Life is full of lessons and adventures and there are so many things that we have to learn along the way.
When we first got married our plan was to wait at least a year before having kids. 3 months after our wedding my husband started a new job and we relocated. His company has an amazing sabbatical program, sending you anywhere in the world for a month after your 5 year anniversary. It wasn’t hard for us to decide that a family would wait until after that milestone. I think we were both relieved to have such a convenient excuse when people asked when we were having kids. “We’re going on a sabbatical in 2016 and then we’ll think about it!” was our go-to line for 5 years.
I’m a planner by nature so it won’t come as a surprise that having this planned out so strategically and so far in advance appealed to me. When we were a year out from the trip I read “What to Expect Before You’re Expecting” and Josh read “Dude, You’re going To Be A Dad!” I had a prenatal appointment and started taking prenatal vitamins. Those were the things that were supposed to happen a year before conception and I was checking things off the list.
Last summer, as we entered the final countdown to our sabbatical in Japan and Thailand we finally looked at each other one night and realized that this wasn’t what we wanted. We’d been going through the motions and preparing for a baby that we weren’t ready for. When we stepped back we realized that we were doing it because it was the plan we had put in place 5 years ago, hadn’t really reassessed it at any point along the way and because society had made us feel like this was what we were supposed to do next.
I think it was a combination of many things that led us to further delaying parenthood. I think traveling had a big impact. I’ve sat on trains in New York City and on patios in Copenhagen and been keenly aware of the fact that the mothers around me were much older than what you’d see in the Midwest. I remember being in one restaurant in NYC and realizing that if we’d had a child with us we would have been the youngest parents in the room by probably 5 years…and we were 30. I looked at these mothers holding newborn babies in their arms as they blew out the candles on their 38th birthday cake and I related to that. I related to the idea of being a mother at that stage in life, and not at the stage I was currently in. The realization was very profound.
Over time we’ve realized how much mobility means to us and the activities we enjoy, and that our lifestyle is probably best suited to a smaller family. It’s funny how when you realize that you might only want one or two kids you suddenly buy yourself more time and flexibility than if you wanted 4 or 5 or 6.
We’ve realized that parenthood comes in many forms and we aren’t yet sure which one is right for us.
We’ve realized that parenthood is a decision you can’t very easily go back on if it doesn’t suit you.
We’ve realized that we don’t need to do anything we don’t feel ready for, and so we aren’t.
Decisions about family planning are usually private and aren’t always discussed. We made this decision more than 8 months ago, so why am I talking about it now? I’m talking about it because I want you to know that it’s okay not to want children. It’s okay not to want them right now and it’s okay not to want them ever. It’s okay if you’re 30 and you aren’t married. It’s okay if you’re 32 and don’t have a significant other. It’s okay if you’re 27 and have 3 children. It’s okay if you just celebrated your 29th birthday, resigned the lease on the apartment you’ve been in for three years and if every spare dollar you save goes towards shoes. It’s okay if you’re 33, in a new relationship, and still want time to enjoy being a duo before becoming a trio. I’m talking about it because I want you to know that if you look at children and don’t feel some instinctual pull to have one of your own, you aren’t broken. I’m talking about it because if you look at children, have that instinctual pull to have one of your own but aren’t ready yet, that also, is okay. Not wanting to have children now or ever doesn’t make you selfish.
Be aware of what you want for your life and be aware of how society shapes your opinions and your plans. Have those very real and honest conversations with yourself and your partner. Make sure you aren’t going through the motions or deciding on parenthood for the wrong reasons. Taking the time to plan if and when to become a parent is the first step to being a good parent.
If you’re in your early 30s and feeling like time is catching up with you, take a deep breath. We have so much time.
If you’re in your late 30s or early 40s and feel the hands of time crawling right up around your neck, take a deep breath. You, too, have time (my mom had my sister at 44).
If time comes and it passes you by there are so many children out there who need your love, and you’ll be incredible at it.
Some will say that there’s never a perfect time to have children and that no one is ever truly ready. I think that’s true, and I know that many of our friends have already found the perfect time that worked for them and what they wanted. It just wasn’t what fit for us and we’re okay with it. The perfect time to have a baby is whenever you are ready.
I hope if you’re feeling pressure, or you’re questioning what you thought your plan was, or you’re watching the wave of newborn babies surge across your social circle and down your newsfeed and you’re feeling left behind, that you’ll find some comfort in this post and in knowing that there’s no perfect timeline that applies to all of us, and that there’s no rush.
Deciding that we wanted to delay parenthood gave us a newfound sense of freedom and adventure, and that will bring me to my next post. Stay tuned.
I recently conducted a survey to gather feedback from readers. A common request was to write more personal posts, so here’s my first attempt at it. If you have feedback, a topic you’d like me to cover or a question you’d like me to answer you can submit it here (it’s anonymous!).