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:
I 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