When I was still a kid, I wanted to be a mother of five. I didn’t give too much thought to wanting or thinking I needed a husband or anything like that, but I knew that I wanted a big brood. I also wanted to be an English teacher (high school or college aged, no younger grades). As simple as it all sounds, I got none of those things in my adulthood, but unlike so many essays by women I’ve read over the years that say, “Oh thank GAWD none of that happened!”, or the old unflappable fallback, “I was so naive to want any of that. Who knows what I was thinking back then, anyway?!” I think neither of those things. As my life developed into what it is now, those two base things that I wanted before and during the early part of my teens just didn’t happen.
And that’s perfectly okay.
I’m not ashamed of the dreams I once had of my future, nor am I angry at the way things turned out. Well, I’m no longer angry at the way they turned out — I think admitting that is at least avoiding any lies.
Reading so many articles, pieces, and stories over the years by women, I’ve noticed one common theme. That particular theme is that since hitting their 30s or 40s and finding success in whatever field they went into, if they also happen to end up single and child-free, they tend to behave as if having wanted a husband and babies in the past is some sort of dirty desire they wish they could scrub themselves of. If they’re child-free in their 30s and they once wanted to experience carrying a child, being a new mom, and raising a child, they seem as if trying to erase that part of themselves will make them seem like stronger women, the “proper” type of feminist for the twenty-first century. I mean, for some of them, it seems that if they admit that they wanted a loving male partner to propose to them and pledge to spend the rest of their lives with them, the current feminist in them will melt with shame.
For a long time I kept wondering why they did that. Why couldn’t a woman just admit that certain things didn’t work out the way she wanted without adding a pronounced, “YUCK!” to something that she once yearned for? But I’ve answered this question already, haven’t I?
A child-free woman in her 30s wants to pretend she’s never ever wanted kids in her life because it makes her feel weak. She doesn’t want the outside world to know that she once envisioned pushing a baby stroller down the sidewalk of her nice middle class neighborhood. She doesn’t want the outside world to know that she wanted a husband to bring her ice cream because she was having some maddening craving, or that she wanted to breastfeed her babies.
To clarify, I’m not including women who’ve NEVER wanted children and who are honest about that. I’m referring to women who admit that they did want a family in their teens and possibly early 20s, but as they got older and their romantic relationships didn’t pan out like they thought they would, they seem to take on an eight-year-old boy’s approach to someone asking if he’s kissed a girl yet and they revert a juvenile state of, “Ew, that’s so gross,” type of reaction.
Maybe I can admit that I once wanted children without that awful reaction because I actually know what it’s like to raise children. I didn’t have any of my own, but there were always kids around me when I was growing up that I had to take care of, and it’s not an easy task. I take pity on women who look at smiling snippets of other women’s lives with longing who have kids and try to make it look enviable, because it’s really nothing to envy. All the women I follow on Instagram have a way of making motherhood look like this cool ride in life with cute kids and I’m just fortunate enough to know that reality is NOTHING like that. They don’t show any real exhaustion or the myriad tasks they have to do throughout the day just to keep their households running. They also don’t share how much money they have to dish out all the time because kids are expensive as f%*k. Lately they’ve been sharing some of the horrors — short-term and lingering — that come with pregnancy and labor, but even then they try to make light of those things so as not to “scare other women off” going through it themselves.
I’ve noted that women who desperately crave to have a baby in their 30s and think they’re missing out on something grand were never really ever around children. They’ve never been around multiple women who’ve been pregnant and saw the process from the earliest stages until the end and beyond. They didn’t have to live with toddlers during their teens years and there was no escaping them. In other words, they crave the Instagram version of motherhood…until they actually become a mother, that is, and find out the truth.
Women that pine for romantic relationships in their 30s and act like they’re missing out on true happiness also want the Instagram version of a relationship where everything is photograph- and video-ready as well as perfect. If your relationship is real, why do you have to pose for a two-person selfie during what’s supposed to be an intimate, loving kiss? If your relationship is in a good, healthy place, why are you documenting a romantic getaway, strategically setting up shots to show all your followers? I’ve been amused by Lori Harvey’s Insta posts lately because I feel as if she’s trying hard to prove to the world that she’s happy, but it’s also sad because having to display your relationship like that usually means something’s off about it. Of course, people are going to call me a Boomer, say I’m hating on her and Michael B. Jordan, etc. But in truth, I hope they stick together if they’re really happy and have a foundation, but I can’t help but wonder how staged their relationship seems for two people who used to be very private about their personal lives and extemely selective about what they used to share with the public. However, women are envious of their relationship, as they always are. They have no idea what’s really going on in that relationship or any of the other ones with the theme “Look At Us We’re Happy”. Younger women especially don’t like to hear the truth from women like me because they want to believe otherwise. They want to believe the Instagram fantasy.
What is the truth, you ask?
The truth is, a relationship isn’t going to make you happy. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a person wanting to be in a relationship or wanting romantic love in their lives, but I think it’s wrong to seek out your own sense of happiness and well-being in another person, who is usually a complete stranger to you. I think it’s good to want to see your partner happy, and want to do things to please them, but the other person isn’t a cure for depression or your sadness, nor should they be treated as a bandaid for your loneliness and/or boredom. Good, loving relationships rarely, if ever, have anything to do with looks, or two beautiful people pairing up. People who wonder why they’re single all the time tend to put superhuman expectations on potential partners and dismiss without giving another person any chance at all, or they choose someone based on arbitrary standards that would’ve never meshed well with them. People that whine about always being single and never seem to know why they’re without a partner are always the least self-aware people I’ve ever encountered. And the last truth I’ll share right now is that every romantic relationship is hard in its own way, and those that tend to pine after some fictional perfect version of one probably shouldn’t seek one out. Sharing your space, body, and mind with another person shouldn’t be a huge part of your social media persona, or you’re just looking for disaster.
Having babies and being in a relationship for the average person isn’t cinematic, and you should probably be wary of those for whom it is. And even though I no longer want those things for myself, I don’t think they’re yucky or bad, nor am I ashamed that I once wanted them. Being child-free after wanting children when I was younger doesn’t mean I’m a bad person or less of a woman. Being single in my 30s doesn’t mean I’m a failure at anything or less of a woman/person. The fact is, I accepted certain inevitabilities as well as did a ton of unpacking and unlearning. I’m also very much at peace with myself. I know that being single doesn’t make me less of a woman or person — same thing for not having children.
The women who feel the need to add some negative remark after stating that they used to want a husband and babies and a nice house in the 'burbs still have work to do on themselves. I actually think they need to come to terms with certain events in their lives, accept them, and heal in some way. I don’t think they need to be ridiculed for their negativity, I think this society that puts way too much pressure on women to get married and have babies — yet continues to shame women for every single thing it can — is to blame. Just because you’re not in a relationship for whatever reason doesn’t mean that love is wrong. And just because your past relationships didn’t work out doesn’t mean that every relationship is a sham.
I think society is still trying to figure out how to classify single, child-free women without being demeaning since we’ve been demeaned since the beginning of time. But I doubt we’ll be able to move forward with that if the same women I’m talking about are still having a tough time accepting their own positions in existence.