When I was younger and hinted to anyone older than me that I wasn’t sure I wanted kids, nearly all of them chuckled, did this dramatic hand-waving thing and then gave me the same response: “Oh, when you turn 28, that biological clock is just going to start ticking!”
And… then what? This internal clock is actually a pocketwatch on a chain and it’s swinging slowly back and forth, hypnotizing me? Turning me into a zombie unable to walk through the decision-making process? Or a cavewoman – me want babies! - looking for a man to club over the head and drag back to my lair?
Well, Maybe Lady Liz don’t roll like that. When I get the urge – even an overwhelming urge – to do something life-altering, it gets vetted through a certain process. Before I left my job to become a full-time writer, I made a pros and cons list. I compiled a massive document called Plan of Attack with all my get-rich-slow schemes for working from home. For months, I told everyone I knew that I was quitting, just to see if one of them could talk me out of it. And even then, I had to listen to Eminem’s Lose Yourself on loop for hours before I got the up nerve to turn in my notice. It was important for me to do all those things to feel good about my decision.
So why is the decision to have a baby – an equally costly and crazy proposition – one where we’re allowed to throw rational thought and deliberation out the window? Is it not monumentally, colossally important and life-altering enough to warrant a carefully weighed pros and cons checklist? Or does the strength of the urge alone justify the means?
Smart, Writerly People’s Thoughts on Biological Clocks
I recently finished Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (my mother tosses me some pretty curious literary leftovers sometimes) where Rhoda Janzen briefly mentions her decision not to have children. In the author interview at the back of the book (yes, I’m the dork reading those), she’s asked if that was a difficult decision. It was a lengthy response, but the part I found most interesting was this:
“You know what troubles me? The notion that we should reproduce just because we can. Seems to me we should be able to articulate some proactive, deliberated reasons for bringing a child into the world. When women cite their biological clock, I wonder if they’ve thought that out. Shouldn’t human beings assess their biological urges as well as admit them?”
Excellent point, Rhoda! We process any number of urges in a given day, and in most cases, don’t act on them. Sometimes I want to shake the cats, really hard. Sometimes I want to order a Forever Lazy and never leave my couch. Sometimes I want to eat a family-size bag of Pirate’s Booty in one sitting. Sometimes I want to leave Drew for George Clooney.
With the exception of the Pirate’s Booty (look, I’m not made of steel), I’m usually able to control my impulses when it makes sense to do so. It’s what separates us from the animals. It’s what prevents us from becoming mean, fat, lazy, poor, unemployed, broken-hearted, friendless adulterers. Society would be a hot mess if everyone just did what they felt compelled to do!
You can’t just sleep with your boss and tell everyone you just “overwhelmingly felt the urge to do it” – this would not garner much applause. Yet everyone seems to love the “my ovaries just demanded one” answer when it comes to babies.
Maybe I’m over-simplifying this.
Maybe “that clock just started ticking” is the answer people give because they think it’s cute and ties things up in an easy bow, when really their reasons for having kids are much more complicated. And maybe I’m not the right person to write this post – I’ve been listening for that tick-tock for years and hear only the rumble of my stomach (for more Pirate’s Booty, no doubt). Maybe I can’t comment on the pull of this elusive clock, or speak to its superpowers. For all I know, it’s simply insurmountable.
Has anyone heard the siren’s call of the biological clock and successfully ignored it?
Emily was pretty pumped for this weekend. It was her little sister’s bachelorette party, and it had been a while since she’d been to Vegas. After we were done discussing our plans (trapeze show at Circus Circus, the $3 sirloin at Binion’s Horseshoe – you know, the classy stuff), talk turned to babies since two of them were making noise in the background on her end.
I asked if she was having a third and she said she thought so. (I guess I’d want to have another one too if I was popping out super-model babies like this.)
But she quickly followed that up with an exasperated sigh and the following proclamation:
“There’s just never a good time to get pregnant!”
Vegas this weekend, a Ladies-Only vaca in June, her sister’s wedding in the Spring…the occasions that called for – nay, demanded – a non-pregnant Emily seemed to stretch endlessly through 2012. There certainly wasn’t a 9-month pocket hiding where she’d etched into her calendar Prop swollen ankles on couch, have hysterical hormonal breakdown over Beverly getting kicked off Top Chef, designate-drive husband and friends to and from bars.
I’m not saying this is what all pregnant women do, or that they can’t have fun. Some women – my mom is one of them – have amazing pregnancies and say they never felt better in their lives than when they were pregnant. There’s even an urban legend that some remarkable ladies can enjoy the company of others while sober.
