Many things can go into your ambivalence or anxiety about having children:
Fear of pregnancy
Fear of giving birth
Loving your career
And so many other concerns.
And if I told you to put those issues aside as if they were of no consequence, you’d think I was out of my mind.
How is that even possible?
I was recently quoted in a NYT’s article Scared to Be a Parent? saying, “… the key to clarity is not focusing on external factors, such as being scared of pregnancy or childbirth, concerned about money, or family and societal pressures.”
This statement doesn’t paint the full picture of what Denise L. Carlini and I are trying to convey in our book, Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity.
”We’re not saying your externals are unimportant; rather they’re unimportant right now. What needs to be known first is what you want for yourself regardless of the circumstances of your life. When what you want becomes clear, and it’s time to think about your decision going forward, some of the details of your life will be relevant and others will no longer play an active part in your decision. In the meantime, trying to make a decision based on your internal emotions and the externals in your life at the same time creates all kinds of pressure. Another way this can be said is that trying to figure out your desire and your decision at the same time creates gridlock (page 42).”
If you consider the externals of your life before you have clarity of your desire, the fears that you carry will get in the way of your decision-making process. Considering them prematurely only adds to the confusion.
Identify the externals
First, you need to identify the externals before you can put them aside.
Your externals are anything that pull at your attention, whether they’re rational or irrational. Externals fool you into believing that if you can figure them out or resolve them, then you’ll finally be able to decide about parenthood.
The two most common externals are age and relationship status. If you’re partnered and you want something different than your partner, you might be wondering if you should end the relationship to meet someone else. If you're single, you might want to be in a relationship before you become a parent. There are endless scenarios and they all need to be put aside, but only for the duration of the process laid out in our book or until you have clarity of your desire.
Other external issues can be: health issues, career decisions, finances, where to live, when to start a family, political environment, population of the planet, climate change, etc. Each person has their own concerns and they’re different for everyone.
Fears are often entangled in the externals, and the most common fear is the fear of regret. Then there are the fears about pregnancy, giving birth, having a special-needs child, being a good enough mother, sleep deprivation, time constraints, etc. It’s so easy to believe that you need to face and resolve all of these fears before you can decide.
This is not the case. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Put aside the externals
Putting aside the externals of your life is scary and unnatural. It’s not easy. It doesn’t make sense. And it still must be done. Of course, the reality of your life has to go on. But to consider your externals while you’re exploring your desire will only muddy the waters and get in the way of your true desire.
Women experience internal conflict for many reasons, but growing up in a pro-natalist society where the myth is women are supposed to want children increases women's anxiety. Women can't and shouldn't be painted in such broad strokes. Instead, some women:
feel they’re supposed to want children but don’t.
never wanted children but wish they did.
really don’t want to become a parent but can’t
reconcile how to choose a childfree life.
want to become a parent but don’t feel maternal.
Anything you can think of exists. This is personal, and everyone has their own unique experience of ambivalence.
Make a list of your externals, fold it up, and put it in a jar or envelope that is out of sight and, hopefully, out of mind. Then turn inward to see if you can find what you want for yourself and why.
Discover your desire
The very first thing to consider and resolve is the deep knowing of your desire. What do you want—and why—and—what drives it? You want to find out if the truth of your desire is based on a reaction or on a deep knowing inside of you. You don't have to explain your truth to other people; it’s only for you and your connection to yourself so you feel grounded in your truth.
The clearer you are about your desire, the easier it will be to entertain a decision. Then you can navigate the externals in your life and tend to your fears.
Putting aside your externals means you are forced to look within. Looking within can feel scary. But I hope by the time you finish the process in the book or your own personal process, it will be your default. It’s worth the effort. You’re worth the effort. You can do this!
© 2018 Ann Davidman
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