Disclaimer: I loooove babies and children. If you bring a baby to my house, I will hold it before you get inside the front door. I love my nieces and nephews and all my friends’ babes. They bring me massive amounts of joy. That’s not what this post is about, I promise.
At the age of thirty, I get asked more often in a bar if I have kids than if I have my ID. Everyone from my hair stylist to my students wants to know when I’m having babies. I don’t think men in my age group feel this pressure, but it is palpable for me. Here’s how the conversation often goes:
“Do you have kids?”
(Many women are hoping I say yes because this is what they want to talk about)
“How old are you?”
Awkward silence ensues when they are thinking about if I am gay, infertile, or one of those “strange” women who just doesn’t want kids.
I used to answer “Not yet” to put them at ease, but I think they deserve to feel uncomfortable now. Their questions suggest that all women must have children and that there is a certain age when not having children is strange. Their silence tells me they don’t have much else to talk about.
As long as I am able, I will have children. I want them very much. But here are three things I won’t ever do:
1. Ask strangers or acquaintances about when and if they are having children. If you are my nearest and dearest, that’s fine. I’m an open book to my close friends and family. They also know me well enough to know no amount of pressuring could change my mind when it’s set. However, if you barely know me, don’t put your preconceived notions about what it means to be a woman on me. No thank you.
2. Be the type of woman who can only relate to other women in terms of children. While I believe motherhood is absolutely beautiful and I’ve seen how it’s enhanced my sister’s and friends’ lives and capacity for love, it’s not the only thing women are made for. We are so much more than our children. We are wives, daughters, sisters, readers, business owners, writers, movers, and shakers.
I’m just going to say it: Women who only talk about their children bore me. Women who only post photos of their children with big bows on their heads bore me. You can think I’m mean or that I don’t understand because I don’t have kids, and maybe I don’t and maybe I’ll become just as boring, but for real, y’all, it’s boring.
3. Tell and re-tell my horrific birthing story, again and again. The first time alone scared the shit out of me, lady. I thought you were clamoring for me to have a baby? I don’t want anything to do with birth after that slow-mo account of your 44-hour labor. I’m exhausted and I’m not even pregnant yet.
I know children will change me in ways I can’t predict or imagine, but I also know who I am, fully and totally, while at the same time, I allow myself to grow.
I want a woman to show and tell me who she is, not just what her child’s bathroom habits are. I want to know about her children but also her favorite band and books. I want women to still “contain multitudes.” I know many wonderful women like this. One of the greatest gifts my mom gave — and still gives to me — is being her own person. My mom put me first throughout my childhood, but she also developed and changed throughout my life. She went from following traditional Christianity to a more open spiritual path, she took up kayaking in her fifties, she met a sweetheart later in life, she says NO when she needs to, she’s mother and friend to many beyond our immediate family, she just became a beekeeper. She didn’t stop growing, ever. She’s retiring at the end of May and has bought new land to build on. I can’t wait to see what she will create there. Beauty, no doubt.
There are times when I don’t want to share her, but I also deeply respect her for all the multiple facets and people in her life. If she was only my mother, and that was her total identity, I can’t imagine her being the full, happy person she is. I’m so glad she has so much more than just me. The extras that she has and does have taught me just as much as what she did for me directly. Maybe more.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a real benefit from mothers sharing their stories, triumphs, and worries with other mothers. I hope I will have that kind of support and guidance. I’m so thankful for the advice that I’ve already ASKED for. Like anything in life, balance is best. I mean, I’d take a 90/10 kids-to-other-topics ratio when it comes to conversations. Think about it this way: if all a person does is talk about their kids with someone who doesn’t have kids, isn’t the conversation completely one-sided?
Okay, I’m done. Consider me vented.