Babies are cute, cuddly, and can make us smile. But before we make the final step of having a child in our life, do we actually consciously sit down and understand why we're having a baby? How it will change our lives? Whether we're willing to make these long-term life changes for another person?
Of course, society, families, and media show us many of the pains, sacrifices, and joys of pregnancy, nursing, and playing a role in helping an infant grow into a child, then an adult. But often, many emotional aspects of this whole process are ignored.
When we ignore these aspects, often we regret our decision to have a baby, or blame others for pushing us into having it. We can even develop depression, anxiety, anger, or resentment toward the child.
So why do people consider having children?
To prepare ourselves emotionally for a child's birth, it's important to know why a lot of people have had children since the beginning of time.
You may agree with some reasons and disagree with others. The important thing isn't to judge but to understand these reasons.
"I haven't had kids — now is my time to experience what everyone has!"
We see it everywhere around us, and without us truly realizing it becomes our goal or dream. It doesn't matter if we've been parented well or badly, we would like our own chance with it.
Currently, there are 2 billion mothers in the world and a large majority of them are in countries like Afghanistan, Niger, Chad, Guinea Bissau & Yemen where maternal health fares the worst.
"Everyone keeps asking me about when I'm going to have a baby. "
Single people are sometimes mislabelled as lonely, sad, or "losers". You see these depictions every day on television about unsuccessful people being alone, your friends always worry about your future and your mother makes calls to her friends to find someone for you.
All of these external pressures can be extremely triggering and many people give in and get married without thinking if they really want to be with someone else.
"It's our primal survival instinct — we were born to make babies."
Every multicellular organism sexually or asexually reproduces: bees, butterflies, and even bonobo monkeys. Reproduction gives the whole specie a survival advantage, since offspring have genetic variations that help species adapt to new environments and live longer.
"We want to give to someone else, what we didn't get ourselves."
Growing up with trauma is hard, especially if the parents played a role in your trauma. In those cases, it becomes extremely important to give birth to a child who you can keep safe from the harsh realities of life.
"We want to be remembered by someone on the planet once we pass."
Some people write poetry or books or make music, while others carry their legacy through children, who can continue to practice their language, culture, values, and religion.
"Kids can take care of us when we're old and lonely."
Old age is hard and accepting that life is coming to an end isn't an easy thing. One thing that makes it easier is people who love us and come visit us, either at home or in a nursing facility.
"We want to build better human beings because we now have the knowledge to do so."
Many people who spend their lifetimes bettering themselves, improving their habits and letting go of old ways of being love the idea of having a child. As they want to pass on the new knowledge and play a role in bettering humanity and the world at large.
"Kids can earn money for us if we're unable to do it."
In many developing countries, many children (especially boys) can go out in the world and become earners for the family. Many boys start working even before puberty in sometimes cruel conditions so that the family can survive. Families might consider having children as a kind of insurance plan.
"Kids are our ticket into a sunset we never had the chance to live."
If you didn't get a chance to attend a good university, find everlasting love, or live life on your own terms, children are a way to live life through them.
"We want our own family!"
One of the most heard and well-understood sentiments is that we all want to feel like we belong. Having a child gives both children and parents a sense of belonging.
Does everyone get a chance to think about having a child?
In many countries across the world, many women, girls, boys, and men never have decision-making power over having a child, for several reasons.
Forced and/or early marriages
In many countries, the concept of consent isn't highly valued. Many children, boys, and girls step into marriage without their own choice or they think they're making a choice —but in fact, they're just repeating what they've been told to do. This leads to getting pregnant and having a child.
But children aren't a product that can be returned or taken back to the store. It is estimated that 22 million women live in forced marriages and this number only increases during pandemics, earthquakes, and floods.
Sometimes due to lack of access to birth control in one's country or community, or a lack of legal and acceptable abortion services, women and girls have no choice but to have a baby they never intended to have. According to a UNFPA estimate, nearly half of all pregnancies worldwide are unintended.
Intense social pressure
In many patriarchal societies, if you don't get married at the right time, your siblings won't be able to get married. Or if you don't get married at the right time, your parents would be embarrassed in front of their family or society. Not having a baby brings similar shame and dishonor. No one wants to bear the burden of someone else's unhappiness.
To sustain a marriage
In many South Asian cultures, if you don't have a baby, it can destroy your marriage. There is pressure from the in-laws as soon as you get married to consummate the marriage. Often, the mother-in-law will prohibit the daughter-in-law from taking any form of birth control.
When it's difficult for women and girls to earn an income, they may resort to getting married to have someone's child. Having this person's child guarantees that they're taken care of well into their old age.
It's important to remember that even if there wasn't a choice in bringing the child into the world, the choice to love them and do the best job you can as a parent is still possible.
Sarah and Abdul are thinking about having a baby. Their parents have asked them over and over again why they don't have a baby. What should Sarah and Abdul do?
What happens when people don't make a conscious decision about child birth?
For those that didn't have a chance to think about why they are bringing a child into the world, it becomes very hard to love this child unconditionally. It can result in pushing all our own unresolved emotions on the child.
Neglecting or abusing the child
According to a WHO estimate, 1 billion children experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect in 2021. Even tragic cases of infanticide, honor killing, and acid attacks by parents can happen.
Regretting the child
Sometimes parents can say things to a child to drive them away from them. According to a survey in 2016, 41 % of children in Pakistan ran away from home due to the toxic behavior of their parents.
Guilting the child
Sometimes parents create an intentional or unintentional dependency on the father or mother so that the child can't move out of the home. This creates a dysfunctional environment where the children become adults unable to fly out of the childhood home and parents unable to survive without their kids.
According to a survey done in India in 2018, more than 80% of urban youth population within the age bracket of 22-29 years lives with their parents.
What happens when I acknowledge the reason for having a child?
Understanding our reason can be enlightening, freeing, or even distressing. Regardless, it's an important decision to make.
Once you know your reason, you may actually consider going ahead with your decision or, not having a baby at all. Some of the thoughts you might experience for not wanting a child may come across as a surprise to you. These may include:
"I don't have the financial means to give this child a better life."
"I'm not ready to be selfless for another person yet."
"I may be having the child to fix a problem in my life."
"The world is already overpopulated and climate change may make their life uncomfortable."
How do I better understand my reasons for considering having a child?