Being 19 and Thinking About Kids

It’s been strange to be so much younger than my siblings, eight and five years, but it’s never really impeded our relationship. Now is the first time that they are in a truly different stage of life than I am. When we were in college, high school, and middle school respectively, the difference was less stark. We were all learning, growing, and universally agreed to be young. At this point, though, I am a sophomore in college, and they are in the midst of their adult lives. We’re all still young, but not in the same way.

The starkest change seems to be how we all feel about kids, specifically, having kids of our own. I grew up around women who chose not to have children. My mother is one of four sisters and only two decided to have kids, a combination of meeting their loves a little later in life and simply choosing not to follow that path. I never felt like I had to have kids, but that was mostly because I never thought about the idea of having the at all. I feel very connected to being a woman, but not exactly to being a mother.

My mother has a deep and loving relationship with all of her children, and I am fascinated by the connection between parent and child. Watching people interact with their parents is a source of endless material and interest. As my mom is fond of quoting, children swim in the caricature of their parents. I have an enormous amount of respect for good parents.

I have two older sisters, one 28 and married, the other 25 and in a long-term, committed relationship. They both have always liked kids more than I did. Since getting married, the oldest will tell me about her overwhelming desire to have kids. She see’s baby clothes and is filled with longing. In her life plan, she will work for a couple of years and then get pregnant. Our middle sister is one of those people who has wanted a baby since she was in middle school. She has loved children and caring for them for years, often joking that she wanted a baby so bad she thought her body might spontaneously produce one.

The feeling among young women is that there’s still an expectation to have kids, even though the number of women choosing to remain single or choosing not to have children has been rising over the past several years. When I tell people that I’m not sure if I want to have kids or not, most of them tell me, “Well, of course, you’re only 19.” I assume that the meaning behind this is only that I’m young and wanting kids is considered evidence of maturing priorities.

However, I can’t help but hear it as a version of the condescending belief that all women must want children, and if one doesn’t, then she’s just not ready yet. Regardless of the intent behind the person speaking to me, it carries with it a feeling of never fear, once your frontal lobe is fully developed you too will crave the fulfillment of your biological destiny.

I’m fully prepared for my feelings to change, but I’m more concerned with the fact that I hope, more than know, that they will. I want to want kids because I feel like I’m supposed to. I want to crave motherhood. I’m so confused about everything else, about most parts of who I am, that I don’t want to have to figure this one out too. The problem becomes that wanting to having children seems like the easiest option and I worry that I’ll default to it. In all honesty, I’m only 19. This is not one of the anxieties that keeps me awake at night. I just want to add to the conversation another voice that says I am a woman, I have a uterus, and if I don’t choose to use it, that’s going to be okay.

 

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