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Art by Emma Günther

Reading time: 8 min

7 things to read, watch and listen to if you’re on the fence about parenthood

Tune in, read up and watch some easy-to-access points of view for one of life’s most difficult questions.

Deciding to become a parent is not simple. In fact it might be one of the most (if not the most) difficult and complex decisions you’ll make. Yes, there are important questions about how ready and able you are to have a child, but for many of us, sometimes the question is simply: “Do I even want to be a parent at all?” 

And let’s face it, in some circles and cultural contexts it’s shameful to even think you may not want to be a parent. After all, religious texts, the notion of a complete family being one with kids, and, of course, the line so many parents will tell you – “It’s a love like no other” – can often make us feel like the only answer is “yes”.

For me, a late 20s, late-nighter (work and play), who also sometimes daydreams of making heart shaped sandwiches and orange wedges for soccer games, it’s a sliding scale of doubt. And while deep research, talking to other parents, family and friends may draw some answers, you and (if you’re not single-as-a-Pringle like I am) your partner, may need a little help from everyday sources. 

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So have a read, put on a podcast on your way to work, or join me in my YouTube rabbit hole as we try to figure it out. From hilarious perspectives, to more serious discussions, here are 7 resources I have found valuable:

1. READ: Olive

Sunday Times bestselling author, Emma Gannon, tackles parenting (and choosing an alternate path) in this frank, emotional novel. Olive is in her early 30s and trying to figure out what she wants from life. She’s never wanted kids and feels judged for that perspective. Flanked by three friends all on divergent paths, Olive must answer the eternal question: What does a good life look like for me

A quote that hit home: “Well, you must remember that no decision is ever really the wrong decision. Because it’s the decision you made at the time. Respect your past self and her choices.”

Get this page-turner here.

2. LISTEN: We Are Family: A podcast that celebrates all kinds of families

If there’s one thing you’ll take away from this podcast, is that all kinds of parenthoods come with joys and challenges. From episodes on single parent heroes, multicultural parents (do we want to navigate ethnic and religious differences with a child?), parenting black children in the context of #BlackLivesMatter, or same-sex couples navigating the joys, challenges and barriers to parenthood. Nothing is off the table and all the stories are real, honest and raw, sometimes revealing the ‘tear your hair out’ moments where parents have moments of regret. Maybe there’s space for you to imagine your kind of family, maybe it’ll only strengthen your “no”. 

Listening to the opinions of black as well as same sex parents was crucial for me. The world is not kind to children from marginalized groups and I question whether I’d want to spend my life worrying whether my child’s life would matter, teaching them what strategies to use to avoid violence or protecting them from prejudice. Maybe it’s selfish, but unlike the parents in We Are Family I’m still not sure I’m up to the task.

Get a glimpse into the world of these families here.

3. READ: Would you give up having children to save the planet: Meet the couples who have

Let’s face it, Al Gore wasn’t all the way wrong — everyone’s waking up to the severity of climate change. In this expansive feature by The Guardian, you’ll meet couples who are abstaining from having children because they don’t want to, or don’t believe in having children if they truly care about the environment. It’s an opinion that’s growing in strength — maybe they’ll convince you too, maybe they won’t. 

For me, the environmental question holds a lot of weight. I wonder if it would be ethical to bring my child into a world with impending collapse? And considering people (I’m looking at you business people and celebrities with private jets) and their everyday activities contribute so much to climate change, even I have moral questions about my tiny middle class activities. So I’d be the dutiful mom teaching my kids to separate trash and use bamboo toothbrushes, all while driving them around in my fume-pumping SUV which I already feel bad about driving? Planet or parenthood? Tough call.

Read up on the couples’ stories here.

4. WATCH: UNHhhh by Trixie and Katja: Kids and Parenthood

Best known for their performances on Ru Paul‘s Drag Race, these two queens branched out into the world of YouTube and in this episode they tackle the question of parenting in their quintessentially hilarious, unfiltered and adult-only way of speaking. Expect a range from “oh cute” to “eww”. All the things you think but are afraid to say out loud about the potential parental journey – they’ve said it. 

For me, this was the most frank, and most friendly resource. Kids are not easy characters and Trixie and Katja remind us of this. While they admit that parenthood (neither are parents) sounds like it would have deep emotional value, changing nappies is objectively gross, no matter how much you love your child. Not deep, no pressure, just a good time on an otherwise complex topic.

Watch the queens tackle the topic here.

5. READ/LISTEN: Dare to Dream: My Struggle to Become a Mum - A Story of Heartache and Hope

This story has resonated with many readers around the world, who have shared their responses via various reviews. A candid, painful look at writer Izzy Judd and her husband’s tumultuous journey with in vitro fertilization (IVF) processes and the raw truth behind the emotional toll sometimes attached to the road to parenthood. This is also a story of encouragement for those who may want to be parents, but have brushed off the idea because of potential medical difficulties. 

Frankly, listening to this made me nervous. The idea that pregnancy via IVF could be so difficult made me pause in my tracks. On one hand, I have endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which presents potential physical challenges for pregnancy, and on the other hand, as a consciously single person, IVF may be my primary option. Is it worth the heartache for the hope? I’m not sure yet.

To purchase the book, check it out here, if you prefer the audiobook experience, click here.

6. READ: How much does it cost to raise a child in the US?

Investopedia gets down to brass tacks in this article. While I may still have dreams of heart shaped sandwiches, soccer mom duties and matching sneakers, let’s face it — these dreams don’t come cheap. In a direct, numbers-driven take on the topic, it tackles costs including household income and education but also provides some useful strategies for parents and would-be parents. So can you spend these amounts (and do you even want to)? 

This is where things get sticky for me. These amounts were a necessary, realistic and jarring eye-opener. It made me think, even if I did have these exorbitant amounts (even for the middle class individual) spending my money on a child would mean a drastic lifestyle change, no more spontaneous holidays. Then again, my immigrant parents worked hard, saved harder, and the four of us went on overseas adventures as a family. So maybe a little sacrifice is worth experiencing the best of life with kids you love?

Count the dollars and cents here.

7. WATCH: Instant Family

Beyond asking “do I want to be a parent?” often we’re also asking “how will I become a parent? While the nuclear mom and pop set up may be our default image, parenthood is changing. In this 2018 film starring Rose Byrne and Mark Walhberg, the ambitious couple goes the adoption route and adopts three (yes, three) children. It’s not an easy process, and while love was at the center of their decision to be parents, everyday life was a lot tougher. 

While it’s unlikely that many of us would jump from “do I want to be a parent?” to adopting three children, it’s a light weekend watch to help you tackle your own bubbling questions. For me, adopting three kids is absolutely out of the question but the film did make me think about how wonderful it would be to give a child a loving home – even if it’s just me as their parent. That said, it certainly cemented that even if I did ever have kids, I’d cap it at one.

Watch the trailer here.

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