When I was 27, I was dating a guy for a few months when he asked if I had ever been married or engaged. I answered “no”. He looked at me and said, “What’s wrong with you?” Ouch. I felt that I had so much I wanted to do in my career, and I didn’t think I was ready to get married. And now, I was feeling somehow deficient. It hurt.
Fast forward fourteen years. Looking back now, I can see that I was in no way ready to be married at 27. Or at 37, for that matter. I have been doing a lot of soul-searching in the last few years to really get to know me; not the me that I presented to the world, and not the me that I thought I should be, but me. While knowing who you are isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for marriage, or even a successful union, I knew that it was important for me.
I’ve never had children, something that raises questions when I share that with people. Though no one has been tactless enough to ask me what’s wrong with me for not having children, I often feel that question in the conversation. Convention is to get married and have children, and I’m bucking the trend.
I can say that I never met the right guy, or that I didn’t want to do it alone, but the truth of the matter is that if I truly wanted children, I would have had them. I’m a very driven person. I did try fostering a teenager for a while, but that didn’t work and left me feeling that I just don’t have what it takes to be a mother. I’m not sure it’s true as being the mother of a teenager is hard. Being a mother to a teenager that you have only known for a couple of years is a commitment worthy of a saint. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that.
I’m also afraid I will feel like my mother, who felt trapped and forced to have children, even though she didn’t want to. As a small child, I understood this. When I got older, she shared this with me. It was really hard to hear my own mother say that she never wanted me. I never, ever want to make another person feel like that.
The truth is, that I simply wasn’t ready to get married, and to have children. And the bigger truth is that much as I love children, I don’t want to have them. There will always be a part of me that questions that statement: maybe I’m scared, or maybe I just didn’t have the right circumstances. And both may be true. Though my answer to the question, “Do you want to have children?” has flip-flopped through the years, my answer is now: no.
I do love being around children, though. I visit my nephews several times a year, volunteer with kids through Gabriel’s Angels (a non-profit pet therapy organization that works with children at risk) and with teens at Florence Crittenton, and love to see my friend’s kids. For me, that’s enough.
So, when the teens that I volunteer with at Florence Crittenton were asking about my age a few weeks ago, I didn’t answer. Not because I’m unhappy with my age. Frankly, I find it kind of hard to believe that I’m actually 41 as I feel like I’m now growing up and finding me. And I love the self-confidence and self-sufficiency I now feel. But mostly, I changed the subject because their next question, in the tact that only a teenager can really get away with, would be, “What’s wrong with you?” And while I am comfortable with my age and single status, I still do get a little defensive when I feel I have to explain why I’m not following convention when it just doesn’t fit me.