How do you know whether to have kids?

One of my closest friends said something to me recentlythat amounted to: How can you know if you want to have kids?
I’ve been thinking about it ever since. On one hand, it’s the most simple question in the world. But on the other, it’s life-changing, and the stakes are so, so high.
Every time someone writes about this, the old arguments come out: Better to regret a kid you don’t have than one you do. Blah blah blah.
Glib little statements like this don’t get anywhere near addressing the real underlying question. Am I going to go through life feeling as though there’s something missing if I don’t have a child? Am I going to miss out on the type of life I’d rather have, if I do?
If you don’t have much interaction with kids, it can be hard to get a sense of what being a mother might be like. All you can go on is what you hear from your friends, the media and online. And you have to admit most of that isn’t good.
Most mummy blogs are focused on the lack of sleep, the lack of personal space, the lack of time to yourself, the damage to your career – and so on. Sometimes you have to wonder why anyone does it at all.
It’s rare to see anyone try to get into the really good stuff. The reasons why we put ourselves through nine months of discomfort, a few hours (if you’re lucky) of serious pain and then years of hard work.
I think this is partly because it’s so much easier to talk about the bad. Everyone knows what an interrupted night’s sleep is like. Everyone knows what it’s like to be covered in baby vomit for the fourth time in one day – or can imagine it. And it’s therapeutic to get that stuff out.
But the good stuff – the stuff that far outweighs all the hard grinding work – that’s much harder to convey, especially to someone who hasn’t been there.
How do you describe why it makes you happy to turn over at 6am and see a little smiling face next to the bed, wanting nothing more than to climb in beside you?
How can you describe the first real unprompted hug or “I love you, Mummy” – or the pride you get seeing them work really hard to master something? The way their little faces light up when they see you? The unadulterated pleasure you get from watching them become their own little, maddening, infuriating people – while at the same time showing flashes of the traits of the other people you love most in the world.
When I told my mum I was pregnant with my first baby she said it would bring me such joy. She was so right. I thought I was just in for crying and tears and a step back in my career, but that I might feel better in my old age knowing I’d done it.
I was wonderfully wrong.
Someone else once told me that having a child is like watching your favourite film with your best friend, and only the two of you get it. I think of this often.
I know I still have so many years to go and that they will come with their own challenges – some much harder than dealing with baby vomit and toddler tears. But I know there are so many more rewards ahead, too.
How can I ever describe that to someone else wondering whether it’s worth taking that step into the abyss, into that point where there’s really no going back?
I’m standing on the other side trying to say it’s okay whether you jump or whether you don’t.
Staying where you are is great and can give just as wonderful a life. Don’t ever feel any less because you haven’t had children. Your child-laden friends might disappear for a bit but we’ll be back. And we’ll want to hear some great stories.
But if even part of you wants to jump, know that it will be worth it, worth it hundreds of times over. I can’t tell you why or how. You sort of just have to trust and jump.

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