How to Decide If You Want Kids (If It's Scary to Even Think About)

Our data points to this decision as being of utmost priority to couples.
How to Decide to Have Kids
Photo: Getty Images | FilippoBacci
Jamie Cuccinelli the knot writer and wedding expert
Jamie Cuccinelli
Jamie Cuccinelli the knot writer and wedding expert
Jamie Cuccinelli
Senior Editor, Sex & Relationships
  • Jamie is a Senior Editor for The Knot where she oversees all sex and relationship editorial content.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, she worked with an array of digital publications that include Brides, The Zoe Report, Bustle and MyDomaine.
  • Jamie graduated with a degree in English and Media, Culture & Communications from New York University.
Updated Apr 08, 2024

When it comes to deciding to have a baby or starting a family, it seems like everyone from your family to dating app questionnaires are demanding a yes or no answer. But of course, there's no single right answer to the question of how to decide if you want kids or not. There is so much to consider, after all, from childcare options to lifestyle and financial considerations. Only you and your partner can decide when you're both ready—if you ever want to be ready, that is.

So when do most couples start having the "kids talk?" An overwhelming majority of couples today* are beginning to discuss starting a family earlier in their relationship. In fact, according to The Knot 2023 Jewelry and Engagement Study*, 91% of couples aged 18-34 discussed the possibility of having kids prior to getting engaged.

We want you to feel empowered by whatever decision you make, and you should also know that it's totally normal for your feelings to change over time. If you're hoping to gain more clarity on how to decide if you want kids, we're here to help.

Below, find six starting points to take into consideration when deciding if parenthood is right for you.

And for further advice and information on parenthood and family planning, head to our sister site The Bump.

In this article:

Separate What You Want From What You'll Decide

Stick with us for a minute here: What would your gut say if you removed every other factor and put all fears aside? If all your needs were met and if outside pressure didn't exist; if you felt secure about the political climate, your finances and global policies; if you kept in mind that parenthood is neither a moral or immoral decision, would you want to have kids?

Sure it sounds basic, but it's the first question that needs answering when deciding whether or not to have kids. (Remember: you're not thinking about if you should have kids quite yet. Look internally right now, not externally.)

Explore the "Why"

Now, dig into the why behind what you feel. In short, the decision to have a baby or bring children into your family should be one based in love and a desire to support and nurture them throughout their lives. Remember: Deciding to have a baby is a permanent decision—one that doesn't end 18 years from now—and one that you shouldn't feel forced to make out of desperation or panic. Thus, it's vital to explore the reasons behind your inclination to have kids or remain child-free.

Do you feel pressure from your family or society's obsession with your biological clock? Does how you were raised play a part? Take your time thinking of your 'why,' and be honest with yourself throughout the process.

Give It the Crystal Ball Treatment

You know those five-year plans that your HR department always makes you draft up? Time to channel a similar energy.

Think about what your life will look like one year, five years and 10 years into your decision. Try to put yourself in the position of the choice already having been made. How do you feel? What does your daily life look like? What about that of your partner or spouse if you have one? Have them do the same exercise and see if your musings differ.

Is your child-free life full of job promotions and travel? Are you satisfied with your day-to-day? Then, try the same exercise with the opposite decision. Evaluate how your feelings change.

Think About What You'll Need to Feel Confident in Your Decision

Consider what you'd need to move forward. You don't want to just be able to live with your decision, right? You want to be confident in it, happy with it, thrilled to be living your life! So, how do we get you there?

Think about the boxes that need to be checked beforehand. If you think you're interested in parenthood, you may likely want to establish financial security first or have the goal of moving closer to family or better childcare options.

While there is no perfect timeline or pre-parenthood to-do list, some common conditions that individuals and couples like to have established or addressed before starting a family include:

  • Being in a long-term partnership or marriage, or comfortable with single parenthood
  • Financial stability
  • Homeownership
  • Reliable childcare
  • Health insurance
  • Parent leave policy
  • Treatment of physical and mental health concerns

Similarly, what will you need to be happy without children? Is it a partner who is also down with the DINK lifestyle? Is it moving near your nieces and nephews? Tip: Focus on the factors that you can control, not the ones you can't.

Know That There Isn't One Path to Parenthood

Remember that there isn't only one way to have a baby or start a family. Foster parenthood, adoption, IVF, surrogacy… They are all legitimate, celebratory journeys. One may be right for you, others may not be—and that's okay.

Some people have children earlier in life, others later in life. (And some not at all, of course.) Has your life journey ever looked exactly identical to someone else's? Nope. So don't expect your path to parenthood—or otherwise—to look the same either.

Leave the Judgement at the Door—and Practice Self-Compassion

In short, parenthood is a choice and one that no one—not even your partner can make for you. Keep judgments and unsolicited advice to yourself when it comes to the personal decisions of others. Moreover, if you and your partner feel differently about having children, explore what each scenario would and wouldn't look like. Will one of you ultimately be unhappy? If so, you should neither convince nor be convinced. Instead, consider reevaluating the longevity and future of the relationship and how you can both best live fulfilling lives.

Whatever you decide, grant yourself self-compassion. It's okay to have strong feelings on the matter, just as it's okay to feel a sense of indecision. There isn't a right or wrong answer or method of how to decide if you want kids or not. If you need more time to consider such a weighty life choice, you should feel free to take it. Your future family will only benefit from ensuring that you're as ready and certain as can be. And remember: Your life, relationships, and marriage are bound to be full and beautiful no matter what choice you ultimately come to.

*The Knot Real Weddings Study captured responses from 9,318 US couples married between January 1 and December 31, 2023; respondents were recruited via email invitation from The Knot and/or WeddingWire membership. Respondents represent couples from all over the country with various ethnicities, income levels, race, age, sexual orientation and gender identity. To provide the most comprehensive view of 2023 trends, this report also includes wedding statistics from ad hoc studies conducted throughout the year. In a typical year, The Knot Worldwide conducts research with more than 300,000 couples, guests and wedding professionals globally.

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