I have a ticking biological clock. I am a 33 years old. And I would like to have children someday. But I don’t worry about my ticking clock anymore. Because kids or no kids, I know that I can be happy. Here’s why.
My dad and I were sitting at the dining table eating breakfast one morning. As we ate our toast and tried the variety of jams I had bought on a crazy impulse, he filled me in on some of the issues he was facing with his recent move. He also talked about his dreams as he often does. Then, looking wistfully at the trees in the backyard, he slowly said, “I know that one day, you will have a beautiful farm of your own.”
Me: “Daddy, sometimes I think you want things for me because you think they will make me happy. But I don’t necessarily want those things for myself. I have a good life. I am happy right now. ”
Dad: “Yes. But you wanted to have children, didn’t you?”
Me: “I did, daddy. Because I thought that I needed to have kids to have a happy life.”
Dad: “In our way of thinking, we thought that having kids would make our life more fulfilled. Now, when we visit you girls, and talk like this, it makes us happy. We wouldn’t have had that if we didn’t have kids.”
Me: “Sure daddy. You’re right. I’m not saying I don’t want kids anymore. It would be nice to have kids, and visit them when I’m old. What I’m saying is that I don’t need kids to be happy. I am already happy. And I will continue to be happy whether I have kids or not.”
Dad: “I see what you’re saying.”
Helpless, frustrated, and exhausted.
All my life, I assumed I would have children. I expected that by my mid thirties, I would have a couple of little brats tearing my house apart. Instead, at 32, I was divorced with no prospect of any, and never more at peace with the idea that I might never experience motherhood.
I had fantasized about having a house full of kids — four to be precise. When I was twenty-eight or twenty-nine, my doctor informed me that if I planned to have more than one child, and especially three or four, I should really get on with it. After all, she said with a sense of urgency, my fertility would skydive at thirty five. And what was I waiting for anyway?
I know now that I was waiting to be in a relationship that I felt was healthy enough to bring children into. I was married, and had been with my ex-husband (Ex.) for almost ten years at the time. Although many parts of our relationship had been wonderful, some important parts had been difficult for me. Deep down, I knew that those difficult parts and children could not co-exist. So, I was waiting for something to change.
Ex. and I started serious counseling around the time I turned thirty, and when my fertility freefall was looming. I desperately wanted to save my relationship for all that we had shared, and for all that we could share, including children. I did the math on children often. Four kids, five years. It didn’t look good. I dropped a few kids and adjusted my math. That didn’t help much. I panicked intermittently, mapped out my worst and best case scenarios, set arbitrary deadlines for myself and for Ex., and made things harder for everyone. Things were improving between us, but not fast enough for even the best “dropped-kids” plan to materialize. I went in circles. I felt helpless, frustrated, and exhausted!
Finally, one day, as I sat there in the full glory of my helplessness, it dawned on me that my mental gymnastics had been completely pointless! I realized that they had done nothing to help my situation. Nothing! I was in absolutely no better a position for having gone through them. So I decided that from a purely utilitarian standpoint at the very least, they would have to go. I also began to realize that the absence of those ever-illusory kids in my life wasn’t really making me unhappy. The thought that I wanted them and might not have them was! I now had another reason not to think about it all. Finally, I realized that the only choices available to me were: (1) have kids now anyway; (2) leave my relationship and find a better-suited one; or (3) accept where I was. I wasn’t ready for choices (1) or (2). So, my only real option was to accept where I was. To truly accept where I was.
True acceptance. I accepted that my mental gymnastics were pointless. I accepted that I didn’t want to have children now. I accepted that I didn’t want to leave my relationship now. I fully accepted that this was my situation now. So, I stopped trying to change it. With that, came a sense of relief. I felt like I was released from having to fix this part of my life, like I had permission not to worry about it. The mental and emotional space that was consumed in worry was now freed up for something else. I told myself that when a different choice became available, I would make it then. And in the meanwhile, I could be happy anyway. I could be happy anyway.
So, that’s what I started to do. Eventually my marriage ended. Going into the divorce, I fully realized that I might never have kids. I accepted that as well. But, I also knew that no matter what my future held, kids or no kids, I could be happy anyway.