How do I know if I want kids?

Do you feel ambivalent about motherhood? I always have and I've discovered I'm not alone. Ambivalence has also affected my love life. So how can we find our answers? And how can we live with the not knowing?

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May 01, 2019
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Until I began coaching and speaking to women who are ambivalent about having children, I thought it was just me.

I didn't hear my voice reflected back in the media. I rarely read about women who were unsure about motherhood, torn between having children and remaining childfree. I mostly came across articles about women on the two extremes - besotted with their children or devastated after many rounds of failed IVF.

What about the shades of grey? What about those of us who are uncertain or who are pulled strongly in two different directions? What about those of us who never tried to have children or who don't know whether we want to try?

It turns out that we are many, as I discovered when I wrote an article for the Guardian this week about how I feel grief and relief that I've never had children.

Comments on the article, social media posts and a flood of emails showed me that many other women and men experience ambivalence, both non-parents and those who have become parents. 

Ambivalence, like sitting on a fence for a long time, can be a painful place to be.

So how can we connect to our truth? And how can we live with the not knowing, if we don't have our answers yet?

Firstly, as I say to my coaching clients and on all my courses and retreats, the good news is you have your answers.

Yes, you have your answers. Deep inside.

You may benefit from a guide, from a coach, to help you to find those answers, but ultimately you have them.

We all do.

The key is to spend time with ourselves, to spend time with our feelings, and to spend time getting to know our dreams. The key is to step inside (which is the title of Ch 1 of my book, which you can download for free here, and of my love course).

What do we really want for our lives? How do we envisage our futures? What are our values? What are our red lines and what would we compromise on?

Importantly, what are we afraid of? Because where there's indecision, there's probably fear.

With motherhood, on the one hand we might be afraid that we won't cope or that we'll feel trapped. On the other, we might be scared to acknowledge we don't want children for fear of what others will think. We might have lots of other fears.

Write those fears down. Get them down on paper. Are they realistic? Are they present fears that belong to our lives today, or do they come from our past, from our childhoods, from the messages we picked up?

If we can't find our answers yet, we need to be gentle with ourselves, forgiving of ourselves.

It's OK not to know.

If we do have our answers, it's time to make courageous choices and to take intentional actions, remembering that if we struggle with ambivalence, we may never feel totally sure that we're taking the right path.

Ambivalent about love

I know this from experience. Ambivalence shows up in all areas of my life, from shoe shopping to holidays, so it's no surprise that I find big decisions excruciating, such as deciding whether to try for children or choosing who to love and marry.

For years, my ambivalence kept me single. It kept me out of committed, intimate relationships.

I kept thinking the grass was always greener. I kept heading off in search of someone else. Once I understood I was scared of commitment, terrified of giving my heart to someone else in case I felt trapped or in case I got hurt, I could face my ambivalence, stop the push-pull cycle in relationships and fall in love.

If we're ambivalent, not only will we struggle to make decisions but we'll probably second guess them afterwards. Should I have become a mum? Is this the right man for me? Should I have bought the brown shoes or the black?

If we know this is one of our patterns - if we're self-aware - we can manage it.

I've had to train myself not to look at the shoes I could have bought after I've made the choice; to forget about the house we didn't get and love the one we live in now; to try to let go of any questions over whether I should have had kids (not easy but I'm working on it); and to embrace my lovely relationship wholeheartedly, no looking back.

When we keep questioning our choices, we waste time and energy and we harm ourselves. We rob ourselves of joy.

But as with any deep inner work, it's the journey not the destination.

It's progress, not perfection.

As I wrote in my last post for Psychologies, if we can be grateful for where we are and embrace 'what is' while letting go of 'what if,' we'll be able to move forwards in peace and with contentment and to enjoy our lives today, rather than fantasise about how they could be.


***Upcoming Events***

Is the grass greener? Understanding Commitment. Free Facebook Live workshop on commitment in relationships, today at 1 pm, or watch the recording afterwards on my Facebook page.

How to Fall in Love Five-Week Course with 1:1 and group coaching. Starts May 6. Only 10 spaces so please sign up soon. Special offer: free signed copy of my book.

How to Fall in Love Spain Retreat, May 11-18, Cortijo Romero, Andalucia. A few places left!

Love Yourself, Love Your Body, Love Your Life Find Love, Turkey Retreat with Yoga, Oct 7-14, Spectrum.


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Katherine Baldwin

Midlife Mentor, Dating & Relationships Coach, Author of 'How to Fall in Love'

I work with women and men who are ready to change their lives or careers and with those who want to find love. I guide people on a journey of inner transformation, similar to the journey I've been on. I know how it feels to be stuck in life and to be reluctantly single, and I know what it takes to change and find love. My book 'How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart' describes how I went from being a single woman, living in London, bored with my work and longing for a more fulfilling life to a woman in love, engaged to be married, living on the Dorset coast and doing work that makes my heart sing. I have been in recovery from an eating disorder, workaholism and dysfunctional relationship patterns for 14 years, during which time I've mentored and coached others on their journey to a healthier, happier life. I have a Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy Skills from the Westminster Pastoral Foundation. In my former life as a news journalist, I reported for Reuters from the Houses of Parliament and travelled with the prime minister. I climbed high but despite my external success, I felt empty inside. Since then, I've turned my life upside down in the best possible way. I work 1-2-1 and in groups, run workshops, courses and seaside retreats. I write for the national media and have appeared on radio and TV, most recently on Woman's Hour. I also speak to business leaders, students and school children about the importance of authenticity and of sharing our internal battles. I'm an advocate of wholehearted living. I do my best to walk the walk.

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