I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to have kids.
It never occurred to me that maybe it wouldn’t happen, and that I would be child-free forever. But as I ease into my 30s with no partner, no plan and no desire to parent alone, I’ve had to revise my expectations.
Before my 30th birthday I was in a heightened state of panic. I could not stop thinking about what a failure I was. I googled relentlessly about fertility. I felt irrationally jealous when friends told me they were pregnant. I decided to sign up for online dating sites, then spent a couple of days ghosting around on them and never ever following through.
I’m glad I’m not 30 yet. I need to perfect my response for when people ask me why I’m unmarried and childless.
— Not So Gentlewoman (@She_Que) November 17, 2015
All of this led me to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, I didn’t want kids as much as I always thought I had. If I did, wouldn’t I have tried harder? Gone on any date that came my way? Decided to parent solo?
I just wasn’t prepared to do any of those things. So instead I have spent the past couple of years getting my head around the frankly still a bit terrifying possibility that I might not ever have children.
I hadn’t really come to terms with it at all until last October, when on a holiday with my Dad. We stayed a few days in Italy with friends of his who were happily child-free, and for the first time I saw possibility, not closed doors and missed opportunities in my future.
One night I even told Dad about my fear that I would deprive him of grandchildren, and his reply surprised me.
“I don’t want grandchildren,” he said. “Well, I don’t NOT want grandchildren. I want you to be happy, and if you are always worrying that not having children will mean you disappoint me, well stop it.”
“If it happens,” my Dad said, “it happens.”
And so I began to consider my future differently. I stopped thinking about fertility and finding people to date, and I started asking myself what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be.
It has taken me a while, but I am now pretty relaxed about possibly never having kids. I am way too young to rule them out, but I’m also old enough to know that I might one day be too old to keep that particular dream alive.
But this new mindset has brought with it some surprises. Before, when I was desperately pining for a fat bundle of responsibility in human form, I was “normal”. Now, I’m shifting over into that unpleasant space occupied by women society doesn’t quite know what to do with.