How To Decide When You Can’t Decide

By Emma of



OK so I’m THE worst decision maker on the planet. I’m a hot mess, I don’t mind admitting it. At times, the stress of just choosing the right outfit has had me in fits of tears, and expensive tickets to events have been thrown in the trash. My usual behaviour when ordering at a restaurant or takeaway food has famously been dubbed the “Emma Buffet” at home because I can never decide what the hell I want and end up ordering two or three different things, only to eat almost none of it. And that was from way before I even had a doggy for all the doggy bags.

So how was someone like me supposed to make the biggest decision of her life? To me, anyway, the question of choosing whether to procreate was just an enormity. For other people around me though, babies seemed to just fall out of them, without even stopping to think about it. Sure, some of them definitely make a conscious choice to create and nurture human life, but others I suppose just did what was expected of them at a certain age. Was I over-analyzing this? My own mother said to me “Don’t you think perhaps you’re thinking about this too much??!” But this is not just human life, it’s having your present lifestyle, and everything about your future, changed completely and utterly. Forever. Not to mention the financial aspect (we don’t have any money), the fact that I have enough trouble getting my own little self around in the world and staying out of trouble and / or the Accident and Emergency room, or the fact that I’d sure as hell end up over-analysing the entirity of parenthood, and my kid would thusly end up even more than a neurotic weirdo than I am.

So yeah, it was a tough nut to crack, this whole baby thing. It’s taken me almost five years to actually make up my mind for sure, and even now on some days when I’m feeling soft or hormonal, I’m still not 100% sure. Why’s that, you ask – you’re clearly an incapable idiot, what’s there to debate? Well, because – plot twist ahead – I love kids! OK not all of them, maybe 60 / 40. I work with kids and generally find it easier to communicate and get along with little people than with grownups. Proper grownups, ie unlike me and the husband (you know, proper adults, with suits in their closets who are all practical and go to the theatre and stuff) are pretty boring. Kids are not. I have a 4 year old kid who I could actually spend all day with and would 100% enjoy his company with for the entire time, and spend most of it giggling. And a 6 year old who inspires me more than most adults ever have. She’s badass.

Also, my husband would be a great dad. I’ve seen him with the kids of his friends and it has totally melted my heart. But then again, if we had kids, he would probably have to give up his beloved career in scuba diving – and I could never live with myself for taking that away from him. He’s spent years working up the ranks almost to the very top, and now gets to enjoy diving in the Caribbean sea every day and playing with all kinds of toys like big boats and underwater scooters. But diving doesn’t pay enough to raise a family, and the island where we find ourselves currently mooning about in is disgustingly expensive in terms of living costs, school fees, medical expenses etc. It would probably mean going home to rainy old England, and he would have to go back into a sales job. Right now we get to play on the beach with our dog at weekends and splash around in the sea, sometimes nipping across the water for a week in Cuba or Texas. It’s pretty great.

I had no idea how to tackle this dilemma or find a solution to this impossible quandry. I mean, could you? The call to motherhood was not strong enough for me to be certain that I should give all this up in order to put more babies on the planet (don’t even get me started on population and the planet). But I was terrified of regretting my decision in the future. At times it was making me sick with the inner conflict – and I was soon approaching 35. I decided to write a book about my decision-making process. It helped. It not only helped me in a cathartic way, but in many other ways too. I found out that I really like writing, I started a blog, I met some new people, I found the blogs of other people who had been through the same process. I began to slowly become more sure of myself. I started noticing mothers in the supermarket making questionable parenting choices – putting myself in their position and realising that I’d probably screw it up too. Probably moreso. Then one day we found ourselves lying on the beach on a lazy Sunday, watching our dog frolic around and trying to dig up crabs, nothing but the sound of the waves over his ocassional squeaks of crabby joy. And then I knew for sure – we both knew for sure. This kind of freedom, never mind the peace and quiet, is priceless. And it suits us both down to the soft sandy ground.

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32 Responses to How To Decide When You Can’t Decide

  1. Ann Davidman October 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

    Nothing feels as good as the sensation of clarity. I’m glad you experienced it. It’s everyone’s birthright. Thank you for sharing your process. It helps others. Motherhood/Parenthood or a Childfree/Childless life is not a debate and it shouldn’t be a debate. The decision could not be more personal. I understand the need to write about it and talk about it because that helps others who are feeling alone. One isn’t better than another. A fulfilled and satisfied life isn’t determined by having children or not having children. It’s determined by what you make of your life. You make your life fulfilled or not. It’s not a child’s responsibility to make that happen for you.
    I’ve spent more than 25 years helping women decide if they want to become mothers. Women who feel ambivalent or indecisive are a tortured group and I wouldn’t wish their pain on anyone. They are a brave and courageous group because they face their indecision and explore the depths of what they want. They don’t make assumptions. They consciously choose one way or the other. If they choose motherhood, the children of these women will be raised by conscious mothers who know why they became mothers. These are fortunate children. I promote consciousness in decision making more than either choice. There is no place for judgment or shame for the decision one makes. If anyone is undecided check out the book Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step to Clarity, by Denise L. Carlini and Ann Davidman. I offer Motherhood Clarity Courses for those who want that sensation of clarity no matter the decision. Only you can know what’s true for you and there is help for you.

