‘Having it all’ and why at 23 I feel under pressure to do it now

My quarter life crisis has come early, and society doesn’t like it.

quarterlife

 

I read this the other day and it resonated with me.

It talks about the taboo of having children in your early twenties — after your teenage years so you’re not seen as “irresponsible” in the eyes of your parents, but also before you hit 30, the average age a mother is when she has a child today.

I felt confused, and even more so because I didn’t know why I was feeling confused.

Let’s get this out there: I want children… someday.

I know in my heart that I don’t want them now. Nor can I afford them mentally, physically, emotionally, financially. I will know when I’m genuinely interested in having a child when I stop dreading the idea of a) giving birth and b) raising another person and having to be there for it, I mean, them, for the next 30 years. When I stop calling a baby ‘it’ subconsciously.

I feel a bit sick now.

I have never been interested in children. I never even used to think they were ‘cute’, and most of the time I just wouldn’t even notice them out on the street. When my younger cousins and family friends came over, my sister would entertain them.

Children weren’t of any interest to me.

Among my friends, I was one of those who always had a strong idea of what I wanted to do, and I’ve spent the years since I decided my GCSEs getting there. University, MA, internships, job 1, job 2, job 3. I haven’t stopped learning, and I’m really enjoying the journey of building up a career. My rough idea of where I want to be in five years time (ideally writing politics for a national newspaper, and I sort of already do that) does not include small children. I’m ambitious, and I won’t apologise for that.

So why am I suddenly interested in reading baby blogs and Googling lists of things you can’t eat when you’re pregnant? Why do I often wonder of how I would split child-care with a partner, and whether I would have enough quality time with my child while maintaining a full-time job. I’m notplanning on having children anytime soon.

Maybe it’s because of finally having children in my life that I love and care about, and not ones I have to play with. My other half’s nieces have had a bigger impact on me than I care to admit. I want to shop for cute clothes and read them books and get them ready for Church. As I have one younger sister at university, seeing two young women in my partner’s family at different stages in their lives is, not intentionally, a huge pressure because it shows me that I do want that family dynamic one day. I regularly have to remind myself how much younger I am than them.

Perhaps my increasing awareness of this pretty is because I’ve been reading more about the issues of women in the workplace (really enjoyed Cheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and I’m about to get into Caroline Criado Perez’s Do it Like a Woman) as feminism and women’s rights are more prominent in the media in 2015 than I can ever remember. More than that, these issues are important to me as someone who wants to see gender equality, and feels passionate about it. Surely that means it’s natural to consider how these ideas can apply to my own situation, and to think about what I can do to further gender equality.

I’m also inclined to say that this feeling of confusion and being lost is because I’ve just because I’ve started a new job (which I love) that comes with all the stress of trying to fit in, toeing the line only women need to of being respected while also being liked. Of trying to prove that women can write about politics and also be interested in business and development and tech. And the weird, slightly unnerving feeling of not knowing what my next step would be.

At university, my next steps were to get work experience, during my MA, to get internships, to get paid, to get my job. I got my first job, and moved on after eight months because of a fantastic opportunity I could not turn down. When my six-month contract there ended, I needed to find the next thing — not just to pay the bills — and now I’ve found it.

I’m very happy with where I have ended up and I hope to stay here for a while. So my brain is trying to find the next thing to do in the plan to ‘have it all’. I’ve secured a good job — so next job is securing a partner and house right? Or something like that. Talk about putting pressure on a relationship that’s only two years old. I have to actually stop myself from planning much further into the distant future.

But I suppose what it boils down to is that I’m under pressure to ‘have it all’ because I want it all.

I want to prove to myself that I can have a successful career, husband, children, a nice house, and my own hobbies. My career has always come first, and it’s natural to look elsewhere to what other dreams and goals in life I want to start trying to fulfill too.

The danger of this notion of constantly looking to the next thing is that it rarely gives me enough time to stop, think and appreciate what I do have already. A nice place to live, a great partner, lovely friends and family and a good starting job. My future might not be set in stone, but I’m certainly on the right path of where I want to be at this moment in time.

When my I ring my granddad to check in on my nana and we end up discussing ‘marriage material’ and my mum dreams of taking me and her grand kids to Disneyland, it’s no wonder I feel this pressure. It’s no wonder I feel anger about it. Unconscious thoughts have already been planted in my head by other people.

Not to mention the biological urges that most women will feel to have a child, combined with old-fashioned beliefs that still occur in our society that state a woman’s entire purpose is just that.

After my partner lost someone close to him last year, this is also playing a part for me to realise what I want in life. Partly this comes through in the form of wanting to do all the things I can in the time I have. I might not have another 70 years. I might have 50, 30 or 5. What if I don’t get the chance to do all the things I want to do? What if my sick grandparents, or worse, my parents, aren’t around to see me do them? Knowing my partner’s Mum won’t be at his wedding (whoever it is with) is a truly sad thought.

One of the worst things about this is the taboo and awkwardness that comes with talking about these sorts of life choices, and pressures. I’m sure other men and women face the same thing, but I’m partly writing this down so I can explain it to others, and so it can be discussed.

Why is it seen as ‘crazy’ for a woman to be thinking about kids and the future?

That’s certainly the way I feel when I try to explain it to those around me.

Anyone can be forgiven for being pressured — we are all influenced by our friends, family, the media, the world around us and biological factors. This together shapes our decisions and influences our reactions. I’m trying to realise that there’s nothing specifically wrong with this.

I hope that in time I can learn to resist them and do the things I want to in life at the right time for me. I’m 23, but telling me ‘not to worry about it right now’ isn’t helpful. I want to be able to enjoy what I have at the moment without thinking too deeply about my future; that’s easier said than done. I want to enjoy what I have and not yearn constantly for more.

Orginally published on Medium here.

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