I know what you’re thinking, “She’s only recently back from vacation and she’s dipping her toes into the kids-or-no-kids discussion for the first time? She’s craaaazzzzyyy.” Which. Is probably true. Or maybe I’ve just been missing your bazillion smart comments… you never know. Regardless, here we go.
I’ve gotten tons and tons of emails from you guys over the last few months wanting to talk about kids n’ marriage, and for whatever reason, I picked Jennifer’s letter. Something about it grabbed me. But this post isn’t for Jennifer in particular, it’s for everyone, with thanks to Jennifer for kicking the discussion off. Today’s post is about deciding when to have kids, and next week we’re going to get into deciding NOT to have kids (because I know there are plenty of you who don’t plan to have any, and I think that’s rad.)
My name is Jennifer, I’m 25 and I’ve been with my soon-to-be since 2007. We bought a house last year knowing we would get married and have a family eventually. He proposed in February of this year and we are planning a charming backyard shindig at our new home. We’ve been discussing all sorts of things about our future together including the having (or not having of kids). We’ve decided that we do want children but not now and not immediately after getting married either.
I’ve heard so many women (and men) claim that they want to travel and see the world before settling down with kids. I don’t blame them at all. For Stephen and I, we have two dogs that we are extremely attached to and we are working on creating our fortress of solitude to our liking. Travel isn’t very high on our bucket list. Sure, it would be nice to have vacations, but we live in Florida, so we don’t have to travel far to “get away”. Anywhere else just costs a fortune. We have steady (well paying) jobs and we own our home. We know the lifestyle of being tethered to our home by our precious furry kids, so it should stand to reason that we could at any moment be conceiving a child.
I can’t speak for my other half (although he says he wants to try in another three years or so) but for me, I just want to hold out a little longer. I can’t exactly pinpoint the reasons why. It could be that I’m not ready for the post-pregnancy body changes because lets be honest, I haven’t yet recovered from the teenage trauma, the birth control trauma, and college weight gain trauma that it has already been through. It could be that I have a deep respect for the 24/7/365 job of motherhood and my self-esteem says that I wouldn’t fit in with such heroes (yet). It could be that my heart tells me that life may be short, but my head tells me to slow down and enjoy the views. I’ve always felt that if you rush into all that life has to offer before 30, promotions, homeownership, marriage, kids, etc…then what is left to look forward to? I guess what I’m trying to ask is…why not? When all the tangible needs that a child could ask for have been met, (aka when the planets have aligned) what other reasons besides ‘travel’ are there to wait?
P.S.-We don’t have pressure from family or friends. Actually it is quite the opposite, they say “Recreation, not Procreation”
Ok. So. This is going to be a multi-layered answer from me, not to mention the thousand other layers the rest of you are going to add.
First, I’ve been somewhat surprised since our wedding by how tightly we still tie new marriage with new kids. I knew that once we got married, people might start asking us about kids, sure. But what I didn’t get is that there seems to be a powerful tie in our collective (even our indie collective) brains between being married and having kids. I didn’t forsee how many friends would have kids shortly after tying the knot (not that it’s a bad thing, quite the contrary, more cute babies for me to eat). Failing to realize this might make me a little slow, but it probably makes me a halfway decent person to answer this question (because in my surprise, I’ve had to think a lot about it).
David and I didn’t get married because we wanted kids. We didn’t get married because we thought the time was almost right for kids. We got married because we thought it was about time to get hitched already. Full stop. We’ve always been pretty darn sure that we DO want kids, and we had the general sense that we’d like the wedding before the kids, but that was as far as we’d thought it through. So when after the wedding I realized lots of people around me were thinking BABY,* instead of wedding, I got… a little unnerved. Even if you do have a baby right after a wedding, they are two totally discrete events, yes?
Because here is the thing: I think a good reason to have kids is that the time feels about right for kids (or you have a happy accident), and a good reason to get married is that the time feels about right to get married. I think we make a mistake (and I’m including myself in this) when we read marriage as pressure to have kids. Because really? They are two very different things.
