You know when you get together with family and there’s always that one question that people constantly nag you about?
For you, it might be something along the lines of, “So, do you have a job yet?” or, “You mean, you’re still single?” or perhaps, “When did you say you were going to finish school?”
For me, it’s the big ol’ question, “Are you pregnant yet?” I’m pretty sure I’m quoting my oldest sister right there.
My family doesn’t start with the question, “Are you planning on having kids, and when?” No. They go straight to wondering if I’m in the midst of one of the most important events of my life and “accidentally” forgot to tell them. Here’s where I insert a couple of these: ???
“Are you pregnant yet?”
“When are you having kids?”
“When are you going to start trying?”
My answer: “None of your d**n business.” *And now I chuckle a little bit to lighten the mood.*
Okay, so I’m just kidding here. I don’t actually say that. It’s normally more like this:
The Unwritten Rule of Getting Married
Why does my family ask this?
Is it because I’ve hit my 30s and am still childless? Heck, no! I’m still in my early 20s. So why is it that everyone expects me to be pregnant? Because I’ve been married for four years. Apparently there’s this unwritten rule that once you get married, you immediately have to start trying for kids.
That’s not really the way I see it…
So…If I may, here are a few things I’d like to say to the people who ask this question.
Being Ready for Marriage ≠ Being Ready for Kids
When my husband and I got married four years ago, we had to explain to people that, no, we weren’t getting married because I was pregnant. That was the general consensus at the time. The thing is, I felt ready for marriage then. I couldn’t be happier with my decision now. Except being ready for marriage doesn’t mean that my husband or I are ready for kids.
Why does being married and having kids have to go hand-in-hand automatically? A friend of ours who is the same boat says, “It is almost an expectation that I already have kids.” Whenever I tell people I’m married, I usually have to add, “But I don’t have kids yet.”
My friend further adds, “Marriage definitely does not mean you are ready to have kids. I don’t have kids yet for a variety of reasons. Need to finish school. Get a good job with benefits so that I can provide for a child. I still enjoy the freedom of hanging out with friends without worrying about a sitter.”
For some of us, marriage is the right answer even when children isn’t. My sister’s husband says:
Being married doesn’t make you automatically ready for kids. The foundation of a loving home for your kids is there, but in my opinion, and [my wife] would agree with me, we need to be financially stable, too. If we bring children into a poor financial situation, it becomes harder to keep up. I’m not saying that it can’t be done; in fact, there are plenty of children who have grown up in that situation and are great people. I just feel more ready for a child if we can be out of school and have consistent flow of money.
I Want to Have Kids Someday, Just Not Now
Don’t get me wrong. My husband and I definitely want kids some day. But right now? While I’m still in school? While we’re still pursuing other goals and dreams? While we’re still tens of thousands of dollars in debt from my schooling?
When I got married, my mom told me that I can’t keep waiting to have kids. She said that if I wait until I’m financially stable and have everything in order, I’m never going to have kids because I’ll just be continuously waiting to hit the next point in my life.
Okay, so on one level I see where she’s coming from. On another, I still have a good 15-20 childbearing years left. Why would I want to rush into having kids when I know I can’t provide them as well now as I will be able to in a few years?
And I get it. But it’s not just about finishing school first or getting my first novel series published before a kid arrives. I’m not mentally ready, either. I want to know that someday I’ll be a good mom. I feel like if I found out I was pregnant right now, I would be rushing everything in the next nine months. I need more experience. I need more knowledge. I need to raise myself completely before I’m ready for kids.
Let’s take a little side step here. I know you’re probably thinking, “You should be grown up before you get married!” Okay, I get that, but what you don’t know is that my husband and me are doing that together, and it feels great to have someone by my side.
And then there’s the other side of the coin. I’ve seen people grow up fast after having their first child. So is being “grown up” a prerequisite for having kids? It isn’t for everyone. But for me, I’d like to have a few more things in order with my own life before I try to put someone else’s life in order.
Just because I don’t have kids now doesn’t mean I never want them and am giving up on that dream. As my brother-in-law says, “I know that when we’re stable and ready for kids that I will be ready to be a father, no matter how hard times may be.”
My sister goes on to tell me, “In all honestly, right now I am just cherishing the time I have together with just me and my husband, getting to know each other better and strengthening our own relationship before throwing kids into the mix… While I don’t have any kids yet, I know that when I do they will bring me even more joy. When the time is right, I will have no regrets.”
I Don’t Feel Like I’m Missing Out (Yet)
It may seem like I’m missing out on so much because I don’t have kids yet and don’t want them for another few years.
But here’s the thing: I feel like young people with kids are missing out on something, too. I don’t count that as truth in every case, but I see myself doing so many things that people with kids aren’t.
I’m not saying that you can’t do anything worthwhile when you have kids. But right now, I still have the opportunities to write and publish novels, go backpacking every year, and even get 8+ hours of sleep every night.
Certainly these types of things can be a reality for parents, and I hope I will continue to do them after I have kids, but a lot of the time I hear from parents, “It’s so cool that you’re doing that! I wish I had the time.”
Sure, I’ve looked at other people’s children and thought, “Someday I want a child like that.” But do I get that knot in my stomach that is telling me my time is running out? Do I feel like if I died tomorrow I would regret every decision I’ve ever made? Do I ever think about stopping my birth control pills just for a chance at a child? No, I don’t.
Right now is not my time.
Having Kids Isn’t for Everyone
And it shouldn’t be!
Why is there this belief floating around that everyone should have kids?
I completely understand where children give you purpose and meaning in life, but that doesn’t mean that everyone should conform to that. Some people find meaning in their career, others in their intimate relationships, and others in their hobbies. Not everyone needs a child to feel complete.
Heck, not everyone needs marriage to feel complete. And who are we to judge? A friend of mine wrote in a Huffington Post article about this same topic, and I like the way she said it:
I’ve birthed projects and mothered people throughout my life. The fact that I haven’t birthed children shouldn’t diminish my contributions to society… As a young adult, I remember saying I didn’t want children. The overwhelming response? “Oh, that will change.” It didn’t. I’ve never had a longing for motherhood… Countless couples and women feel the same way. We shouldn’t have to explain or defend our decision.
I completely respect that. I also know people who are in their teens and want children–and get pregnant out of desire, not an accident–but choose to raise them alone. There’s no reason that there should be one way of living your life. You know, go to college, get the job, buy the house, get married, have kids…
We know a middle aged couple who doesn’t have kids. They don’t intend to have kids. Are they any less human for not wanting them? Of course not!
In the end, a person’s decision on whether or not to have kids and when is just that: it’s their decision.
Do them a favor and stop expecting it of them.
What do you think? Do you see life as a linear pattern that dictates when you should–or that you should–have kids at a certain point? Or does there need to be more acceptance of varying lifestyles, including the married without children one and beyond?