As spring has damn near sprung, S and I thought it only appropriate to talk about parenthood. This isn’t your Millennial Pink sarcastic version of the birds and the bees talk though. We want to address planning parenthood.
For this post we’d like to touch on some of the challenges facing prospective parents and those set on a life without children. Whether you are hoping to start a family with your spouse, long-term partner, or go it alone, there are a multitude of factors that determine the how, why, and when of your family planning practices.
Though we share fairly similar views on almost everything, children happen to be one of the biggest things S and I don’t have the same opinion on. I have always operated under the “one and done” philosophy. I wasn’t exactly planned. In my late teens I once counted back nine months from my expected due date, January 6, and hit my mother’s birthday, April 6. One family friend actually jokingly calls me the “Birthday Bang.” Joking aside, I know I was definitely wanted. And I want my child to know they were very much wanted too, but also planned for so they could have the best life possible.
As a practically only child (at least my mother’s only child) it isn’t unexpected that I'd favor the one-kid lifestyle. I liked growing up in an environment where I became very close to my mother. We’re the older (I’d dare to say better) Gilmore Girls.
If children were handbags, I’d buy one and it would be my favorite until the end of time. S would stuff her credit card and license into her jeans pocket and never step foot into a Macy’s ever again.
For me, children have never been a part of my dreams for the future. As the sassy two-year old who declared, hand on hip, that “I don’t play with babies,” when faced with other children around me, it’s safe to say my entire family can confirm children are not for me. My life has been a series of moments, memories, and stories, like these, that I’ve had to collect as evidence to prove that motherhood is not, has never, and will never be, a path I’d like to pursue.
Planning parenthood — or rather to not ever become a parent — is something every young person faces. For any fertile adult, there is a constant stream of evolutionary consciousness revolving around procreation and the spread of genes. Our decisions about love and partnership are driven by the desire for or aversion to children. Think about it: every big step is colored by the “if” and “when” of babies. You can’t even play the dating game reliably until you know whether you're pro-baby or con-baby. The house, condo, or apartment you lease/buy will be shaped by the size of your projected family. The car you buy will be car-seat ready or race-track ready. The jobs or financial risks you take will be shaped by what (or whom) you’re saving money for.
These thoughts will all cross a given individual’s mind, at some point, throughout the course of day-to-day life.
For many Americans, family planning starts before you even make your first adult decision. By the age of 17 I had started taking hormonal contraceptive pills just in case I decided to take that very first big step. From that day forward family planning becomes a part of every day. When to take the pill, when to buy more condoms (or check their expiration dates), when to have sex and when not to, all become intricate moving parts of life. By the time you have a long-term partner or realize that your baby-fever or aversion to children is unshakable, you begin laying out concrete plans for the future.
Though I didn't enter the dating world until I was about 20, I've known for a long time that someday I wanted to have a kid. In college, I wrote this piece based on my “maternal” and romantic experiences of the time, aptly titled “One and Done.” It explored my relationship with my mom, with my first boyfriend who I've since referred to as Mr. I-Don't-Do-Long-Distance, and my relationship with my now ex-fiance who has in the past year earned the moniker of Mr. Undecided.
At one point in my now still-relevant-yet-dated personal essay, I said that I've always just kind of assumed that one day I'd be a mom. It was the being in a relationship or married part I never imagined. For a long time I struggled with self worth and my brain somehow used that to automatically paint the picture of my future in my mind as just me, and baby. I assumed no man would want to stick around … so far none have really proven me wrong, but that doesn't bother me as much as it used to. Now I think if I got pregnant and felt financially stable enough at that time that I'd be just fine as the badass bitch I am raising a kid alone.
And, at 25, I do have to kind of think about if and when I want to try to have kids. It’s that age-old concept of the biological clock. In a recent discussion in my newsroom, my male editor made a comment to the effect of “You shouldn’t see turning 30 or 35 as old.” My rebuttal, which came to me in the moment and really stuck in my mind, was “It’s different for me because I’m a woman.” And sure women in the 20th and 21st centuries have had kids into their 40s, but the one thing I do know, besides that I do want one kid, is that I don’t want to be nearly 40 when that kid is born.
