I know it’s cliché to blame your mother for your problems, but lately I’ve been doing just that.
My mother grew up in a small town in
So my mother continued attending her junior college and continued to not be engaged. She met and married my father at the age of nineteen. According to her, this was just in time. She was starting to become concerned that she would be an old maid.
Marriage transformed my mother from college student to housewife. Two years later she was transformed into mother. (What did she do as a housewife for two years with no children?) Five years after that she was transformed again into mother of a daughter. And finally, three years later, after a surprise baby that strained the family finances, she was transformed into a working mother of three.
This is who raised me; a working mother of three with a husband who still expected her to complete all duties of a housewife, a working mother of three who never finished college and was forced to work dead end jobs which were not intellectually challenging, a working mother of three who was quite bitter about her situation and determined that her daughters would not repeat her mistakes.
Instead of achieving her own hopes and dreams, my mother laid them at my feet and encouraged me to take them up. Marriage and motherhood were not goals to be achieved, but stumbling blocks to be avoided. I was never encouraged to have boyfriends. My mother used to say things like, “I could have [fill in blank] if I hadn’t had children so young,” or “If you decide to have children you’d better really be ready because there is no turning back.”
I was scared to get married. I was definitely scared to have children (and still am). My mother made it seem like an ending, not a beginning.
Despite her warnings I married my husband a couple weeks before my twenty eighth birthday and started trying to have children a month before I turned thirty; not terribly late in life by today’s standards.
But maybe it was already too late. Maybe if I had started earlier… Maybe…
My mother’s bitterness toward her choices influenced my choices, which have also left me bitter.
A work colleague once told me that she wished she had never gone to college. If she wasn’t successful in a career it would not make fiscal sense to send her children to daycare. She was bitter too.
My sister is approaching the age I was when I started this baby making (or no baby making) journey. She is in the thick of finishing her second master’s degree. I know she plans to have children in the future. I know she assumes as I did, that making a baby will be no problem. Sometimes I want to grab her and shake her and say, “I KNOW THE TIMING SUCKS, BUT YOU NEED TO GET STARTED!” But I don’t.
Why does it seem like fertility is at odds with feminism? I feel like there is all this pressure to achieve and succeed and gather up accomplishments, all the while assuming or hoping your fertility will be around when it is time to have a baby.
And if it isn’t?
If it isn’t society turns its nose up as if you should have known better. I’m sick of reading mainstream articles about infertility which subtly hint that it could all be avoided if women would just start having kids earlier (like in the good old days). OK. I get it. You are right. Fertility declines with age.
There is very little sympathy for the successful woman in her thirties or forties who cannot have children. We made a choice after all, a choice to wait. We shouldn’t expect to have our cake and eat it too.
So what if I had chosen to have children in my early twenties? Well, the father of my children would not be my husband. I didn’t meet my husband until I was twenty seven, an age at which my fertility was already declining. The father of my children would be a man who ended up cheating on me, getting someone else pregnant, and then wondering why I couldn’t empathize with his predicament. In my early twenties I had no idea how to be a mother. In my early twenties I had no idea how to take care of someone else. In my early twenties I could barely take care of myself; financially, emotionally, or physically.
If I had had children in my early twenties I would be my mother; unhappy, bitter, wishing I would have waited.
If I ever have a daughter will I tell her to hurry up and have babies or wait? I don’t know.
I guess you are damned if you do, damned if you don't. Sigh. Yet another post with no point, no answers, no neat summary.