One of the upsides of turning 40 is that people will stop asking me when I’m going to have kids. They will, right?
A few years ago I was sitting at a table in Southwest Florida with my mother and my grandmother enjoying a cocktail. Yves and I had been married for a couple of years and my mom brought up the subject of kids. She said, you know, I’m not one of those women that’s afraid of being a ‘grandma’. I think she was half joking, but as I was preparing to tell her that her grandchildren would all be of the canine variety, my grandmother preempted my speech.
Leave her alone. If she doesn’t want kids, she doesn’t have to have kids. People have kids for the wrong reasons all the time.
I’m 39. I have a solid marriage to an amazing man who is a great father to his son and I do not want any children of my own. I’ve always known that being a mom was not something I wanted in life. I made the decision at a very young age. It doesn’t sit well with people.
In my 20s, all I heard was, you’ll change your mind someday or wait until your 30s, you’ll see things differently, as if my choice was not a valid one. Like having kids was a prerequisite of my femininity. It always pissed me off, but everything pissed me off back then. I was so hot-headed in those days that I probably could have remained childless for spite.
In my 30s, I waited for my “biological clock” to kick in, but I never heard it ticking. Not once. I used to joke that it was digital or that I had forgotten to wind it, but I never changed my mind. I wondered if the baby fever phenomenon was legit. I wondered if my choice made me selfish.
People assume that I hate kids and I may have even played into that stereotype when I was in my 20s, but I do not hate children. I think children are beautiful and magical and funny and should be raised by people who really want them, people who want to devote their lives to the care and education (both in school and out) of another human being. Children aren’t accessories and they shouldn’t be just another item on life’s to-do list. Parenting is hard, it’s a full time job and it’s not for everyone. I am awed and impressed on a daily basis by my friends who are parents. I watch their kids learn and grow both on social media and in person and it is amazing. I’ve watched my stepson grow from a handmade-stick-sword swashbuckling toddler to a handsome, witty, responsible young man and I’ve enjoyed whatever small role I played in his development (I hope I wasn’t a bad influence). I still don’t feel like I’m missing out.
Families come in all forms and attitudes have changed quite a bit in the last two decades. Society is beginning to accept that there are different lifestyles and different life models. Still, when people ask me if I have kids and I say no, they always ask if and when I plan to have kids. When I tell them that’s not a part of my plan I often receive a blank stare in return.
The last time I got asked the kid question I answered with a comment about my age. Figuring that revealing my near-40 status would solidify that I was childless by choice. Instead, I was offered fertility advice and an anecdote about a woman who had her first baby at 45. I’m happy for her, but her tale failed to wind my clock.
People have kids for the wrong reasons all the time.
It felt like the truest sentence ever uttered and it came from a woman who has always loved babies. At that moment, at that table, with that simple statement, my grandmother (mother of two and grandmother of three) supported my choice. I felt validated for the first time in my life. I wasn’t being selfish by choosing a childless existence, if anything I was being selfless. Deciding to have a baby just so there would be someone to take care of me when I’m old would be wrong, wouldn’t it?
I sipped my drink and promised my mother that if I ever “changed my mind” she would be the first to know, but in the meantime she could pet my dog.