But imagine some of your upcoming events sans alcohol, caffeine and/or a svelt figure:
- That shower curtain ring sales conference for work, where you’ll need no less than an army tank of Starbucks’ Sumatra blend to survive
- The 10-year high school reunion where you must either not be pregnant at all, or be so obviously pregnant that no one mistakes you for just getting super fat since graduation. Like that cow Teresa Jones.**
- Being nine months pregnant in Texas in August. Nuff said.
- The bachelorette party that requires enough vodka (exact quantity unknown) to make it okay that you’re wearing stuff like this. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeah, that’s me I guess. ↓
That ain’t all
You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting some soiree for which it’s going to suck to be pregnant. But if you do bite the bullet and find a good slot, the distressing news is that it’s not over in nine months! Unless you have unlimited babysitter funds or grandparents nearby, you don’t just need a clear three-quarters of a year. You need a clear rest-of-your-life.
Let’s not panic yet
For those of you holding off on the baby bandwagon until later, the situation may rectify itself. The Singles herd is thinning. Unless there’s a massive swell of Marriage #2 related debauchery on the horizon, the number of weddings and raucous bachelorette parties will eventually die out. Your friends will stop switching apartments every year and a half and there’ll be fewer and fewer housewarming (or their rowdier cousin, housecooling) parties. Nearly everyone you know will start having babies and stop dragging you out to the bars. Hangovers will become increasingly unbearable with age*** and we’ll have to – gasp! – settle down.
And maybe that’s okay. Who says you always have to stay till the end of the party, till last call, till the lights come on? We all know that’s the most frightening moment anyways. Perhaps it’s better to go out on top ala Seinfeld and not hang on till the bitter end. Or perhaps these are just the ramblings of a girl suffering from post-Vegas exhaustion.
What do you guys think – is there EVER a good time to get pregnant?
*Okay, this won’t stay in Vegas: I woke up this morning with this super-classy Girls Night Out + martini glass tattoo. It’s in that exact location where I can’t reach it in the shower so I haven’t been able to figure out if this is fake or not. This looks fake, right?!
**All names have been changed and any resemblance real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. No cows were emotionally scarred in the typing of this post.
***For any of you who may also have gone to Vegas this weekend, here’s 13 natural hangover cures.
Because evidently you’re going to be leaping off the face of the earth. At least, that’s what Honda would have you think. Their latest Leap List campaign has me a little puzzled. If you haven’t seen the commercials, the basic premise is that you should create a list of things you “wanna do before everything you oughta do” (their sad corporate attempt at casual language, not mine). The implication being “you better do it now, cause no way in hell are you doing it after [insert life event] happens.”
I’m ashamed to admit that I had two opposing reactions to this campaign, based on the featured life event:
This one offended me a little. Here’s the scene:
- Guy lamely asks girl to marry him in the street. (No ring, no bended knee – is chivalry dead?)
- Girl says something like “Married?” [Cut away to sad, wistful look] “But there were so many things I was gonna do first. Hike the Appalachian Trail, learn to play the drums, finish my short film…”
I wanted to grab that bimbo, shake her by the shoulders and say, “No wait, getting married’s cool, and not just because of all the expensive cutlery you’ll get as gifts!” I didn’t, because if I had tried, I would have irreparably damaged our flat screen TV, which Drew loves more than me, more than Mr. Cecil’s ribs even.
This one inspired a different reaction:
- Girl springs on unsuspecting guy, “I think I want to have a baby” while out shopping in a busy street. (Good tactic, husband cannot throw public tantrum.)
- Guy looks appropriately crestfallen and says something along the lines of “But I was gonna see the Northern Lights in Alaska, go spelunking with the guys, and build that fighting robot…” (Is it even possible to get down to the baby-making process with this man and his sad hobbies?)
Now of course, I wasn’t offended by this (I too, would panic about when I’m going to get my spelunking in.). But old “meskobe,” disgruntled YouTube viewer, sure was. If you didn’t already click on the video link and see the comment she’d posted, here’s what she had to say:
Whoever came up with this new ad campaign is my least favorite person in the world. I hate the insinuation that getting married or having a baby will immediately end all ability to have fun or do anything. Marriage & children are two of the greatest adventures in life! Why not do all these “leap list” things WITH your spouse and kid(s)??!!
