So that title is a bit misleading. I’m not 35 yet, but I’m close.
Everyone knows that there are special risks associated with having a child after 35. At 11:59 PM on the 364th day of our 34th years as women, the shades get drawn across our uteri. If anyone tries to knock on the door, a cranky voice answers, “She ain’t here no more!” Our eggs shrivel up to dust and tumbleweed blows across our fallopian tubes. Our insides vacant, we’re doomed to walk the earth banging on a tin can, humming the theme song to Mission: Impossible.
Oh wait – that doesn’t happen? Huh. You might think some catastrophic event affecting millions of people occurs whenever a childfree woman turns 35. We hear a lot of shit about it, anyway. We are scolded, cajoled, harassed, patronized. We’re told we’re selfish, ignorant, and stupid. We aren’t prioritizing correctly. We will regret it. We’re ruining it for everybody. The underlying theme in all of these assumptions is that we women don’t seem to know what we’re doing.
I’m 100% positively absolutely certain that I’m not yet ready to have a child. I’m not in the “never” camp (yet). I’m not in the baby crazy camp (yet). I’m simply not ready. Not ready, firmly, at almost 35.
SOUND THE ALARMS THERE’S AN EMPTY WOMB ON THE LOOSE.
This “not ready” stage confuses and irritates people. I hear: “How can you not be ready? You’re almost 35.” Or: “What are you waiting for? You shouldn’t wait.” And, my favorite: “Better get on it.”
It bothers people that I exist in this space. People click their tongues at me, give me looks of pity. They stare at my stomach area, concerned for my insides. They’re worried about my potential as a woman. They’re worried I’m delusional, that I’m making a mistake. They suspect that my lack of enthusiasm is a judgment of their own life choices.
No. I’m just not ready.
I’m not ready for a number of things. I’m not ready for the life upheaval that I know awaits new parents: the complete change in schedules, priorities, time investment and management, and even physical wellbeing. I’m not ready to change anything about my life at this point. I like it exactly as it is.
I’m not ready to lose time – time for writing, watching TV, reading, anything. Everything.
I’m not ready to lose sleep. As a child, I got up at 6 in the morning, ready for Corn Flakes, cartoons, and Flintstones vitamins. I was a maniac. Today, I can sleep for 10-12 hours at a stretch. You won’t see me up before 9 on a weekend because I stay up late, a night owl at heart. The loss of sleep seems terrifying.
I’m not ready to give up the freedom to go to the movies, have a glass of wine, go out after work, eat at great restaurants, plan great vacations. I don’t want to survive, I want to thrive. Let’s call it life flexibility. Life flexibility maximizes enjoyment. I’m not suggesting parents have no life flexibility, but children do strain it. I’m not ready to let even a little bit of that go just yet.
I’m not ready to wipe anyone’s butt.
When I was 7 and Little Brother was 3, we were bouncing on the bed at our summer timeshare in the Poconos. Little Brother fell off the bed, falling headfirst into the corner of an end table. He needed something like a dozen stitches, some of them internal. The doctors said that he was lucky that the corner of the table didn’t sink too deep or it would have struck his brain. Right after it happened, I remember my mother, her face contorted in pain, wrapping towel after towel around my brother’s bleeding head. The frenzy of absolute panic, the despair of not knowing.
That? I’m not ready for it.
I’m not ready to try and make friends with people who I otherwise have nothing in common with except children. I’m not ready to argue with people about parenting choices or to be criticized for my parenting decisions.
I’m not ready for temper tantrums, crying fits, or not understanding what the hell is wrong.
Don’t get me started on gendered toys. Or the assumptions people will make about my child based on whether they’re a girl or boy. All of it – not ready.
I’m not ready to enter the cult of motherhood. I’m not ready to be called by the word “mother.”
I may be ready next week, next month, or in five years. I may never be ready. For me, the risk of having a child right now outweighs the risk of not having one. When the scales tip the other way, perhaps I will make a different choice.
If we women don’t feel ready to have kids until after we’re 35, or circumstances aren’t right until we’re well into our late 30s or even 40s (waiting for a partner, the right job, health benefits, housing, etc.), what is there for anyone else to discuss?
I know exactly what I’m doing and what this means. I’ve rolled the dice and made the best decision I can with the information I have. My decision is that I’m not ready.
Deal with it.