(originally written March 2008)
I’m not sure if it’s a function of my advancing age, the fact that my sister has a baby, or the simple truth that a bazillion other women I know have had babies within the past three years. (OK, not a bazillion, but at least 25). But I increasingly find myself thinking about motherhood. Not in a pie-in-the-sky, idealistic, that’d-be-great-someday way. . . . but in a logical and pragmatic way. As in: if I actually had a child, how would I make it work?
As I believe the majority of women do—with some notable exceptions—I have always just assumed that I would be a mother someday. When I was in my teens and twenties, aside from an occasional pregnancy scare, that “someday” seemed a long way off. I distinctly recall thinking as a teenager that I would accomplish at least three things by age 30: I’d have a career I loved, I’d be married, and I’d have at least one child. (Actually, I was 0 for 3 on my 30th birthday. . . . but that’s another whole post.)
When I applied to law school at age 29, the thought crossed my mind that my decision to change to a less flexible career at that stage of my life might impact my ability to have a child later. I cannot say that it didn’t occur to me. But at the time, I was working in a field where I was unhappy and where I felt that my best attributes were going to waste. I was still unmarried then, and I placed a higher premium on having a more enjoyable and intellectually challenging career than on planning for a baby who certainly wasn’t going to arrive while I was single and might never come at all. Even if I’d considered single motherhood—and I had, fleetingly—I was in no financial position to pursue it.
My focus on law school for the three years from age 30 to age 33 put thoughts of childbearing pretty much completely out of my mind. For the first time in many years, I was loving what I was doing and learning tons; I was also enjoying a very full and active social life after a few years of being fairly solitary.
The first year or so of law practice was the same: I was too occupied with other things to dwell much on the fact that I remained single and childless. During that time, I met SL, and our relationship gradually progressed to commitment, then living together, then an engagement.
When SL and I got engaged, because of my (by then) advanced age of 35, we had made plans to start trying to have a baby six months after our planned wedding in April 2007. We figured that, even if I got pregnant relatively quickly, by the time we had a baby, I’d be at least 37 years old.
SL and I never got married; I called off our wedding thirteen days before it was scheduled (for reasons too long to go into here). In the weeks following our cancelled wedding and broken engagement, I was too busy processing a lot of difficult emotions and contemplating “where do I go from here” to think too much about motherhood. . . . except to realize that finding myself still single and alone at 36 made it much less likely that I would have a baby of my own before I was too old to do so.
I ended things with SL with the assumption that I’d be alone for a while. Over the course of my adult life, it had been common for me to see three, four, even five years pass between significant relationships. I believe this was in part because it sometimes took me quite a while to get over a breakup with certain men, but even more because I have never been one who readily meets men or gets into relationships with them. Yes, some have even gone so far as to say I’m “picky.” While I deny being picky, I readily admit that my lifestyle has not been conducive to meeting the type of men in whom I’m interested, and that I've probably gone out on dates with four or five men for every one that became a lasting part of my life.
I am now in a different place mentally than I was a year ago. I am (unexpectedly) in a good relationship with a man I love. That man wants to be a father as much as (if not more than) I want to be a mother. We have discussed the prospect of having a child together on a number of occasions. He is ready to have a baby yesterday. (Although he is not pressuring me in any way.)
I don’t know that I’ve ever given up my hope to have a child of my own; I’ve just deferred it or pushed it aside in favor of pursuing other desires. Although I have mixed feelings about the realities of actually being a mother, I can’t say that it’s not something I want to do. And at 37, if “someday” is not soon, it will probably become “never.”
Here is the thought that's been in my mind a lot lately: when I think of my daily life as it is today, it is hard for me to imagine adding a child—a baby—to the mix. When I was a nurse, I had a lot of flexibility at work, usually only working three days a week. Moreover, when I was a nurse I had always *assumed* that I would cut back to working part-time if I had a baby.
Now that I’m a lawyer, cutting my work hours to part-time is less of an option. Doing that would severely limit my career advancement, significantly impact my income, and would probably mean having to leave my current position. And to be honest: I’m not sure I want to stop working full-time, even if I could. I like what I do. I was more willing to give work up when I was doing something I didn’t really enjoy.
Between work, family, friends, volunteering, and just plain lazy time, I find it hard to see how I would fit in time to be a good mom. I know people juggle these things everyday. . . . but everyone else is not me, and if I decide to do the mom thing, there will be no half measures; I will do a good job of it or not do it all. In my opinion, it's too important a job to approach in any other fashion.
Yes, it might seem strange for me to be pondering this while I am on the pill and not even trying to get pregnant, but hey—that’s me! Always thinking five steps ahead. And in the case of a huge, life-changing undertaking like motherhood, there’s no going back once you’ve made the choice.
Friends say that you willingly make all these accommodations and sacrifices when you have a child. . . . but is that universally true? I guess on some level, I fear that I will be one of the minority who thinks after the birth “oh shit—this is not for me.” Ruh-roh
Lots to think about. . . . .