Growing up in a house full of siblings with mom managing our lives, relationships, and general well-being, it all seemed so easy breezy. I saw mom go through pregnancies, do the diaper and feeding routine, and make sure we were all well fed. She would ferry us to birthday parties, soccer practices, drama clubs, and obsess over us when we were away at Uni. She continues to do the same with her grandkids now. As a kid living the good life (thanks to mom and dad), this was the perfect scenario. But as a young fertile woman, it gives me nightmares. As I start tuning in to the soft chimes of my biological clock, I stop to wonder – Is parenting for me?
Tick, tock, tick, tock – there goes my biological clock
I realised that questioning my desire to be a parent raised many judgy eyebrows around me. As a young woman my biological clock is everybody’s business. Why I don’t have kids, or when I am having them is the only topic of conversation people want to strike up with me. There are not so subtle hints and hushed whispers about ‘time running out’. There is this looming fear hammered into every young woman and we are all overthinking the doomsday scenario, wondering to ourselves – ‘what if I want to have kids later but my Faustian biological clock has already chimed its final hour?’ This expiration date on my fertility keeps me up and anxious on most nights.
Then of course there are the well-meaning friends who are mothers give me advice and offer hand-me-downs for when I have a baby, my mother has named my (to be born) kids, even my house help can’t help but give me fertility potions to speed things up. The clamour around women who have not yet tested their fertility, is deafening. I realised that while I was ok with me being me for now, society is not ok. That got me thinking, is parenting an obligation that I have to go through? While I am not averse to the idea of parenthood, am I looking at it from the lens of a list of things that need to be ticked off as being part of an adult now? Or on the other hand, as a fertile woman is it ok for me to pass up the opportunity of having a child?
Parenting is no child’s play
From what I have seen, parenting is a full-time job that has no retirement age. Right from the get-go the pressure of making life perfect for another human being is the single most important thing in the existence of the parent. The physical work it takes to raise a family is phenomenal and the emotional toll is takes is another story all together. As a parent you hold a great sway over whether your child turns out to be brilliant scientist or a world-class criminal – the pressure to do right by your child is enormous. And in a world where I’ve become so accustomed to ‘doing my own thing’ and ‘going with the flow’ am I ready to take on this gigantic task of producing a well-adjusted, well educated, fairly talented individual into this world?
Making a decision
I realised that there was no point triggering my anxiety every time someone asked me why I did not have kids. After several deep breaths, copious amounts of coffee, and scouring the internet for answers (Google is supposed to have them all right?), I found some solace, some structure. I decided that I needed lists, structured reasoning that makes the case for me qualifying for parenthood, or not. I asked myself some fundamental questions, what would be my asks or my needs if I decide to give motherhood a shot?
- Finances – raising children is a huge chunk of fiscal responsibility that needs to be catered for. Diapers, cribs, clothes, food, school, toys, college, wedding – it will never cease. Am I prepared to take that hit?
- Physical & mental – I love my body; will I be able to live with post pregnancy? What about post partum depression, is my anxious heart up to the task? The sleep deprivation will definitely kick in, and so will the hormones – can I cope with it all?
- Friends and family – People who ideally should be financing my start-up idea will need to be the circle of support I would require as a mother. Can I count on them to pitch in when things get rough?
- Workplace support – does my company have the necessary facilities in place for a working mother? Can I balance my work and parenting life and do justice to both?
The list has definitely brought perspective. I now have a fair idea of what lies ahead and how I will be able to navigate it. I also reflected on despite it being back breaking work, I have seen parents glow up. The pressures become welcome challenges and my friends who are mothers describe motherhood as the most rewarding experience. The commitment to raising a child gives parents a focus and meaning to their life. That’s a great plus point in my argument to give parenting a shot.
On the other hand, I remembered when my favourite character Carrie Bradshaw faced the same issue when she declared that she would not want to be a parent. Carrie and Mr Big decided that they would rewrite the rules of their marriage. They were going to remain a duo – “just us two” for the rest of their lives, and that worked for them. That got me thinking, what if I decided to go that route. What are the pros in that scenario? Well for starters I would definitely have more time and money for myself, which means I could travel as much, and I liked and whenever I wanted. I would be free to cook or not to cook a meal. There would be no saving for college, or teenage tantrums, or car seats. I would always be the fun aunt, and life would continue the way it is. That’s not too bad now.
To each her own
Having been through the grind of introspection and reflection, I believe that the choice of being a parent or not is deeply personal decision that every woman needs to make for herself. We live in world where the norms are evolving. Fitting into boxes that society has constructed for us is so last season. Choosing to be a parent or not may seem odd now, but the shift is happening. Giving people space to make choices that align with their capacity to cope is the new norm. We have the freedom to make decisions based on what works for us. So, if being a soccer mom is my thing then wish me luck, and if I choose not to then let me be.