  2. Amma February 17, 2016 at 4:28 pm #

    The dreary outlook, narcissism, and false narratives of those embracing the “childfree” label are all very sad. Identifying as “childfree” seems rooted in the idea that one cannot achieve professional or economic success, cannot travel, cannot have personal interests, and will either be destitute or a slave to the need to earn money if they have kids. The sheer horror of having to put someone else’s needs ahead of their own desires, no matter how brief or minimal, reeks of being spoiled and entitled. Throw in the whole eco-pessimism rooted in the bogus premise that we are on a dying planet of dwindling resources, and you’ve covered most of the “childfree” champions, excluding the ones regularly disparage children as “crotch droppings” and related excratory descriptors. For those child-hating jerks, I applaud their self-selected removal from the gene pool.

    In my community, most families are two-income households. The parents work, they take vacations to places like Disney, as well as Cancun and Telluride and Ireland and road trips across America. We parents take our kids to museums, aquariums, zoos, plays, ballets, musicals and operas. We want to expose our children to the world around them, to culture, to art, to history, to science, and to nature. For many people, parenthood becomes the impetus to take part in far more of such offerings than they ever sought out when they were childless.

    My kids are being homeschooled; for us, travel and exposure to the world around us is an essential part of our journey. And after our kids are grown, I suspect my husband and I will make time for some new interests, lest we stagnate. As a family, we hike, bike, swim, and climb, because we like being active. I’ve always had dogs, my kids are growing up with a love of animals, and are enthusiastic equestrians, too. My husband knows what most men know: that his career is a means to an end, not an end unto itself. He works to provide for his family, not because he needs praise and external affirmation from an employer or clients. His treasure is the love and devotion of his wife and children. Real love, and the desire to make each other happy, is what family is all about. Too bad so many people don’t get that.

    • Wensleydale March 4, 2016 at 10:40 am #

      So in order to have love, family, any kind of happiness at all one has to reproduce? That’s retarded. Not everyone is into kids. Get over it.

    • Verronica March 4, 2016 at 10:44 am #

      People who choose not to have children have many reasons for their decision, just as I am sure you had a reason for deciding you wanted motherhood. I have cared for people my entire life. I was my mom’s caregiver before I was a teenager. I also cared for my dad until he passed away in 2015. I am not a self-indulgence by any means. I have nothing fancy, don’t believe in yearly vacations, drive used vehicles, you get the idea. My profession is taking care of other people’s family members. I knew at an early age I did not want children. In general, I frankly don’t care for them at all. I will never stand by and watch someone hurt or abuse a child, but I am not going to procreate just to satisfy some society standard. My husband had a son from his first marriage. I was upfront with him that I absolutely would not have a child in case that was in his future plans. Fortunately, it wasn’t. I have been loving to his son for over 10 years and while I wouldn’t change that, it has also solidified my decision. I am getting close to 40 now and can honestly say I have no regrets on my decision. It is truly unfair to group everyone into one category. Instead of telling people why they are wrong for their life choices, we should respect and celebrate the diversity.

    • Deej Barens March 4, 2016 at 10:52 am #

      So, you want a medal or something? As usual the stupid contradiction of “I’m angry you don’t want children, but happy that you aren’t breeding”

      The only way your opinion on this matters is if my decision not to have children directly affects your life. Since it doesn’t, other than you choosing to be offended, then know that you don’t matter.

    • SJM March 4, 2016 at 11:43 am #

      In response to Amma:


      Very good for you (and your kids, apparently). But are you so far detached from the real world that you don’t realize that your post reeks of an entitlement that most (many?) can not attain? Homeschooling? Enthusiastic Equestrians? These are lovely, lovely things, and clearly work well for the family that you have built with hard work and determination. But (big BUT) these are not even in the periphery of the average North American woman when she starts asking that question; “Should I have a child…?”

