My biological clock: thoughts on not ever having kids.
As a woman of child-bearing age, there is one question that people just luuuuuuuuve to ask me. I wish it was, “So, when are you purchasing a sailboat and heading to Cuba/inventing time travel/running for Prime Minister?” but instead it goes something like this:
“So, when are you planning on having kids?”
Now, let me start by saying right off the bat, I love kids. Hanging out with my six nieces and nephews is a delight (I can’t begin to say how glad I am that my older brother and younger sister decided to reproduce with their respective spouses). I admit, I even take a secret delight in the fact that I can see bits of my genetics in them. Recently, I went for a weekend at a lake and chose to spend a rather large portion of my time there jumping on the trampoline and having styrofoam sword fights (well, slightly unwillingly on the sword fight side, but that’s because he gave me this dinky little styrofoam sword and he had a styrofoam axe-thing that was twice the size) with the host’s 7-year-old son. Kids have a delight about the world and a freshness of energy that is invigorating, infectious.
But this is the serious point that so few people seem to understand: I love hanging out with kids – that’s a very different thing than raising them, or (god-forbid) bearing them.
I have a plethora of satisfying rants that I have given in answer to this question, but I’ve had a recent revelation (that I’m sure is by no means unique to me) that sums up my thoughts on the topic better than I’ve been able to until this point, and it is this:
We humans love to create things. Some of us get great satisfaction in creating children. Some of us delight in building other kinds of legacies: art, experiences, inventions, stories. Some amazing folk manage to do both. BUT – there are only so many hours in a day, so many years in a life. When it comes right down to it, you have to choose the kind of things you want to create, to recognize the things you are passionate about, dream about… You also have to decide how much of each thing you want to create across your life. And because of the anatomy of a woman (the whole womb-thing), choosing to have children is a particularly unique body-and-mind-consuming project. It literally hijacks your body (and, equally important, your attention and focus) for the 9 months before and then at least a year afterwards until everything is back to proper size and functioning order (that is, if you’re lucky and have the genetics and career of Heidi Klum – for most women it seems to take several years before they get their I-like-my-body-mojo and careers/previous hobbies back on track). Then there’s the 5 pre-school years, the 13 school years, and the 10 years after that when your kid’s living in your basement. And that’s only for one child! Assuming each child monopolizes a minimum 2 years of a woman’s life, two children equals the time it would take to get an undergrad degree, or those 4 years could be spent focusing on your career, or surfing, or god-knows – anything!
Surely, anyone with some common sense would realize that what makes a good parent is an adult who wants, with a passion and love, to have children monopolize a good portion of their waking (and sleeping) hours for 18 years. The problem I bump up against here is this baffling, out-dated belief that every young, healthy woman must want to have children. If I had five dollars for every time someone reminded me of my biological clock I would have been able to BUILD a freaking biological clock by now – I’d name him Fabien and he’d be over 6′ tall, golden, handsome, sculpted, and I’d even have enough funds left over to dress him from head-to-toe in Armani (but of course I wouldn’t because it would be sexier that way).
You see, when I ask myself the question “How much of this, how much of that?” the answer is so full of this – that is, all the amazing things in my life that I’m already creating.
Don’t ever doubt, ye children-askers: I am already creating.