I should start this post by saying that I am only speaking for myself, and I am only speaking for who I am and what I feel RIGHT NOW. I try not to make any sweeping decisions for my future since you never know what will happen or what will change. I routinely look back on my life a year later, or 3 years later, or 8 years later and think “holy crap, I was a totally different person then”. I’m well aware that I could wake up in a month or a year or 10 years and realize that a child would make me feel happy and fulfilled. But right now, I don’t feel that way.
I’ve been with my husband, Nate, for 9 years now. We started dating when I was 18. Math spoiler alert: that makes me 27 now. I remember when we were merely a year or so into dating people were already asking when we were going to get married. When we got to the 2-3 year mark of dating, people were insistent upon it… and by the time we got engaged around 4 years in, the baby questions started. We got engaged in January and planned our wedding for September, and shortly after we announced our plans to get married the rumors that I was pregnant and that’s why we were rushing things immediately started. The reality? We just personally didn’t see the point in waiting a year and a half to get married. We knew we didn’t have much money to spend, we knew where we were celebrating, and we just wanted to have the party already. But I was surprised at how many people assumed that we were in a rush to “make things official” just because they thought I would somehow care about having a baby out of wedlock (I can’t think of many things I care less about, actually… anyone who thinks I’m that old-fashioned clearly doesn’t know me at all).
Ultimately it is really shocking to me how invested other people — friends, family members, acquaintances, and people who are basically strangers — will get in your life. Society as a whole puts so much pressure on following these pre-planned steps for life, especially if you’re a woman. It’s expected that you’re dreaming of your wedding day from the time that you’re a little girl — thinking about what kind of frilly dress you’ll wear, how big and sparkly of a ring you’ll get, and of course, about your “dream man” (the heteronormative assumption that a little girl will dream of a man is a topic for another day). Once you finish high school there’s this rush to find a nice guy. Once you find a guy there’s a rush to hurry up and get married. And the second you’re married, people are asking “so when are you going to have a baby?”. It’s truly a shame that people aren’t more encouraged to follow whatever path makes them the happiest, whether that’s the path of marriage and babies or something completely different.
For me, I’ve always had a difficult time envisioning myself as a mother. It’s just not something I’ve dreamed about or yearned for. I can imagine having children with Nate and in many ways I think we’d both make great parents. But it’s just not something I want for myself right now, or for the foreseeable future.
At this point we’ve been together for 9 years and married for 5. We got lots of baby questions surrounding the engagement, and another big surge right around the wedding. We got lots more in the year or so after we got married and then they’ve mostly tapered off. Honestly, I think some people have given up. We’re lucky that — being 27 and 30 — we don’t have a TON of friends or people in our group who have kids. My brother is in a longterm relationship but childfree at this point, and same with my sister-in-law. We have a small handful of good friends who have children but that’s it. Most of our group of closer friends and family around our age are a mix of single or in longterm relationships but no kids yet. It means we don’t get as many odd questions or comments as we might if we were surrounded by children. But I’ve gotten some fun ones over the years:
Are you sure you don’t want kids? My life has so much more meaning now that I have them! That’s awesome for you. Truly. I want everyone to follow their path to happiness and for some that means children. But to imply that my life is lacking some kind of meaning or substance, or that I am “missing out” by not having children, is more insulting than most people realize. There is more than one way to live a life of happiness and satisfaction.
Are you just obsessed with your career? Again, this is the assumption that I must desperately want children but there’s some obstacle in my way. The fact is that I don’t. If I did, I would make it happen. Again, anyone who knows me knows how driven and determined I can be when I truly want something. My career and the life perks that surround it — freedom to determine my own schedule, meeting new people, traveling, building something with my own hands to be proud of — are immensely satisfying to me. It’s not something that’s holding me down, it’s something that’s building me up.
You must just be selfish. Yes, actually I am. Very selfish. But I am not only thinking of myself with this choice. I am aware that I wouldn’t want to be a child raised by a mother who didn’t truly want me, who was just giving in to society’s expectations of her and of women in general and caving to a demand for something that didn’t truly stem from my own desires. It’s possible that someday I WILL feel those desires and if that happens, I will be the best damn mother I can be. But until then, I will continue being selfish in this way.
I’ve been realizing lately how monumentally formative these last few years have been, that this whole decade of my life is and continues to be. In the past two years especially I feel like I am settling into who I really, truly am. The person I was meant to be. The personality I’ve been sheltering and only allowing to peek out once in a while, testing the waters, never really sure if it would be welcomed or accepted. I’ve felt how immensely gratifying it is to be enthusiastically received for YOU — 100% you, no filters, no barriers, no masks. I’m in this intense and sometimes difficult stage of growth. Bringing a new being into this chaos seems not only illogical but downright cruel. I’m open to the possibility that someday bearing a child will feel like a natural next step, something that will bring happiness that I’ve never experienced before. But I’m also open to the fact that it won’t, and I’m okay with that. You should be, too.