Adamantly childfree her whole life, this week’s writer finds herself considering motherhood at the age of 37.
I was a lifelong “I never want kids, ever” person until divorce at 35 nudged me into some unexpected indecision. I didn’t think I’d ever be considering children, especially at this age. I also didn’t know I’d find the type of relationship that I have now, which has revealed how incredibly different one pairing of people can feel from another. Being with a new partner for the first time in 15 years suddenly revealed possibilities and emotions I never imagined having.
When I was married, I felt secure in my decision to remain childless. I had someone bound to me by the commitment of marriage who felt the same way, at least at the time, and was relatively fine with it. Sure, I felt some pressure from society (and maybe a tiny bit from his mother), but most of my closest friends and family knew better than to question me on my decision. I felt generally accepted; my husband and I were a united front, for the most part. When I no longer had the partnership of a marriage to lean on, to hide in, I was suddenly exposed. I was well aware that the possibility of meeting many different kinds of partners was out there: among them, men who would want children, who would expect them. Men who would judge me and reject me for not wanting them. I saw my lack of desire for children as a major strike against me. For the first time in my adult life, I felt afraid to be myself.
The whole landscape changes when you become a single person again. Lots of people who heard about my divorce would say “Oh, it’s so good that you didn’t have any children.” Really? Because it was totally different when I was married and everyone wanted to know why I didn’t have any. That left me to consider what was so fortunate about not having children with my ex husband. Was that concern over kids being caught in a nasty or dramatic split? Maybe it was because then I could make a clean break, and I wouldn’t have to deal with my ex again. Whatever the reason, those statements and all related discussions stopped as my identity as a single person settled in. It was as if not having a family was now a foregone conclusion and wasn’t worth talking about anymore. I guess I’d blown my chance…at something I didn’t even want to begin with.
It’s hard to say what exactly put the current uncertainty over having children into me. Divorce is hard and terrible because you lose a lot, even when it’s relatively amicable. You lose future, love, security, money. I lost a lot of those things, but the scariest thing I lost was time. If this had happened to me five years ago, I could’ve had a chance to relax and think for a minute. It takes time to meet someone, and know them and love them. The relationship I have with my current partner is so different from anything I’d known before. I can only describe it as a deeper connection, sort of a stronger emotional engagement. Loving someone and being loved in that way soothed just enough of my fears about the commitment of having a child with another person that I ended up on the fence when I thought my mind had been made up for as long as I’d been alive.
That deeper connection, plus the insight I’ve gained by going through a divorce, has made me uncomfortable with absolutes and that’s where the fence comes in. It seems fair to be honest that I’m not eager to have children, or that I don’t see it is a necessary life goal. It doesn’t seem appropriate right now to say no to a partner unequivocally. Sure, I would be most comfortable with someone who knew they didn’t want children, because I think deep down, I don’t really either. But how can I say I never want something when I don’t even know yet where this relationship will take me?
We’ve got friends who are around the same age, even a year or two older, who recently had their first babies and seem really happy. My partner sees it too, and I secretly overanalyze his responses to every online picture and status update. He’s happy when people have babies, like a normal person. When I hear about people having babies, it’s riddled with anxiety, like it somehow holds a mirror up to some dysfunctional or broken part of me. It’s not something we talk about a lot, and I realize that’s counter to my earlier description of a deep connection. Now, I’m approaching 37 and realizing that there isn’t much more time to think about this before it becomes a decision I can’t reverse. Maturity and hindsight have ensured that my days of rushing into things are over, but rushing is quickly feeling like the only solution.
Mina Lyon is the pseudonym of a New Englander with incurable wanderlust. She loves national parks, dirt roads, maple syrup, and solitude. She is pretty sure she wants to get into bicycle touring and has her whole life ahead of her.