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Carolyn Hax: Does ambivalence about parenthood mean not having kids?

by ballyhooglobal.com
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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Over the years of Hax chats and columns, I’ve gotten the message that unless both members of a couple are enthusiastic about having a child, they should not have a child. That makes sense. But does that mean there’s no room for ambivalence?

My spouse definitely wants to become a parent. I, meanwhile, could see myself having a happy and fulfilled life either way.

I’m scared of the idea of having a kid — but I’m scared of any big change, and always have been. I’ve never run excitedly into the unknown. I tend to drag myself into the unknown, flinching, then I generally end up enjoying where I am once I get there.

The people who know me well say I’d be a good parent. I like kids. If I want a chance at having my own, then the time to decide is very soon. Does my hesitation mean I shouldn’t?

Ambivalent: Not necessarily. Having kids is too big a commitment with too much drudgery and too many wrenching decisions and variable outcomes to be captured only by smiley emojis.

The whole point of the both-on-board message is that children need parents who are all in. That can include people mature enough to leave past doubts behind upon becoming parents. So that’s what you need to ask yourself: Once you got past your usual hemmings and hawings, would you be all in? Would you want you as a parent?

If there’s doubt there, then you’re out.

If you know yourself to be a high performer when someone is counting on you, then I wouldn’t be afraid of some ambivalence, or at least of making the decision on all the merits knowing there are a few things in the “cons” column. Feelings are complicated; showing up is not.

Re: Kids: I know more than one woman who was ambivalent, and now regrets having kids. It’s not something we can ever say out loud. But it’s real.

Anonymous: You can say it out loud here because it’s anonymous. Many do. There’s no denying some hard outcomes, too, even for people who were 100 percent.

Other readers’ thoughts:

· I was extremely ambivalent about having children, and constantly wondered why I didn’t have “aching ovaries” like people said I would. I ended up concluding that no decision would make or break me, because I would make the best out of whatever hand I was dealt. That helped me feel less pressured about the decision.

· My husband was all in on parenthood, but for me, the drawbacks were so concrete — the exhaustion! the uncertainty! the expense! Yet the love I might feel for a hypothetical little squish was so abstract. I eventually found the confidence in myself and my support system to take the plunge, and I am so glad I did.

To be clear, I would never give “Just go for it, it’ll be great!” as blanket advice. Just sharing my testimony as a fellow overthinker who took the leap.

· I too was ambivalent, and don’t have a happy story. I got pregnant accidentally in grad school and became a single mom, and my child has significant special needs that make it unlikely they will ever live independently. It’s really, really hard — there was no way to predict or test for them. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t.

· I don’t see this as ambivalence: “I could see myself having a happy and fulfilled life either way.” I see it as being open to possibilities. It seems like a good attitude to have about many things in life.

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