From an early age, girls are encouraged to play with dolls; they are given the impression that they can be whatever they want to be, from business women to teachers to actors, but ultimately, their role will be to procreate. And so most girls grow with this idea in mind that, one day, they’ll give birth.
By gradually approaching the average birth-giving age, however, women develop their own ideas about it. Personally, I am terrified by the idea of having a child. I have serious doubts about the topic and am ready to bet that most women have, too.
My feelings towards this issue have changed through the years. In my late teens and early twenties I thought I was going to finish my university course, find a man and start a family. But when my course ended I realised I felt too young and thought it would’ve been a waste to work on my education without putting it to good use after. Time passed. I found myself one of those boyfriends your parents like. He bought us a house with a spare room for the dreaded creature, but the relationship didn’t work out and after over three years we broke up.
A mini crisis ensued when, at the seemingly geriatric age of 26, I was stopped in the middle of my development towards the happy family ideal I had in mind. At that point I seriously thought I was going to end up sad and alone, in a filthy flat full of cats, with knots in my hair the size of a ball of yarn. That was it, I had missed the boat. All of the motherly women I knew had already had children by the time they were my age, and I was left stranded.
This made me wonder why it was apparently of such pivotal importance to me to have children. Was it to feel safe in the knowledge that I had a future insurance, someone to look after me and cook me a roast for Christmas? Or the need to feel needed, which would feed into my shaky self-esteem? Or a way to secure myself something of my own and a sense of belonging? Suddenly, I stepped back and woke up to the fact that pregnancy is extremely harsh on the body, to say the least. It brings with it a magnitude of health issues, affects your veins, back, skin, heart, digestion, even your teeth. And need I delve into the revolting list of labour-related facts? I think we all have heard more horror stories about this topic than we can stomach.
I suspected this last change in attitude on my side might be due to the disillusionment I had from the failure of my previous relationship, so I decided to ask around to girls who are roughly my age. My colleague Sara told me how she and her husband looked after their five-year-old niece for a weekend. All she got from it was not the warm and fuzzy feeling of tenderness only a child can give you. No. She only got a boring time, and nits. Needless to say that she now does not want any children at all. My flatmate Lauren pointed out that children might be sweet, but (and this has to be one of the most uttered sentences of all times) only when they’re someone else’s so you can give them back. To that she added “Why would I waste my efforts trying to keep trim by then getting fat for a baby?” The last girl I asked was Elena, who reported how much of an uncivilised affair family dinners are at her sister’s house, with food negotiations with the kids worth a final try by the Head of State. She doesn’t feel ready to give up her romantic holidays and having to spend her hard-earned money on someone who’s hardly going to be grateful.
Statistics tell us that the average age for a woman to have her first child is rising exponentially, and I think this is because women are trying to buy themselves some time to make sure they make the right decision, and not hurry into having children “quick, before it’s late o’clock!”. I have to say this is reassuring as, at the moment, I am currently far from sacrificing my freedom, health, independence and fun-and-impromptu nights out for another human being. I still think that motherhood and I will make peace again at some point, but for now, I’m happy I don’t have to.