I have a big paradox in my life. It blows the minds of a couple of people I know. I love children to pieces … but I have no desire whatsoever to have any of my own. Nope, no kids for me. I’m very happy with other people’s kids, thank you very much!
Of course I didn’t always feel this way. When I was a young and impressionable teenager I was convinced that I wanted a large family, eight kids at least. I came from a small family, my mom, my brother, and me. I was always fascinated and enamored with huge families, like my cousin’s. My cousin Chris was my age and the oldest of eight children. I loved hanging out at his house, although even then the chaos got to me after a bit.
When I entered my twenties I had a more realistic view of family and childbearing. I also didn’t have a single romantic interest anywhere on my radar. Oh, sure, I was the queen of unrequited crushes, but no one ever returned that affection. So I got a little more realistic. Five kids would be fine. Granted, I didn’t have much experience of taking care of kids. I befriended a wonderful family that again had eight kids and just adored hanging out with them, though most of the kids were in their teens and early twenties at that point with one surprise baby eight years younger than the youngest.
As my thirties dawned I realized the biological clock was ticking, and since I still didn’t have a single nibble in the romance department, at least not one that lasted, I conceded that three kids was a much more realistic number. But by that point I was living on my own, I had cats, a job, interests, hobbies, a graduate degree, and a life. Still no boyfriends though. Hmm. This is a problem when it comes to having kids.
There it was. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Like a time-bomb. I passed the age that my mom was when she had me. No kids, no boyfriend. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. Was life passing me by? Was I failing at it? Uh-oh. I dated a guy for a while who I was crazy about and convinced I was going to marry, but he was terrified at the idea of kids. And then he turned out to be a douche anyhow. And at age 34 I was right back where I started when I was in my twenties, single and childless. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.
You’d think that major life decisions are things that happen over a long period of time with years of careful deliberation and thought. You’d think that. But in the summer of my thirty-fifth year, just as I was turning 36 actually, I had a conversation that blew everything I had assumed about life and myself out of the water. It was after midnight at an outdoor restaurant/bar in Toronto. I was on tour with my cricket team. I was deeply engaged in a conversation with an older man who I simply adore. We had spent most of the evening flirting up a storm but by that point I was just talking about things and about my life. I can’t remember the lead-up to the epiphany, but I know I was talking about this feeling of the ticking biological clock and the visceral urge to have children. Very simply he asked me, “And how does that make you feel?”
I stopped. I blinked. I thought about it. The answer came flying at me as clear as day. “It feels like someone is lying to me.” It was not the answer I expected, but there it was. For me the biological imperative of the human female body felt like a massive lie and bill of goods that someone was trying to sell me. The reality was that I wanted nothing to do with it. I had no desire to procreate, or rather to hinge my life and my self-worth around the production of another human life.
Maybe if I had met Mr. Right in my early twenties I would have felt differently. No, I’m sure I would have felt differently. I would have had my five children. But life is not a static thing and the desires we have at one point in our journey of life are not the same desires we will have at other points. I’m 37 now. I am set in my ways. I have a full, rich life with hobbies and friends. And cats. I love my one-bedroom apartment and I LOVE sleep. I love the freedom I have to do what I want when I want to do it. These are all very appropriate loves and wants for someone on their way to 40.
So even though the ensuing relationship with that older man turned out to be wild and crazy and rocky, it was very possibly the most wonderful, life-changing relationship of my life. It opened my eyes. It opened doors. And you know what was behind those doors? A whole universe of life-decisions that I hadn’t ever considered. Here I’d been, wrapping myself around the axel because I wasn’t in a relationship and I only had so many child-bearing years left. I was well on my way to considering myself a failure as a woman when BAM!
There is so much more to womanhood than motherhood. Suddenly my whole perception of love and relationships and the timeline of those things has changed. I look forward to finding that special man, but I am quite happy with everything I’m doing in the here-and-now.
But I still do love children. And guess what? Their parents are more than happy to get rid of them sometimes! I adore babysitting my friends’ kids, for free, mind you. It’s a win-win. The parents get a break and I get to play with kids. I teach Sunday school at my church. I have my teenager family who I stay with for days or weeks on end when their parents go out of town. There are kids out there who need friends and mentors. You can love them to pieces without having to share DNA. It’s awesome! I’ve always thought that if I had lived one or two hundred years ago I would have been a governess. Maybe I was in a former life or two. Because that is totally where it’s at!
So here’s my ideal situation. Some day I would love to marry an older man who has children in their late teens or early twenties. I would love to be there for them when they get married and all, and when they have kids of their own I would get to have grandkids! That would be perfect. But I’m not in any hurry. I have so many things to do and so many kid-friends to love first.