How Did You Decide When (or If) to Have Kids?


The time has come in my life when several of my friends have started to become…parents. Even typing that sentence feels odd because it’s a reminder to myself that I, too, could very well have a baby at this stage. I’m an adult. I’ve been married for nearly five years. According to society, that would be the practical next step, right? Yet here I am, intractably ambivalent about motherhood.

It’s not that I don’t want a baby. Or that I (100 percent) do, at least not right now anyway. It’s that I feel stuck in the middle. Some days, I love daydreaming with my husband about what our future-family might be like. And yet other days I simply cannot imagine what it would be like to be the primary caregiver of another human. Especially since I can barely keep the few plants we have alive.

So, in all seriousness, how do you decide whether to have kids? And if you do decide to embark down the path of parenthood, how do you know when you’re ready?

As a lifelong worrier and self-proclaimed over-thinker, I oftentimes worry that my hesitations are a sign. So many people, such as my younger sister, know that they want kids. Other women I’ve spoken to about this very subject described a deep-down urge they felt when wanting to get pregnant. I’ve never had this urge. No tingling sensation, no baby fever, nada. Why have I never had this urge? Should I be concerned that I’ve never had these maternal twinges and ticks? Are these necessary prerequisites? Will these desires develop with age?

Like I said, I tend to overthink, a lot. But then again, deciding when (and if) to have kids is a huge life decision, and in my opinion, one that should not be taken lightly. I don’t want to procreate just so I won’t eventually regret not procreating. Yet, I also don’t want to rush into parenting if I’m not entirely ready either. Will I ever be? Is anyone ever wholeheartedly ready?

I’ll admit, a good chunk of my reluctance, I think, stems from fear. I’m scared of what it will be like to give up my current child-free freedom. I’m scared of how parenting might affect my relationship with my husband. I’m scared of how parenting might affect me, as an individual, and how it will affect my career. These might sound like selfish thoughts, but I’d be lying if I said they didn’t swim through my mind.

There’s also the fear of finally feeling ready to have a baby only to find out that, for some reason or another, I can’t have a baby. I know many of us have that fear. Because I’ve always had irregular periods, part of me wonders if deep down my mind is trying to protect my heart from that fact by masking it with all these hesitations. (See what I mean about overthinking?)  

All this being said, I’d love to now turn it over to you. If you have children, how did you know you were ready? When did you know? Did you ever experience baby fever? And if you don’t have kids, are you hoping/planning to one day have them? Or have you made the decision not to have kids? I’d love to get your insight on this very personal topic.

BY Kathryn - March 25, 2019

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March 25, 2019 10:09 am

Kathryn, I am in exactly the same situation as you. I too have never felt the “omg I wanna baby” sensation. I know it’s because I’m afraid: of things like how much they cost (the healthcare alone!), of the dramatic changes, of the headlines that detail how many people STILL die from childbirth related complications. I’m also fully aware that the old “clock” is ticking. Right now I can just use “we haven’t been married long, we haven’t even had a proper honeymoon” as a nice excuse, but once that’s happened, then what? I don’t know, so I’m going to… Read more »

March 25, 2019 10:23 am

I love talking (/reading/writing) about this! I have always had a desire to be a mother. And I’m really glad I do, because I am an overthinker in every other part of my life, and motherhood is the only thing about which I’ve ever been truly sure. However! I’m 31, coming up on 5 years of marriage, and my partner and I plan on trying to get pregnant this year. Now that it is a Real Actual Plan, I’m nervous! I know it will really change my life, and while I feel sure it will be worth it, I worry… Read more »

March 25, 2019 12:00 pm

It was so surreal to read this – I kept thinking, “Did they somehow find my journal?” because I literally worry about every single thing you describe. (Right down to how long you’ve been married – coming up on 5 years!) It doesn’t help that I *do not* do well with life-changing, permanent decisions, so I just feel paralyzed. I still have student loan debt and PCOS, so part of me is convinced that I won’t be able to get pregnant either way. (Which is its own Catch-22 – it takes the decision making out of my hands but what… Read more »

