On Children

I’ve done it. I’ve been married. Some would say after nearly a decade of living in sin, I am “an honest woman.” I mean, I’ve always been fairly honest, so nothing feels too different.

So after you get married (or before, if you’ve just been kind of hanging out living together for ten years), it’s time for The Talk. The Babies Talk.

We’ve had The Talk roughly seventeen times in the last two months, and another ten in the years before the wedding, back when we didn’t think we’d get married at all.

We’ve had The Talk so many times because we both keep looking at each other and going, “eh, someday.” But something has shifted for me. I’m only in my early thirties, but a woman in her childbearing years becomes very attuned to the fact that those years are finite. And the end is approaching with roughly the speed of a Japanese bullet train. I was recently told that after the age of thirty-five, a pregnancy is considered “geriatric.”

 

I’m realizing now I’m in that group of women who has never felt a pull to have children (except for three days last August that I can’t really explain, when I became a glowing beacon of maternal desire, and then it went away and never came back, so I made myself a drink and started writing again, instead). I had a chat last week with a beautiful friend, who is currently baking a second child in her mom oven, and gives just the most straight-up advice a friend could ask for. I told her that the pull of parenthood just isn’t there for me.

She replied, “If you don’t feel the pull to have children, don’t have children. There are lots of other ways to make a meaningful impact on the world.”

I’ve never felt so much relief in my life. It’s not to say I won’t change my mind and have a (very) geriatric pregnancy, or adopt. It’s not to say my husband won’t turn around tomorrow and decide his life isn’t complete if he’s not a dad. It’s just to say that if we continue to feel this way…it’s okay.

People are quick to call the childless selfish (I’m going with childless and not childfree. I get the point of the term, it just doesn’t work for me). Everyone’s on board. The Pope (who, to the best of my knowledge, has no children) believes that it’s selfish and unhealthy to remain childless. Newspaper column space has been devoted to the discussion. But you know what? We’re not running out of people. Nothing depends on me. I don’t make a wild amount of money, and I don’t feel a gap in my life. I feel fine.

I might get a dog, but that’s another discussion for another time, and not child related. I might become a foster parent later in life. I might volunteer at the library and read to other people’s children.

Isn’t this the reason we cultivated this brave new world? So people could have that choice? But they don’t. Women are culturally pushed in a certain direction, to be maternal and caring and healing. I’m not a magic witch. I can cook, like, five good dishes and the rest is a crapshoot. I don’t know First Aid. And I love your baby but I also look forward to giving him/her back to you and then taking myself out for ice cream. My life isn’t null and void. I have a lot to give the world. It’s just that maybe children aren’t part of that.

I don’t know what our families are going to say when they get grand-beagles instead of grandchildren, though. That’s going to be a fucking discussion.

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