I’d always hoped intuition would kick in with age with a resolute answer to this question, but I feel more confused than ever about whether or not I want to have children.

If you’d asked me a few years back at 35, I’d have responded with a confident, ‘No’. It wasn’t so much a feeling that I didn’t want children, more that I’d never felt strongly enough that I did.

I love so many aspects of my childfree life, and felt happy with the thought of it remaining that way, so I didn’t think about it much after reaching that conclusion. I wasn’t 100% on the matter, but it was close enough. Choice made.

But this past few months there has been a wobble on the decision as I’ve grown closer to the 40 mark

Why am I now having a little crisis about this decision? Why am I not so certain anymore?

I was only ever a 50/50 in my twenties and early thirties, and I slid towards a 70/30 No in my mid-thirties. I’ve never, ever, been a resounding Yes. Yet, that scale is sliding towards a, ‘I haven’t the foggiest’. Are these sluggish maternal instincts? Just a fear of missing out? A deep awareness that the choice won’t be in my hands for much longer as my body won’t be able (if it even is at all).

Apparently the dilemma faced as to whether or not to have children or be a mother is something a lot of us go through

Women are having children later in life, in their 40s, and Ann Davidman, a Motherhood Clarity Therapist, thinks this could be down to people trying to figure out the answer to that question. It’s all further complicated by the social expectation that women should do it, don’t you think? Because there is the added pressure that to not have children is a wrong choice. You will feel you’ve missed out. It’s an adventure not to be untaken. Of course the decision should be free of judgement as its deeply personal, but unfortunately, it isn’t.

Social expectations aside, though. Do I want children, right now? Well, that’s still a No. But in the future? Honestly, fuck knows …

In my twenties despite being married, I didn’t think about it much and I never had that urge. It felt more a future decision. Something I’d consider later on in life, like in my thirties. Then I reached my thirties, the decade of decisions! Yet post-divorce, it felt like a lot of pressure for a woman who was slowly figuring out a new landscape with herself, dating again, and had only just regained her sense of freedom after a pretty toxic relationship for near on a decade, to even contemplate children at that time. I was on a different trajectory at that moment in my life. So the decision was happily pushed down the road, once again, for another time.

However I couldn’t avoid the question, because so many other people wanted that answer

Throughout the first few years of dating post-divorce, I was asked nearly every time I met someone new for my thoughts on the parenthood subject. And it normally came pretty early on in the conversation – usually, before you’d even met in person. I totally get this, no-one wants to waste time with someone who either does, or doesn’t align on this topic. Since it’s a pretty big factor to consider for both parties. Sort of a relationship ending decision either way. Yet it feels a hell of a lot more charged and fraught when you really don’t know that answer.

If they clearly wanted children, I thought, ‘One day, maybe, I could be a Yes.’

If they didn’t, I’d consider, ‘Well I haven’t a burning desire, I love my independence, I don’t feel particularly maternal, so maybe children aren’t the route for me, a No it likely is.’  Because I was so unsure of my answer at that stage, and still pushing the decision down the line, I couldn’t give a firm Yes or No either way. It made dating feel quite difficult, as I also felt my decision could be swayed by their thoughts, rather than how I really felt about it all. I had no definitive answer, so I was more likely to be led by their decisiveness.

But I had to make a choice for myself. At around 35, I thought I had.

After a string of dating disasters and relationship failures, I decided to concentrate on self-dating and get okay with a single life

In order to find some much needed self-love and remove the fear of single that was keeping me in a repetitive dating cycle of bad decisions.

However you can’t really get to okay with single without addressing that elephant in the room of, Did I want children? I tried to remove the fear factor association with being single and maybe discovering I did want to have children one day. Because I thought to myself that I am fortunate enough to be living in a time where there are options other than being in a relationship to become a parent.

I considered many if I were to do it on my own. IVF. Adoption. Fostering. I really don’t have any desire to be pregnant, at all. I don’t enjoy the thought of it, and I do not love the idea of giving birth. Fostering or adoption became my happy alternative if one day, regret came a calling. So I had options, but did I want to take them? No, to be absolutely honest.

My mother’s advice after I’d gotten married at 24 had always stuck with me too, ‘Enjoy your life first,’ she’d said, after having three children in her early twenties

I’ve held onto her words of advice. And I’m very grateful to have travelled a lot, lived in different places, built a good career, have been able to see and experience so many things. I have loved my independence and taken full advantage of it. And if I’m honest, I didn’t want any of that to change, ever. So I decided at 35, that I was a, No. I wasn’t ever going to be one of those people who sits in the resounding No camp, yet wouldn’t ever be enough of a Yes to sway that way either.

I’d happily settle myself somewhere nearer to childfree, and continue to enjoy my life just the way it was.

However, I’m nearly thirty eight now. And for some reason, things that I thought I’d figured out aren’t quite as clear cut anymore

Maybe it’s to do with the end of the highway of choice now feeling in sight? Or just that as a person who hasn’t a definitive answer on the topic, this, not back and forth as such, but this consideration once again, is going to be quite natural in my late thirties and forties?

Perhaps this is what many of us do, spend our late thirties and beyond in a state of, Do I / Don’t I? And still not knowing what the heck to do about it.

