happy ethnic family resting in bed with little dog

Should You Have Kids? (5 Questions to Ask Before Making This Big Decision)

You are probably a millennial (or Gen Z) who is asking themselves, “should you have kids?”. With bigger questions looming like “is global warming going to destroy the planet?” and “will I ever pay off my student loans?”, having the responsibility of kids is getting pushed much further down the list of things you need to figure out by time you’re 30.

As many of us are getting a later start on starting a family, we are realizing we have a little more life experience and are more aware of the nuances of family planning. Getting married at 20 and having 4 kids by 30 is no longer the norm. A 25 year old, fully developed brain can see that much more clearly.

I am a mom first and foremost. It is the most important role in my busy life and the one that brings the most satisfaction, happiness, and stress. Yes, stress is one of the top 3 emotions felt as a mom. But that is for a very good reason. Being a parent is like visiting Disneyland everyday.

This is good news for those that love Disneyland. If you are a proud annual pass holder, you are probably also someone who has always wanted a whole minivan full of kiddos.

photo of fireworks display during evening over castle kids at Disneyland
Photo by Zichuan Han on Pexels.com

You Live for Fleeting Moments of Unimaginable Joy

If you have ever been to Disneyland, you know that Disneyland is 80% planning, waiting in line, and overspending, while only 20% fun & magical. You may spend weeks or even months planning out an ideal trip. It’s the most magical place on earth, so why wouldn’t you want to go? But the day of, after spending an arm & a leg on tickets (hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. for those non-Californians) you find yourself cramped in a car taking a rather long drive through LA traffic, which feels even longer when the last mile takes 20 minutes just to enter the parking lot. Then takes another 30 minutes to find parking, wait in line, take a tram ride, and wait in line some more. Finally there’s that ever rewarding, awestruck feeling once you get through security and see that glorious Disney character posing in front of those gorgeous hedges.

That feeling lasts all of a minute. Then you are off to grab fast-pass tickets or try to be first in line for your favorite ride. You spend most of the day waiting in line for 20 minutes for a 2 minute ride. That although fun, feels like it didn’t last long enough. You then have to make the decision of whether to eat the overpriced food or not. Those Dole whips are delicious, but is that really a meal? The day flies by and before you know it you are trying to find a decent spot in the crowd to watch the magical fireworks at the end of the night. Then you fight your way through more crowds and tram rides to head back home through traffic.

That my friends, is what parenthood is like.

So when you ask yourself, “should I have kids?”. You should really ask yourself, “would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”.

It Starts During Your Pregnancy Journey

If you are already a parent, you know that means being stressed 80% of the time, while hoping that 20% filled with joy makes up for it. Any person who has carried a child will tell you it is uncomfortable at best and life threatening at worst. But this experience is almost always shared along with the tiny moments that were so meaningful you almost forgot how much pain you were in. Like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or feeling them kick.

In the early stages of being a parent it feels like those momentous occasions happen a little more frequently. So all the explosive diapers and sleepless nights are met with a pretty regular hit of dopamine. Their first laugh, their first steps, their first words. All priceless moments that any parent would say was well worth it. But is it really?

It doesn’t get easier over time (although some swear it does). The stress changes from late night feedings to arguing with a toddler about why vegetables are important to worrying if your teen is making good social choices when they are out on their own. The dopamine hits get further and further apart too. Meeting milestones every few months turns to every few years rather quickly. And it all flies by way faster than we thought it would. Overall we look back with hindsight bias and tell ourselves it was all worth it. While in the moment we are thinking, “How did I get here??”.

Why We Don’t Talk about the Stressors of Parenthood

Our parents (or other parent-type figures), often spring the question on us, “when are you going to have kids?”. This question is super unfair. It is loaded with all these other underlining thoughts and assumptions. Like…

  • “When are you going to get married?”
  • “When are you going to make enough money to afford a kid?”
  • “Are your reproductive organs working right?”
  • “Do your values align with mine?”

None of these questions should really ever be asked. Unless you are the person also trying to raise this hypothetical child.

Because there is a distance between their experience of having children and the present moment; I think a lot of folks forget just how hard, stressful, and exhausting it is to raise healthy, happy children. No one discusses with you the risks of pregnancy and labor. Or the struggles of making ends meet when you aren’t considered upper middle class. Or even how you could be considered upper middle class, but once your household size grows, you are considered barely scraping by.

If someone asked you, “when are you going to add more stress to your life?”, it would be met with, “Why would I want to do that!?”. That is truly what is being asked in these scenarios. No matter what stage of life you are in, having a child will almost always add stress to your plate. You could be a billionaire and you would still be more stressed after having a kid than prior to having a kid. Will a kid potentially add love and joy into your life as well? Sure! But will it balance out the systemic issues we have with providing for today’s children. Maybe not.

