If you, like millions of other women, are considering having your first child, you’ll know there are many factors involved. Here’s a round up of some things to consider.

You don’t have to have children 

You don’t have to have kids because society says you should, even though it’s still taboo for women to say they choose not to have kids. “Shallow”, “self-absorbed” and” “selfish” are terms associated with women who don’t want to procreate. Men face a similar stigma, but women bear the brunt of judgement. 

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Don’t feel you have to have children because you’re worried about what people will think if you don't. This perpetuates damaging gender stereotypes about women's role in society. Women should be able to make these huge decisions for themselves, without fear of external judgment. 

There’s no ‘right age’ to have a baby

For women the ‘best time’ biologically to have a baby is late teens and early twenties, scientists say, but for the health of the baby, closer to 26 is better. However, conflicting studies also show that, for a mother’s long-term health, the best time to have a first baby is at age 34, and to have her last pregnancy before 35. 

In short, women can’t win this game, and the best time to have a baby is when you feel it is the best time for you. 

Children don’t fix FOMO

Even if everyone you know seems to be having kids, it’s not something you should do because you don’t want to miss out. Children change your life, profoundly, in ways you can’t control, and as much as they bring joy they are also very hard work.

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And if you think having a baby so your boyfriend will finally propose is a good idea: don’t. Bringing an entire new individual into your relationship dynamic will have unexpected consequences and is not a healthy way to work out any issues – in fact, it will more likely cause more problems as the responsibility that comes with raising a child places strain on even the best relationships.

In South Africa, 40% of mothers are single parents, illustrating the ease with which the father can disappear if he chooses to. 

Children are a LOT of work

Work, both physical and mental, that more often falls to the mother. This isn’t a perception, it’s a fact: according to a new study published in the Guardian, women working full-time with one child are 18% more stressed than those without kids, and moms who work full-time and have two kids are 40% more stressed than women working full-time who don't have kids. 

In South Africa we still labour under harmful gender stereotypes that put the responsibility of raising the kids squarely on moms, who are expected to shoulder the majority of parenting tasks, as well as the weight of societies expectations. 

READ MORE: Are South Africans ready for gender-neutral birth certificates?

And they cost a LOT of money

Research indicates that raising a child in South Africa costs around R90 000 a year. A recent report by BankservAfrica showed that the average take-home salary is R163,450 a year, which means that a child could take up half of your income. And even if you have a willing partner, he or she might not be able to share the financial responsibilities equally.  

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But it’s still totally worth it 

On the plus side, becoming a mother changes you in amazing ways. You’ll find a capacity for love that you can’t imagine now.  Your life’s purpose will become clear, and you’ll focus on the things that have real meaning and real benefits. 

To love and be loved unconditionally is a privilege that only parents truly understand, so we asked these moms to share their personal insight on the positive side:

Ncumisa told us that even if you were a compassionate person before motherhood...

Having children gives you even more compassion for other moms and the journeys they are on. They teach you so much about patience, resilience, kindness, gentleness, playfulness and laughter in the face of adversity.

Jeanette says...

It’s really tough to explain the upside, and really easy to explain the dark side. Everything about life is harder when you’re a mom but somehow, it’s still better. It is in the little things, the cuddles, the naughty grins, the easy laughter and the bigger things, the wonder at how fast they acquire skills and that immense crazy overwhelming love.

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Anik explained how becoming a mother helped her to say no to things that don’t align with her priorities without a lot of guilt.

I also get daily reminders and opportunities to practice being present in a moment and to seek joy and fun through my children. I love their wild imaginations that help me see the world in a different way. And seeing them grow and master new things reminds me to keep growing and learning myself.

Laura says you manage your time better, and find what matters most and make it fit in.

I think that also applies to people - you start to organically weed out friends who might not have been ‘real friends’ and develop stronger friendships with people who really matter.

Nicola told us she found a very clear purpose in life after having her son.

I don’t sweat the small stuff, it’s all in perspective now. I get a huge amount of satisfaction and fulfilment from my son.

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