For me, I imagine it might be in part that my little sister has just had her second child, an adorable little girl. And possibly, turning thirty eight this year is causing that biological countdown clock to tick a bit louder. It’s a funny thing, that little ticking timer, because it feels removed from my head and heart. My body naturally is stating the obvious, that time is counting down, but the rest of me isn’t sure that it’s a deadline I want to do anything about.

‘Will you regret it if you don’t?’ someone asked me recently. If I knew the answer, I wouldn’t be writing this blog

However the question that has always held more weight for me, is ‘Will I regret it if I do?’

The trouble is, I just don’t know. I’ll probably never know until I do or don’t, and that’s a pretty big thing to find out the answer too in either situation once the action can’t be taken back. Once my body has retired its ovarian responsibilities, or I’m holding a baby and thinking, ‘Shit, what have I done.’

But the truth is, I love my life as it is, my freedom to do as I please. I want my time to go into my passions; writing, running, travel, and I don’t enjoy the thought of that loss of my own time and financial security that I have. I see those as things that couldn’t be done with a child in tow, or not in a way that wouldn’t adversely affect my mental and emotional health, and leave me begrudging them for taking up far too much of my personal time. I’ve never had that urge to be pregnant, and I don’t enjoy the thought of it. I don’t swoon over babies in the way I see other people do, the ones who want them or have them.

Don’t get me wrong, though, I’m great with my niece, nephew, and my friends kids. We have sleepovers and days out, and I love spending time with them. But I also love giving them back. And even now, at nearly thirty eight, despite this internal quandary popping up again, I don’t want to have a child right now. Sounds more like a, No, right? So why the internal debate then? Why do I still occasionally agonize over whether I want to or should be a mother?

I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think because I occasionally like the thought of the connection that I see parents have with their young ones

To have created a little human being, have that undevoted love and a bond that cannot be broken. I don’t care about them looking after me when I’m older, it’s not about that, I have no fear factor when it comes to being older and alone – mostly, it goes that way anyway whether you’ve got children or are married or whatever. I just sometimes think that raising them and watching them learn and grow would be an incredible experience, and maybe one I shouldn’t miss out on. But I’m also very aware that when I have these moments, I’m looking at it with an idealized image of parenthood, which is not the reality.

My mental health has at times, not been great. I am not sure I would cope well with the emotional and mental strain of becoming a mother. I really do love my own time and space, something I would struggle to say goodbye too if I committed to parenthood. And all the things I love about my life right now, would likely not be part of it in the same way, and I know that would affect how I do motherhood. And I wonder at these times, what impact all of that would have on my theoretical child.

I have friends who are 100% a No on the topic, and I envy them for that decisiveness

As they will never experience these unexpected moments of predicament. I wish my answer was so irrefutability absolute. I wish I knew for certain whether I will regret it if I don’t. Or whether I’ll remorse the decision if I do. But no amount of hoping the right answer will magically appear, is going to make it so. Because I can’t have got to nearly thirty eight, and have it mysteriously be answered.

I’m just going to have to take a leap of faith in one direction or the other and choose the adventure to keep me going for the next twenty plus years

Which is likely going with my gut instinct, the larger percentage that feels like its childfree for me. Of course I hope I don’t regret the choice. But maybe that’s a hope many people have? The people like me who aren’t ever an adamant, unwavering Yes or No. Maybe some of us make the right one for ourselves, and some of us aren’t so lucky. Some have them when they shouldn’t have, or don’t and regret it. What option is worse? I suppose I won’t know until I get there.

I have to say though, when writing this piece, I did a lot of research into people like me who wonder about whether or not to have children. There was some pretty good advice out there.

Whether in the absolute Yes, No, or haven’t a fucking clue camp, for all those who took the plunge into motherhood, and for the people that didn’t, there are many who talk about their lack of regrets. Sure, they’ve had moments of wondering, but I think that’s natural, we all wonder how our lives might have been if things had turned out differently for whatever reason.

They talked about how they settled into life whatever it turned out to be. As a parent, or as a childfree person

For the childfree, they sought different ways to find purpose – like pursuing interests, travelling, charitable work, and so on. Basically, the things I love about my life right now and I don’t really want to lose. Their social calendars and hearts were full with many other things. For those who entered parenthood, they remised on their old life some days, but they also spoke about different ways they found their purpose too, with raising their children, or managing their parenting responsibilities around other things that make them happy too. It reminded me that it isn’t so much a wrong option, as simply just a choice.

I can only choose the one that feels most right for me

The possibility that holds the lions share. And maybe that ratio will shift a bit, but I’m feeling more confident that unless that percentage hits higher than a solid 60% in one direction, it’s not the one for me.

I am certain though that as the next decade of my life plays out, I’ll procrastinate once again about this topic. I also know that life is so much more, there is much joy to be had, and that is why I’ve remained childfree to date, because I’ve been enjoying my life just the way it is. When I’ve loved it that way for the past near forty, I don’t see how in another twenty, I’ll feel much different. Perhaps I’ll likely wonder how my life would have turned out if I’d made a different choice, and that’s okay.

Have you been through something similar? I’d love to know.

By Amy Roullier
By Amy Roullier

Amy is the Founder and Editor of The Authentic Optimist. She talks all things life. From the highs to the lows, to all those messy bits in-between. She is a writer, rambler, lover of carbs (her true soulmate) and she is especially passionate about dispelling myths about women in their 30s. Amy lives in Lincolnshire with her two greyhounds.

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