On the list of things it makes no sense for me to worry about at this time in my life, having children ranks about as high as “Is my new apartment zombie-proofed?” Arguably the kids thing ranks higher. I can’t be the only one who thinks that this summer’s crop of movies is trying to tell us something.
And yet, and yet. It isn’t that I have actively worried, in the past few months, about when/with whom/where/why I will have children, if I have children. For some reason though–perhaps it’s the crop of new babies at work, perhaps just a function of summer and the sudden visibility of little ones–I’ve been thinking about it. Not worrying. Thinking.
I’ve mentioned that in an unsolicited poll my friends have voted me “Most Likely To Have A Child Without A Partner Because She Wants One.” I’d actually argue that another friend deserves that title, but these are quibbles. It was meant as a compliment–my friends know that I chafe at having to rely on someone else for what I really want in life, and realize that I have no reservations about taking unusual steps to get what I feel is necessary for me. It was meant as a compliment. So maybe that’s what I’ve been thinking about. More likely it’s a strange coming-together of trends and conversation snippets in my mind. Whatever it is, my thoughts have focused most on three things: 1. The actual importance to me of raising children myself, versus being involved with a younger generation in some other way (mentoring, etc) 2. Adoption, and 3. The famed (dreaded) female biological clock.
First things first, I love kids. Not a question. I worked for years in the infant nursery at my church and for even longer as a babysitter. I think kids are fantastic and I like having them in my life. That, having them in my life, is going to happen no matter what, whether I’m a Big (very big) Sister or an auntie or a go-to babysitter. That being said, right now I’m mindful of how little free, “me-time” I have already. What with a full-time (sometimes over-time) job plus a theatre company plus friend relationships and life maintenance, I already savor the time I have to just veg out. I’m fully aware that with children, this time would go down to almost nothing, at least for a few years. A partner would help out, of course–I’m not going to put up with anyone who wouldn’t. But even so.
Second, I’ve had some very interesting conversations with friends about adoption. I’ve personally never had an issue with it. In fact, I have practically planned on it. I know that there are all kinds of potential issues–identity questions if you adopt cross-culturally, adjustment questions if you adopt an older child, eventual “belonging” questions regardless–but that’s never really phased me. Last week a friend and I were talking and she said that she thought that to adopt a child, particularly an older child, one would need to feel a kind of calling to it that would make up for the biological pull to love and care for one’s own genetic young. I’ve never really felt reservations about this. Maybe I feel that calling. All I know is that I wonder about those older children, the high-risk ones, the ones likely to have a host of problems in their lives of a physical or psychological nature. I wonder who, if anyone, will ever look after them. I wonder if it would be worth doing myself, even knowing the stories of well-meaning people who have and the problems they’ve encountered.
Third, I…well. I appreciated this article, for one thing.
Real talk, here. In the list of things that aren’t fair about being a lady versus a dude, the “biological clock” is a pretty significant factor. Whoever decided that men could father children til their deaths but that women were done at age 40ish had some kind of sense of humor. Back in the day, I suppose most ladies were happy to reach the end of their childbearing years, since childbirth has historically been so dangerous and birth control so limited. Now, however, as we look to elongate the tracks of our lives, it can seem cruel: another thing to pin on the woman. Another way to punish us for trying to do something other than raise a family between the ages of 13 (younger, now) and 43.
Anyway, I was happy to read the article above. I also don’t want to give the impression that I think that older parents are always better. The longer you wait to have children, the less time, statistically, you will have to share with them, and the earlier you will leave them on their own.
I guess the part of me that chafes at all of this is the part of me that always chafes when there is something I want to do that depends on other people’s say-so. Attending a particular program. Going out at night in a foreign country, when I’ve been counseled to bring a man with me at all times. Getting involved with the theatre community, where the choice is either to hitch your wagon to someone who will let you, or to blaze out on your own trail. So far in my life I’ve made consistent choices on the side of independence. At 26, without anyone I’m looking to have children with in the picture, I’m starting to prepare for the eventuality that I need to take care of this on my own.
When you really think of it, this is the majority of the pressure to get married/settled with someone by any stage in your life. Without the baby pressure, who cares if I meet the person I’m going to love tomorrow or in five years or in fifteen? Why would I ever even consider settling for something that wasn’t quite right? Why do I need anxiety at all?
I don’t want to give the wrong impression. To be honest, most of my thoughts recently have been about how nice it is not to have to worry about a baby. This spring I haven’t felt that jealous twinge around infants at all–I like to see them, but I don’t feel like I need one. This is just my line of thought around this feeling, this comfort at being where I am, about to move into a one-bedroom and with no potential relationships in sight. Feeling nice about being where I am just gets me thinking about how much more nice it would be to still feel this way at age 29 or 35 or 53. Everything else just sort of spirals out from there.
That being said, if you have a baby you need someone to watch, call me.
You call me right this minute.