I’m Not Ready For Babies, And That’s OK: An Open Response to Janine Kovac

I love reading articles on Role/Reboot. In fact, I am on their list of regular writers. I try to write for them once a month because I appreciate their work in questioning gender norms in relationships – something I’ve been trying to do here in a much smaller way for a long time. You can imagine, then, how horribly offended I was when I read their article entitled “Maybe You Are Ready For Kids, You’re Just Not Paying Attention” by Janine Kovac. I not only felt it was condescending and awful, but I felt it was directed at women like me, who want kids but who truly believe they aren’t ready. Clearly, I was not the only one. Due to the large, negative response that Role/Reboot received for the article, they sent out an email to the regular writers looking for a response. I jumped on the opportunity, and they told me they absolutely wanted it. I wrote the article quickly and thoughtfully and submitted it. They did not run my piece. Instead, they ran another response by someone else who happens to be a mother. The response, “An Open Letter to Janine Kovac” was heartfelt and compassionate, but I am incredibly offended by the fact that they ran a response written by a mother rather than one by a childfree woman in the same situation as the one Kovac was addressing. I’m not saying they needed to run mine, but I think they should have at least allowed a woman without children to weigh in.

However, that is the benefit of having your own site – you can post whatever you want. Here is my response to Janine Kovac, and to anyone who has ever tried to pressure me to have children:

1062529940_5490c9170e-1I am 100% sure I want to have kids. I am also 100% sure I don’t want to have them now.

Unfortunately, many women only hear the first part of that statement. Then they launch into a lecture about how I shouldn’t wait: “You’re not getting any younger. Wouldn’t you be sad if your husband didn’t get to be a dad? You’re never 100% ready, so why wait?”

Honestly, I’ve had these conversations in person so many times, I wasn’t surprised to read a similar sentiment on Role/Reboot, one of my favorite websites. In fact, I have friends and people I barely even know who take every opportunity in the conversation (and sometimes make their own opportunities) to ask me when I’m going to get pregnant, probably like Janine Kovac does to her friend, “Doris.” When this happens, I just smile and come up with another reason I hope will end that thread of conversation and mentally take note of how many times I’ve been asked this very question. My husband and I joke that, for every time someone asks us when we’re having kids, we add on another month. At this rate, we won’t even start trying until June of 2026.

In this day and age, when women are waiting longer to have children, “You’re never 100% ready” is a popular mantra. After all, it’s true. I absolutely agree that there is no 100% ready. But I do think that you can definitely approach 90%, and when I’m sitting at 50%, that’s not close enough. I’m no mathematician, but I am a teacher, and I know that 50% is most definitely failing. One of the best things anyone has ever told me was that you aren’t ever really ready, but having a baby is taxing on every single part of your life – from your relationship with your husband to the way your shoes fit you after pregnancy – so you might as well be as ready as you feel you can be. Another woman told me that the readiness and the desire need to match up because one without the other won’t cut it when it comes to caring for a child. Interestingly enough, both of these women are mothers.

To be fair, the concerns that Kovac and many other women have are valid. Let’s address a few, shall we? First and foremost, I’m not getting any younger. The clock is ticking. Before I know it, it might be too late. I realize that these things are said out of concern for my well being. After all, wouldn’t it be just awful if I waited until the ripe old age of 35, or even 40, to start trying to have a kid and then found out that I was well past my prime and unable to reproduce?

Actually, contrary to the societal narrative, this would not be the end of the world. In fact, I’m not even sure this would approach a tragedy for me. I know these women are just trying to inform me of the harsh realities of the world but, trust me, I’m already well informed. In fact, I think you’d have to be living under a rock not to know that women’s fertility starts to decline after 30, at which time the risks for certain birth defects also increase. By this logic, though, we should all start having kids in our teens at the peak of our fertility. I can introduce you to a few teenage mothers who would disagree with that. On this point, I am going into my “old age” with eyes wide open. If we can’t have kids when we’re older, that’s OK. In the meantime, we’ll have built up other important things in our lives. There’s also that three month European cruise we’ll take as a consolation prize because we can definitely afford it without kids. I think we’ll be just fine.

The next point that people love to remind me of is that my dogs are not like children. My husband and I have two adopted dogs, a terrier named Penny and a beagle named Bailey. Next to my husband, these two furballs are the loves of my life. I come home from work every day and all of my problems and stress melt away when I see their smiling faces and wagging tails. At night, we snuggle up on the couch with a big, fuzzy blanket and as they sleep on top of me, I feel so at peace. I look around me and smile and think that there is not one thing in the world that could make this life more perfect. Of course, that feeling only lasts for an hour at most before Bailey pees on something and Penny gets up and starts trying to open the cabinet door to get her toys out. We jump to correct their behavior firmly because we want to raise polite, well-rounded dogs. We love them even more, though, when they look at us with their big eyes full of apologies, and then we get back to our snuggles on the couch. Tell me again how this is different from having a child?

