It’s true. For years I did not want kids. Not all that surprising for someone in her twenties, I think. Your life on your own has just begun, you’ve moved out of your parents’ house, finished or are just finishing college, and beginning to build a career. If you are married, it has only been for a few years. You and your husband/wife are still trying to figure who should take out the garbage and how you can get to sleep at night when one of you is always in bed at ten while the other wants to read until midnight. Babies would just complicate things further.
But here’s the problem, once you’re married people ask about babies a lot. It’s annoying. And if you’re a woman, don’t expect being single to help you avoid the barrage. Maybe in your early twenties you’ll be exempt, but once you start creeping up there family will start asking when you’re going to meet a “nice boy” and that implication that you can’t make babies without him is almost inevitably going to be there. Don’t worry, friends will join in too. Those with kids will tell you about how after 30, 35, or 40 it will be so much harder to get pregnant and don’t you want to be able to enjoy spending time with your kids while you’re still young?
No! I want to be able to enjoy spending time with me while I’m still young! I don’t mean to be cynical or unclear. I’m very happy to be pregnant. I’m prepared. I’ve wanted it for a while and it was my choice. Let me emphasize that, it was my choice (and Dave’s too, of course).
That’s the point. Like everything else in a woman’s life, the choice has to be hers when she’s ready. All the pressure to respond to the third degree about babies, which is really a private topic for a couple, led Dave and I to respond negatively and adamantly. We’re both stubborn people who don’t like being told what to do so when folks started to mention babies before we were even married we responded with rampant rants about how awful kids are — because when they aren’t yours and you’re not ready for them, they can be kinda awful, can’t they? Yelling and screaming and running in front of your shopping cart and whining because they can’t have the toy they want. I’m signed up for it now, but this time it’ll be my kid, not someone else’s badly behaved kid that I can’t pull aside and talk to calmly about a more effective way to negotiate with his or her parents.
What exacerbates the problem, of course, (you knew I was going to get around to it eventually) is sexism. The idea that every woman at some point or another will want to have children. If she doesn’t now, she will, because she doesn’t understand herself as well as thousands of years of stereotypes do. If she doesn’t have babies soon, she will regret it when she’s too old so she might as well just plan for it now.
Here’s another shocker for you, a lot of women don’t want children because they have to give up so much to have them. Right now we’re careening out of control towards equality, or so I’m told, but guess what? We’re not there yet. Nevermind that we’re not close to implanting uteruses in men yet and that no matter how you plan it the woman will always have to take a more physical, visible role. That’s just a given. But whose career will suffer more? If one partner decides to stay home for the first year or two, which will it be? It’s really hard to give up the higher paying of the two salaries — and since men still get higher pay for the same job, well, I guess we know who it’ll be most of the time — and so perpetuates the cycle as women become less of a force in the workplace because they slip out of it. Perhaps by choice, but also frequently by circumstance.
Ultimately, my point is that it’s a very difficult decision and not surprising that many women are simply choosing not to do it. So why am I writing this after I chose in favor of babies? Find out tomorrow when I post part II.