I’m a 30 year old yoga teacher, and my career is my baby.
Sometimes I ask myself whether my wanting to have a career instead of a baby is a problem, like maybe that’s too selfish. The idea that it’s selfish to prefer my own personal development over motherhood has somehow been ingrained in me and many other women, but I truly don’t want children right now. I’m enjoying working on myself, and I have enough challenges without having to change diapers and wake up for 3 a.m. feedings.
For the first time in my life, I know I could handle being a mom. I know my husband and I could love and support a baby if we had one. I’m not opposed to being a mom one day, either. It’s just not at the top of my list right now. A lot of women seem to feel they have to make a firm decision and stick to it forever. Most women have at some point experienced a sincere change of heart on something, and been rewarded with derision and accusations of fickleness, one of many ways that misogyny thrives in our culture. But all I can say for sure is what’s true for me right now. I might want kids one day, but for now the answer is still no.
Plenty of my close friends have kids now, and while they seem to be happy, I don’t feel envious of them. If anything, I feel a little bit sad that the difference between moms and non-moms creates such a social gulf. I don’t feel left behind like they’re getting to experience some magical thing that’s unavailable to me. I’ve heard enough of their stories to believe that while parenthood is extremely fulfilling to many people, it’s no panacea. Nor do I think they’re missing out on something by being moms instead of pursuing careers.
It has taken me a long time to grasp that not wanting kids doesn’t make me selfish or weird. The popular characterization of childless women says if you don’t have a baby, it’s because you haven’t found the right person yet, you’re infertile, or you’re lesbian (and we just assume lesbians don’t have mothering instincts). If none of those things are true and you actually just don’t want babies, that’s when people start to look at you askance. Maybe you’re a cold person who can’t love and chooses a career to avoid the inevitable misery you would inflict on your young due to bad parenting instincts. Or maybe you’re just selfish and wanna spend your money on yourself instead of baby clothes. Or you’re just too young and stupid. People assume your priorities are screwed up or you didn’t get the memo about how to be a satisfied adult woman, in which it clearly states that now is about the time your ovaries are supposed to start aching. I actually had someone tell me I better get busy breeding before I turn 35 or else conceiving is going to be complicated. Apparently if you reach 40 and haven’t had a baby yet, adoption agencies become skeptical about whether you can even handle parenthood. Hooray for other people’s judgments!
In reality, I’m just really into what I’m doing right now. I’m married to my best friend. I teach yoga and write. I go out when I want to. I don’t change diapers. I travel when I can, sleep late, stay up late, and generally have a pretty good time of things. You can call that selfish if you like, but at least I know myself well enough not to have a baby when my priorities are simply elsewhere.
Based on the trends I’ve observed in my own life, I think that within 5 years I’ll switch from the “actively avoiding pregnancy” club to the “maybe we should plan a nursery in our next house” committee. But in the mean time, I’m pursuing my ambitions like a motherfucker
(no pun intended), and I see nothing wrong with that.