30-somethings in no hurry for parenthood?

I’m old, at least compared to women of childbearing age. If I had children, they would give me a window into the lives and the thinking of people decades younger than me, but I don’t, so I’ve been eavesdropping on podcasts.

The other day, I listened to a chat on “Authentically BeYOUtiful” titled “Being Unmarried and Childless in Your 30s.”

Here’s how they introduced the subject:

Throughout our 20s, we found it to be socially acceptable to not quite settle down yet and focus on bettering ourselves. Some might call it selfishness; others might call it just making the best of our youth and freedom while we had the opportunities to. The decisions to get married and bear children are the biggest life decisions we will ever have to make. And, these critical life decisions should not be taken lightly. Before we get married and are forever linked to another person, we must first be happy with ourselves. Before we bring a new life into this world, we must truly want to be parents.

As we shift into our early 30s, we are feeling increasingly more pressure to settle down by those around us. Listen to this latest episode to see how our perspectives about marriage and children have changed from our 20s to our 30s. With so many females in the same situation as we are, we have been so anxious to open up about this topic to help normalize this new societal norm for millennials and future generations. 

The three women, Melly, Sadie and Camille, all in their early 30s and single, seemed to be in no hurry to become mothers. Times have changed, they said. Although they are getting pressure from their families, friends, co-workers, and strangers, all agreed that they were not ready yet. Education, career, and travel were higher priorities, plus they want to be sure they pick the right husbands. As Mollie said, “When I do get married, I want it to be done right.”

All three are Asian American. They cited statistics that showed Asians are more likely than other groups to delay marriage and kids. In their age group, one-third of college-educated women did not yet have children, they said. Mollie said she would consider having children before marriage if necessary to make sure she isn’t too old to get pregnant.

Their closing message to women who in their mid-30s are still single and childless: “It’s okay. Just do you.”

“You do you” is becoming one of my most disliked popular sayings.

As an older woman with more life experience and 13 years of reading your comments here at the blog, I was struck by how sure these 30-somethings were that they could have everything they wanted in life. When they’re ready to marry, the man will be there. When they’re ready for children, they’ll simply get pregnant and have as many children as they decide they want.

There was no consideration of the possibility that they might have fertility problems or fall in love with someone who already has kids and doesn’t want more. What if they become stepmothers and never have biological children? What if menopause sets in early? I know we worry about all this stuff here at Childless by Marriage. They’re real fears.

But I wonder how many people out there are still seeing the world through rose-colored glasses, certain they can have everything they want when they want it. God knows, I hope it all turns out well for these women and all the young people who are waiting for the “right time.” But sitting here twice their age, I’m thinking, I don’t know . . .

Here’s the link if you want to listen for yourselves. There’s a lot of extraneous chit-chat before they get to the subject, but they’re pretty fun to listen to.

What do you think, especially if you’re in that 30-something group, too? Do you feel like there’s still plenty of time?

 

Where have all the grandmas gone?


Last Sunday, I had one singer in my church choir for the early Mass. Everyone else had gone out of town to be with grandchildren. Cathy and I, not mothers or grandmothers, stayed behind. This is not unusual. Most of our singers are over 60, and most of them are grandparents. Although they like to sing and are devoted to the church, when it’s a choice between the baby and the music, the baby wins every time.
I can’t blame them. If my life were different, if I had children and grandchildren, I’d want to be with them, too. I might live somewhere else to be near them, and I might not have this choir director job that keeps me busy every weekend. I’d be busy with the kids. Or maybe not. Some families don’t get along, don’t live close to each other, don’t find time to be in each other’s lives.
I definitely see the charm of these new little people and feel left out sometimes. Monday was my birthday. I spent it alone. It was not terrible. I drove out of town, did some shopping, had an expensive lunch overlooking the ocean, sat on the beach, and hiked in a wildlife preserve. I got lots of calls and texts wishing me Happy Birthday. But if there were children or grandchildren, maybe I’d have been one of those moms at the restaurant surrounded by their family. I’d be the matriarch looking at the ever-growing dynasty that began with me and my husband: the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, their spouses and their in-laws. Heck, maybe we’d need a whole banquet room. But then I wouldn’t have been able to sit on the beach, write, take pictures and relax. Or enjoy my crab-stuffed salmon in peace. So don’t feel sorry for me.
You who are reading this are probably younger than me, so things may be different when you’re in your 60s. A recent AARP article gave statistics for what they see as “the new grandmothers.” They say 47 is the average age of the first-time grandparent and 62 percent are still working. Those numbers are bound to change with the next generation as they did for the one before me. My mother and my grandmother quit working paid jobs in their early 20s when they got pregnant with their first children. Honestly, at my age they were a lot older. They would never run off on their own like I did.
Today many women don’t get pregnant until their late 30s or early 40s, so they’ll be much older if/when the grandchildren come. A higher percentage will be still working. And at least a fifth, possibly a quarter, of today’s young women are not having children, so fewer of them will be running off to hang out with the grandkids. People without children will feel less left out because they’ll have plenty of company.
Cathy and I, the non-moms, rocked those songs at church. One of the fussiest people in our parish sent me a note saying the music was just beautiful on Sunday. So there.

Our secret grief

A while back, I wrote a post about the Savvy Auntie, a book and blog by Melanie Notkin. She writes about the joys of being a childless aunt. I highly recommend you check her out. Even with the joys of aunthood, Melanie admits to grieving over the children she never had. Earlier this month, she published an article in Psychology Today titled, “My Secret Grief: Over 35, Single, and Childless.” It’s a touching piece about that grief that people with kids don’t always understand. After all, they think, we could have had children. If we didn’t, it’s our own fault. You and I know that’s not always true. Melanie tells it well.

Last week, I went to lunch with a bunch of church ladies. Inevitably, much of the conversation focused on their children. People talked about their latest escapades, compared their ages, remembered how they were growing up. A friend showed photos of her pregnant daughter-in-law’s sonogram. I didn’t have much to say. Finally, a woman across from me said, “You have kids, don’t you, Sue?” “No, I don’t,” I said. “I thought you did.” “Nope.” And then there was this silence. You know that silence? Oh yes.

A younger woman who arrived late took the seat beside me. I noticed her sparkling engagement ring, and she smilingly admitted that she and her fiance had finally set a date. They have been together off and on for seven years. She is anxious to have children, but now she’s in her 40s and doesn’t know if she can. “If it’s God’s will, I’ll get pregnant,” she said. I believe in God, but I wanted to wring her fiance’s neck. Does he not understand that if you wait too long, you lose the chance to have kids? Seven years. Grrr.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. You know what? It’s okay to grieve, but it’s also okay to just get mad. Then maybe we can do something about it.