So. When do I think it’s the right time to have kids? Since I haven’t done it myself yet, I’m only offering relatively well-pondered thoughts, but I’ve got them in spades (of course).When the pressure is on for kids, you suddenly hear a lot of people saying, “There is no right time,” and “you’ll never feel ready.” Maybe. But I’m going to say this: while there might not ever be a perfect time, there is definitely a wrong time. If you don’t feel ready for kids, for goodness sakes – happy accidents aside – wait. I’ve found over the course of 30 years that when it’s time for a big life transition, you start feeling little whispers and nudges from the universe/subconscious/God/whatever. It doesn’t feel perfect, but it usually feels good enough. If your subconscious is telling you, “Um. No. Check back in a few.” Go have some beers, or a dip in the pool, or some graduate school, and then check back.
Beyond that, I thought I’d take on an adage that I’ve heard A LOT. I’ve heard it bandied about by smart women in the comments, and smart women in my life, but I’m not sure I agree. It’s the, “You’ll know you’re ready to have kids when you can’t think of anything else. When all you can think of is BABY BABY BABY, then you know. That’s the kind of person that is ready to be a mother.” This sounds so wise, right? Yeah. But I’m not so sure it’s true.
When I was 16 my baby hormones turned on, HARD. I had a case of baby obsession unlike anything you’ve ever seen. I mean, I’ve always loved kids. I’ve been slinging them on my hip since I was big enough to carry them (literally). I’m a baby person. But being a baby person is totally different from entering the land of baby hormones. When my baby hormones turned on I would get dizzy when I saw a baby in the street. I could not talk about anything but the baby until they were out of my sight. I am not joking about this – BABIES MADE MY OVERIES HURT. You know that thing that was said in the comments about how one day you wake up and you want a baby so much it feels like it’s a chocolate cake in the fridge and you would claw through the fridge door to get it? Right. The day I woke up like that I was 16 years old. And it lasted for ten years, right till I was 26. And then it turned off. I still love babies. I mean, I adore babies. If you bring your baby to my house, you get the night off. I will carry the baby, calm the baby down when it fusses, and feed the baby. No joke. But I no longer would claw through a fridge to get the baby like it was chocolate cake. I no longer think baby baby baby. Babies no longer make my ovaries hurt (thank God). That was hormones.
I have friends that had babies in their early 20’s, to feed their baby obsession. Some of them would make different choices if they could have a do it over. It’s not that they don’t love their kids, it’s that the timing of their kids turned out to be really hard. I didn’t have a baby during my baby obsession period, and I’m pretty d*amn glad about it.
What am I saying? I’m saying that one day, you might check back in with your psyche, and your psyche might say, “Huh. Baby. Yeah, that might be a good idea. That’s something I’d rationally consider.” But there might be no, “BABYBABYBABYBABY AHHHHHHHH!!!” Ladies. That’s fine. The calmly planned motherhood and the oh-my-god-oops motherhood can be equally as good as the I-would-kill-for-a-baby motherhood. I know. I’ve seen it for myself.
And you know what? You might check back in with your psyche and it might say, “No baby!” Or maybe you didn’t even read this post because you already knew that you were a no baby kind of girl. That’s fine. That’s awesome. Because no matter how often the media says, “wife and mother,” like the two always go together, they are two totally different things. Being a wife doesn’t mean you have to be a mother. Just like being a mother doesn’t mean you have to be a wife. And being a mother is not the same as being a wife, even when you are both. Pinky swear.
Oh, and P.S. –
All week I kept rolling the sentence, “I’ve heard so many women (and men) claim that they want to travel and see the world before settling down with kids.” in the rock tumbler of my brain. You know, while I was traveling. And it just didn’t sound right. And finally I realized, we’re not waiting to have kids so we can travel, we’re traveling because we know we want to have kids one day (and we want to get in to the habit). And those are two totally different things. Travel should never been your excuse for waiting, because waiting needs no excuse. In fact, lets stop calling it waiting, and just call it, “Yeah. We don’t have kids right now.”
*Just to be clear, our families have never pressured us for kids. This is sort of the collective “people around us” not the specific “our family.”