      Unfortunately, many women and men don’t ask themselves any of the important questions that ought to go into the decision of having a child, particularly a) whether they can actually afford (financially, emotionally and in terms of time) a child, and b) whether their relationship can sustain the demands of another human being. Domestic violence and divorce are the sad and unfortunate detritus of ill-thought-out family “planning.” And who feels the brunt of it? The rest of society, (yes, that includes you, Amma) a society left to clean up after the mess of ill-thought-out “crotch-droppings” (your words, not mine) in our neighbourhoods, and, eventually, in foster care, juvenile detention, jails, or, even worse, those who marry your children once they’re out in the big bad world. Those kids who didn’t have the benefit of homeschooling, a warm and loving environment, and the three-squares you lovingly provide… yup, those kids become the awful adults that will make your kids’ lives (and your own) a far cry from the idyllic setting you now have. Why? Because so many people who SHOULD be child-free get coerced by others’ judgement to such a degree that they actually relent and procreate when they really should not have done so. And procreate they do, bringing into the world a live human they neither wanted or needed. And that unwanted kid becomes YOUR problem in many ways you’re not even aware of yet, Amma.

      Do people need horseback riding and homeschooling to be good parents? Absolutely not. But what they do need, and what is so often missing is the emotional and financial ability to at least tread the waters of life without panic or worry. It ain’t all roses and smooth sailing; capable and stable adults know that before entering into the baby game. But there seems to be a paucity of capable and stable adults these days, wouldn’t you agree? The child-free have taken careful stock of what the expectations are of being a parent, have weighed the pros and the cons of parenthood, and have come to the decision that it just doesn’t suit them. What a concept! Taking the time to make such an important decision, a decision many, many others have made with about as much thought as it takes to say; “Whoops! I’m pregnant!”

      Would the child-free make good parents? Some would, some wouldn’t. Just like in the ranks of those who do have children. The difference is that they took a lot more time to come to the decision that they DON’T want children than many of those who do choose to have children. If the people who are judging the child-free cannot see that irony, well, there really can’t be a civil discussion, can there?

      So, do ride those horses into the sunset with your well-loved children. The world needs more parents like you. What the world does need a lot less of, however, are those who judge the child-free as selfish, spoiled or entitled. The entitled are those who can afford to take very good care of the children they have, yet choose to judge the child-free for not taking the same path. You should be thanking the child-free for making more room for your children to grow up in a healthy environment that includes less unwanted children, children brought into this world solely because of social pressure and the judgement of others.

      We eagerly await your approval and thanks. Not.


      • Ann Davidman October 4, 2017 at 8:43 pm #

        Thank you for your post. It’s refreshing.

      • Sarah February 23, 2018 at 1:01 pm #

        Thank you so much for this post.

    • Amy March 4, 2016 at 11:59 am #

      This is why men and women should not always have kids. Real love does mean to making each other happy and it is what family is all about. The fact is, people without kids DO get that. YOU don’t get that people don’t need to have kids to feel real love. That is the real shame. It is not narcissistic or dreary to be childfree. It is not always self-selected to be childfree. It is not because we are selfish. To be honest, the parents that judge other adults for their family actions is the reason why childfree women need support from each other. The kids aren’t always the problem.
      The blog is honest and choosing to be childfree or a parent should be acceptable today. Pretty sure the book will be honest and revealing and hopefully help adults accept choices for all adults. You should consider reading it.

    • Shaun March 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

      So who exactly are you trying to convince? Your response opens with your disdain for the term “childfree” itself. I think childfree is a very accurate description. People everywhere use the term debt-free when they make good financial decisions and as a result find themselves in the enviable position of having no financial obligations or stress related to earning enough money to satisfy their debtors. Those who use the term childfree are people who make conscious decisions and choices just as much as those who are debt free.
      There is nothing more narcissistic than producing more children in order to complete or justify your own existence or choice of lifestyle when there are tens of thousands of unwanted children without families. The childfree have endless carefully thought out reasons for their choices. You have “because I wanted my own”.
      After raising his kids from a previous marriage, my husband and I made the decision to be childfree. I’ve never had my own biological children but i have been involved since the youngest was 7, and that’s more than enough for me.
      We can find enjoyment, enrichment and satisfaction in each other without anyone else. We don’t need another person involved to enjoy or horses, rodeos, fishing, camping, hiking, travel (to theme parks), etc or other things we do as a family. We are enough for each other. Our love for each other completes us.
      It’s too bad that so many couples are missing that and feel the need to “complete” their family by conceiving another human.

      • Sarah February 23, 2018 at 1:03 pm #

        yes yes yes yes and yes

    • Merula March 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

      I will be sure to tell my coworkers who are parents that I won’t pick up their holiday shifts anymore because I’m too selfish to put their needs ahead of my own. I’m sure the elderly people who depend on my care will understand that the person who helps them through the day (since their kids don’t visit or care for them) is very selfishly staying home instead of working yet another holiday. Thank you for the great excuse!

    • Colleen March 5, 2016 at 9:21 am #

      You self-entitled twat. I see nothing more selfish than indulging yourself by bringing life into this world and then lauding yourself for such.

