Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What Up With...Pressure to Have Babies?

This past weekend I went to a party thrown by my in-laws. A lot of their family friends were in attendance, many of whom I haven't seen since my wedding. Several times that night we had this conversation:

Family Friend: "How are the newlyweds doing?"
Us: "We're great, thanks. How are you?"
Friend: "Good. So, when are you two going to start having children?"
Us: *silence*

When I was 13 or so, I thought I had my life planned out. I was going to graduate from college when I was 22, get married when I was 23 and have my first child when I was 25. It's funny how I was so sure I had my life planned out back then. The reality of my situation is that I graduated from college when I was 22, graduated from grad school at 26 and got married several months later. And we don't see babies anywhere in our near future.

When we tell people that we're not having children anytime soon, 9 times out of 10 we get "why not?!" I always respond with the truth: right now I think I'm too selfish to have a child. It sounds silly, but we really enjoy our independence. I like getting a phone call from a friend to go out on a Saturday night with 5 minutes notice and being able to leave without thinking about a babysitter. I like going to the movies at 10 p.m. I like throwing house parties with my college friends that last until sunrise. My career is really important to me and I want a few years to build it up before I have a baby. I'd like to pay down my student loans a bit. I want to take a month long trip through Europe. The list could go on and on. I know that motherhood doesn't mean the end of my life, but I just don't think that I'm ready. It doesn't mean that there won't be babies eventually - I'm actually very excited to have children (hopefully a girl that I'll name Cecilia Bloom, even though my husband thinks I'm crazy). Just not now.

After explaining this to someone the other day, I got the response "well, you have to think about people other than yourself when you think about having a child, like the child's grandparents. I'm sure they're ready for a grandchild." Um...ok? This doesn't just apply to family friends. No less then a week after my honeymoon my mom asked me when I'm going to have a baby and she asks me at least once a month. I guess I expect this from my mom. It's another thing when people who don't know me very well start weighing in.

I suppose after marriage it's normal to get the baby question and as annoying as it can be, I get it. What I hate is that we're sometimes told that we're selfish for wanting to wait.

Is it selfish?

I won't cave into pressure, but I'm running out of ways to answer the question without rolling my eyes (which is TOUGH. The fact that I can control my eye rolling in this situation is a big deal). Maybe I should make a little handout to give people when the question comes up so I don't actually have to say anything. Or just come up with a witty comeback that lets them know to stop asking. I'm now taking suggestions.




andygirl said...

it's a good kind of selfish, honey! that person who said you should consider the grandparents should be slapped! boo!

this has nothing to do with anyone but you and your husband. that's it. it's your decision and if you want to enjoy being married without children right now? good for you! don't ever do anything you're not ready for. that's not fair to you and not fair to a child either. so be a little selfish! you're still young. you've got plenty of time.

incidentally, I had the same plan at 13. instead, I had 2 AA degrees by 22. worked. quit my career. went back to school, got engaged at 24. broke up with him at 25. graduated college at 26. now I'm 30 and single as they come. funny how plans change. funny how that's okay.

Emily said...

I heard a joke once that said, "when I attended weddings people would always poke me in the stomach and say 'you're next', but they stopped when I started to do the same thing to them at funerals." Maybe you could twist that to fit the current situation? :D

E said...

I completely agree with you! Right now, I'm in a relationship (not married) and the question is always "when are you getting hitched?" So of course my answer is, oh we're not there yet. I know the day I do get married, the question will change to the baby question.. and after you have one kid, it will change to "when are you having a second?" I feel that it probably never ends.

I think it is completely ok for you to be selfish. Would they rather you have a kid too soon and be miserable and not prepared? No! I won't even get a dog yet, because I know for certain I am NOT ready for it... selfish. So what??

Good luck! Enjoy being newlyweds without kids for as long as you want!

nova said...

Haha, seriously. How rude is it to ask "why not?" to people! I'm lucky in that my boyfriend came with two half-grown offspring already so I don't really have to be a 'parent' parent, but I'm also kind of covered for those questions. It's the best of both worlds.

My boss and his wife on the other hand...I hear people asking them all the time why they don't have kids. What if the reason was super embarrassing or something?

"Oh, my penis was mangled in a horrific farming accident."

He should totally say that! I'll tell him today.

Bi said...

