At work the other day I went to a conference with other Administrative Professionals. In one of the sessions called “Work/Life Balance” we were supposed to learn how to balance having a full time job and a fulfilling life. As we went around the room, sharing our experiences, I was put to shame to realize that many of my colleagues have a much harder time balancing their work and home life because they have families and here I am, no kids, just a husband and 2 cats.
So at first I was sort of mortified because if I think I have it tough with work/life balance, how the hell do these people do it? Many talked about being single parents or about having a baby or being pregnant and not sleeping or about getting education and trying to raise a family at the same time. It was pure insanity and I felt for them and realized that I actually know what free time is. I can go shopping whenever I want, I can go on vacation, no muss, no fuss, I can go out to dinner, I can sleep in, I have so many freedoms that these people only see in their rear view mirror.
So at first I was feeling like an idiot. What the hell do I have to complain about? The reason that I went to the session is that I’m considering getting a second degree and starting my own business and I wanted to know how to balance all that with a full time job. Also I’m scared as shit of giving up my free time, so I thought having some tools would help me make that choice. (I’ve given up my free time before for things I wanted and working 7 days a week is not as fun as it might seem! Try building your own house! AHH!!).
So after a few minutes of feeling like an ass because I have all this free time to sit around and read or garden or do whatever the hell I want…I stopped myself and thought, HAVING KIDS IS A CHOICE!! These people chose to do this to themselves. They didn’t have to! No one held a gun to their head! They just jumped into the sack and got to business! And now they are reaping the benefits or the non-benefits of having a family. But the funny part to me is that many of them probably didn’t see having a family as a choice, they just assumed that having kids is what you do.
I don’t know if many of you out there realize that having children is a choice and not a “should” or “must” or “I have to” kind of activity. It used to be…but no more! Now we ladies (and gentleman) have the ability to choose if we want to have a family. (It’s called BIRTH CONTROL PEEPS!!) The problem is that our minds have not quite caught up with this truth.
I always assumed I’d have kids. It wasn’t something that I thought of as a choice, although for a long time I did think of it as something that was way off in the future. I wasn’t ready to think seriously about having a child. However, I did assume that it’s what you did. Everyone did it. You got older, you got yourself a fancy “career” (which I am lovingly calling “riding the colorful rainbow into the pot’o’gold” or not), you got married, you had kids, end of story.
It wasn’t until I tried to get pregnant and had problems (endometriosis) that it finally occurred to me that, holy shit, having kids is a choice I can make and do I want to make that choice? It’s a hell of a commitment if you really think about it. Years and years and years of commitment. In comparison, deciding to go to school for a few years is just a tiny blip of time where you’ll be busy. But having a family means no more time for yourself, your life is not as much your own as it once was. Your child is now in control. A child! In total control of YOUR ADULT LIFE!! ahhh!! (Can they be trusted? Are they “responsible” enough??)
Now I know that people who have kids say they would never take it back, they love their kids (and I’m 100% sure this is true), however I know that it’s also a hell of a lot of work. It may be worth it, but whether it is or not depends entirely on you. And as I thought about whether I really wanted children, it began to occur to me that having them might actually not be a good idea for me.
For years I didn’t think about it, or imagined it as something far off that I’d be able to handle when it finally happened. But as it got closer and I tried to get pregnant, I was freaking terrified. Pregnancy and changes in my body scared me, feeling tired or nauseous or sore or being unable to sleep or feeling that once you are pregnant you are trapped and must go through with it didn’t sound so fun to me. AND GOOD LORD the BIRTH!! That idea of that experience was absolutely horrifying to me. The feelings of being trapped, panicked, my body doing things it had never done before was really scary. And then to think about a child, taking that child to the doctor, to school, to sports, etc. I just couldn’t even imagine how I could handle it. Me, the girl with the mental illness, the girl with anxiety on the brain. The idea overwhelmed me with feelings of uncertainty.
And as time went on, over the 2 years it took to be diagnosed with Endometriosis, I began to have a different relationship to the idea of having children (and I was trying too, it just wasn’t happening. I put my head in the sand and thought…it’s not a choice, I’ll just do it and once I’m caught on the fishing line of a child, I’ll just DEAL WITH IT THEN). But finally, I realized that it is a choice. It’s not something I have to do, despite any pressure I might feel from friends, family or others. It’s my choice, my husband’s choice. And now, if I really want to have kids, I probably could. I’d have to use fertility treatments, but the success rate is fairly high. However, that really brought it home to me that having children is 100% a choice in this day and age. I would have to consciously choose to go to the doctor and take those treatments. It would no longer be the kind of thing where you get off the pill and think…well, if it happens, it happens. I can’t be off the pill, so I can’t do it that way, the “up to chance” way.
And now that I realize that it is a choice, I want other people know too that having children is not a forgone conclusion. Just because it’s what people seem to do as they get older, does not by any means mean that you have to do it. I have a friend who knows herself so well and she told me when we first met that she didn’t want children. This was interesting to me as I had always assumed it’s what you do. And at first it was strange to me that someone would not want children and I almost felt like it was a “selfish” choice. However, it’s not a selfish choice! It’s like any other choice you make in your life. What job you have, where you live, how you spend your money, etc.
Having children is a huge deal and not something to be taken lightly. My opinion about my friend has changed over the years. I realize that she is smart and knows herself so well that she knows that having children is not for her. It took me a long time to come to that same conclusion for myself because it’s a hard decision to make. There are positives about having kids and you certainly do miss out on a lot of experiences if you don’t have them. It makes me sad to think that I may never have kids or those experiences, however at the same time, I am growing into the idea, learning to accept that this is my life and it is not a “lesser” life because I don’t have kids. I have so many things I want to do with my life, so many goals and aspirations. Plus, having children is not the meaning of a woman, as we so often feel. It is not our purpose. It’s something we are capable of (most of us) but is not something we have to do. And it does not define us.
So at this point in my life, I think I’m okay with not having children. I could force the issue if I wanted to. I could go to every length, but why? I was already doubting my desire and ability to handle it, so it’s probably for the best that I don’t do it. And I hope that more people will realize that it’s a choice they have. This world is already highly over populated, so make a wise choice for you. There’s no reason why everyone on earth has to have children! It is no longer the thing we do, it’s now up to us as men and women to choose our paths.
Choose wisely! Do what’s best for you! Not what society says you should do.
Think a’bout it. 🙂