“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” — Franklin P. Jones
|Kids can give your life meaning||Having a baby is like buying a mystery box|
|Kids can motivate you to be a better person||Pregnancy and childbirth bear a large number of risks|
|Kids are part of your legacy||Kids are expensive|
|Your kids can become your friends for life||Everything is more difficult with a child|
|You’ll get to do kid-things without getting funny looks||Kids can put a lot of strain on your relationship with your partner|
|You’ll get to experience things for the first time again||When you have kids, your personality doesn’t automatically change|
Should I have kids?
Whether or not to have children of your own is among the most important and consequential decisions you might ever make. Luckily, it really is a conscious, personal choice you get to make for yourself. This is your life, and nobody else should have a say in how you live it. Not your parents, not your friends, not your religion, not society as a whole. Those people are not the ones who will raise your child, even if they promise to be there for you and help babysit when needed. And while having children is a topic that absolutely needs to be discussed with your partner (if you have one), both parties in a relationship need to make this very important decision for themselves and independent of what the other one wants. Separating from your partner, while often tough, is better than having a child you don’t actually want, only to please them.
With that said, let’s get one more thing straight: There are no objectively right or wrong answers when it comes to the question of whether or not you should have children. This is a highly subjective decision, and one that might not lead to perfect happiness, no matter what you choose. Still, you’ve made the right first step in seeking out information on the subject to make a more informed choice, and we hope that our list of pros and cons of having a child will help you make up your mind. Enjoy!
Pros of having kids
Kids can give your life meaning.
What am I even doing with my life? I go to work in the morning, spend eight hours doing something I don’t particularly enjoy, and then spend my evening watching TV or hanging out with friends. Is this really it? What’s the point of it all?
Plenty of people have these thoughts and thus search for something that will give their life meaning. And many people actually find it — in parenthood.
Having a child can undoubtedly give your life a new purpose. After all, parenthood means being fully responsible for raising, shaping and supporting a human being. Whatever you do, you’re not just doing it for yourself anymore, but for somebody else. From going to work to bring home money; to reducing your carbon footprint to save our planet — everything you do suddenly matters more, because you’re doing it to ensure your child’s current and future wellbeing. Research supports this idea, showing that, while having children doesn’t necessarily improve happiness or satisfaction, parents feel they have more of a reason for living, thanks to their kids.
Kids can motivate you to be a better person.
While this is absolutely not a given, having kids can be a big motivation for people to change for the better. There are plenty of stories of people who gave up excessive drinking, stopped smoking or let go of other unhealthy habits so they could be a good role model for their children. Some parents also report that having kids made them less self-involved, sometimes to the point of embracing true selflessness, or that it helped them open up emotionally. Kids can also help you rediscover your own appreciation for things you’ve been taking for granted since becoming an adult, like the beauty of nature, the wonders of our universe, or how incredibly cool dinosaurs are.
Kids are part of your legacy.
There are many different ways to make a lasting impact on our world and leave behind a legacy you can be proud of. You can write a book; work for a charity or financially support a good cause; build an empire; or even do something as simple as planting a tree. But another way to leave something of yours behind is to have kids. If you raise them right, your children may go on to make this world a better place and carry on your name as they do so. For many people, the thought that they will be remembered (at least for a generation or two) by their children also provides great comfort.
Your kids can become your friends for life.
Once your children are grown up, your relationship dynamic might change from parent-child to actual friends. Many people report that their children i.e. parents are, in fact, their best friends. They treasure the knowledge that there is somebody who knows them well and understands them, and feel secure in the knowledge that no matter what happens, there will always be someone who loves them and cares for them.
Keep in mind that this is, however, not a given. Many children actually go low- or no-contact with their parents once they’re old enough to do so. Whether or not your children will turn into friends for life largely depends on how well you do as a parent, but can also be affected by things out of your control. Your kids might move far away for new career opportunities, or they might simply not get along with you because of differing personalities or opinions.
You’ll get to do kid-things without getting funny looks.
Many adults genuinely enjoy doing things that are primarily designed for kids. If you love going to Disneyland, building castles out of Lego, or reading comic books, you might find that other adults judge you for these preferences — that is, until you have kids. Suddenly, you’ll be admired for being a great parent who bonds with their children over your shared interests. And, of course, your children will also benefit from spending time with you, doing things both of you enjoy.
You’ll get to experience things for the first time again.
