By Jennifer Betts
I was in the company of a new friend of a friend recently who has three kids.
I struck up a conversation about the youngsters, due to the fact, the silence was palpable, I hate uncomfortable silences and I like to think I’m friendly soul, who takes an interest in getting to know someone and I thought what better way than to speak her language.
So we chatted for a bit about what the kids had been up to, how old they were, the usual. It was pleasant and the uneasy silence faded.
Then I directed the conversation towards myself. I began chatting about that age old stigma – a 38-year-old single, childless woman.
I explained how sick I was of hearing that old phrase, ‘oh better get a move on so.’
I’ll admit that when my close friends started to get married and have babies, that I did feel that pressure in my early 30s to ‘get a move on,’ and reproduce.
I felt the pressure of that cursed biological clock and it is a very real feeling. But the clock was akin to that feeling of panic when your alarm goes off in the morning and you’re late for work, a meeting, school, or exams.
It didn’t make me feel good about myself. I would ask my mother with all honesty, ‘Should I be thinking of marriage and kids?’ The answer I eventually settled comfortably on was, no.
So why is it that the only purpose in life for women of my age is to start having children?
I have had many conversations with friends and colleagues over the years who wish me to settle down. They mean well, but as with my new pal I began this article with, most miss my point entirely.
Let me break it down for you.
I am not broody. I am not unfulfilled. I am not envious of you. I am not sitting at home wishing I had a brood attached to my apron strings. Am I happy? For the most part yes.
There are still things I want to do with my life, things I haven’t yet achieved. Having struggled for the last few years personally, I feel that only now is my life starting. This is my time.
They say life begins at 40, well I’m getting a head start. More than anything I want to be a published author. I also want to travel and just be me. I am a wholehearted family person. I love spending time with my parents, my siblings and my nephews.
I’m happy to be the best auntie to three nephews and in their eyes I’m a bit of a super hero. I take them out to the park and the beach. I bake with them, we watch movies together and they know I’m always there for them.
Oh did I not mention that I love kids? I do. I really do. I worked as a nanny for many years and also run a youth club.
Those hugs I get each week make all the troubles of the world dissipate. Kids are honest, pure at heart and hilarious and I’m not impervious to the effects of a cute little baby.
But I will admit, I am secretly smug of all the things I get to do as a single woman. I get to sleep late and sleep late I do. I can have a pint at any time of the week.
I can feck off on a plane at a moment’s notice. I get to clean my house and it stays that way until I mess it up again. I’m responsible for me and me alone.
I don’t have to worry about when the time comes that my child, who I’ve invested years into his upbringing, schooling, wellbeing, decides to up and leave me to start his own life.
Maybe I will have kids or kid one day. Maybe I just haven’t met the right person yet. But if it doesn’t happen, then that’s ok too. Right now I don’t have that innate desire to do so.
I have been privy to many people who have yearned for a family, who have had a surprise family and also people who have succumb to the pressure for fear of what to do next.
I commend those who take a healthy interest in their children’s futures and especially those who have done it alone. I feel immense pride for those special people. But I have also seen another side on many occasions where I wonder why people bothered at all.
I’d like to think that if and when it happens for me, that I’m ready and willing to give up 99% of my own existence. The 1% will be for me.
But right now I think I deserve the full amount, to make my mark on this world and to women in the same boat as me, I salute you. Your life should not be defined by society’s expectations. Me, I’m off to live mine, better get a move on.