Today Rachel touches on a topic that’s on the minds of many women at forty – motherhood. If you’re forty or almost there, and you’re not a mom, then people either want to know what’s wrong with you, or they want to know what’s really wrong with you. It seems as though it’s impossible for some people to wrap their minds around women who either choose to wait for the right man with whom to have children or decide that having children isn’t for them. Rachel helps shed some light on the thinking behind those choices…
I’m nearing forty and I am unmarried and without children. It seems that almost daily I read about a 50+ aged woman who is pregnant or recently gave birth or I see toddlers with parents who look old enough to be their grandparents—which means the parents have to be at least 70 because with Botox, Restalyne and plastic surgery being so popular, only homeless people and hippies look their age anymore, right?
I always wanted to have children. From the moment I got my “Baby Alive” doll, fed her and changed her diaper, I felt maternal pangs and knew that I wanted to be called “Mommy” when I grew up. I became the neighborhood babysitter by 10 or 11 years old. Yes, I know that is illegal today, but back then children were allowed to be mature and independent so I helped with homework, heated up dinner and put younger kids to bed while their parents were out, for about $4 per hour.
I’m a somewhat traditional person and I believe in the institution of marriage and the idea of a two-parent household. No matter how good-looking, charming or successful a suitor was, I was always more concerned with what type of husband and father he would be. While looks, common interests and shared musical tastes may have gotten us to the point where he popped the question and offered the ring, only knowing that he would be a loving and responsible parent could seal the deal. More than one engagement was called-off once I saw a fiancé interact with a child.
My biological clock was on snooze for many, many years because I simply did not feel that any man I met or dated would make a suitable father. I had an idea of how tall he should be and what sort of physique and profession he should have, etc, but most important to me was what values he would instill in our children and how he would treat us as his family. Would he put our well-being ahead of a new 60-inch television? Would he be patient and kind with a confused little person? Would he refrain from screaming and cursing at me during heated moments because he knew he was setting an example for his children?
After many years and several relationships, there was still no alarm, no ticking sound emanating from my biological clock. I made sure it didn’t need to be wound or have the battery replaced, but everything was in fine working order. I just hadn’t found anyone who would set off the bells and whistles. I became godmother and “Auntie” to several of my friends’ children and reveled in the fact that I could enjoy the pleasures of quasi-parenting without having to change diapers, clean up vomit or watch Yo Gabba Gabba ad infinitum.
I learned not to be offended when rude people asked if there was something wrong with my reproductive organs or found it incredulous that an attractive and intelligent 30+ woman could be divorced, childless and not having a nervous breakdown or putting sperm banks on speed dial. I learned that many people do not share my ideals and values so while for them single-parenthood is an option, for me it is not. My child needs and deserves two parents because someone has to keep me from sliding off the rails and I know I can’t do that and raise a well-adjusted child by myself.
Somehow, over a period of time the maternal pangs subsided and I became content to have nieces, nephews, godchildren and random little brothers and sisters upon whom I could dote and with whom I could play. I could enjoy shopping for adorable baby clothes without increasing the inventory of my vast stretch mark collection. I could endure sleepless nights by choice and not due to midnight feedings, late-night thirst and under-bed checks for monsters. I could enjoy a varied palate that does not include chicken fingers, french fries or grilled cheese sandwiches and no one would need to drag out the Big Green Clean Machine after my meal. At some point in my thirties it became okay not to be a mother.
Ironically, I’ve been feeling pangs for the last few months. It seems that meeting THE right man will do that to you. But I have to be honest and pragmatic before making any rash or sentimental decisions… Neither of us is “young.” Would we have the energy, stamina and patience to become parents at this late stage in the game? Are we still selfless enough to put a child first, rather than ourselves—or have we passed that point of no return where we are past flexible adults and going full-steam ahead toward crotchety old folks? Only time and introspective reflection will tell, but in the meantime, I’m going to sleep as late as I’d like to this weekend, watch a couple of Rated R movies and walk around the house naked. It’ll either remind us of the joys of childlessness or perhaps contribute to the behavior that leads to becoming parents.
Rachel Dachel is a freelance writer and editor, and creator and author of the blog Rachel-y Motivated Incidents.