I’m 39 years old. I live a good life. I teach yoga. I have a good relationship with my sweet man.
As I’m about to soon enter my 40th year, anxiety and big questions consume me. Do I have a child or not? I feel pressured by time and culture to have a kid. My mother has been harking on me about this for most of my life. My man and I are ethereal free-spirits freaked out about all the time, focus, energy and money that ends up being poured into having a child. “I like my freedom”, he says to me, “and having a child limits your freedom”. Neither of us have flat-out said no to having a kid, but there’s no real push or call to have one either.
Time is ticking. My family is waiting. My friends are breeding. I can see us both being great parents. Yet I’m so scared by the challenges of parenthood. I don’t feel as connected to my friends with kids because they’re building community with other parents and their kids. And I don’t feel as connected to the party scenes out there anymore because they’re all kids, in their 20’s and I feel like the old girl at the back of the room who’s been there, done that.
Why do I feel restless? How do I placate this relentless energy that continually surges inside of me and wants something bigger and more exciting? I crave purpose, direction, a path…
I think of having kids kinda like having Stockholm Syndrome. They’re my captors and I’ll do anything for them.
I’m sitting up in bed, propped up by pillows and have just opened the computer for the first time in over a week. I have a newborn lying on my chest. So as I balance my laptop on “my breast friend” (a nursing pillow) this is a very timely question for me and both the easiest and most difficult to answer.
You are right and so is A. You will lose your freedom if you have a child. And not just the freedom you think you have right now (time, fun parties, travel)- you will lose so much more than that. You will lose the relationship you know with your mate. You will lose most of your friends. You will lose income. You will lose career trajectory and focus. You will lose your etherial nature. You will lose interest in sex, you will lose your tight body, you will lose the energy you used to have to fix any of this.
When you have a kid- you lose everything.
But you will gain things too. You gain hair in the most fucked up places, you gain constant worry about their physical safety, you gain shame that you have already made so many mistakes and sorrow that you were so terrible to your own parents.
You are also right that time is ticking. Physically speaking, the difference between me having my first baby at 35 and my second baby at 36 was monumental. That one year of aging did my body in and by the end of my second pregnancy I couldn’t get out of bed. I also had a c- section with my second child, which means 6 weeks of recovery. My husband is making all of my meals and helping me wipe.
He is also taking care of 2 children and hasn’t showered in over a week. You don’t understand this and that’s okay. People without children don’t understand it when parents say things like “I haven’t showered in over a week.” It’s unbelievable to you, we must be doing something wrong, everyone can fit in a shower right? No, no, you can’t.
Every second, 24 hours a day, is being in service to someone else.
And because of this, like you, I was terrified of having kids. I thought it would ruin everything I’d worked for.
And this is why I chose motherhood. I want to know what it’s like to dedicate to another so completely, with no expectations of anything in return (in fact heartbreak is guaranteed.) I want to reach beyond my stupid boring “plans” and “goals” and see what happens when I can finally surrender to the chaos of the unknown.
I also want someone beside me at holidays and when I die.
So my question is:
What is the picture that you hold in your mind of your life in 10 years?
Travelling on a boat through blue water (no kids). Hiking through a jungle to go camping with wild boar (no kids). So many fucking lego everywhere (kids). Lieing in one big bed at night, reaching across tiny little bodies to hold your partners hand (kids).
No one can tell you to have babies or not and anyone who does is an asshole.
You’re 40. You’re happy with your man. Why fuck it all up? It’s true that right now everyone is breeding and you are quite alone in your choice to not procreate but within 5 years the breeders will still be up to their necks in shit and paper mache and you will find new, intelligent, non- breeder friends to have long conversations and dinner parties with.
You will travel. You will have money. You will have time to figure out what your next passionate step is. You will be a de-facto auntie, you could even adopt! The tables will turn and while we are working till we are 70 to pay off our childrens debt, you will be sunning yourself in Jamaica, watching your man play streetball with the locals. My best friend isn’t going to have kids and it’s hard for her now; but give it 10 more years and she will be running the arts scene in this country. Not having kids makes so much- more possible.
I know you’d be a great mom but do you want to be? It’s a life long horror show. It’s forever. Do you get that? I compare it to having Stockholm Syndrome. They are my captors and I’ll do anything for them.
Having a child is a spiritual task. It’s one of the few things we have left that we can call a miracle. It has turned me inside out. I wanted all of that.
I say, fuck freedom. Freedom is shallow. Freedom is controlled. Freedom is Burning Man once a year.
I’d rather be tied down by love. I want to be terrified it hurts so good.
ps. It took me two weeks to write this, using two fingers on one hand.