This is hard for me to write. I’ve been trying to write it for about three days. I’m not sure if it’s going to be hard to read, but I suppose we’ll find out by the end.
There’s this one thing about the impending nuptials that really makes me squirm, this one phrase I’m unable to even describe my feelings for, because just sitting here and trying to conjure the words to describe it is tying my stomach into knots.
The phrase is something I’m expecting to hear to the tune of So when are you going to start thinking about kids?
And I’m like, are you kidding? Can I just enjoy my wedding cake?
That’s surface, though. Below the surface…
I’ve never pictured myself having kids. I suppose “never” is a strong word, but I can’t think of a time after puberty that I’ve seriously considered it.
Now internally, within the weird and disjointed labyrinth of my brain, that’s it; the thought is complete. It’s not complicated. I don’t see myself having kids. For a while, it was stronger than that – more of a “No way” – but now it’s just a “No.” Two letters, one word. Straightforward. Simple. I don’t see myself playing sports, or wearing pink, or liking soda, or converting to Buddhism, or having kids. Could be wrong – on any of the above – but that’s what I don’t see. I think it’s kind of reductive to self-define by what I’m not, but there it is, end of story.
And yet more often than not, if I express some variation of this, the next line is, “But why not?”
I do not need to justify my choice not to have kids. Yes, I am a 30 year old woman about to get married, and yes, I have completely awesome, large, multi-cousin families on both/all four sides. That does not mean I should need to defend the fact that I don’t want to have a baby. This should not be the world’s most invasive exam board or doctoral thesis review, where I have to provide citations for my decision or launch into spontaneous elocution. I resent the implication that I must be confused, unaware, selfish, or wrong to feel this way, and that I have to explain my choice in order to not be considered one of those things.
This isn’t a judgment or indictment on motherhood (nor on the people asking, who I know aren’t trying to be mean or invasive). I’m lucky to have a number of close friends with young kids, and being able to watch them grow from awesome ladydudes (and dudes) into awesome superhero moms (and dads) is indescribably wonderful. They are beautiful, strong, flexible, resilient, kick-ass parents. My enjoyment and pride in seeing their journey doesn’t mean I want it for myself.
And I have friends who’ve struggled to conceive. Who’ve miscarried. Who haven’t been able to even try for kids due to medical restrictions. And many of these friends have suffered through the well-intended but exquisitely painful So when are you going to start thinking about kids? of others. The answer is all the god damned time.
And I have friends who are single women around my age that get nudged because before too long, in another [insert span of time here], they might be past childbearing years. Two most likely possibilities. Either (a) they know that, and they do want kids, and they’re aware of the time they have, and they’ll get there at their own pace; or (b) they’re okay without kids – and possibly even fine without a romantic partner – and can we not as a society just be cool with that? Gents, please chime in if I’m wrong on this, but I’m pretty sure that single men – who are as much prospective parents as single ladies – don’t go through this public questioning to nearly the same degree.
But more on the gender divide – why this guilting around the man in an as-of-yet childless relationship? Why do people seem to jump so easily from, “Oh, you two aren’t planning to have kids?” to “It’s him, isn’t it? He doesn’t want kids, does he?” I mean, I don’t know the statistics. Maybe that is the norm. But even if it is, why is it so hard to believe that this is an honest, mutual decision? We both have reasons. We’ve discussed this pretty conscientiously and respectfully with one another. We both acknowledge that anything could change in the hypothetical future, and we’ve even discussed what that might look like, but this – this “no kids” thing – is solidly, definitively where we are now on this choice. Together.
I can’t say any of these things aloud without tensing up. I can’t even write them without tensing up. I know that thinking this way is immensely disappointing to my mom, family, in-laws. I can’t think these things without the related enormous guilt that as long as I feel this way, I’m denying grandkids to my parents, nieces or nephews to my sister.
And I think the guilt is worth mentioning. Because the decision to have or not have kids is not a decision that should be made based on guilt, yet guilt is so regularly the byproduct of even the gentlest So when are you going to start thinking about kids?
Despite that guilt – massive, palpable – I still push through to the same place. I’m sorry. But this is not a discussion. This is my choice – and our choice. I do not owe an explanation on this. If I change my mind someday – and if we change our minds someday – then that will be our choice, too.