March 25, 2019 12:14 pm

I got married at 21 and knew that I wasn’t ready to be responsible for another human for at least 18 years. Hubby was ready far sooner than I was. My oldest is 26 now and the five years we waited to start a family is just a distant memory. I loved being a Mom, there sure were tough times too though, but the good outweighed the bad and they all made me into who I am today. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

March 25, 2019 1:32 pm

Hello! I am a solo parent of a child I adopted at birth through domestic adoption. She is an absolute dream come true. I went through phases of knowing I’d have a full life without being a parent, however, I’ve known since I was a child that I specifically wanted to adopt. When it’s hard, I have no doubt I made the right decision because if I had let fear stand in my way I would have recognized myself as the “me” I am and want to be. I often use this silly example – 2 people can like pizza-… Read more »

March 30, 2019 2:15 pm
Reply to  Kathryn

Kathryn- I appreciate your reply and wish you the same! I know you will find the same peace. No matter what it looks like. Xo

March 25, 2019 1:56 pm

I kept overthinking it too, and then one month said screw it let’s just try – because I didn’t think I’d ever actually feel ready. Then, when I didn’t test positive on the first early test and I was super disappointed, I realized that my heart wanted it more than I had known. Sometimes you don’t know what you want until the reality of it is taken away. If you’re afraid you can’t have kids, perhaps that means you want them more than you realize? I don’t really have great answers for you, just know you’re not alone, it’s definitely… Read more »

March 25, 2019 3:08 pm

Kathryn, just want to say that your hesitations on having kids (career, relationship with your spouse, freedom) are NOT selfish. These are valid reasons to consider before having kids. I think our society has convinced all women that if they don’t want to have children or even have reservations about it, we’re ultimately selfish and self-absorbed individuals. This is just not true. You do you, and whether or not you decide to have kids, just make sure you feel content with your decision : ) I may be biased, because I’ve known from a young age that I never wanted… Read more »

Kelly Drummond
March 26, 2019 1:21 pm
Reply to  Marie

yes yes yes to this!. You AREN’T selfish for not wanting kids (if thats what you decide you feel). Anyone that makes you feel that way is being selfish.

March 25, 2019 3:26 pm

Hi Kathryn! It’s great to hear from someone that is also wholly uncertain of where they fall on this topic. I’m so envious of folks that know for sure whether they do or do not aspire to parenthood. I’m in my early 30s, and in late 2017 my husband and I were continuously grappling with what we wanted (it’s tough to be married to someone as uncertain as yourself hah), and we decided we probably would end up wanting a child someday and because of our ages, we went for it. I became pregnant quickly, and I thought a loving… Read more »

March 25, 2019 4:19 pm

When I was waffling on this choice I heard a podcast where the guest said, “There are three buckets: the women who want to be mothers, the women who like kids but are meant to be aunts, and the women who shouldn’t get within 10 yards of children. It’s imperative to choose the right bucket, otherwise the consequence could be tragic.” And it was in that instant I knew exactly what was right for me, and have literally never given it a second thought. Phew! Good luck!

March 25, 2019 4:57 pm

I never had the maternal twinges or urges;I shared all of your hesitations and fears. But when my husband and I envisioned our future many years down the road, we could see our current life without kids, but we both imagined grandkids, bustling holidays, etc. At 29 it looked like my window for easily conceiving might be closing, so we started trying and I had my first right at 30. Even at delivery it felt surreal and I couldn’t comprehend that I was a parent. I never had an “aha moment”, and often felt like I did before a big… Read more »

March 25, 2019 5:06 pm

There’s no right or wrong answer. I have two kids, and we’re rapidly approaching the empty nest days, which I’m looking forward to. All your concerns are valid and real. If you’re in doubt, don’t do it. Maybe you’ll be ready one day, maybe not. It’s no one’s business but your own.

