I’ve noticed something on Facebook that I’m sure you’ve noticed too, particularly if, like me, you’ve reached that point in life where you start to judge selfie shots on drunken nights out as sad rather than fun.
And what’s happening on my Facebook account is this: baby pics are dominating my newsfeed.
There is a correlation between getting older and settling down. Where once upon a time I’d have been partying my weekends away, up all hours on Friday and Saturday nights, nowadays, the only reason I stay up past midnight is if I’m rushing to meet a tight deadline.
“It’s time to settle down.”
I’ve felt the pressure to settle down and have kids since I was in my mid-twenties.
In fact, the last argument I had with my father was precisely about this issue.
At the time, my relationship with my then boyfriend (now ex-boyfriend) had consumed almost a third of my life, and my father wondered when we were going to tie the knot. I had doubts about the institution of marriage and I wasn’t convinced that my boyfriend was the person I would spend the rest of my life with.
So as my parents drove me to the train station one morning, my dad asked me nonchalantly when my boyfriend and I were planning to get married. I replied flippantly, “I don’t think I want to get married.”
My father was incredulous. Why would I spend so much time in a relationship if I wasn’t considering marrying the guy, dad wanted to know. I argued that marriage was fabricated for religious and economic reasons and I wasn’t really interested in the idea of it. What about having children? he asked. I replied, “I don’t think I want children either.”
Then dad said something that pissed me right off. He said: “What’s the point of being a woman if you don’t have kids?”
This triggered the following reaction: I lost my shit. If you start a misogynistic line of questioning with a woman, expect to unleash the angry feminist in her.
I hurled abuses at my dad for being a chauvinist. For confining a woman’s role to that of mother. For trying to make me feel abnormal for not wanting to marry or have children. For judging women as only necessary as vehicles for reproduction. For not appreciating my personal choices. For being a f!@#ing asshole.
It was then that mum, from the passenger seat, screamed for us to shut up. I tried to convince mum that dad had started it, but she wouldn’t have a bar of it. Mum likes to sweep things under the rug. Not me. But I decided to zip it for mum’s sake. I didn’t want her blaming my rebellious nature and confrontational manner for increasing her blood pressure (again).
I forgave dad not long after the incident. And over the last decade, I’ve noticed his paternalistic views change. One recent conversation had him agreeing with me that the world needs more women political leaders because we make up half the population and need representation at the top. Upon hearing this, I smiled. Dad’s becoming a feminist, I thought.
You can ask – just be prepared for an honest response.
Of course I’ve changed my mind about marriage since then. I met Ben and surprised myself – and everyone I know – when I started seriously considering marrying him. As it turns out, marriage does take on a more romantic definition when you’re truly in love.
As you can imagine, the parental units were relieved: “Hallelujah, she’s normal!”
Now at my age, settling down is all the rage, particularly in light of the fact that Ben and I have been together eight years, engaged for four. In the time we’ve been together, several of our friends have purchased homes, upgraded to better homes, married, and have had children of their own.
And because marriage and having kids is a part of the usual lifecycle, people expect us to follow suit.
The engagement ring – that Ben assures me is not a blood diamond – is the universal symbol of two people committing to a life together. When people see it, they inevitably ask the typical questions, “When are you guys getting married?” and “When are you guys going to have kids?”
My usual response to both questions: “Not sure, we’re too focussed on our businesses.” Sure it’s not a typical reply that people often hear, but it’s an honest one.
In reply to the second question, Ben often responds, “We’re just too selfish, we like our life how we like it.” This is as equally valid.
Mind your womb.
Last week I read Nadira Angail’s eloquent blog post Mind Your Own Womb and I was deeply moved. Every line in it is a woman’s truth.
So here’s my truth:
A couple of years ago, Ben and I thought we were ready to have children. So for a year we kind of tried. I say kind of because our approach to baby making wasn’t very methodical, a sign we really weren’t serious about falling pregnant. I didn’t want to check my temperature to work out my ovulation cycle. I kept forgetting to do my saliva test in the mornings as well. I didn’t care to seek more advice from my doctor or run more tests. I didn’t make Ben do more tests either. Ours was the laissez faire approach to pregnancy: if it’s meant to be, it will be.
Plus the universe had other plans for us. I gave birth to a business instead.
Life is what you make it.
Some people will read this and draw their own conclusions: that I’m disguising my feelings of failure to fall pregnant with a mask of contentment; that I’m in denial about how I’m truly feeling; that I’m distracting myself with the businesses so I don’t have to deal with my inability to fall pregnant; that deep down I’m really depressed about it but just don’t realise it.
All wrong. To the people thinking the above: please stop projecting. That’s your stuff, not mine.
Ben and I are happy. Really.
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If you prefer to listen to this in audio format, just click the play button:
How I Really Feel About Having Babies – Part I
How I Really Feel About Having Babies – Part II