My mother and I are extremely close, regardless of the fact that she is literally an entire generation older than me. Where most Millennials’ parents are Gen Xers, mine are Baby Boomers. My mom was 37 when I was born, and though that’s not old, it also means I possibly won’t have as much time with her as other people my age will have with their parents.
I don’t want to be hanging on for dear life when my kid is only 50. I want to be an active, hip grandma (or just older mom if my kid doesn’t want kids. Be like your aunt for all I care — she's a great role model).
All of this said, I know I’m not ready to be a mom right now. For one, I definitely can’t afford it. I’m a journalist, for God’s sake. I’m only one tier above being a legitimately starving artist — you should see my fridge.
I can confirm that one.
Even if by some off chance, regardless of the prevalence of birth control and condoms in my life, I got pregnant this year or even next year, I can’t say I’d approach that development in my life with the joy and confidence I would had I had more time to plan. The only way at this stage in my life that I’d feel ready to have a kid is if I knew for certain, beyond shadow of a doubt that I could be financially and emotionally stable enough for that child.
I can heartily say that B’s reasonings resonate with me as I head toward my 25th birthday. Having just recently made a realistic five-year plan, I know that this is the year I intend to take my own family planning to the next level by finding a doctor to perform my sterilization.
For anyone who would urge me to wait, I’d like to point out that I have. I have waited 12 years for those around me to trust that I know my own goals and wishes, and I have waited almost seven years since the first time my primary care physician denied my request for referrals to reproductive surgeons.
I am tired of waiting.
If you think my decision is a mistake that I’ll regret, I challenge you to think about an alternate universe, where B and I decided that we were going to have children right now. There would be nary a cry of “you’re too young to know this is what you want.” There would be baby showers, hugs, congratulations, and celebrations of the next phases of our lives. Where is that for me and the would-be non-parents like me ready to commit to the lifestyle we promised ourselves?
My body, my choice, my life.
For those of you urging me to “talk some sense into S” as the more “acceptable,” “typical” woman with aspirations of maternity, I'd also like to point out that I realize what she does is not my choice. I also realize that whether S wants children or not, there are few other people in this world I would trust my child with. She's responsible, level-headed, loyal and a force to be reckoned with. She doesn't do anything of consequence without truly thinking it through, and that's how I know she can't be swayed and that her decision to not have children is right for her.
Just as much as I know my decision to be very mindful with when and with whom I do have children. I do look forward to recreating some old traditions I have with my mom with my own child and also making new ones. I have high hopes that no matter who my child plans to be, they will make the world a better place by just existing. I want them to inherit my mother's wisdom and my father's compassion. I want them to learn to balance that Type A shit their mom exudes with carefree curiosity from Sierra; to remain true to themselves with reckless abandon from Kim; and to truly think for themselves regardless of how many people oppose their decision from Shyann.
I look forward to being a part of B’s future, and family, when the time comes. Acceptance is cyclical and full of love. And just as B has chosen to stand by my decision and support my dream for the future, I will stand by her and her baby. I can only imagine how empowered and loved her baby will be with three wild aunts backing their fierce mama. B will no doubt create a solid foundation for personal conviction, love, respect, and tolerance that will help usher in the next generation of problem-solvers and peace. While I may not help change diapers, I will certainly offer whatever support I can to B and baby as they actualize their dreams.
I know I'll always have a tribe behind me for support no matter when I have a child, and that I'm going to rock motherhood whenever it does happen in my life. But I also know I really love what my life is like now too, and I'm not ready to give that up just yet. So, I'm not saying “never,” I'm just saying “not now.”
A few months ago I read a wonderful book about motherhood and the female experience by Melanie Holmes called, “The Female Assumption.” The book covers the experiences of mothers across the gamut while taking time to acknowledge the pros and cons of both motherhood and life without children. Melanie shares her own experiences as a way for women to confirm that their entire range of emotions throughout their tenure as mothers is valid, despite what motherhood ideals may try to guilt them for. Alternatively, she also presents a vision for the future where women are not automatically assumed to be on the fast-track for a baby. Instead, she offers the vision of a world where women accept and support each other's ambitions and goals as the next step toward total liberation and the pursuit of authentic happiness.
B and I are happy to take the next steps to make Holmes’ world a reality and hope that regardless of your family planning strategies, you will support each other’s right to choose what your future will look like.
Be mindful, stay focused, and enjoy the life you build!
xo B & S