After visiting my family this summer, my mom and I had the chance to have a little alone time. And she took this opportunity to give me “the talk.” Not asking who I was dating, not about sex, but whether or not I ever planned on having kids.
I was fairly lucky as a child to never endure the traditional “birds and bees talk” with my parents while growing up. I was an awkward kid who kept her nose in a book, maintained concerns only about her academic future and maybe an occasional interest in the latest video game fad. Otherwise, boys were hardly on my horizon. My parents didn’t allow me to do things with the other girls in the neighborhood if boys were involved. I was strictly permitted to only our side of the neighborhood, where I perfected playing kickball and foursquare. Funny enough, I was pretty athletic in an urban-neighborhood-kid-sports kind of way.
As I grew older, I was afraid of the day when my mom would sit me down and have the speech that we all dread our parents giving at one point or another. I remember being in classes during middle school where the crazy lady would come in and just make us all feel so uncomfortable and weird, talking about body changes, emotions, dating and sexual fluids. Heaven forbid if we had to go through the same thing with our own flesh and blood. Puberty hit, and my mom never really said anything. She’d make sly remarks about if I thought certain boys in my classes were cute and said nothing else.
Even when I started dating, my parents were strict. I couldn’t go much of anywhere with my high school boyfriend unless they were present (or if we hung out at the mall). And still, “the talk” didn’t happen. They placed a lot of trust on me, for which I’m grateful, but I was also still scared to death to nearly do anything.
During all of these years that I kept dreading the actual sexual-science conversation, my mom instead chose to take another route. The only “talk” we ever had was “don’t have babies.” This talk also consisted of “I’m not raising no more babies” and followed with “we ain’t having no babies.” She left it at that. All in all, I took the hint and was scared to death of ever having a child out-of-wedlock or even having a kid while still being a kid.
Oddly, as I’ve gotten older, I feel as if I truly took that not-so-subtle hint starting at the age of 12 really to heart. There was so much pressure placed upon me that, to this day, I can hardly imagine myself having kids. Well, I see myself as a mother, but somewhere in the depths of my mind, I feel as if I’m 16 and still too young. I still feel as if the world is my stage and there are so many roles I have yet to play. So many places to explore. I’m still discovering who I am as a person. Though I am a little less awkward and have a mother who talks about EVERYTHING with me now, somehow being a parent at this age feels almost taboo. Maybe it’s because I live in my tiny apartment in New York, maybe because I’m still fighting for all of the dreams I had since I was 8 years-old, or maybe I still want to get turnt on the weekends (which typically only includes Netflix on Friday nights and semi-wild brunches on Saturdays); I just can’t imagine being a parent right at this moment.
As my mother and I embarked upon that intimate car ride home, she moved forward to ask if I ever saw myself “really” having kids. Granted, it’s something that I think about all of the time. I’ve lost relationships over guys who wanted to have kids right then and there while I was more so focused on where I wanted to take my career. Women don’t necessarily meet the men we’re going to marry at young ages anymore. We focus more so on our professions and fine-tuning ourselves before thinking about bringing another major person into our lives — or so I hope. It’s no longer the 1950s, or even the 1990s for that matter. Women are making moves in the world, going above and beyond, giving society our full attention and being innovators. We no longer have to look to getting married and having a family so young anymore. We’re independent, we have the option of freezing our eggs (if we’re truly successful and can pay for those storage fees), and we have other dreams and goals.
Besides, I always thought that it was selfish for any man to demand when I should have children as I would be the one to carry them for nearly a year while enduring the pain, nausea, cramping, and body aches and changes during pregnancy. Changes after pregnancy and achey breasts from feeding. Possible postpartum depression. Taking a break from my career during maternity leave. Taking a break from drinking. Taking a break from partying. Taking a break from dying or chemically processing my hair. And I come from an Appalachian family where there are plenty of old wives tales that I was taught to abide by in order to have healthy, beautiful, smart, and good children — JUST during pregnancy. Yes, men want to be young enough to have kids so that they can run and chase them and still be able to play basketball, but damn! I didn’t know the man had a uterus and had to make a physical sacrifice for a year for the sake of his family?
Then, the finances of simply HAVING a child. The doctor bills during labor, paying for daycare, diapers, food for another person that can’t even say “I love you” yet but whines and cries and shits in my face, depriving me of sleep for at least 18 years. Pre-school, elementary and secondary school, school projects and supplies, sports and clubs, birthday parties, fucking snacks because of the other kids who want to stay at my house because my kid wants to have a sleepover, constant clothes because this kid keeps growing, books because my kid will be a genius, and college. COLLEGE. And y’all want me to start preparing for this now? I haven’t even paid off my OWN college education yet. Why would I place myself further in debt so quickly?
But despite it all, I long to be a mother, a provider, to have a living, breathing form of the love shared between myself and whoever the man is I’m supposed to be with. I love kids and take so much pride in the conversations that I have with them. I personally think that each child is already a genius and at perfection. It’s just as they get older that they move away from that purity with the impression of society. They’re complete blank slates and soak up every ounce of information given to them. And I feel as if most people truly do take that for granted and do not give their children the quality time that they should — maybe because they’re not ready yet, maybe they have other life obligations that take a high priority, or maybe they’re still kids themselves.
Don’t get me wrong, children are a blessing of the divine. They teach more than people could imagine about themselves and humanity. Their innocence reminds us of the childhood memories that we were so fond of and long to remember, days when life was easier and more imaginative and fun. However, children are lifelong commitments and can’t be taken back to some store or exchanged for something else. So, for the moment, I’ll just enjoy buying and exchanging clothes and shoes. Once they’re out of style, I can just let them go.