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July 22, 2014 / MissSteele

Let the Childless Shaming Commence!

A few weeks ago, I turned 27. I had an excellent birthday, even though I am one year closer to the big 3-0, which from what I heard, is a milestone in life.

I suppose it is a milestone because it is the ‘official’ mark of adulthood. You are no longer a twenty-something, and people just LOVE to remind you of this. They especially love to remind you to get on with the baby-making because soon your eggs will just shrivel up and die. They wilt like delicate flowers with each passing day.

My uncle was sure to remind me of this on my 27th birthday by declaring, “Hey, you know you better get to having babies soon. You are getting up there in age. Don’t want to wait too long.”

Naturally, I quipped back with something along the lines of, “I have plenty of time.”

To which he responded with, “Not very much.”

Wow.  It was like I could literally hear my eggs ticking on a timer.

Although I shrugged it off because he is only my uncle, and let’s face it- he lives to irritate me, I still could not escape the childless shaming that had become suddenly pervasive in my life.

For example, this weekend I was chatting with a family friend who is a mother of two at the age of 29. She, of course, plans to have more children and informed me that she wants to hurry up and have them before she gets any older.

“The older you get, the harder it is,” she explained to me. Then, the inevitable question slipped from her lips: “Are you trying for kids?”

My answer was, of course, no. I’m not “trying” for kids at the moment. I told her we didn’t feel ready for kids yet and we weren’t at that place in our lives where we were prepared to be parents.

“Well, no one ever thinks they are prepared,” she replied. “Everyone always wants to wait for the ‘right time’ but the ‘right time’ will never come. You just have to figure it out as you go.”

I didn’t really consider this stellar advice, but I listened nonetheless.

“You need to have them while you are still young enough,” she went on. “I read statistics on this. With each passing year, your child has a higher percentage of being born with horrible defects.”

I already knew this because I was not raised in an isolated cave where I ate squirrels for breakfast, but I didn’t really understand why she was lecturing me about it whenever I hadn’t even told her when I planned on having children.

“Well, my cousin is 34 and just had her first baby,” I said. “And my mom’s boss is in her forties. She just had her second.”

I thought her eyes were going to pop right out of her head and land in her cookie cake. She looked as though I just told her I pooped on her dashboard.

“That is so dangerous,” she huffed as she rolled her eyes in horror.

“I just don’t know if we want kids yet,” I reiterated.

Big mistake.

“Oh, yes you do,” she replied. “To me- that’s what life is all about. Being a mother is the best feeling in the world. I know you guys don’t feel ready, but you should just leave it in God’s hands. Let him decide when you are ready.”

Once again, terrible advice. For me, anyway.

“I can’t imagine not being a mother at my age,” she said, holding her toddler on her hip. “And I know you guys. I know you guys will figure it out.”

At this point, my husband walked up and chimed in with, “But we love to travel! We love nice things!”

He was joking, obviously. We don’t have nice things.

She took him seriously and began to tell us a tale of her cousin who didn’t want children. She was very adamant about it because she was a self-proclaimed “selfish person” and didn’t want a kid bogging down her life. That’s why she and her husband were shocked when she turned up unexpectedly pregnant at the age of 35.

Is she telling us this story because she thinks we are selfish for not wanting children right now? I thought to myself, but I continued to listen.

“She was devastated,” she said. “She did not want to be a mother.”

I expected this to be some sort of uplifting story about how she realized she really did want to be a mother afterall and was overjoyed with love. But it wasn’t.

“Well, the kid is four years old now,” she explained. “And she’s had a real hard time with it all. She is still an incredibly selfish person.”

“Oh, ok…” I replied.

“Yeah. She sees absolutely NO problem with going on a ‘girl’s weekend’ with her friends and leaving her child with her husband!” she exclaimed, expecting me to react in disgust. “And her husband does the same thing!” she said. “He goes off on a trip with his buddies and she and the kid stay home!”

“Well, if it’s just every now and then I guess I don’t see the harm,” I replied.

She stared at me for a moment in solid evaluation. “Well, there is no place that I go that my kids don’t go with me,” she said. “They take vacations together as a couple, but they don’t always take their daughter. That’s just not fair.”

“Well, I think it will be different when she’s older, ya know?” I replied. “I mean, she can’t even remember much right now anyway.”

“VACATIONS ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TAKEN AS A FAMILY!” she declared. “It’s just not a vacation without your kids.”

“Oh,” I said as my husband and I just stared at her awkwardly.

“So you guys better get busy!” she laughed. “Clock’s a ticking.”

Okay, so I should have expected it from a young, stay-at-home mother of two. She is a champion for childbearing and would run a campaign for it if she could. But I can’t even go out to eat without being shamed.

That’s right. Last night, my husband and I went with his family to a hibachi restaurant. You know the drill, the cook picks at the guests, makes jokes, throws shrimp tales at you, etc, etc. Well, our overzealous Japanese chef was a little too eager with the questions. He was overwhelming us with interrogation. It was like dining with The Riddler.

“You two married?” he asked, waiving his spatula at me and my husband. “How old?”

We responded with our ages, 28 and 27.

“Ohh,” he nodded his head. “You have babies?”

We politely shook our heads no.

“NO BABIES!” he exclaimed as he lit fire to the hibachi. “WHY YOU HAVE NO BABIES! You don’t want babies?”

Ok, I was detecting a trend at this point. Apparently, if you answer ‘no’ to that question and you are at least 27 years of age, that means you will never have children. If you ain’t got em now, you ain’t gettin’ em, apparently.

“Mommy and Daddy want grandbabies!” he laughed, pointing at my in-laws. “You need to have babies!”

We are not a couple of stone-faced curmedgeons, so we laughed and went along with the show, but he didn’t relent. Every time he laid a piece of food onto my plate he would say, “Go home, get busy, hee hee hee!” Or he would say to my husband, “Have romantic night, ok?”

I was confused as to why everyone was suddenly so concerned with our lack of desire to procreate. It was like I surpassed the age where it was socially acceptable to NOT be a parent. Of course, several of my friends have children now. Soon, I will be in the minority if I don’t jump on the bandwagon. And my husband and I will be married for three years this October, and people are quick to let us know that is plenty of time to be married without kids. They may as well just say “Stop enjoying each other and your life together and start focusing on making children so that you will not be viewed as a menace to societal acceptance and peace.”

I never said I didn’t want kids, I just don’t want them right now. I feel I still have time, and I want to accomplish some personal goals before I venture into parenthood.

Oh well. Does anyone else hear that clock ticking?

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