As a married woman in my early thirties, the question about when I’m having kids comes up, oh I don’t know, Every. Single. Day. Because you know, I’m not getting any younger. This is pretty common I’m told, and it seems that the offspring question is an issue in some form for pretty much every woman I know from age 20-40. For some of them, the question is when are they having another child, for some it’s when are they going to settle down and get married and have kids (because those things totally have to go together), and for some it’s judgement about how many kids they already have. I’m sure there are countless other variations on this same question.
For the hubs and I, reproducing isn’t an option. Well, there’s technically a very, very slim chance of it happening, but it is unlikely. It wasn’t a choice. When people find that out through poking and prodding, what follows is an endless slew of questions about whether we have thought about adopting, or if we’ve tried (insert any legitimate fertility treatment option), or if we’ve tried (insert whatever quackery the Dr. Oz types are pushing as a fertility treatment at the moment).
It doesn’t matter if it’s a choice or not a choice. It doesn’t matter how many children someone has or doesn’t have; it’s still absolutely no one else’s business when or if they’re going to create more people. The questions get relentless, and I always end up feeling like I owe the person asking some kind of an explanation about why there are no mini-me’s in the world. I don’t owe them anything though. While I can rationalize that, in the moment I can never muster the courage to say so; instead I stammer through some explanation while I desperately try to keep myself together and not cry.
Along with the questions regarding offspring come the assumptions about me and my lifestyle.
“It must be nice to have so much free time.” Actually, I really don’t have much for free time. I keep myself busy by working, with civic duties, with philanthropic work, and with various other commitments and responsibilities. Granted, those are choices that I make, but so was your decision to raise a child, so I don’t really see the difference.
“It must be nice to be able to just do what you want, when you want.” On what planet do I have this ability? I would really like to be able to, but work, responsibilities, and finances get in the way of me doing whatever I fancy.
“I think that people that don’t have kids should have to work all the holidays.” While I can see where spending the holiday with your child is important, you also don’t get special privileges because you reproduced. Also, maybe if you were just polite about it instead of snarky I would help you out and work part of your holiday so that you could spend a little more time with your little ones.
“Well, some of us have families. We can’t live off of such and such a wage.” I feel for you, I do, truly. However having children doesn’t entitle you to a higher wage. You don’t know other people’s stories, you don’t know what they need their money for. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter, because that’s not how wages are determined. I’ve worked hard for where I’m at, and I do have a family, even if said family didn’t come from my womb. That said, I truly hope that you find employment where you make a good wage that you can support your family with.
“You can’t really understand love until you’ve had a child.” This one gets to me the most. I know and fully admit that I don’t understand the love that a parent has for their child, as I have not experienced it. However, that is quite different than not understanding love in general. I love, truly and deeply. I love too easily. I am loved. Please don’t tell me that I can’t understand love.
“It’s all part of God’s plan.” Nope. Just nope. I’m an atheist, so I don’t subscribe to your God and his plans, but if I did, why is part of his plan to allow people that abuse their children to reproduce, but not me and my husband?
I’m not writing this to upset any parents, and I’m not writing this to make anyone feel bad. I know that most people ask me those questions with the best of intentions. I believe that most people that make the comments and assumptions about lifestyle aren’t trying to make me feel bad. I try to remember this every day. I’m writing this to share my one particular perspective, and my feelings that accompany the societal expectations and pressure to reproduce.
I don’t have kids. I probably will never have kids. We’ve gone through many stages with the process; optimism, the “Little Engine that Could” stage, depression, desperation, grief, and bitterness. I was never given time to really just experience those emotions without the constant interruption of others, because asking about and giving unsolicited advice on this private matter is the societal norm. I’m now at a point where I’ve made peace with it, and am adjusting life accordingly. Even my coming to terms with the hand we’ve been dealt seems to be an issue for some.
The decision to have kids or not have kids isn’t one that should be taken lightly. Both are perfectly okay, and it just really depends on the people involved and their situation, and how they choose to handle their situation. It’s just not up to the rest of us to decide or pass judgement on.