    • erinelizabeth April 30, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

      Amma, sorry but I think you need to visit the real world. Your post is plain nasty and condescending. Insulting, in fact. So. many. generalisations. Not every woman has the luxury of being in a dual income family to afford trips to expensive holidays holidays or have the educational background/ignorance/arrogance to home school their own children. Hilarious!

      Many woman are childless by a set of circumstances other than infertility or genetic issues, but because, life. Because things like serious health issues, grief, relationship breakdown, mental health, redundancy and unemployment, family violence, financial stress, or being caregivers for other family or friends can take a massive financial, physical and emotional toll. Some of us are exhausted just surviving, fighting for a normal life or health, yet you would choose to believe we are all off narcisistically galavanting around in nightclubs and holidays and buying expensive shoes. Some of us have just been through so much we don’t have the resources (time (e.g. age), money, energy, physical or mental health, partner) to consider being responsible Having a child without the means to support it isn’t the right thing to do. Life isn’t Disneyland for everyone, honey. We’re not jerks, we love children, we love family, but some times things just don’t work out the way you want.

      I feel sorry for your children if they are being educated by someone with such a lack of objectivity.

    • Sarah February 23, 2018 at 12:58 pm #

      Not everyone can have kids or can afford to have them. Some people are victims of sexual abuse and can’t even think about the idea of giving birth You wanted kids, you had them. So why are you on this post in the first place?

  3. Nonono November 1, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

    Well I have never really liked kids, though I did think about having them when I was a teenager – a very much standard path: finish school, get a job, get married, children. Life didn’t turn out exactly that way and I ended up abroad following up a doctorate. I do have a stable enough relationship, and my family keeps asking when am to have children. I feel more and more weary at the thought of it. I still haven’t got my dream job, and I prided myself on being ambitious and doing something more with my life than breeding children. I do enjoy my freedom immensely and I am afraid children would be more of a constraint. Plus I don’t have that maternal instinct, I cringe when children cry. The only thing is that I know I’d made my partner really happy and nevermind my mom happy, but I don’t think fulfilling other’s happiness is worth tying oneself for life. It still hard to decide though.

    • Lippy Imp November 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

      Yeah I can really relate to all of that. I don’t think most people, especially older generations, have a clue about how impossible this decision can be for women today x

  4. Peacock September 26, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

    This is a really interesting post. Did you read mine on ambivalence and motherhood over on

  5. Angela September 8, 2015 at 11:37 pm #

    Thank you for this article, it is like reading my own life! Both my husband and I love kids, we do enjoy their company (most of the time), and we had serious conversations about having kids early on in our marriage. But as time goes by, we realised we don’t want them enough to have our own. Financially, we already don’t make enough to sustain a family (yes, we live in a ridiculously expensive city too), but we make enough to enjoy a few perks in life now and then, which we don’t want to give up. So now, we are happy where we are, and we share that happiness with our 3 quirky cats. As you say, “this kind of freedom, never mind the peace and quiet, is priceless.” I totally agree!

    • Lippy Imp September 26, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      Hey Angela – thanks, yes it is tough sometimes knowing that you did the right thing. And maybe you’ll never know for sure. In the meantime though, pets and peace and freedom are pretty nice eh…

  6. Ida September 2, 2015 at 3:05 am #

    Pls let me know where I can find your book. My website also helps you with this tough lifequestion: a baby or no baby? I just launched version 2.0, including decision aid.

    • Lippy Imp September 4, 2015 at 10:41 am #

      Hey Ida! The Decision Aid is really interesting – wow! I’m glad this is out there for people like me who have / had a really tough time deciding. The book will be on Kindle later this year x

  7. makingadreamhome September 1, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    Where could I find your book?

  8. Bliss September 1, 2015 at 9:26 am #

    The world needs more people like you. People who actually think before creating another human being on this already crowded planet.

    I am 41yo, very happily childfree and it has never been an issue to me. It simply never crossed my mind having kids. Back when I was a kid and thought of the future, I never imagined myself being a mother. Never felt the need to procreate and I feel blessed about my childfree status on daily basis, whenever I hear or read about problems concerning children (varies from endless crying to worrying about teenage sons and daughters).

  9. EmCozz September 1, 2015 at 6:25 am #

    It must be something about being an Emma that make us so indecisive! This was like reading an insight into my own brain…

    I have loads of kids in my life – I’ve got 2 nephews, a niece and adore my friends kids. I’m also a teacher. I just don’t have that 100% certainty that I feel one needs to become a Mother, so I’m happy being a great teacher and Cool Fun Aunt. Luckily my husband feels the same way too – we’re happy with our hamster, dogs and being part of an extended family for our siblings and friends kids.

    Great read ::-)

  10. A. September 1, 2015 at 12:39 am #

    Your life sounds awesome.

    • Lippy Imp September 2, 2015 at 12:04 am #

      I guess it kinda is! 🙂


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