Most importantly, people like to laugh a little bit about the fact that my job is more important to me now than the prospect of having kids. “That’ll change,” they chuckle, implying that I shouldn’t try so hard now because I won’t want to after I have kids. There’s only one thing I can say to that, which is that I am a high school teacher. Every day, I am given the task of helping to raise someone else’s kids. I nag them for their homework. I make them clean up after themselves and alway say “please” and “thank you.” I give them tissues when they are crying in the hallway. I hand a boy an apple from my lunch bag when he tells me he didn’t have enough money for lunch. I notice when one of the girls wears long sleeves even in the heat of August, and when I refer her to the counselor, he tells me she’s been cutting herself and it’s good I caught it when I did. Yes, the more important job is to be somebody’s mom, but when someone else’s kids walk in my classroom door, I treat them like my own. I hope that my child’s teacher will do the same someday, for there is nothing more important than a child.

To all the Ms. Kovacs out there, I may be a “Doris,” and even though Connor, Travis, and Wilson are definitely names on my list of future child names, I’m leaning more toward Collin. If I have a daughter, I’m leaning toward Emily, and I’ll raise her to believe in herself and do what she most passionately wants out of life. If she wants kids, I’ll support that wholeheartedly. After all, what’s better than grandchildren? If she doesn’t, I’ll give her a few ideas of things she can say when people ask her when she’ll get pregnant. And then I’ll tell her the story about how I waited forever to have her, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Featured Image Credit: paparutzi

14 thoughts on “I’m Not Ready For Babies, And That’s OK: An Open Response to Janine Kovac

  1. Sara M. on

    I don’t have anything really insightful to say. Just this: 1) I have a kid, and I still love my dogs immensely and consider them my babies. 2) I still have the desire and need to be the best English teacher I can. It’s more challenging to find the time now since I have to divide my time in more ways, but I make it work. 3) Our daughter was born on our 6 year anniversary. Those that can do math figured out already that we were married 5.25 years when she was conceived…and no, we didn’t spend years trying. I firmly believe I’m a better mother because I waited until I was 90% ready. In those 6 years of marriage I learned who I was as a woman, a wife, a friend, a teacher, and developed a vision of who I wanted to be as a mother. 4) I have no regrets about the course we have taken. I have no desire to jump into another pregnancy just because I’ve been through it once (though I know I want Eliza to have a brother or sister – at the very least because I want her to have that experience and relationship). You won’t hear me asking you when you’re going to “hurry up and get pregnant already.” You and Tim will modify your family as you want when you want, and as long as the choice makes you happy, it’s not the wrong choice :)

    • Ashley on

      Sara,

      I think that was all incredibly insightful. Especially this part:

      In those 6 years of marriage I learned who I was as a woman, a wife, a friend, a teacher, and developed a vision of who I wanted to be as a mother.

      That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? You can jump in and have kids right away if you feel like you are comfortable in your role as woman/wife/worker/friend/etc., but if you need that time, you should definitely take it because it’ll all just get more muddled when you have a kid to care for. I mean, I wouldn’t know since I don’t actually have a kid, but I can imagine.

      Also, your baby is awesome. I’m loving every single picture I see on Facebook!!

  2. Hello, I’ve been a lurker here for a number of months, but this compelled me to actually comment. I am another one who knew I would try for children eventually, but wasn’t ready until I was 33. I had my first child at 34, followed by 2 miscarriages, and then my 2nd child at 38. Despite how heartbreaking the losses were, and despite the lack of energy I have now that I’m pushing 40, I have absolutely no regrets whatsoever about waiting to have children. Birthing and raising children is hard. No one should be forced or coerced into it before they are mentally and emotionally ready. If I had had children when I was younger, I would be a much less patient mother, a much less informed mother, and quite frankly I think I would be resentful towards my children, for no other reason than the fact that they exist. That is no way to live, and no way to parent. Kudos to you for knowing yourself well enough and waiting.

    • Ashley on

      Shana,

      Thank you for your comment. It is so hard to go against the grain in our baby-crazy culture, and it’s great to know that there are women out there who did it the way I want to. I just want to be as ready as I can be!

  3. caro on

    My grandmother lived an adventurous, unconventional life until she settled down with my grandpa at 40. She gave birth to my dad at 45. Now I’m not advocating waiting that long and I understand the fertility issues, but it’s possible to do things in your own time and have it turn out well. I think that’s part of the reason I find it so obnoxious when people act like I’m crazy for not trying to get knocked up immediately. I’m 27. I want to adopt. I’ve got time. At least according to Grandma Ethel’s example. :)

    • CaitMoronic on

      …and it sounds as though this comes from one who would know both “moronic” and “insulting.”

