At 30, I was still very much a single-and-dating gal. Which was fine – as we all know, timelines you thought made sense years ago don’t exactly line up when you reach that fantasy age. I would never have been ready to meet my life partner at 25 – I was having some major identity crises and just starting to kick career goals. And at 30, I felt like I still had some time to find them.
But for the last few years, I’ve been very aware that for some milestones, time is of the essence. One very obvious one being children. I could spend my 30s, 40s, any decade being single before settling down into a relationship, but biology says I’ve got a limited window left for procreation. Of course, I could be lucky and fall pregnant easily in my 40s – many women do. But statistics are against me the older I get.
It’s a strange experience to want something from life, but not want it at the same time. See, I love my life. I am still very much happy being the single-and-dating girl. I love the highs of dating – the first kisses, tipsy dates, new sexual partners who teach me new things. While I also love being in a relationship – the support and comfort of a partnership, the sexual freedom you feel with a trusted person – I’m more than happy to date around until I meet the next person who feels right for me.
The thing is, you can’t force love. And as any woman who has been single in the last few years would know, the dating world is CRUEL. There is absolutely a trend of non-commitment and I’ve found plenty of men I’ve had a great connection with, only to find they aren’t interested in settling down.
But even if I found a man who I felt that strong pull toward, and they were keen to rent a home together and start nesting with me… I still don’t think I’d be ready for kids. Because it’s not my single status that is holding me back, it’s my lifestyle.
The niggling thought that I probably need to get serious about children has become a screaming banshee in my head – time is ticking, and will soon run out. But at the same time, I am hyper-aware that bringing a child into this world is a huge commitment. It changes everything – I’ve seen it with friends who have started families. Suddenly, you have this little person who is entirely reliant on you and your partner for everything – food, sleep, attention. Sure, when they’re teeny you can cart them around to coffee dates and dinner parties, but as they grow up they stop being little angelic cherubs and start having tantrums at random and interrupting your gossip sesh to ask why the sky is blue.
In conversations with friends, I’ve learned that you do just form this innate bond with your child where you want to help them understand why the sky is blue, and even with all the exhaustion and life-change and chaos, you love them unconditionally and wouldn’t trade their existence for the world. But it’s still a big choice to give up the freedom of long, boozy dinners that don’t also cost $150 for a babysitter, spontaneous travel minus fifteen different baby bags and having the time to select a chic outfit every day. And I’m not sure I want to give that all up right now.
But let’s also go back to being single for a sec – even if I wanted to sacrifice my lifestyle for the chance that motherhood may be an even better, more rewarding experience… I don’t have a partner. Not that I need one - plenty of women have children solo. But for me, I’d like to take that step with a partner. So I have the added complication that even if I decided to take the leap on a personal level, I need the stars to align on the life-partner side, too.
For these reasons, I’ve had to look at this crossroads and assess the very real possibility that I may never have kids. If I don’t meet someone I want to have kids with before the point where I lose the ability to, I’ll be facing a childless future. And if I do meet the man of my dreams, but we don’t reach a point where we want children until it’s “too late”, I’ll be facing a childless future. The odds are kind of stacked against me, you know?
But here’s the thing – that childless path doesn’t look so bad when you actually stop to objectively consider it, even if you really, really want kids. We’ve been conditioned to believe that a childless existence will be void of love, companionship, family. But as with every life circumstance, there are positives and negatives for every experience. Sure, if I don’t have kids I might miss some of those sweet family moments – no Easter Bunny egg hunting or 6am Christmas wake-ups for presents. No sticky Vegemite toddler kisses or the thrill of seeing a child grow and develop their little personality. But on the flip side, I’ll have the freedom to travel more, to do as I please and gather other experiences the financial and familial burden of a child would prevent me from doing. I can build family through strong friendships, my siblings, communities.
There is a full, wonderful life ahead of me – even if it doesn’t involve children.
I suppose I’m writing this because I know there are women reading this who can’t have children, and really wanted to build a family. There are some who are like me and just haven’t had events in their lives line up in a way where they’ve got the opportunity to have kids, be it financially or support-wise. And there are some of you who are even more like me, and also feel this strange push-pull between wanting kids someday… but still can’t see when that “someday” will be – if it will even arrive.
When I started looking at what my life might be like if I just don’t end up with children, really considered it and all its positives and negatives, it didn’t seem as bad as I thought. Instead of perceiving a childless existence as the loss of something, I started to view it as simply a different route in life. It’ll have highs and lows, just like raising a family would. But I’ll have a far more wonderful life if I stop focusing on what I don’t have, and consider all the beautiful things I do.