When you have a child, you’ll get to share in their joy of making new experiences. Many things you’ve long been taking for granted and which have become mundane for you will be new and magical for your child. For many parents, this is as good (or even better) than making these experiences themselves, because as parents, they are often the ones who facilitate the experience. Parents get to teach their children how the world works and see the wonder in their eyes as they begin to understand things. They get to show their children how to swim, and marvel at them when they realize how great it feels to float on water. As a parent, you’ll also share in the joy of your kids discovering strange new animals, waiting excitedly for their first gifts from Santa Claus, and falling in love for the first time.
You’ll get to be a teacher.
Over the course of our lives, we all collect an incredible amount of knowledge and experiences. Many of us feel that the life lessons we’ve learned would be valuable for others, too, and want to pass them on. If this is you, having children will provide you with the opportunity to share your knowledge and become a teacher for the next generation, guiding them to make better decisions of their own and avoid many pitfalls.
Your kids may support you when you need them.
This is not a given, and you absolutely should not have children just because you’re hoping for a free caregiver when you’re old. However, many children naturally feel an obligation to help and support their parents when needed, and if you have a good relationship with your grown children, they might even do it gladly.
Kids can help you meet other people.
Antenatal classes. Kindergarten. School. Throughout your child’s life (and even before they are born), you’ll have plenty of opportunities to meet other parents and bond with them over your shared experiences and struggles. Even if you’re someone who’s rather shy or introverted, you’ll probably find it easy to start conversations with other parents, be it at your kid’s birthday party, at the playground, or during a school event. Many parents also form lifelong friendships with other parents thanks to their children being best friends.
It feels great to shop for your child.
Yes, buying things for yourself is nice, but buying gifts for somebody else can actually feel even better, especially if that someone is your own child. Giving a gift actually makes the pleasure and reward centers in our brain light up as our body releases endorphins, leading to what is known as ‘giver’s glow’. And as most expecting mothers will tell you, shopping for tiny baby socks or toys your child might treasure for many years is a beautiful experience.
Kids will keep you young.
Kids can help you stay open minded in regards to new technologies (and help you understand and use them) as well as other cultural phenomena that may otherwise pass you by. Through your children, you’ll be connected to the younger generation and stay up to date on new developments and trends.
Kids can be entertaining.
Kids can be absolutely hilarious, especially during certain stages of their development. They might make you laugh with made-up jokes that don’t quite work, funny comments and naive questions, or simply by being a little clumsy. But it’s not just about the laughs. Watching your child grow and develop can be marvelous, and you may find yourself turning into a semi-professional photographer simply because you now have a tiny model whose smiles you want to capture all the time.
Cons of having kids
Having a baby is like buying a mystery box.
“I’ve always wanted a child, but if I’d known that I would get this child, I would not have signed up for parenthood.” Such sentences are, unfortunately, not uncommon in anonymous online forums or therapy sessions with parents. The fact of the matter is, when you decide to have a child, you simply don’t know what you’re going to get. Birth defects affect 1 in every 33 babies born in the United States each year, and many of these defects are critical conditions that can cause lifelong challenges. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, but the fact is that even if you and your partner are perfectly healthy, you may end up with a very sick or severely disabled child which requires round the clock care and expensive treatments, maybe even for life.
Even if your kid is completely healthy and neurotypical, there is no guarantee that you’ll like them. Sure, you will instinctively love them, but that’s not the same as genuinely liking a person. Your child might develop personality traits which you find annoying or off-putting, or interests and opinions that completely contradict your own.
Pregnancy and childbirth bear a large number of risks.
Thanks to medical advancements, pregnancy and childbirth have become much safer over the last several decades, but there are still a lot of risks associated with having a child. In the US, around 700 women die each year as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications.
During pregnancy, you or your partner may experience high blood pressure; preeclampsia; severe, persistent nausea; anemia; and many other health issues. During delivery, you or your partner might suffer from excessive bleeding, perineal lacerations and tears, or any number of possible complications. And even if the person giving birth make it through delivery, their body may never be the same afterwards.
And none of these points even touches upon the normal changes the body will go through. Many women’s bodies never return to the way they looked before carrying a child. Stretch marks, loose skin, scar tissue and sagging breasts may not endanger your physical health, but many women struggle to accept this new look.
Kids are expensive.
In many places, the cost of having children has increased exponentially over the past few decades. As of 2015, American parents spend, on average, US $233,610 on child costs from birth until the age of 17, not including college. Let that number sink in for a second.
