How Do I Decide?

The most frequent message I get from followers or readers is relating to their struggle to decide. They feel like they don't want children, but ultimately aren't completely confident in their choice yet. From an early age we are indoctrinated to believe motherhood is our only path in life, never really being presented with the option of choice. Choosing to remain childfree ultimately means going against the norm, we're swimming upstream. Much like salmon, getting bloody and beaten along our journey, we are fighting for our decision. This can easily leave waves of doubt and uncertainty. Comments that my life will be meaningless, I am disappointing my husband, I am going against God can all make you reconsider the journey. Maybe I should have kids, maybe I'll regret it if I don't, maybe it won't be so bad, maybe I should stop swimming against the currant.

Decisions made out of fear aren't decisions worth making so I have created a guide to help you make a SOLID decision (who doesn't love a good Mnemonic device). This works for any big decisions in life, from having children to moving across the country to changing careers and beyond. Is there still a risk you'll regret your choice? 100%. We don't know what we don't know, but following the SOLID steps will help reduce that risk and encourage you to fully analyze every aspect of that decision so you will feel confident making it.

Step 1:

S - Sort

Make yourself a good ol' pros and cons list. A pro/con list allows us to approach a decision objectively, it removes the emotions out of the process. You want this list to be as extensive as possible so write down every little thing you can think of, nothing is too small! Little things may seem little now but in the future they could be big things. Proximity to a Starbucks might not seem like it's worth writing down but not being able to get your half-foam-extra hot-mocha-chocha-latte every Saturday morning might actually be quite sad after a while. This is also a great time to consult trusted family and friends. People who have less of an emotional investment, or maybe more depending on the situation (yeah I see you 'grandparents') can give us a perspective that we may never have been able to see on our own.

Step 2:

O - Outcome

What is the worst possible thing that could happen if you choose "wrong"? Frequently we end up with decision paralysis due to the fear of what could happen. What if I make the wrong choice? What if I ruin my life by choosing this? Generally speaking, the things we fear never actually happen but it's important to know the worst case scenario outcome. Once you've explored worst case for both choices think about what you could do about them. Worst case for not having children is I regret it when it's too late, so what can I do? I can adopt, foster, find a surrogate, get a dog.. these options don't look the way we expect but they are viable solutions to a worst case scenario. When we know the path we can take if the worst does happen, suddenly the worst isn't as scary as we thought. We are removing the fear and giving ourselves the ability to move forward.

Step 3:

L - Length

How long have you been thinking about this? Big decisions shouldn't be made in haste. If you decided last week you don't want to have children and have sterilization booked next week, I'd say pump the breaks a little. Conversely, if you've been sitting on this decision for 10 years, the chances of changing your mind now are relatively unlikely. Just as we cut our hair after a breakup or decide we want bangs because life has been tough lately, making choices based on emotions in the moment is never a good idea. With time you gain more knowledge, perspective and objectivity and can feel confident that your choice wasn't made on a whim. Try to give yourself as much time as you can.

Step 4:

I - Intuition

Whether you call it intuition or, if you are a believer the Holy Spirit, I think there is something inside us that is beyond our conscious mind that speaks truth. That gentle persuasion that something just isn't right, the pull towards something or push back on something else. It's quiet and subtle but always there. It's important to be objective when making big life choices, but it's also important to pause and listen for that quiet voice. Even if your cons list far outweighs your pros, if you feel uncomfortable with that choice try and recognize why. Our 'gut feeling' is an important factor in making a big choice and one that shouldn't be ignored.

Step 5:

D - Deadline

Decision paralysis is real. You can't waffle back and forth forever, eventually you have to just decide. Choose a hard deadline, no extending or changing it later. Once that deadline comes, you choose. That's it, decision made. When we started exploring the possibility of being childfree my deadline was my 30th birthday. I didn't particularly want children after 30 anyways so it was a fair cut off point. That gave us 3 years to either have children or not and once my birthday came around the decision was made. Your timeline could be 6 months, 5 years or 3 weeks. Embracing a childfree life can (and should) have a much longer deadline than accepting or denying a possible promotion, so be realistic with yourself and the weight of the decision you're making.

A few things to remember:

Nothing is permanent. You can always go back to school, you can always move back home, you can always find a way to be a parent even if it doesn't look the way you expected it to. The decisions we make change our path and send us in a different direction but we can always pull a u-turn and try again.

You are the only one that gets a vote. This is your life. It's invaluable to gain insight and perspective from family and friends but subsequently their opinion has no bearing on your choice. Please don't let anyone guilt you into living a life that won't fulfill your soul.

Be honest with yourself. It's not uncommon to take others into consideration when making big choices especially if your personality lends itself to people pleasing. This process only works if you are utterly honest with what you want and how you feel, not taking others into consideration. (This is especially important if you and your partner are on different pages with wanting children, having children isn't a compromise.) A partner, an aging parent, siblings or proximity to family are important parts of a consideration but not the vital aspect of it.

“It's not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What's hard, she said, is figuring out what you're willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about.”

Shauna Niequist