I wouldn’t say that my childhood was the most stable. It was warm, loving, and full of laughter, but stable wasn’t part of it. My mom has been divorced more times than I would like to mention here, and those marriages resulted in four kids total, many with different fathers. So all of my siblings are technically my half siblings, even though we grew up in the same house, and the idea that they are anything less than my flesh and blood and integral to my life has never even crossed my mind.
This has a lot to do with why my mantra growing up was, “I’m never getting married or having kids.” Well, half of that turned out to be wrong. I had no idea that I would meet someone that I felt that I could share a life with. I didn’t really think that love, real-life love existed until I met my now husband. And I resisted getting married for about as long as I could, but in the end it was the right choice for me and for us. The other half of the mantra is still intact.
Two of my siblings are younger than me—my brother is five years younger and my sister is seven years younger—and I did a lot of babysitting and general child maintenance when I was growing up. In part, I feel like I raised them. It’s not that our parents were not around. In fact, we had more parents around than most kids. And it’s not that they were neglectful; it’s just that I was the built-in babysitter. Because of this experience, I realized at a pretty young age how hard taking care of and raising kids can be. That informed my decision not to have kids for a long time. But to be fair, I was under eighteen at the time, so you could also add being a high school student that wanted to go to college as just as valid a reason.
But now I am in a completely different place in my life, and the to-have-or-not-to-have-kids question has changed. I am thirty-one and so is my husband, we own a condo, we’re responsible adults with jobs and money. The really easy answers are not available any more. We could very easily support a child financially, emotionally, and spiritually. We’re mature adults, and we know what we want out of life—and it’s not kids. Thankfully we are on the same page.
My husband and I have been together for twelve years now, and we have revisited this question at various points during the relationship. We have always come to the same conclusion, although the older we get, the more we understand that change is inevitable, so we’ve worked in some contingency plans. We have talked through every scenario. We have asked ourselves the tough questions like, “What if we wake up at forty-five and want kids?” ” Would adoption be a valid option for us if we change our minds?” “What will our lives be like when all of our friends have kids and we don’t?” “What if my husband gets a vasectomy and then we break up and he marries someone else that wants kids?” “Will we be okay with just us and a few animals?” We talked about it all, and we’ve come up with what we think are pretty good solutions to them all, for now. We will come back to the table soon, I’m sure, and check in. The only rule is that we are brutally honest and open to hearing what the other has to say.
I am now at the age that a lot of my friends are trying to get pregnant. Some have been successful and some are having a really hard time. The way my friends who want kids now or in the future talk about it lets me know that I am doing the right thing and making the right decision for me. I have learned that for a lot of women, wanting to have a child is something that isn’t a rational decision that they make. It comes from deep within them, from a place that they may not even understand themselves. The way they have talked about wishing they were pregnant even though they themselves know that they are not ready financially or in a stable enough situation to raise a kid confirms what I have known all along. You either have that feeling or you don’t. I don’t have that feeling.
But I don’t want anyone to think that this is an easy decision for me. There is a very strong part of me that wants to want kids. There is a part of me that gets teary when I think that I’m not that person, because I think that being a mother and having that strength is the most powerful thing in the world. I don’t like feeling like I’m missing that piece. And I really resent anyone that makes me feel that way. It ain’t easy to be the married couple that doesn’t want kids. There is an unfair amount of explaining to do. I know that thirty-one is young and I have a lot of living and growing and maturing to do, but I hate it when my decision is belittled by someone saying, “Oh, you’ll change your mind.” Because you know what, I might and that’s fine too. But in the mean time, I just want people to have the courtesy to treat me like an adult and respect the decisions that we’ve made. When a married couple says, “We want to have kids,” no one ever says to them, “Oh, you’ll change your mind”.
It’s not an easy thing to explain because it’s not that I don’t think I would be a good mother, or that I don’t like kids, or that I don’t want my life to change. None of those are true even (though I think that any reason is valid). I think ultimately women need to give each other (and more importantly ourselves) a break when it comes to this stuff. We spend too much time judging each other’s lives and the way we live them. To have children is just the beginning of the conversation, then we judge each other for the way we raise our kids and whether we work outside the home or not. Then there is the perception that people that don’t have kids don’t ever want to be around them. In fact I think that spending time with kids is going to be an integral part of our lives. I don’t want kids, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find great joy in hearing that a friend is pregnant or meeting a new member of the family.
So let’s just call it a truce. I will be happy to hear your pregnancy news, and you will be happy to hear that I am still not pregnant.
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