Granted, in the US, this number is particularly high because it includes healthcare related costs, such as the amount parents have to pay for the delivery of their baby. But even in countries such as Germany, where social healthcare greatly reduces the financial burden associated with medical expenses, parents still pay around €126,000 on average for a child until it turns 18, and there is no guarantee that your child won’t still need some financial help as an adult. Due to the bad economy, more and more young adults are forced to continue living with their parents and relying on their help for years after finishing school.
Everything is more difficult with a child.
Going to the store real quick to buy a few items is usually a simple and quick affair, but not with a toddler. Getting them dressed (Where are your shoes?!) and into the car seat (Why are you crying?) can take forever, and once you make it to the store, you might not be able to focus on your shopping list because your child is having a complete meltdown for some reason, drawing judgmental looks from the people around you.
Of course, it’s not just these small, everyday things that become more difficult once you have kids. Think about how much hassle it is to move into a new apartment, or how stressful it can be to start a new job. Now imagine having to do it while being fully responsible for a child who doesn’t understand that their parent is busy right now and is demanding attention, or else.
Worse, once you have a child with your partner, you are, essentially, forever connected to them through your child. Getting out of a bad relationship is hardly ever easy, but once you bring a child into the mix, you can’t just walk away, no matter how bad things get. Your partner has rights, too, and all too often parents find themselves in front of a judge, fighting over custody or alimony. In some countries, even grandparents have certain rights. That mother-in-law who always made your life hell? A divorce might not get her out of your life if she decides to sue you for visitation rights.
Kids can put a lot of strain on your relationship with your partner.
Many people falsely believe that a child will somehow improve or strengthen the relationship with their romantic partner. However, studies show that the opposite is often the case. Having kids tends to put a lot of strain on a couple’s relationship, with 40-70% of couples reporting a huge amount of stress in their relationship after a baby is born. Worse, around 30% of couples break up after their first child is born.
When you have kids, your personality doesn’t automatically change.
This is something a lot of people underestimate because they’re constantly told that “it’s different when they’re your own” or “when you’re a parent, you’ll see this differently.” Unfortunately, this isn’t entirely true.
Think about the traits that really define you. Maybe you’re an introvert who’s easily overwhelmed by noise or people. Maybe you suffer from depression or mood swings. Maybe you’re a generally impatient person who is quick to anger; or maybe you’re just somebody who really needs a clean and tidy home to be comfortable.
Here’s the thing: None of your personality traits automatically change when you have a child. The only thing that does change (for most people, anyway), is that they now feel an incredibly intense love for this little human they’ve brought into the world, and the need to make this child happy. So what happens when your child needs your undivided attention to be happy, but all you want to do is curl up on the sofa for a few hours and read your book in peace? What if your child needs you to be patient and understanding in order to thrive, but you’re constantly annoyed with them and can’t help but lash out?
Many parents report struggling with these situations on a daily basis and feeling intense guilt over their inability to be the perfect parent to their children. Many of them kind of knew that they didn’t have the typical parent personality, but thought this would magically change as soon as they had children of their own.
So before you bring a child into your home, take a good hard look at yourself. Think about what your everyday life looks like, and what it will look like once you have a child. Don’t focus on the pretty Kodak moments with your family, but the daily grind. And then ask yourself whether this is really something you want and can handle.
If you’re an unhappy or regretful parent, it’s very difficult to change anything.
Once you’ve brought a child into this world, it’s incredibly difficult to change your situation should you find yourself unhappy with your choice. You might think that this is an unlikely scenario, since all parents instinctively love their children, and surely, the same thing would be true for you. But the truth is that your instinctive love for your child doesn’t automatically guarantee that you’ll be happy once you have one. It happens to a lot of parents — a lot more than you probably think. This is because admitting that you’re unhappy, overwhelmed or regretful in regards to your children is a huge taboo topic in our society. And a lot of parents don’t even want to admit it to themselves, much less the people around them, for fear of being judged.
Once you have a child, you are fully responsible for them, no matter how burned out or unhappy you are. Yes, it’s possible to give a child up for adoption, but the stigma of giving up your child (and the worry about how this might affect the child) is so big that very few parents actually do it.
On the other hand, a childfree person can quite easily change their mind at any point in time as long as they are fertile and haven’t taken permanent measures to make biological children impossible. And even then, there is always the option to adopt or foster a child should they wish it.