Not all of us are cut out for parenthood, and that’s OK.
There are a lot of things in life people think they have to do. Things that are expected of them by their families, their social circles, or maybe just society in general. Experiences we’re all told a human life is woefully incomplete without. Parenthood is still largely viewed as one of those things, especially if you happen to be a woman.
Well, I’m here to tell you that raising children definitely isn’t for everyone (or even for every woman). Women who don’t yearn to hold babies in their arms exist, and yes, it’s entirely possible to lead a wonderful, fulfilling life without also being a parent. Fulfillment is about building a life you genuinely enjoy living, and it’s OK if children aren’t part of that picture.
I like to think I’m living proof of this. I’ve also known this was the direction I wanted to go with my life since I was a child myself, but I know not everyone’s as decisive from as early on. That said, if you’re personally still on the fence about having kids, you might want to evaluate yourself for the following signs that it’s just not your jam.
1. You go berserk without enough alone time.
Everyone likes a little “me time” now and again, but some people need more of it than others. There are even those who feel positively unglued if they don’t get enough of it, so you’ll want to think about where you fit on that spectrum before inviting a child into your life. Once you’re a parent, alone time becomes a distant memory for the most part, so you’d better be OK with that.
I personally wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong. I love being around the people who matter most to me, but I need a say in how and when it happens. Time and space to read, write, or even just hear myself think isn’t just nice to have. It’s an everyday essential for someone with my personality type, and if you’re similar, parenthood will be extremely challenging to say the least.
2. You’re not the stable, responsible type.
Many people are like this for at least a portion of their youth, and they eventually grow out of it, but I’m not talking about them. Some people just plain never know whether they’re coming or going. There are lots of reasons why this might be the case, and it’s not always a matter of simply needing to grow up. Some people are simply free-spirited to a fault, and they like life best when they don’t always know what to expect.
Children need stable environments in which to grow up, and they need to be able to rely on their parents to put them first. Not everyone is able to provide an environment like this or wants the responsibility, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. I wouldn’t call myself a restless type per se, but I definitely like my freedom. I’ve always needed to know I’m free to change my mind about where I live, what I do for a living, or how my life looks in general as often as I please. If you’re similar, parenthood may not be for you either.
3. You just plain don’t like kids.
I doubt anyone likes every child they come in contact with, but people who make good parents do tend to like children. They think children are cute. They like the way children think and find a child’s unique way of interacting with the rest of the world refreshing. The idea of parenting a child of their own also sounds pretty cool for the most part, as opposed to filling their soul with dread.
Now, people will try to tell you “it’s different when it’s your own”, and that may even be the case. If all children set your nerves on edge and make your skin crawl as a rule though, that’s unlikely to change just because you have one of your own. Sadly, the world is full of parents who secretly (or worse — not so secretly) regret having their children. Some find it within themselves to become good parents regardless, but is that really the life you want for yourself or your potential child?
4. You hate competing for your partner’s attention.
Every single person on earth needs to feel loved, cherished, and prioritized by their partner. As with alone time though, we all need that to varying degrees. Lots of people out there are perfectly fine not being the most important person in their partner’s life at all times. Others really do need to feel like priority number one, at least in the grand scheme of things, and that’s not going to happen once children are part of the mix.
I’m self-aware enough to admit that I’m totally that second type of person. I’m very introverted, and I definitely stay busy, so I don’t expect my partner’s undivided attention 24 hours a day. I do need to feel like I’m the most important person in his life though. Children require a level of care, love, and devotion that’s near constant, especially when they’re little. A good portion of that is going to come from your partner, so you’d better be prepared for that.
5. You need plans to play out exactly as you imagine.
Everyone who’s ever considered becoming a parent has an ideal picture in their head of how they think that will go. They daydream about what their kids will look like and what types of activities they’ll enjoy. Many people picture their children growing into little mini versions of themselves or their partners. Then they actually have their kids and find out the truth — that children are individuals in their own right, not extensions of their parents.
That discovery can actually be an amazing experience for people who are truly open to it. Loving, supporting, and mentoring these little people as they grow into the individuals they’re meant to be is what parenthood at its best is all about. At times, that’s going to be challenging though, and it’s virtually guaranteed not to be what you expect. If you’re the type of person who can’t roll with the punches in life and take things as they come, you shouldn’t be a parent.
6. You’re mostly just afraid of missing out.
As someone who’s not only never wanted children, but who’s been fairly open about it with pretty much everyone, I’ve heard all the warnings. Most well more than once. “You’ll regret it.” “Your life won’t have any meaning.” “You’ll die without leaving a legacy.” Those are all really heavy things to hear from other people about your potential future life, so I completely understand why you’d be worried about missing out.
Just keep in mind that only you can say for sure what you actually want to do with your life. Maybe it is creating and raising other humans, but it might not be. I assure you children are not the only way to matter, to make your mark on the world, or to leave a legacy. There’s also more than one way to wind up feeling like you “missed out”. You could just as easily wind up feeling that way about an alternative life path you didn’t pursue.
I’m currently in my mid-40’s. I’ve never had or wanted children, but I’ve never felt for a second as if anything’s missing from my life. On the contrary, my life feels very full. I have a wonderful relationship with a partner whom I love, and we’ve had so many incredible experiences that wouldn’t have been possible if we’d had children. I’ve had the time, energy, and freedom to pursue my dream of being a writer along with all the opportunities it’s brought my way as well. Even now that I’ve reached middle age, my future feels full of possibility, and I wouldn’t trade that for the world.
I’m happy for my friends who are parents and love their lives, but I’m just as happy for the friends who chose something different for themselves. You only get one chance to make your life what you want it to be, and you owe it to yourself (and any future children you may have) to do what you know in your heart is right for you.