How to be a Good Friend to Someone Undecided about Motherhood

motherhood resources Oct 18, 2016

It’s never easy to see your friend or someone you care about experiencing emotional pain or suffering because of an internal struggle. Often your first thought is to help them be rid of their pain. As a good friend, you want to make it all go away, right? It can be hard to know exactly what to say or do or how to help. And often the person undecided about whether she wants to be a mom or live a childfree life doesn’t even know what she needs. 

Your intentions come from a good place even if what you might be doing or saying hasn’t been helpful.

I want to help you avoid the pitfalls when it comes time to help your BFF, friend, sister, cousin, daughter, granddaughter, auntie or niece because she is undecided about motherhood.


Let’s begin with a few known facts:

  • No one remains undecided “for the fun of it.” Not being able to decide about motherhood is painful, confusing and lonely.

  • Women who can’t decide are in turmoil. There is nothing easy about not knowing.

  • Just because it was an easy decision for you (if it was), doesn’t mean it’s easy for everyone.

  • Just because she may not be talking about it, don’t assume her silence means she doesn’t want to talk about it. It’s likely she is ashamed of being undecided.

  • Don’t buy into the myth that if you’re ambivalent, it’s a sign that you shouldn’t become a mother or that “you must not want children.”


Tip #1- Be kind and don't assume you know what's best.

When someone is ambivalent or confused they are not in an open place. They’re hurting. It’s not time for suggestions - it’s time for compassion and kindness. It’s time for understanding and trusting that they’ll figure it out. It’s time for your loved one to hear from you, “You’ll figure it out. There isn’t a right or wrong choice. I wish I could tell you what to do, but only you can know what’s true for you.” You may have your own thoughts of what you want for her, which is fine to share if she asks you or gives you permission to share your thoughts. Otherwise, keep it to yourself.


Tip #2- Be inquiring and interested in her experience of not being able to make a decision, and offer to be a sounding board without giving advice.

Be curious and offer an ear. Ask, “Hey, how is it for you that you don’t know whether or not you want to be a mom? Do you want to talk about it? I’ll listen without adding my two cents. I just want to give you space to think without you having to worry about being shamed or judged.” Offering that kind of attention would be a lovely gift. Have confidence that her mind is capable of finding her own solution and that she will begin to figure it out in the face of your loving attention. And make sure to keep your opinions, wishes, and desires mum.


Tip #3- Communicate the perspective that both decisions are filled with riches as well as losses. One is not better than the other and both paths are worthy.

The decision of whether or not to parent could not be more personal. You may truly believe in your heart that you know what is best for this person whom you care about. However, the truth is, only she knows what is true for her and best for her life. You can say, “I only know my truth and my experience. What I do know is only you can know your truth. Either choice is likely to give you something good and either choice is likely to give you something challenging. I care about you and want what is best for you.”

No one can know what an experience is going to be like before it happens. For our dear friends, we can know what we want their experiences to be like. We can trust that they will be okay if it isn’t the experience they thought it would be. And we can know that we will be there for them to help and support them no matter what choice they make.