Just so you know: My friend is a Good Guy.
Of all the stupid, thoughtless, insipid things that people say to single, childless women approaching thirty (or not approaching thirty) that the Internet loves to list alongside GIFs of celebrities rolling their eyes in exasperation, the one I have been getting since I was nineteen is the following.
Me: No, I don’t think I want kids.
Them, turning around and seeing me play with a baby: Sure you don’t.
Recently I had lunch with an expecting couple. In the car the man said something to me about “when I get pregnant”; I exclaimed, “why are you so mean to me?” We laughed.
At the restaurant, a couple with a small child were seated next to us. The baby was somewhere between six and twelve months. She was sitting up and smiling, but not running around yet. My friends and I smiled and played with the baby from our seats after one of them struck up a conversation with the other couple. My friend, the expecting father, takes a good, long look at me and says:
“See? You changed your mind.”
As if I’ve never seen a baby before and my eyes were just opened to their sweet adorableness. Let’s forget the fact that I have four nieces and nephews, I used to live with my nephews and one of my nieces, and that I was present for the birth of one of my nephews. Also I lead middle schoolers on nature hikes, and, in high school, I used to babysit and work in the church nursery during Thursday night services. But, of course, it was seeing that adorable baby in the Boston restaurant that opened my heart and my cervix to having one of my own.
OK, some women want children. They know this ardently in their hearts. Some women I know have described it like a switch being thrown. One day they were cruising along, not caring they didn’t have children, then, the next day, BAM, they were filled with a desire to have babies. This might happen to me. Other women I know have known for many years they want children, and, therefore, are actively pursuing relationships trying to find the man with whom they want to pump out some rugrats. This has not happened to me. Still other women I know have fallen in love and married the man with whom they want to share their lives and haven’t given a second thought to producing any wee ones. This neither has happened to me. Many other women I know are single, dating, childless, and aren’t giving much thought to having babies. Like me.
I am turning thirty in the next few months, but I look like I ought to be declaring a major, I tend to paint my nails black, and I don’t drive. People don’t often ask me when I think I’m going to have children; they tend to think I am a child myself. After a little conversation, new people tend to ask “how are you single?” It’s once people get to know me, know that I am smack dab in the middle of my baby conceiving years (literally, if women in my family really tend to hit menopause at forty five), that they call me a liar about my lack-of-desire for babies.
“But you’re so good with kids!”
“I want to see your beauty and intelligence passed on!”
“Kids love you! You’d be such a fun mom!”
“You don’t want to be an old mom!”
“You’re going to change your mind one day.”
To be fair I am fun, intelligent, pretty, and good with kids. But I am also seasonally employed; I have trouble keeping both plants and pets alive; I don’t have a permanent address; my savings account is dismally low; I don’t have health insurance; I am single; I’ve never had a romantic relationship that remained healthy longer than six months. And, probably Most Importantly: There are a number of things I’d like to do before I settle down with a husband and/or a baby (if we decide to have any). Babies are so far off my radar, the SONAR doesn’t even pick up their signal.
My friend didn’t mean anything by his comments. He is simply excited by his own situation. He is excited and he wants other people to be excited. He also knows that I am excited for them. But, like people who have recently gotten engaged or married and try to set up all their single friends so they can be as happy as them, he is spreading his excitement around illogically and unchecked. I am not offended by my friend, because he is my friend and I know all this about him. (If he were a stranger it’d be a different story.) But it would be nice to be given the benefit of the doubt and believed when I say I’m not interested in having children. Especially when I turn around and have fun playing with a small child.
Because Other Peoples’ Children love me doesn’t mean I ought to want some of my own. And it doesn’t mean you can make me want kids because you think I should want kids. There are seven billion people alive on the planet today. Human beings are putting a strain on the Earth and her resources. Some of us not having babies won’t save the world, but it might help alleviate the stress. Also, and More Importantly: whether or not I have children is entirely up to me.