This January, I will mark the official entrance into my thirties. I am happily married with a house, my dream job, and a huge mastiff I’m obsessed with. Although my husband and I certainly haven’t figured out this whole thing called adulthood completely—does anyone ever?—we’re pretty much settled into the life we worked for. We have elements of the American Dream and we have elements of our own dreams. We’re content with our simple life.
There’s just one piece of the puzzle missing at this point—at twenty-nine, we do not have any kids.
Although I and so many others are constantly bringing up my ticking biological clock, we’re not really in any rush to call ourselves parents.
Exploring Life Childfree
In my early teens, my adult life seemed like a predetermined route I would glide through. There would be college for four years, then the landing of a dream job. There would be marriage, a cute apartment followed by the quintessential three-bedroom house with a front porch and white fence. In our early twenties, we would live the life, going out, being social, traveling. In our late twenties, we would grow our family, having at least two kids by the age of thirty.
And then I grew up, became an adult, and realized nothing really goes as planned.
Okay, in fairness, some things did. The whole marriage, then apartment, then house thing worked out. Still, adulthood isn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be. There are so many times our planned path has veered in a completely different direction. There are still times we wonder what the hell we’re doing, feeling like we are as knowledgeable about grown-up life as a fifteen-year-old.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is in our late twenties, we’re not even close to being done exploring. We kind of assumed by our late twenties we’d have ourselves figured out, our life figured out, and be ready to share that wisdom with our offspring. We’d set thirty as a deadline because it just felt like that was what we were supposed to do. So much discussion of waning fertility and enjoying the love of children pressured us. It seemed like we had to start a family before thirty, or dire consequences would unravel. From scientific truths about conceiving later in life to the feelings of being left out from friends who are parents, we felt like we should start having kids because, well, that was the next logical step.
At times, even I hear the faint ticking of my biological clock and wonder if we should be in more of a hurry. What if we wait so long it becomes impossible to have children? What if when we have children, we wish we’d had them sooner? These are certainly fair questions, and certainly points to consider.
But we’re just not quite ready to give up the life we have. We like our life right now. We enjoy our freedom, and we’re still exploring who we are as individuals and as a couple. We know children bring a new level of joy to your lives, but we’re still experiencing joy right now. We’re just not quite ready to change that.
We came to our senses. We silenced that biological clock and all our critics who told us to get moving on the family front. We realized only we can make the decision. We realized contrary to popular belief, there is no hurry. We’ll get there when we want to get there. It’s okay if we take the scenic route.
Silencing the Biological Clock
As we approach our sixth year of marriage without kids, I’ve come to appreciate quite a few things from our choice to wait to have kids.
I’ve learned that sometimes the childless are viewed as outsiders. Although more and more women are waiting until later to have children, there is still a stigma about being a married woman without children. We are sometimes made to feel, even unknowingly, as if we’re not part of the club, as if we’re not experiencing full lives. We’re made to feel inferior at times and questioned for our selfishness. We’re told we’re missing out and we can’t possibly understand both the true struggles and joys of life.
Even when we do decide to have children, I know this will affect how I treat the childless. Being childless isn’t selfish or automatically an inferior life choice. Although I appreciate that children certainly change one’s life and that I cannot speak to that change yet, I also know that some can find fulfillment without a little hand in theirs. We need to learn to be accepting of everyone’s individual life choices and focus on our own.
Second, and most important, I’ve learned not to listen to arbitrary deadlines for important decisions. My teenage self should not get to dictate when I have children. The number of birthday candles on my cake does not decide when I have children. The questions and prodding of others does not decide when I have children. Only my husband and I can decide when we are ready for the next phase of our lives. If it comes before thirty, great. If it doesn’t come until our next decade of life, that’s great, too. We will deal with the realities of that choice when we cross the bridge.
In life, we only get one shot to live it the way we want to live it. We must learn to silence the ticking clock and outside voices that put so much unneeded pressure on our lives and listen instead to something else instead—our own hearts.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. To learn more about her novels, visit www.lindsaydetwiler.com.