I am a single twentysomething living and working in New York City; I like yoga, running, hanging out with friends, pursuing hobbies and binge-watching television shows on Netflix. My current lifestyle sounds like that of countless other single twentysomethings living in New York City -- yet there is one thing random people seem to want to change, and they seem to ask me about it on a consistent basis. It feels like I get asked about this one aspect of my life more than any other, but maybe that's because I'm just so tired of talking about it.
My relationship status. Specifically, when I'm going to have kids.
It would really be nice to still get questions about things besides children, family and marriage. When I say "twentysomething" and "career" in the same sentence, people often interpret that as "single" and "forever alone."
Most of my friends, both male and female, have been asked, at some point or other during their 20s, when (not if -- when) they will be getting married, having kids, settling down -- and it's awkward. It's really awkward.
It's also really rude.
Because the people who ask this question are not just asking me when I'm planning on having kids. They're asking about my socioeconomic status, my love life, my job status and whether I'm responsible enough to take care of another human being -- all at the same time. It may not seem like that from the outside looking in, but when trying to explain it to someone (because, yes, for whatever reason a simple one-word response will not suffice and you have to defend the fact that you don't want kids at that moment with a long, drawn-out reply), you have to explain why you don't want kids by elaborating on your current lifestyle.
When you reach a certain age and you are childless, people are going to assume there is something wrong with you. They aren't going to consider that maybe you want to be single, hanging out with friends and having a good time. They don't want to hear about how terrible dating is, how hard it is to look for a stable apartment, to advance in your career. They aren't going to think about you pursuing your hobbies and interests and learning new languages. They are going to think about family, and they are going to wonder why you don't have one. That's been my experience, at least.
Having kids is a huge responsibility, and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. It means giving up my current, relatively carefree lifestyle for something new and unknown. It means trusting someone not only with my well-being but also with the life of a child we will bring into the world. It means years of dedication, understanding and love. My body would change drastically during those nine months of pregnancy, and it's scary.
Come to think of it, why would I want to get pregnant when I will be shamed for gaining weight because I'm, y'know, growing a child inside of me? Why would I want to explain postpartum depression to people who have no idea it even exists? Why would I rush to have a child, knowing that the only major country that offers no paid leave for new mothers is of course the one I currently live in, the United States? Why would I want to get pregnant, when there's also a very real possibility that I might be shamed when I return to work because I will then be a mother with a kid? That is, if I can even get a job and return to work after birthing a child.
There are so many unrealistic expectations when it comes to being pregnant and having children and having the perfect baby products that it's overwhelming.
I don't want someone to rush how I live my life. My life is just that: mine. The men and women around you who are single? It's their choice whether they want to hit the bars and have fun or try to settle down by finding the right person. If they want you to know about their love life (or lack thereof), they will tell you. They will tell you because they trust you and value your opinion.
If they don't? Then, quite frankly, it's none of your business.
Women should not be defined by their marital status and whether or not they have children. Women are told they should feel empowered and follow their dreams -- but then they face insidious judgments when they don't have kids on someone else's schedule. Successful women who are single and happily living their lives are, for some reason, regularly forced to explain their lifestyle choice of not having children to other people.
When am I going to have kids? I don't know.