  4. reading this is a breath of fresh air to me, I am 33 unsure if I want kids really but can see the benefits of both sides. I have dogs to which are most defiantly part of the family! I have been married for 7 years and the comments go in fits and starts. It picks up when a friend or colleague become pregnant, and I have had perfect strangers ask me when i’m going to procreate!! It makes me feel confused and judged about my own choices and it leaves me wishing i was like everyone else and did the get married have kids blah blah. It’s so nice to read comments form like minded people and stop the pressure i’m putting on myself! I am a children’s nurse and complementary therapist working mainly with pregnancy and babies. I love my jobs and give them 100% but i like coming home to peace and quite and no responsibilities. yes there is issues about waiting however my mum had e at 37 and she said i have kept her young so maybe i will follow in her footsteps who knows…. I love grandma ethels story she rocks!! :)

  5. This was a beautiful article and it really spoke to where I am in my life. Furthermore, I’m also in education. I understand children. I get how fulfilling they are. I also know how arduous it is to guide them.
    I also love my job and put in very long hours. It doesn’t seem fair to a child to work the sort of hours I do, but, at the same time, I hate the thought of leaving work.

  6. Connie on

    I really think this is just because people always think they know what’s better for somebody else. Everybody has a different life and WHEN things happen or HOW they happen is not always in our hands. What if you find the right partner at age 37? What if your partner dies at age 30? What if you just feel not ready at 31 for kids? I am only 25 and I feel miles away of being ready for kids but even I know that a kid means a lot of love and joy, yes, BUT also a lot of WORK, a lot of sleepless nights, and it is definitely a FULL TIME JOB at any age!!!! You don’t need to do something just because everybody does it and personally I find it ridiculous to tell anybody to hurry up with kids. My mom got me at 35 which is “normal” for today, back then it was “older”. I know many women who got their first child at 39 or 40, some even at 42 so what? There is always a risk for miscarriages and even if this risk increases at age 35 I definitely must say those are just statistics and it always depends on your body, your health and your lifestyle. There are women at 25 with the body of a 35 year old and 35s with the body of a 25 year old. Age is just a number and everybody ages different and the ridiculous thing is that even 35 is very young nowadays and can not be seen as a middle aged woman who only has half a year left to get a healthy baby. That’s insane… so you should never put so much in what other people say really.. 99 % of those fears will never happen…

    • Ashley on

      You are absolutely right, Connie. Age is just a number. As long as you are healthy – both mentally and physically – there’s no reason why you can’t wait until you’re ready!

  7. Hi there,

    I cannot tell you how comforting and satisfying it was to read your post. I am 31 going on 32 and everyone keeps talking about babies and pregnancy and it is simply not something I identify to at this moment and because of that, I feel selfish and like an outcast knowing that most women my age are on their second child.

    I feel like I must defend or justify the fact that after 8 long years of university studies, I am finally enjoying my career and going out for dinners with friends and that living with my fiancé (11 years together) makes me the happiest person out there. Somehow I should feel incomplete because I don’t have a child, right?

    What about all that preaching of living in the now and in the present? I am very happy with the way things are right now. Can we leave it alone?! I know people have good intentions but it’s SO personal.

    I really love your concept of the percentages. There is such a thing as Being and feeling more ready and willing. It is so true that the famous “you’re never really ready” seems to come about quite a lot. But then there’s also being ready and there’s actually wanting kids now. The second you reply With a kick ass response to these “I was nothing before my child” people, they cut your head off with “well kids aren’t for everyone you know and that’s ok too”. Oh great, thanks for respecting the answer you begged for.

    And another thing, I’m am not certain that having a child because “it’s time” is healthy and by any means a reason to have children. Giving birth and creating a human being changes your life but it also means putting a life out there, no one ever asked to be born, you kinda wanna make sure you are ready and actually WANT to take care of that little being.

    I strongly believe that any individual feeling incomplete without a child has to analyze their sense of self worth and make sure they have an internal locus of control and not an external one. True, I am not a mother just yet so I do not know what it is like to have children and the fulfillment I heard it provides, I am only saying one should not rely solely on that for happiness. Happiness comes from within and from one’ self, full stop. I certainly hope a person does not decide to have children to “get closer” to fix existing problems. The child to come deserves happy parents that are mature enough to prioritize him or her and be the example.

    Here’s to 90% ready and up!

    Thanks again! :)

    Iva

    • Ashley on

      Iva,

      Thanks for this comment. I’m glad the post provided some comfort to you. Right now, I’m actually pregnant with my first child, but I feel even more strongly now that I was right about this issue than ever before. We were absolutely ready for this child, but when I discovered I was pregnant, I was suddenly not so sure I was ready anymore. That’s not to say I didn’t want her (I really, really did and do want her!), just that I was terrified that my life was going to change and I’d never get myself back again. Couple that with really horrible morning sickness and a body that, most times, feels alien to me and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone who wasn’t ready. I do, however, think that I now know what people mean when they say you’re never ready. You think you are, then you realize you never really could be. BUT, that said, it’s important to get to the point where you think you are ready before you go further, because at least then you have worked up the courage to go through all the rest of it. If that makes any sense.

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