How to Prepare for Children

When we talk about stress in therapy, we often use this idea of having a bucket that is sitting under a running faucet. The water is the stress that inevitably shows up in little and big ways throughout our week. If we let that bucket overflow, that is the state of overwhelm and burnout. But if we put holes in the bucket the water will flow out in a more controlled manner, and the bucket won’t overflow. The holes are coping skills.

When you are considering having children, you have to consider the fact that the faucet will start flowing more forcefully and quickly. Do you have enough holes to manage it? Do you have the coping skills needed to control the flow? Will you be able to prevent it from overflowing? Some individuals may have a slight trickle prior to having kids. So a sudden rush of water still feels manageable. But if you are holding your bucket under an already broken faucet, can you handle it becoming a raging waterfall??

Asking yourself or your partner, “should you have kids?” is a tough question. Try asking yourself instead:

  • “Do we have the resources needed to cope with an increase in stress?”
  • “Is our relationship in a place where we can focus on another life and not feel disconnected?”
  • “Do we want to significantly alter our lifestyles?”
  • “Is ‘the joy of parenthood’ a value that tops others in our life currently?”
  • “Would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”

The decision is yours.

Are You Having a “Quarter Life Crisis”?

Your mid-twenties. You expected to be done with school, working in a great career, be engaged (maybe even married), and possibly buying your first home. In reality, you are probably in grad school or contemplating going back because you barely get paid a living wage at your job and your parents keep asking when you are going to find a spouse and move out. What a f**king surprise…

This is not how you imagined adulthood.¬†Good news is, you aren’t the only one feeling this way. Bad news is, there are A LOT of twenty-something year olds feeling this way.

So what do you do about your situation? Go to therapy. Why? Let me tell you the top 5 reasons to attend therapy in your twenties…

 

  1. To Find Supportfriends

    Your support system changes a lot in your twenties. This is the time when your friend group goes through a major overhaul (because let’s be honest, you’re lucky if 2 of your friends from high school are actually still your friends). Your parents slowly start seeing you less like a child and more like a fellow adult. And you actually have to have professional relationships at work (instead of goofing off during your shift at American Eagle). Knowing who to go to when you are having an off day becomes more difficult to decipher. Therapy can help you work through the relationships in your life to discover which are challenging you to be better and which are holding you down. While figuring out who in your life is supportive of your growth, you establish a relationship with your therapist, who’s sole job is to support you on your journey to your goal.

     

  2. To Reduce Your Anxieties

    Twenty year olds are full of anxiety for all sorts of reasons. Anxiety about finishing school. Anxiety about paying for school. Anxiety about finding a job. Anxiety about finding a mate. Anxiety about how to cook dinner or do your own laundry. Literally everything is new and harder than you thought it would be. A good therapist will be able to meet these anxieties with tools you can use to cope with and reduce these anxious feelings. Reducing the anxiety around these issues is the first step to being able to make sound decisions about how you want to approach each circumstance.

  3. To Build Your Self Confidencegirl guitar

    Millennials have taken a lot of blows to their self esteem. Whether it is an article saying “how lazy this generation is” or parents reminding you how much they had accomplished at your age or just social media filling your timeline with perfect looking people and their perfect looking lives (Note: none of those people are actually perfect). Being twenty-something in today’s age sometimes makes you feel like sh*t. Going to a therapist should make you feel the opposite of that. Therapy hands you an open, non-judgmental person to guide you to the realization about all you have to offer. Therapy has helped many people come to realizations about what self worth looks like and how they can find the confidence to go after their personal goals. Which brings me to reason 4 to attend therapy in your twenties…

  4. To Challenge Society’s Norms

    A lot of the issues that present themselves in this time of your life have to do with the influence of society. Society says what you should be doing, how you should be doing it, and gives no explanation for why. Therapy can be a place where you can deconstruct these societal norms, and re-establish for yourself what “normal” is. Questions are the core of therapy, and questioning what society tells you is right can be an incredible jumping off point for major progress in therapy.

  5. To Discover Your Unique Pathmap

     

    Last, but not least, your twenties are all about discovering what works for you. Once you find the support, reduce the anxiety, build the confidence, and challenge society, you are ready to make decisions about how you want to live your life and how you are going to accomplish your goals. Figuring these things out with a therapist in tow helps keep you on track and holds you accountable to using the skills you’ve learned along the way.

Therapy has everything to do with growth and this is the time of your life that you arguably doing the most growth. Not only are you growing intellectually, but also socially and spiritually. Making time for therapy means making time to slow down in this hectic world and reflect on who you are and who you want to be. How could you benefit from therapy?

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