I am borrowing a term from the Stages of Change model which I think is appropriate. Here, the change we’re talking about is going from the relatively care-free life of not having children, to responsibly raising a child.
In the pre-contemplation phase, one is not at all interested in change. In this case, we have not seriously considered having children. I’m not talking about the idle daydream of having a child, but the serious contemplation of having one. Or, if one has considered it, it has been ruled out at least temporarily until one’s life situation (enough money, a stable relationship) is more conducive to providing for a child’s well-being.
I would argue that most people appropriately fall into this category. Parenting (or at least good parenting) requires a great deal more work than I believe most people are prepared to deal with. There are enormous strains on time and patience, not to mention economic responsibilities which should be considered and accepted before starting a family.
The major “action item” I want people to take away from this post, is to be active in avoiding pregnancy while you are in this phase of your life. If a woman is sexually active (or considering it) it is my firm belief that birth control should be utilized. Talk to your doctor about what makes the best sense for your situation. Men should be prepared with (and use) condoms until and unless they can be sure that the woman is using a reliable form of birth control (pill, IUD or depot implant). One could argue that its possible to engage in non-intercourse sexual activity, or use the withdrawal or rhythm method, but this is very risky, and its best not to chance something as important as giving up one’s freedom prematurely in one’s life cycle.
I will leave off a discussion of what to do in the event of unplanned or unwanted pregnancy to another day, except to say there are no really “good” options in that case. “Just don’t go there” is my best advice. Enjoy your life without the worry of having to care for children until you are ready.