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Should I Have Children?

Photograph by Twenty20

Parenthood isn't for everyone. As I get older, I realize this thing we do called parenting—the sacrifice, the confusion, the endless time and the overwhelming love that takes over— shouldn't be something people need to do or think they have to do.

I hear a lot of women talk about needing to have babies, But it honestly scares me to think of them with kids. Does this mean that being selfish, self-obsessed and overly body conscious negates you from ever having kids? No. But if you are on the fence about having kids, ask yourself the following questions before taking the next step:

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1. Do you even like kids?

This might seem like a silly question, but truth is, if you are an adult that goes to the adult-only side of the pool, is annoyed by kids at restaurants or could care less about a fat and happy 6-month-old in a stroller passing by, your instincts may be telling you something. When you go on vacation, you don't choose a destination that makes you cringe do you? Well, having children is a forever change—not just a week long trip.

2. Do you have support?

Do you have a network of others on which you can lean? In your family picture, is your family in the picture? Is there a life partner, in-laws, good friends, siblings or cousins who can help you when parenting has you on your knees? You will find moments, many of them, in fact, when you must ask for help. Or when you will need help. Having another person or, better yet, a group of people who are willing to help you parent is important— and I'm not talking about a nanny.

You need people who share similar values and who can help solve parenting problems. You may need a supporter who will help you clean up vomit at 2 a.m. The old saying, "It takes a village" is true. Yes, you can do it on your own. But, let's be honest, no one ever wants to.

3. Will you stick with it, even if your child is not who you thought he or would be?

Are you prepared for a child with special needs who may need lifelong care, or a child who wants to change their sexual identity or preference? Can you still love a teenager when they scream at you with words of hate and anger? The question is: can you love a child, any child, unconditionally and without judgment? Can you always be their soft place to land?

If you envision parenting as a way to raise a mini-me, or to have someone you can have coffee with when you are old, think again. The children we parent are their own human beings, and, while our jobs are to guide and love them, you cannot make them who they are not. We parents must love them forever for who they are, whether we like it—them—or not.

4. Are you willing to love something beyond yourself so deeply that nothing else matters?

Real love hurts. And the love you realize when you really want to be a mother or father is sometimes so big in the heart it can physically ache—with happiness, with sadness and more.

Real love that you can experience during parenting is also rooted in sacrifice in all of its forms. You think about your children every minute of every day, and will literally die for them. If there is no room in your heart or your schedule for that kind of love and that kind of commitment, do not pass go.

5. If, after asking yourself these questions you are still conflicted about having kids ...

The answer you are probably seeking is—don't do it. Trust and own that truth and accept it. Don't let anyone change your mind. Parenting is the most amazing experience for some people, but not for all.

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The worst parents are the ones who were never all-in to begin with. You might be the person who likes the adults-only pool or would rather travel the world instead of being a traveling soccer mom, and that is OK. Parenthood isn't for everyone. And no one said it should ever be.

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