How To Know If You Want To Be A ParentFeb 02, 2023
Counterintuitive Exercises To Understand Your Own Desires
When you think about parenthood, what comes up for you? What concerns come to mind?
- I’m afraid of losing my freedom and my sleep.
- People say it’s life’s greatest experience – what if I miss out on that?
- I don’t want to hold my partner back from something important to them.
- I’m not sure if I would be a good enough parent.
These are just a few of the sorts of concerns I hear from people when they reach out to me for help with deciding whether or not to have children. I immediately let them know that they’re not alone in their worries or uncertainty.
To many people, it seems as if you should just know whether you want to become a parent — but I have 30 years of experience counseling individuals who have found that they cannot decide one way or the other. They just want to be able to decide and move forward with their lives, and they don’t understand why they can’t.
If you are struggling with not knowing, I promise you: there is nothing wrong with you.
To decide, you must first explore what you desire. Desire here means what you know, deep in your heart, that you want for yourself. It might be experienced as a strong feeling, or it might feel quiet and subtle, but it comes from within you. It is not a reaction to something outside of you. Navigating a decision is much easier when you’ve clarified what you really want and why.
What to do?
Start by deciding that you don’t know. Your first step is to accept that you don’t yet know whether you want to become a parent, and you don’t deserve any blame for that.
Decide to not know on purpose. By deciding that you don’t know what you want, you put yourself in the most open position to receive new information. Even if you have an inkling of what you want, it’s best to keep it at bay for a period of time. What I tell people is that, if something is true, it’ll remain true.
Next, you’ll want to list your externals and fears. Externals are all the things that keep pulling at you to think about them constantly. They will be different for each person.
Once you have your list, place it in a box or envelope, and put it away and out of sight. No matter how significant these items are to you, they are irrelevant for now. They might be relevant when it comes time to decide, but right now you are focused on discovering your desire.
Now that you’ve created some internal spaciousness, you are ready for some exercises that will help bring unconsidered beliefs and assumptions to the foreground. Engage in some stream-of-consciousness writing – meaning, just write what comes to mind. Write freely about your life, yourself, and your parents.
What follows is a carefully crafted process of reflection and contemplation. Taking what you’ve written, and allowing yourself space and time to process what has come up for you. Clarity will develop little by little as you complete each step of the process.
It’s hard to set aside the expectations and judgment of others during this process, but ultimately, the goal isn’t for others to feel good about your decision to become a parent or to live childfree. The goal is for you to feel good about your decision. You want your decision to come from an internal place of knowing, not as a reaction to forces outside of you. Only you can know what’s true for you.
If you’re interested in reading more, including clear and concise step-by-step instructions for my clarity process, read the full article here on Psyche.co.
You can also learn more about the book I co-authored with Denise Carlini, Motherhood-Is It For Me? and the Motherhood and Fatherhood Clarity Courses I offer here at MotherhoodIsItForMe.com.
Wishing you peace and healthy boundaries.