Hit­ting snooze on that tick­ing bi­o­log­i­cal clock

Taranaki Daily News - - Opinion - Stephanie.mitchell@stuff.co.nz

When my cat wan­dered through the front door re­cently hav­ing defe­cated on him­self, it quickly made me and my part­ner re­alise we’re not ready for chil­dren. The smell came first, then the ev­i­dence down Baz’s back legs. As we dry-heaved, we tried to com­mu­ni­cate what we needed to do while breath­ing through our mouths.

Poor Baz couldn’t un­der­stand why his par­ents, who were usu­ally full of love and af­fec­tion to­wards him, were now sport­ing looks of pure dis­gust and get­ting as far away as pos­si­ble. I as­sume this would not be ac­cept­able be­hav­iour with a baby.

It leaves me with a dilemma, how do when you are ready for chil­dren?

An episode of a pop­u­lar 90s TV show talked about a woman’s bi­o­log­i­cal clock ring­ing and it showed a lit­eral clock ring­ing in­side of her. The state­ment was lost on me as a naive 9-year-old.

How­ever, as a 27 year old, a clock ring­ing to tell me when I’m ready for kids would ac­tu­ally be pretty help­ful.

Peo­ple say ‘when you know, you know’ but the thought of kids will al­ways be ter­ri­fy­ing. They are al­ways go­ing to be hard work and they are al­ways go­ing to be ex­pen­sive and my card de­clined for a pur­chase un­der $1 this week. So, there’s that.

Pres­sure and opin­ions from fam­ily and friends are al­ways go­ing to be there too.

When help­ing me move house and un­pack­ing a rock­ing chair, my mother told me it would be a great chair for breast­feed­ing. The next day my sis­ter-in­law was clear­ing out her closet and gave me a bag of things she no longer needed. That bag in­cluded a swad­dle, a nappy bag, and a book on how to get ba­bies to sleep. The hints were com­ing in thick and fast.

My part­ner, on the other hand, does not re­ceive this level of hints, and baby talk is thrown my way like I’m the rea­son there’s no mini-me trot­ting around. Never mind it takes two to make a baby.

That is why at a re­cent fam­ily func­tion when old fam­ily friends con­tin­ued to ask when I would pop some ba­bies out I’d re­ply with, ‘‘ask Will’’.

It’s not their fault though, it’s the in­grained pres­sure you know and dou­ble stan­dard placed on women by so­ci­ety.

Girls are taught from a young age that be­ing a mother is in­evitable.

For birthdays and Christ­mases, they are given toy ba­bies that cry like real ones and prams to push them in.

Whereas boys get ac­tion men and su­per­heroes, rather than front-pack baby-car­ri­ers, cots, or toys that throw up on you.

A quick Google search of girls’ toys shows pre­tend kitchens, ba­bies, and doll houses and for boys Power Rangers, toy guns, and Hot Wheels.

Both op­tions are heavily gen­der spe­cific and can be harm­ful to kids’ ideals as they grow up. But it shows where pres­sures arise from.

As I moved into adult­hood, I re­alised I had a choice in the mat­ter and went back and forth on if I even wanted to have kids.

Con­ver­sa­tions of how many do you want slowly changed from a num­ber I’d thought about my whole life to, well, ac­tu­ally, I might not even have kids.

As a woman, I’d say it’s a nor­mal re­ac­tion to doubt if you want kids. Car­ry­ing a hu­man in­side you for nine months, morn­ing sick­ness, can’t eat cer­tain things or have a beer after a hard day, and at the end of the nine months there’s the ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain of get­ting the thing out.

Then, once the baby has ar­rived, the over­whelm­ing anx­i­ety of car­ing for an­other hu­man be­ing. Why put your­self through it?

But I know why. Un­con­di­tional love and rais­ing a de­cent hu­man be­ing to fix the world that us garbage hu­man be­ings are ru­in­ing. That’s why you put your­self through it.

When my mother was my age, 34 years ago, she was mar­ried with three chil­dren. I’ve only re­cently got en­gaged and the only chil­dren I have are an­i­mals that don’t know how to clean them­selves prop­erly.

To­day, the av­er­age age of women hav­ing their first child is 30 and the longer you wait, the harder it gets. That’s why it’s in­cred­i­ble that Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern had her first child at 37. On top of that, she did it while in of­fice – only the sec­ond world leader to have done so.

But the in­grained pres­sure on women was heavily on dis­play dur­ing her cam­paign. Jacinda was con­stantly asked if she planned on hav­ing chil­dren, a ques­tion in­ter­view­ers would never dream of ask­ing a male leader be­cause it doesn’t mat­ter for them, and it doesn’t mat­ter for women. It’s no one’s busi­ness.

Es­pe­cially when they don’t know that per­son’s cir­cum­stances. They may not be able to have chil­dren, may have lost a child, or may not want chil­dren.

I’m at an age where the thought of hav­ing kids and the thought of not be­ing able to have kids are equally ter­ri­fy­ing. I do feel ma­ter­nal but if that bi­o­log­i­cal clock was to start ring­ing now, I think I’d hit snooze.

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