“You might change your mind…”
In one week today I turn 41. And a week tomorrow, Tom Brady, who is a year younger than me, will win his 6th Super Bowl. At 40, Tom is breaking norms and rules all over the NFL and the sports world. Despite being told he’s too old. Despite every commentator, after a rare bad play, asking if that will be the last throw TB 12 will make in the NFL and calling his career over. He has persevered and shows no signs of slowing down. I applaud him thumbing his nose at the norms and continuing to play as the best QB ever. Even on the eve of turning 41, I am often told that “it’s not too late” and I could still have some kids as “you know, women are having them later and later now.” I used to pause and wonder how to answer that comment, just the same way as when I was faced with the “you might change your mind” or “you just haven’t met the right person yet”. Now I just smile and nod, the path of least resistance and think, I’m tired and I’m not an All Star QB in the NFL.
I’ve never wanted to have kids. Despite the societal norms telling me that I should, that I’m not a woman without getting pregnant and having babies, that my life will never be fulfilled without this rite of passage. It’s just never been for me. I love kids. Well….Ok, I’m not going to lie, I like kids, sometimes. In small doses. Mostly I tolerate them, and sometimes I don’t. If I can’t reason with someone then I find the interaction to be difficult. My brother had kids early, and his kids have kids now and my friends also have children, so there is no lack of children around me. I enjoy my time with them and around them, but I also enjoy my time away from them. I watch one of my favorite people in the world raise her toddler. Her and her husband are chill, laid back, relaxed parents. And the little one is a ladies man, through and through, with a sweet smile and gorgeous blond hair. But he’s also 3 and everything that brings with it. She loves her son, she’s a born mom, but she’s tired. I mean really tired. I thought I was tired. One of my other favourite people in the world has twins with her husband. They moved to a farm with lots of land to let the kiddos run free, and they are, without a doubt, well-adjusted, happy kids. Who, by the way, keep each other company, an added bonus of having two. I hear it’s the same with cats, always get two. She said to me not long ago, that she is finally, after 3 years, feeling like her body is starting to be hers again.
My decision, my choice, to not have children has affected the way people interact or react to me. When I was in my twenties and thirties it was met with the standard, “you’ll change your mind.”. I never really knew how to answer that…I would never say to a pregnant friend or a new mom, “well you might change your mind.” But for the childless it’s a fair comment to field. Now as I’ve gotten older, it has turned to looks of pity, and even the occasional, “it’s not too late” or “you’ll meet the right one.” As if my decision was based on not having the appropriate partner. That has not been the case. In truth, my decision to not have children, my desire to not want them, has ended relationships, and given others moments of pause.
I have recently starting reading “Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision NOT to Have Kids” compiled and edited by Meghan Daum. These stories, essays, point to many of the reasons I did not want to have children, but has also shown me that the reasons not to have kids, are as varied, sometimes selfish and always deeply personal, as the reasons to have them. I initially was going to discuss my reasons for not wanting to have children, but I have moved past the need to rationalize; I no longer feel the need to justify my decision. I am more disturbed by the feeling that I need to validate my decision; that the question hangs in the air in the first place. In a time where we are easily connected to a vast array of cultures, of ways of being; where families, and marriages, and societal “norms” are being challenged and stretched and outright broken every day, we still cling to so many social constructions. As a female, the desire to not have children breaks all the social norms, and makes many feel uncomfortable. We are not as “liberal” as we believe we are. Whenever there is an outlier, someone or something that goes against the grain, it’s perplexing, uncomfortable and confusing.
One of my colleagues was pregnant with her sixth child. I said to her, “congratulations! You must be so excited!” She told me that many of her friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, acquaintances have made comments about how many children she has, as though she was “strange” or “weird” or doing something wrong. It was not that long ago when having many, many children was the “norm”. I supported her decision to have as many kids as she wants! Heck, if she can afford it ,and I know she has so much love to give them, she can have my 2.2 child allotment! It’s time we started to challenge these so-called “norms” and support people in their desires and wishes. To be inquisitive and wonder about other decisions, alternate options and different potentials. To push the limits and the boundaries, that’s how we grow, that’s how we change. Afterall, next weekend, a 40 year old QB will win his sixth Super bowl Ring…who expected that!?