So a friend of mine, for the sake of this post she’ll be called B, on facebook today raised an interesting issue… An issue that we both came at from completely different angles but both found to be an area of our lives that we felt somewhat judged by our peers and friends:
The issue of WHEN to have children.
I am 26 years old and married. I got married at 24 in 2011 and conceived baby a few days after my 26th birthday in 2012, we had been married a little over a year when we started trying.
B is a few days off turning 30 years old and married. She has been married for 3-4 months as I post this and has little to no interest at this present moment in motherhood for herself.
This morning B posted a link to this article on Mamamia.com.au Childless Women, Are they Selfish? and shared her personal experience of feeling alienated because she wasn’t feeling remotely clucky.
I read the article, which discusses the feelings of un-broody women in their 20’s and 30’s, and I think it’s an interesting read. It brings up and rightly defends a woman’s right to NOT bear children, discusses the feelings of judgement that these women can face and the labels that some felt that they wore in the eyes of others; “Selfish”, “Mean” and “Cold” or even “Unloving”. The article, coming from the angle of NOT wanting children, highlights the many successful women who have chosen to not have children and suggests hopping off the “baby bandwagon”. It points out that women who aren’t emotionally in the right space to have children are actually being supremely UNselfish by not bringing a baby into their situation, a statement I agree with wholeheartedly. Children are an immense responsibility and require a lot of your energy and resources from the moment they are born. I believe that you wanna make damn sure you are completely and wholly committed before making one of your own!
Interestingly, I have to come at this from a different angle… whilst I understand where these women are coming from, I have had the same problems from the polar opposite side.
I have often felt judged, although I don’t mean the word in it’s harshest sense, by my peers and friends FOR wanting children at my age. Most of the people in my life and certainly my school friends, myself included, all headed to University after finishing at school with the intention of getting a degree to land ourselves some kind of impressive career. For me personally, this was something I just went along with because my parents had handed over a fair amount of their hard earned dosh for my education and I got the grades to get in… I kind of felt obliged. The reality is, I have always imagined myself as a mother. That is not to say that I didn’t (and don’t still) want to be a successful independent woman. I want to be an independent woman, yes, but I also want to be a mother. In fact, since leaving Uni, most of my “career choices” have been angled towards setting myself up to be in a position to be both a successfully independent woman AND a mother. Have I had to sacrifice things to be in this position? 100% yes. I don’t earn as much as I would like/could because I chose to set up my own business so that I may work from home with the view to be able to rear my future children.
Similarly to women who may feel like they are looked down upon by their peers on the baby bandwagon for not wanting children by a certain age, I have felt looked down upon by my peers on the career bandwagon (or the party bandwagon, the travelling bandwagon and the list goes on) for wanting a child before a certain age. I had reactions ranging from shock through to mild disgust when I announced my pregnancy to friends my own age. I feel that women like me are labelled too. Labelled at worst as “unambitious” or even “lazy”, at best “traditional” or simply deemed as in some kind of unnecessary hurry. “What’s the rush?” they ask, “But we’re so YOUNG!”. I’ve heard things like “I would DIE if I fell pregnant in my 20’s”, or even “Well, if that’s the kind of woman you are, good for you”. All unfortunately said in tones of condemnation.
The reality is that I’m 26 years old. I’ll be 27 just a few months after my bub arrives. I’m not a baby. I have lived on the other side of the globe from my family for almost 4 years. I’ve been with my husband for most of that time. I was independent for years before that. I have rented and bought property without my husband. I have renovated and decorated with my husband. I have travelled, I have partied and I have learned (and continue to learn!) life lessons. My husband and I (and the bank) own our home and have secure jobs. I am not so naive to pretend that I am not young to have a child and I personally wouldn’t have chosen to do it any earlier… But I resent being judged for choosing to do it now. So 26 isn’t old enough, yet women only a few years older than me are feeling under pressure to have already busted out a few babies… Tell me: When is the right time?
I guess this is the point of the whole post; Surely the time is right when you personally feel capable of giving yourself wholly over to the task of parenthood? We all have our own unique life stories playing out and develop our own expectations of what that will look like. I think it’s easy to project those expectations onto those around us, sometimes without even realising it; Be it the expectation to have children by a certain age, or to not have children before a certain age and that age seems to vary depending on who you speak to and what their lifestyle is like. How about we drop our preconceived ideas of what a “parent” looks like and let women (and their men) choose when it is right (IF it is right) for them.
Women without the desire to have children, you are not selfish or cold or unloving. Don’t hurry or buckle to societies expectations and don’t worry about your eggs… There are so many options if you do choose to have children in later life. Women desperate to have a family, you are not lazy or unambitious or too traditional and don’t let anyone make you feel that way. It’s an honourable calling to choose to give up your life in order to focus on another’s and without women like you, we as a human race, wouldn’t be here today.
We are all unique and beautiful individuals with a different set of hopes and dreams, let us learn to love and respect one another and get on with our own lives… regardless as to whether it includes a little one or not.