I was never one to fantasize about weddings or white picket fences or kids, like many women (and men) do. Instead, I fantasized about traveling and kayaking and basically doing whatever I wanted without being beholden to someone else. I loved to stay out way too late and brunch with my friends and talk about all of the ridiculous shenanigans we had experienced. I was more concerned about my education and my career than I was about wedding bells or babies. But, despite my enthusiasm for all of the above, I still never completely wrote off kids, and quickly realized that there was one question every grown-ass woman should ask herself before she decides to have a baby. Little did I know, I would be asking myself that question sooner, rather than later.
My long term boyfriend and I eloped on a Tuesday morning and, to no one's surprise, we were soon bombarded with the same question over and over again. "When are you going to have children?"
We had talked about having kids for years and laughed at the fact that neither one of us ever really showed all that much interest in the matter. Then, we suddenly were interested. Like, very interested. We went from zero-to-sixty in only a matter of weeks and the conversation quickly shifted from if we would have kids to when we would have them. We asked ourselves a lot of questions before we decided when when, would actually be. Could we afford them? Who would take care of them while we were at work? Where would we live? You know, the typical logistics that are often considered before deciding to procreate. But other than the things one should ask their partner before deciding to have kids, I had a few questions for myself.
The list of smug things I said before I became a parent is a long one. Part of deciding to have kids involved eating a lot of my previously uninformed and seriously stupid words. I'll admit that I was, at one point in time one, of those women who rolled their eyes at the kid throwing a tantrum in the grocery store checkout line, so it was important for me to figure out whether or not I would be able to live my life on the other side of that fence, and whether or not I could handle the kind of ridicule that I was occasionally dishing out to others.
I was also unknowingly a bit more vain that I'd like to admit in my early 20s. I didn't think that gaining weight or getting stretch marks would be something I would remotely care about because, well, it wasn't something I had envisioned actually experiencing. Turns out, when pregnancy was officially on the table, I actually did care about those things. My appearance mattered to me, and while I don't think that's anything to be ashamed of, it was definitely something I didn't foresee contemplating.
I asked myself those questions and many more before my husband and I decided to have kids, and chocked up my often uninformed attitude to the maturity level of a typical early twenty-something. But none of the aforementioned cause the weight of an overwhelmingly heavy decision. The one thing I had to ask myself, the thing that I had to really get real about, and the thing that didn't seem to have a cut-and-dry answer was the one thing every woman should ask herself before having a baby:
I was ready to put my own needs aside, at times and sometimes more than I would necessarily want, for the sake of my baby?
Humans are selfish by nature. I've never considered myself to be a very selfish person by any stretch of the imagination, but considering creating another human life that I would be solely responsible for, caused me to think twice about the matter.
Was I really ready to give up my time, my money, and my body (for an extended period of time) for the sake of starting a family? Was I ready to sacrifice every aspect of my life (at times) for the sake of my child's well-being? Was I ready to focus a large majority of my life on my ability to provide for another?
For me, that answer is yes.
The ability to answer that question is, to me, the deciding factor as to whether or not a woman is "ready" (whatever that means) to have a baby. While I don't think a mother should (or needs to) give up on her future or her life or the things that bring her joy in order to be a mother, there are plenty of sacrifices that will inevitably be made. You won't be thinking of only yourself anymore; you'll be thinking of yourself and someone else, and that way of thinking definitely comes with a few decisions that you wouldn't normally make, if you only had yourself to worry about.
That's why, if a woman decides she doesn't want to be a mother because she isn't ready to put her needs last every now and again, I can't blame her. It's hard and it's exhausting and it's frustrating and while it can be rewarding, it can also be pretty difficult. There's nothing wrong with being "selfish" and saying that you want to live your life sans the responsibility of parenthood. It's just that, when I asked myself that question, I did.
I've got two boys, now, that pretty much run the show. They're adorable and perfect and messy and seriously emotional, but I'm obsessively in love with them. What I expected parenthood to be like versus what it's actually like really aren't all that different, but there are certain aspects of it that I had completely wrong.
I've made sacrifices, sure, but none that were so burdensome that I've questioned my decision to become a mother. The circumstances of my life have changed drastically, but not so much that I ever long for my pre-parent life. I don't lose sleep at night over my stretch marks or my nearly nonexistent night life, and I'm coping fairly well with the unpredictability of the erratic emotions that are occasionally thrown my way by my toddlers. You see, you might give up a lot when you have kids, but what you gain is so much more.