Baby Decision Mind Games

Sometimes when I have trouble making a decision, I play out in my head what it would be like to tell my family and friends my plans, looking at what happens with both options. I can glean quite a bit of information about what I should do based on how I imagine them reacting and how I feel about telling them. So for the first time, I finally thought through what it would be like to tell people about our final decision regarding the kids issue. Just to see if the true answer would reveal itself. Because I’m naively hopeful like that.

Announcing that we were going bite the baby bullet and go for it would bring about some rather predictable responses. Loads of congratulations. A few people in shock, but pleasantly so. Lots of ladies eager to convince me I’ve made the right choice, offering up boxes of tattered onesies and toys they no longer have any use for. The grandparents-to-be in ecstasy, wondering if they can stop referring to Jacques and Olivia as the grandcats now that we’re having “real” kids. Everyone soothing me, saying it’s going to be easier than I thought and how it’ll be the greatest thing ever. Our friends already plotting arranged marriages between our hypothetical little ones. Roughly 8,000 clicks of the “Like” button on our Facebook status announcing the happy news. And then there would be me, feeling a bit queasy about the whole thing, but strangely buoyed by all these good tidings. Feeling that something was ringing false here, but everyone else seems to think all is well like the start of some bad sci-fi movie.

Then I thought through the Childfree route and sadly realized it was unlikely that even one person would utter the words “Congratulations!” if we said we’d decided not to have kids.  We’d get the requisite number of BINGO comments like “well, you’ve still got time to change your mind.” We would, of course, be a big disappointment to both sets of parents, who would say things like, “We just want you to be happy” with meek smiles. And of course they do, but the implication is there that they don’t believe this is what’s going to do the trick. Our friends who are new parents might have flashes of jealousy with regards to sleep and money, but they’d quickly be overshadowed by the sobering thought that we’d never experience the joy they’ve felt recently. In fact, the best I could probably hope for would be my therapist friends saying, “Well, I know you’ve given this a lot of thought, so I’m sure you’re doing what’s best for you.” But would they be happy for us, excited? I don’t think so. And as for me, I’d be doing my defense mechanism thing where I’d suspect I’m somehow in the wrong and therefore feel the need to blather on and on about my rationale and provide evidence for how we arrived at this answer.

Why is the decision to have a child met with such joyous approval, but the decision to pursue a different sort of life (of travel, dedication to work/volunteering, meeting personal goals and staying in closer contact with family and friends) met with quiet disappointment, begrudging acceptance, or at best, apathy? I try not to get too hung up over what other people think with regards to just about anything I do with my life, but you’d be a bit of a narcissist to completely disregard an overwhelming majority of people displeased with a major life decision you’ve made. It’s a little like everyone telling you your fiancé is a complete jerk and then marrying him anyway. Could you even possibly be happy at that wedding, knowing that everyone thinks you’re making a whopping mistake? If you can, does that make you delusional, egotistical or just wildly confident in your choices? (or simply a drunk?)

Embarking on the Childfree life is a little like going into that wedding. The chips are stacked against you a bit, but you can make it through if you really believe you know yourself (and who or what will make you happy) and really have chosen the partner who’s right for you. The problem is that I’m not too sure what will make me happy in the long run with regards to parenthood (or lack thereof), so it’s hard to dive into either choice with any level of confidence. And I get the sense that I’m going to need that confidence to defend our decision if we decide to go permanently Childfree. Not necessarily to anyone else, but to myself.

It’s easy to feel good about choosing to be a parent because nearly everyone backs you up and congratulates the heck out of you. Why does it have to be so much harder to feel supported in the decision to go Childfree?

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