Last week, a coworker of mine was talking about her childhood dreams. She was showing everyone pictures of her children and talking about how as a child, she had dreamt of being a mother. She laughed about how she used to tell everyone that her dream car was a minivan. I sat across the table from her, smiling and laughing with the rest, watching her as she beamed with joy and happiness over creating a life she wanted. And I was genuinely happy for her, it just so happens that on the inside, I was thinking “wow, that is so far from anything I’ve ever wanted for my life.”
I am an unmarried woman on the brink of turning 30-and I’m in no rush to be married. For most of my life, I have questioned my desire to have children. People often told me that I’d “grow into it” as I got older and for a long time, I thought the same thing. But here I am, almost 30, surrounded by Facebook and Instagram posts of peers’ babies and still haven’t felt that twinge of jealousy or desire.
For this uncertainty, I have been called a number of things- selfish being the most frequent. I have experienced the inquisitive tilt of the head because people (yes, I’m generalizing) just don’t quite understand how a woman might not want kids. Sometimes I get the reassuring “but you’d be a great mother” as if questioning my skills as a nurturing person was the reason. Most of the time, I just don’t say anything because I’ve learned that to be a woman in her late twenties who isn’t sure she wants to “settle down” makes me… well I’m not sure what it makes me.
In the past, I would’ve judged my aforementioned co-worker for her dreams. I keep seeing the quote “Everyone I know is getting married or having kids and I’m just over here being awesome.” But why all the judgment? Why the war between parents and non-parents, between married and single people? I’m sure this isn’t the answer in every case, but for me, my judgment came from fear- fear that I wasn’t making the right decision, fear that I would be seen as abnormal, as not belonging. Fear that my life choices would isolate me. Having an out-group makes it easier to feel like I’m part of an in-group. And it came from insecurity about the choices I was making. My need to feel ‘better than’ drove my judgment. It is what held together my belief that I was doing the right thing.
But let me tell you, the (false air of) superiority never actually made me feel more secure. I had to learn that there are ups and downs to every choice and that there will always be a part of me who wants to have it all. It will never be completely green on one side of the fence. When I let that scary thought in, I began to see that staunchly holding on to my opinions made them more fragile.
It is easy to judge, it is difficult to be vulnerable. It is easy to ignore your own faults when you’re casting a light onto others. And it is easier to believe that there is only one way because that doesn’t open up the possibility that you might not have all the answers. But at an age when my friends seem to be splitting off into different categories- parent or not parent, married or not married- I would hate to see those relationships falter because of our differing choices and our judgments of each other for those choices.
I can’t imagine how wonderful and difficult it is to have children or to be married. I don’t know what that life is like, which is why I vow to stop putting people down for making choices that are different than the ones I want, why I will try to stop comparing my life to others. I hope that at some point, people can do the same for me. Because as much as I hold my head high and pretend like it doesn’t affect me to be called selfish every time I decide to disclose what I might not want, it still hurts. But instead of firing back with defensiveness, I’ve decided to be vulnerable and let it in. I am the only one who can really know the reason for my life choices. And in the end, I’m the only one who has to be ok with them. Perhaps we should all start letting each other live our own lives. And if you can’t manage to do that, instead of judging, why not just block them from your newsfeed?