Stop Asking Me When I’m Going to Have a Baby
I am your average, career-oriented millennial. I am an English teacher in the town where I grew up and I am married to my junior high sweetheart (we met at the art table when we were twelve.) I have too many cats and a mastiff named Henry. We own a Cape Cod style home and go on vacation once a year. We frequent local eateries, and go to the movies on weekends.
We are living the American Dream in its entirety…except for one key element.
We do not have any children.
According to the statistics, this is perfectly okay, even normal for people in our generation. CDC.gov notes that in 2013, the mean age of a mother for her first birth was 26. So we’re only slightly behind. No big deal, right? We live in an open-minded, go get it society where women aren’t just about motherhood. We are career women, we are moving forward. No baby? No problem.
Well, no problem in theory. Socially, it’s a different story. Since the moment that wedding ring was placed on my finger, the questions began and they haven’t stopped.
“Little ones?” or “Any babies coming soon?” have become standard questions from acquaintances, family, bank tellers, waitresses, mailmen, and anyone in between. On Mother’s Day, our waiter automatically wished me a Happy Mother’s Day, assuming a married couple must have children. Just yesterday, I was again asked at my bank if we are starting a family soon since we bought our house several years ago. Three bedrooms and no children to fill it? A crime, people seem to say with just a look.
I don’t begrudge anyone for asking this question; having children is just the expectation in our society and I think that is okay. I have nothing against children or motherhood. Someday, we hope to raise children. From what I’ve heard, motherhood is the most beautiful, challenging, and fulfilling job anyone can have. I hope to experience that someday. But not yet.
My husband and I don’t live life in the fast lane. We are not traveling the world and doing time-consuming philanthropic work. Most weekends, we grocery shop and eat pizza. Our biggest excitement is getting a new Twitter follower or buying a vacuum cleaner. Nonetheless, we are settled into successful careers, we have a house, and we have spending money. We are happy.
Movies and media tell us this is okay. We see female protagonists actively pursuing careers, parties, or anything that doesn’t deal with babies. We see the trendy, modern couples who don’t have time for the traditional 1950’s style life. In real life, we know plenty of twenty-somethings who are on the same page as us.
Nonetheless, there are instances of incredulous responses, nose snubbing, and even anger at our childless home. There are insinuations of selfishness. Why wouldn’t we have children when we have everything situated in our lives? Sometimes, we are met with pity; it’s okay, there’s still time, people tell us. We are made to feel like we have to defend our choice or like there’s something missing in our lives.
The truth is, I’m completely fine with our childless home. I don’t feel a nagging urge to buy baby clothes and diapers. Sometimes I think the mothering gene skipped over me. But right now, I’m okay with that. Being a woman without a baby is perfectly fine for me.
This is not the case, though, for some in the childless category. There are women out there who cannot have children due to fertility issues. Some career-oriented women cannot sacrifice career growth for a child just yet. Children are not automatically a right choice for every twenty-something woman.
When asked by someone why I don’t have kids, I think about these women, the women without babies who really want them. How it must feel to constantly have it thrown in their face that they are of the childless category? How would it feel to be wished a Happy Mother’s Day, if I was saddened by an inability to have children?
As a society, we need to think about the way we treat couples without children. We, the childless, are not lesser or selfish. For those of us who have chosen a life without offspring, know we may be okay with it. We do not want to feel egotistical for choosing a life of television reruns over playdates and park visits. For those who cannot have children, know that being reminded of a childless state might be painful.
So the next time you see a woman with no little hand in hers, please don’t think that she is just a woman without a baby. With or without a baby, we are all just trying to find some happiness, security, and success in this crazy world. A woman without a baby is a woman first. A woman with a baby is a woman first. We must stop tethering our self-identity to our offspring status. Stop asking me when I'm going to have a baby.
Lindsay Detwiler is a contemporary romance author of three novels: Voice of Innocence, Without You, and Then Comes Love. She is currently a high school English teacher in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband Chad, four cats, and their mastiff Henry. For more about Lindsay, visit her blog at www.lindsaydetwiler.com. You can also follow Linsday on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Thank you for reading!