In the last few months, an increasing number of millennials – members of the “xennial” micro-generation – have been reaching out to me as a Marriage and Family Therapist.
On the phone, I hear strangled voices, gulping silences, and muffled tears. In their emails I read expressions of ambivalence, embarrassment, pressure, and even fear of disapproval.
I know that therein exists a potential for partners being on different timelines, of not having the same family and life goals, and of pondering whether their unit can survive this existential decision.
What does it mean for those young adults ranging from 30-40 years, members of the 21st century? Yes, they are living within an atmosphere of increased global social fear, of climate change, of increased costs of raising children, and, of course, of skyrocketing tuition prices.
Equal Partnership Within Couples
However, they also live within a world filled with the promises delivered by the “Me Too” movement, of women becoming financially independent and able to postpone having children through medical progress.
The reality is that more women attend college than men, more women are achieving highly paid jobs, and many women choose to live with their partners before getting fully committed to marriage and parenthood. Truly, today’s women are thriving way beyond what their grandmothers and even their mothers dreamed of. They have choices, flexibility and independence.
Men on the other hand, have always had less social pressure to conform, more time to focus on their careers, and the freedom to postpone far into the future the decision to have children. This does not negate men’s need for parenthood and legacy.
Today, equal partnership exists within couples. Decisions are no longer based on traditional values; rather, equal distribution of tasks is the norm, financial burdens are distributed evenly, decisions are reached together, and partners have established goals within their own careers that are valued more evenly.
A Crucial Decision to Make
So where does this leave the decision to have a child or children?
This is the biggest decision one can make in life, and it is permanent.
You can lose a job and find another one, you can live in one city or move to another, you can rebuild a social group, you can even divorce your spouse because your desires about becoming parents did not align.
But it is fundamental to understand the forever impact of deciding to and having a child. Once a parent always a parent; whether you give birth to this child, create this child through IVF, adopt this child, you have committed yourself to another life and in that lies your biggest responsibility, your largest donation, your career for life, even beyond your legacy.
Helping Young Couples
I admire these individuals and/or couples who reach out to me for help and admit to their hesitation, who admit they are considering a childless existence, that runs against established societal norms and family pressures.
Together, I can help you face very uncomfortable feelings, wrestle with your indecision, your confusion, weigh the pros and cons, deal with possible societal disapproval, familial expectations and disappointments, and the possible breaking up of your couple.
Together, we can share your uneasiness, your denial, your fear of being selfish, of embarrassment, your profound anxiety and how to deal with possible regrets.
I will help you listen, understand and weigh the pros and cons, and ultimately live with your inner voice fully respected and heard.