I think this is the fourth time I've started this blog post. As of late I have been very neglectful of this thing. Mostly, I write posts but don't ever publish them. Now that the mothers of my students can read this I feel hyper-aware of what I say, and so anything controversial, or even particularly personal, doesn't get published.
But, this I cannot stop thinking about. No matter how hard I try this thought has been taking up a large portion of my mind, so I guess I'll just get to it.
For the first year of our marriage, I was constantly told not to have kids. This bothered me then and still bothers me now. It wasn't a suggestion or even a bit of advice to wait; this was an order. Do not have children. You are not allowed to have children. I had to be a working, contributing citizen. To have a child while Scott was in school, where I had no employment base, was juvenile and selfish. Why people cared about this is beyond me. By the first year, after people realized we were not having a honeymoon baby, the comments started to disappear. People were relieved I was graduating and getting a job, and it was a blissful year of little-to-no baby comments.
By year two, things changed. Suddenly the fact that I was not having children started to bother people. Now that we are moving into year three, and I'm almost 25, people are concerned. I am asked three times a week why I don't have children; there is no hyperbole in that sentence. It has gone to such an extent that people have just started assuming I was having kids. Scott has had strangers come up to him saying, "Congratulations on the baby!" After that, I realized I wasn't allowed to gain any weight. Weight= having a baby.
Suddenly, everything I was doing was being analyzed by others. Feeling sick? You're pregnant! Tired? Pregnant. Hungry? Definitely pregnant. I even once went to the bathroom too many times, and people asked if I was pregnant. When did this become okay?
I am thrilled for those having children. Be around me for 5 minutes with a toddler, and you can tell that I love children. I wouldn't have chosen the job I did if I didn't. You want to post about your baby? Awesome. You want to write out your birth story? I will read that and bawl the entire way through. I think motherhood is beautiful, I think having kids is awesome, but what works for you might not work for me.
While people may deny it, there is a definite cultural expectation. You should be married by your early 20s, have a baby within a couple years, and then continue on doing so until you see fit. This is a normal pattern, and honestly one I expected from myself when I was younger, but I've come to realize this isn't a pattern that I will most likely follow. I'm glad if this is you, but there is a group of women out there, and I think this can even apply to those not married, who feel like their worth is in question because they have not followed "the plan".
It's the little comments in passing that I find are the most hurtful. I know people look at me and they're wondering what's going on. While not straight out saying it, people assume that I do not have children because I am obsessed with work, or I care too much about money, or I'm "struggling to have it happen". Honestly, it's none of anyone's business. There are a million reasons to have kids, but there are also a million reasons not to, and some of them are in and out of a person's control.
Do I want to have children? Yes. Of course, but I just can't understand how at 25 I feel like my time to bear children is running out, and this is because of other people's thoughts or opinions. The other day I was asked why Scott and I didn't have kids yet. I usually give a different response each time; it keeps people on their toes, haha. The person asked, "Well how old are you?" I replied I was 24, turning 25 in a bit. They replied, "Oh, you have a little bit of time left, I guess."
Honestly, I went home and I cried. At 24 was I missing the window of having a baby? I know people don't mean anything by it, but it has given me so much anxiety and stress. I feel like my value as a woman is nothing because I don't have children. I'm not as experienced or mature as someone else with kids. The fact that I work hard in everything I do, and I'm trying my best, does not seem to be a measurement of worth at my age. Working and just being with my husband is viewed as almost selfish. I am selfish because I don't have children. I care too much about worldly things because we are trying to save up for a house instead of a baby.
I don't hold anything against anyone. I know that people don't mean to hurt by these questions. I feel the need to keep reiterating that. I just want to write this, because I have realized more and more that you never know what's going on in a person's life. You don't know their innermost desires; you don't know the factors behind people's choices, in any situation. We often jump to conclusions and discuss people that we really, truly, do not know. Honestly, let's just let people mind their own business. I guess that is the moral of this post. When someone is sick, just let them be sick. If someone has gained ten pounds, let's stop speculating over why they did. We are so consumed with watching other people's lives. In such a busy life, why do we even have time to do this? There are so many other wonderful things we could be discussing and enjoying.
Next time we feel the need to ask a person why or why not they have done anything, let's stop ourselves. People have enough trials and burdens in their lives without us placing expectations and pressures on them, even if it's unintentional. I have been there, and I've put my foot in my mouth, but being on the receiving end has illustrated the pain of feeling like you are failing at "the plan", and that you are not worth as much as others. People do not have complete control over their lives, and we often forget that sometimes things are not based on choice.