hear about your experience.
As for the other practical concerns our reader mentions, another reader, Mike, dealt with some of those issues on his way to becoming a father—a story with many twists and turns:
My wife and I met and got married in our mid-30s, a somewhat later age than what is common. At the time we had no inclinations for children. I held a “never say never” position, but my wife was flat-out against it.
That changed when my wife (my fiancée at the time) accidentally got pregnant right after we got engaged.