March 25, 2019 5:38 pm

This was a well-written article, not to mention revealing a vulnerability and truthfulness about the subject that didn’t diminish the value of anyone’s life choices. As a stay-at-home mom, I appreciate it. As for how I knew I wanted a child, I have actually experienced both sensations. With my first, I *knew* the time was right. I wanted a baby, and partially because of being the oldest of a very large family, felt very confident and competent in caring for a small human. Call it maternal urges or baby fever, I had it bad. With my second baby, I suddenly… Read more »

March 26, 2019 11:48 am

Kathryn, Your feelings are completely normal in my opinion. At 32 after my husband and I were the main support system to his grandma in hospice, we had a vulnerable realization that we weren’t in our twenties any more and that there is more to life than what we had in that very real life moment. I wouldn’t say that we felt empty with our busy lives and two senior dogs – but yet we just wondered if we would again look at each other in 5-6 years and then it would be too late or we would be that… Read more »

March 27, 2019 6:47 am

I spent a lot of time in your situation. Both my husband and I were ambivalent for many years, and could have been happy, I think, with either choice. To me, it was never about just “knowing,” it was a decision that I wanted to make somewhat rationally, taking into consideration the trade-offs of either route. The hard thing about that is while I had plenty of experience not being a mother, I knew there were so many things about being a parent I couldn’t know before I got there, making it impossible to compare. Last year, when time was… Read more »

March 27, 2019 8:49 am

I think, so many people jump into having kids without sitting down to think about it (raises hand) so all of the questioning and thinking is important! For me, having a BABY felt overwhelming, but I knew I wanted to raise kids, and also knew that the baby stage is really so short. My son is 2.5 and my second is due in September. I love watching my kid grow up, and it really wasn’t until he was over 2 that I felt like I really started to fall in love with him and REALLY loved being a mother. I… Read more »

Marie Lamensch
March 31, 2019 3:36 pm

I am 35 years old and have anorexia so I haven’t had my periods in 8 years. My hormones are also very low and in my current state, I also don’t and can’t have a partner. This means that I can’t have children at the moment. I have always really enjoy kids. My brother’s wife is is pregnant and will give birth in two months and I am absolutely overjoyed. Friends tell me that I have a natural thing with kids, particularly babies. However, I’m really not sure I want kids of my own. I’m a very independent woman and… Read more »

April 3, 2019 9:25 am

I’m 39. Married for 14 years. And I feel like I’m in this teeny tiny minority of women who don’t have and never seriously considered having children. My husband and I talked about it before and after we got married, but as the years passed he became more and more determined that he didn’t want to have children. I’ve never had a twinge of baby fever. I don’t like holding babies. I don’t like watching other people’s kids. I don’t dislike kids, but I definitely only enjoy being around those children who are well-behaved and respectful. We are grateful that… Read more »

April 4, 2019 8:29 am

I definitely relate to this. I’ve never had any kind of mothering instinct or urge, but after 2 abortions when I was in my early 20s, I once again became pregnant at 30 with my partner of only 1 year. I’ve always struggled with birth control options as I’m sensitive to synthetic hormones; and I’d tried tried the IUD, Oral contraceptives, depot and the patch to no success. We’d mostly been ‘careful’ using condos and monitoring my cycle/ovulation period. I don’t know what happened the month I got pregnant — we’d mostly been using protection and had completely avoided my… Read more »

Tamaryn L
April 22, 2019 11:35 am

Hi Kathryn I can’t tell you how much time I’ve spent searching the web for blogs on information on being hesitant for having kids and the life after kids. Most blogs are all so surreal that I think they have to be fake. My husband and I started dating in high school and after 7 years we got married and are now coming up to our 6 years anniversary – 13 years together. From when we strted dating I was already pen about if this worked out I do not want kids so he had to decided weather he wanted… Read more »

May 2, 2019 11:09 am

I relate to this so much! In my early 20’s I was so certain that I wanted children. Now at 30, I have really come to love and appreciate my freedom and independence, and am questioning whether or not I see parenting and having a family in my ideal future. I came across this advice column post by Cheryl Strayed recently on the same topic. Working through the writing/meditative prompts she presents helped me *immensely* in coming closer to some clarity on what I want for my future. I highly recommend giving it a read for anyone else who is… Read more »

May 2, 2019 11:11 am

Of course I forgot to post the link to the column itself… whoops! Here it is:

July 15, 2021 9:46 pm

I like to say “there is never a perfect time for kids, but almost any time can be made a good time.”

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