It is the opposite of selfish when you are waiting until you are fully ready to devote the time and energy necessary to having a child! People are so clueless!

JPO said...

The only reason we're in a rush is Buckethead is OLD :) hehe. don't tell him I said that!

LWH said...

My standard answer was always, "In God's time." Granted, it might not work for everyone (you'd have to be comfortable saying it, namely) but I found that most people are afraid to argue with it.

You don't owe anyone any explanations, but unfortunately everyone seems to think they've got rights on this topic. So rude.

DSS said...

Poor thing! I had a simiar plan, and I've not made it down the aisle yet. So, you are still much further ahead of me :)

Do you know, I think that our parents and grandparents didn't really have much to do after they got married. The women. They just had a baby, and that was what they did. I think that when our children start getting married, people will ask "so will you and such and such be having any children?" Because so many people don't now, you know? It's almost like there has been this huge shift.

But for now. When are you going to start having kids? I'm just wondering :)

Jillian said...

I'm pretty sure you just wrote about the last year of my life... ugh I hate that question! And now days its a really rude question, what if you were trying to have kids but couldn't get pregnant? People can be so dense sometimes. (love the blog btw)

Kate said...

Gah. Dear everyone: DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. It'll happen when & if it happens... & if not, SO WHAT? I think your reason is perfectly respectable - and quite mature. Too many people fail to recognize their own selfishness & have kids despite it - & just aren't ready.

leymilne said...

The best thing you can do IS roll your eyes honey! Until the day that the world found out that my husband and I were separating, we were constantly asked when "#2" was coming. No matter what, you won't please everyone. They'll expect 6 kids, and judge you for having 2. Or, you'll decide to have four and someone will tell you how selfish it is to have more than one.

Roll your eyes. Tell them that you aren't comfortable with the question, or give them the honest truth: you just don't want them right now. Let them know that them asking you about your child plans is as personal as you asking about their last rectal exam.

Bitter Betty said...

Seriously, enjoy your life and your freedom now. I love having my little dude but there are times when I think of how nice it would be to do this or that, sans ankle-biter. It's that do it now or when you retire mentality! You are not selfish. You are just enjoying being married. Because that's fun too! But when the times comes for little ones, scotchgaurd your furniture. I wish I had....

Gretchen said...

That's the exact phrase I use when I tell people my husband and I aren't ready for kids yet: "We are enjoying being selfish." I went to a baby shower today and I was the ONLY one there without kids, but I still didn't get too amped up for it...I think it's perfectly okay to be selfish. THOSE OTHER PEOPLE aren't going to pack the damn diaper bag, lug the baby around, and give up sleeping in on weekends when YOU have a baby. As for the grandparents? Same deal. Unless they want to move in and raise the damn child, back off. It will happen eventually (hopefully,) but I'm not going to jump in until I feel ready.

Good for you.

ag. said...

Oh I am so with you on this...I just got married in May and have so many people ask me when we're going to have babies! It may be a year or so before we're ready to think about it and it certainly does feel like I have to defend myself everytime I get asked about it. "Ohh, not yet" doesn't seem to be a good enough answer!

Jen's Farmily said...

I think having a kid is sort of selfish in itself. I mean, you're basically telling the world that you're going to have this little being and hope you don't screw it up.

My response (since people have basically quit asking when we're getting married and moved on to the kid question) is that kids are too expensive. No one has been able to argue that point yet.

The Cubicle's Backporch

Wendy said...

It's not selfish - it's logical! We are, thankfully, not pressured by family to start popping kids out like one of those batting cage cannons (I'm pretty sure child birth is something like that).

After debate, we came up with the conclusion similar to yours. We're just to selfish. It's nice to be able to go out with our friends, not worry about a babysitter (or schedule our trips around nap times - oh god, my sis is a new mom and I NEVER even realized how much your life is planned around not having a cranky baby).

To have kids for anyone other than yourself (grandparents, etc.) is ridiculous. Now THAT is selfish.

Meli said...

Ok, a little belated but I just started following your blog after you commented on mine [last year].

I just wanted to say thank you for this post. I was holding the newborn baby of a married couple my age (early 20s) and I thought... "This is nice. Or it will be in 10 years."

I think it's becoming more the norm for women to feel like we do about school, careers, travel, etc.

But man. People need to quit fighting it and just LET it be the norm. Puh-lease.

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