‘Routine’ is what keeps most content. The daily schedule is a form of it, and it keeps us settled. Most people have relatively similar life choices that are pre-approved by society – school, college, job, marriage, children, and grandchildren. A life-long routine, perhaps. But in the newest rung of society, there is an increasing number of people who find that they want a different life for themselves. Of the several small and big changes that people choose to make in their lives, one of the major ones is choosing not to have children.
The realization that you do not want to have children can come with a lot of confusion, concern and some anxiety. At first, you tend to repeatedly doubt yourself and question whether this is really what you desire. You worry and wonder about the reasons behind your choice. In time there is a realisation that there are a lot of factors to consider when making such an important decision.
Understanding Your Choice Of Not Having Children:
Above all, becoming a parent is an overwhelming emotional experience that has its ups and downs. Not all are able to cope with the constant emotional involvement. You may love spending time with your nieces and nephews, but having your own children just may not be what you want. Either way, it is recommended to give the thought some time rather than get frustrated and make a hasty choice. It would help to discuss these feelings and reasons with a confidante who would be able to focus more on the motive rather than the choice, and someone who would not directly be affected by your decision.
Reactions To Not Having Children:
While making a decision about whether or not to have children, it would help to be aware of the possible reactions you might face.
- Family members, especially parents, are more likely to show a stronger reaction and possibly even an objection. For them, it is difficult to accept that you do not want children because it affects their lives as well. They would need time and reasons to come to terms with your decision against parenthood.
- If you are in a relationship, you may be worried about discussing this with your partner and what it would mean for your long-term relationship. You could be required to weigh your decision against your relationship. Your partner may or may not want children or may not know how he or she feels about it yet.
- As a collectivist society, people feel afraid when someone chooses to do something different that goes against their cultural expectations. They do not know what those changes will mean for them. A decision like this one is certain to elicit several reactions including questions, doubts, support of some and disapproval of others.
Coping With Emotions When Choosing Not To Have Children:
Feelings of anxiety are a natural reaction to the stress you may experience when you have to tell people that you do not want children. Anxiety is felt when, for an uncertain outcome, we exaggerate the possibility of the negative outcome. It would help reduce the anxiety by realistically assessing what is the likelihood of the outcome being a negative one – how likely is it that nobody will support or understand you? It might be difficult for others to accept your reasons but it is not impossible. This also means that both negative and positive reactions can be expected when choosing not to have children, and it would be beneficial to be prepared for both.
When your close ones do not support your decision against having children inspite of hearing your reasons you may feel angry and frustrated. Even when anger may be justified, acting on it often leads to more harm than good. It would help to validate the anger, and release it by expressing how you feel in that situation through words without resorting to blame. It would also help to distract yourself from the situation, and engage in activities that you enjoy so that you can experience some relief from the anger. You can go for a run, listen to some music, draw, paint or write as they all provide cathartic effects.
People choosing not to have children are sometimes considered selfish. Such reactions from people may make you feel ashamed and uncomfortable. People choose to become parents because they want to experience the joys of parenthood, be responsible for another human being, want someone to carry on their legacy, etc. Similarly, you would be doing the same by choosing something you want for yourself – not being selfish but acting in self-interest.
Guilt is feeling bad for doing something you feel is wrong. You may feel that you have wronged your parents by taking away the chance from them of becoming grandparents. You can accept that this is one of the consequences of your choice and apologize to your parents for it. This will help you understand and empathize with them, and simultaneously still be aware that you want something different.
Hurt is often felt when our expectations of a relationship are not met. You may experience hurt if your partner chooses to have children. Resisting hurt or dwelling on it could lead to more distress. It would be helpful to accept that wanting different things does not mean you both care less about each other. By doing so, you would be able to address these differences and together work out a way for you both to deal with them. You may feel upset that your choices do not match, but you are less likely to feel unhinged.
These emotions would help you explore the consequences you could face and the adjustments you could be required to make; some that you may not have considered before. It is also helpful to keep in mind that, realistically, there will always be a probability that you may change your decision. It may be a small chance, but by keeping that in mind, you can be prepared to deal with the emotions should you change your decision later and accept and agree that a possibility exists for this change.
When you know you are secure with your decision, you will be required to be patient and explain why this decision would be better for you. Simultaneously, you will need to deal with the feelings that emerge and develop a way of coping with them. If you decide to change your mind for your family or your partner, try to ensure that you are being true to yourself in the process. People who want to have children and those who do not both have their reasons for doing so and both are equally legitimate. It is about asking yourself which choice means more to you and doing that.
“Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.” – Hardy D. Jackson
Do share with us what you feel about making such decisions, and what your experiences have been like
Image Credit: mrhayata
Post contributed by: Naisha Pandya
Naisha is a Clinical Psychologist who interned at Inner Space in 2014.