How to Put Aside Your Externals To Discover Your Desire About ParenthoodAug 23, 2022
Many things can go into your ambivalence or anxiety about having children, including:
Fear of pregnancy
Fear of giving birth
Loving your career
And so many other concerns.
If I told you to put those issues aside (even only temporarily) as if they were of no consequence, you’d think I was out of my mind. Much of what you are concerned about is relevant, it’s just not relevant while you are sorting out and understanding what drives your desire from the inside out. All of it only gets in the way of clarity.
So how would putting these issues aside even be possible?
I was 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 — either 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 unique concerns based on their life and their experiences.
Fears are often entangled in the externals — the most common being the fear of regret. Then there are the fears about pregnancy, giving birth, having a special-needs child, being a good enough parent, sleep deprivation, time constraints, etc. It’s incredibly easy to not only feel overwhelmed but also 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. Yet, it still must be done. Considering 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 several reasons, but growing up in a pro-natalist society that perpetuates the myth that women are supposed to want children increases women's anxiety. Women can't and shouldn't be painted in such broad strokes. Instead, many 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 first thing to work towards is a deep understanding of your desire. What do you want and why. What drives it? You want to determine if the truth of your desire is based on a reaction or on a deep knowing inside of you.
The clearer you are about your desire, the easier it will be to make 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. Introspection can feel scary but I hope that by the time you finish the process laid out 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!