I cackled and did a little “Yeah, right! You can’t do ANYTHING with kids!” and then had the sobering…
Ohhhhhh. Wait a sec…
If I’m sitting here thinking they’ve got it wrong about marriage, isn’t it possible they’ve (and I’VE?) got it wrong about kids too? I don’t think the Honda marketing people are (necessarily) idiots, and the idea for these commercials didn’t just get plucked out of thin air. People – obviously lots of people – really do feel this way. But I’m not one of them when it comes to the sentiments about marriage. There’s nothing I feel I can’t do because I’m married. If anything, it’s made me want to do MORE crazy things and now I have someone to do them with (and be my designated driver).
Is it possible I would feel the same way on the kids issue if I had a couple of my own? Maybe. But…
Kids Are (Way) More Work Than Spouses
And there ARE some facts that simply can’t be ignored:
- It WILL be outrageously expensive to take children on a trip to Europe, whereas it will just be embarrassing to take your husband, who will demand to be taken to a Parisian McDonald’s for a Croque McDo. (Oh yes, it’s real. Oh yes, Drew ordered it.)
- Infants WILL likely bounce right out of that white water raft, whereas husbands only cling tightly to your life vest and scream like ladies.
- Unless you’re Amber Miller, running a marathon while 39 weeks pregnant WILL be rather withering, whereas your husband is likely to hand you refreshing beverages as you run past, like straight vodka disguised as water.
Perhaps the biggest difference of all is that you can easily leave the husband at home for these adventures if necessary, attended by little more than a bag of Zesty Ranch Doritos. But kids require significantly more expensive babysitters.
I don’t know why these commercials have consumed me the past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s that my Leap List before having a baby would take me all the way through menopause to complete. Or maybe it’s because it just seems silly – everyone I know who has had children says that you’ll never truly feel ready and you should just jump in. That used to sound brave. Now I’m wondering if these are just lazy people who wanted an excuse to skip out on their Leap List. [smiley face]
Should I write my own stupid Leap List? And then if I can’t get through it while still in my child-bearing years, I have my answer? Probably not a good idea. I’d probably just load it up with ridiculous things like Co-Star in a Country Western Musical with Elijah Wood & Soleil Moon Frye.
Nevermind, that’s the best idea I’ve had all week.
I bet Pascal never dreamed he’d show up on a baby(ish) blog 350-some years later, but he also probably couldn’t have imagined millions of viewers tuning into to find out if Snooki’s going to wet her pants again in public. But here we are. Let’s chat about him and his wagers.
Regret is a dish best served cold
I was lunching with a lady at work – Amy – before I quit work and became a Lady who Lunched. The subject of babies came up, as it’s wont to due when you’re sitting across from a pregnant person. I mentioned that Drew and I were riding the fence, and Amy said that she and her husband waffled on the issue for years before she had her first kid at 37. I asked her what swung the pendulum, and here’s what she had to say:
Ask yourself two questions:
1. If you had a baby, would you ever regret it?
2. If you didn’t have a baby, would you ever regret it?
Amy’s answer key, and presumably most people’s, is that no. 1 is an emphatic NO, and no. 2 is at least a MAYBE. Unless you have a true demon on your hands (perhaps the children who cameo’ed in last Monday’s entry?), once the kid is there, the odds of you wanting to hand it back to the stork seem relatively low. I do realize that people unprepared for motherhood hand back babies all the time (apparently foundling wheels are coming back into style in Europe! Those crazy Euros.). But I’m talking specifically about people who’ve thought long and hard before deciding to have a baby.
As for number 2 – wow, how are we supposed to answer that? I don’t know, maybe, yes? Are these good enough reasons to take on the enormous responsibility of having a kid?
Pascal Gone Baby Crazy
This whole options grid thing got me thinking about our old pal, Blaise Pascal. Famous not only for his flowing locks, Pascal is the originator of Pascal’s Wager. A highly simplified explanation of this wager is that:
Although God’s existence (or lack thereof) cannot be proved through reason, people should wager that God exists (and live accordingly) because:
- There’s a lot to be gained if you believe (namely, admittance to heaven)
- There’s little to be gained if you don’t (in fact, you might risk going to hell)
The Maybe Lady Baby Wager
Taking Pascal’s grid approach, the baby-regret options might look something like this:
Hmm. So not having a baby is the only opportunity for eternal regret? And having a baby is the most likely way to ensure happiness?
Something’s Missing Here…
Pascal’s been criticized for oversimplifying the issue and neglecting to take a few things into consideration (the ability – or lack thereof – to force a belief; what you’re missing out on by living a purely virtuous life; etc.). The same is probably true of the Maybe Lady Baby Wager.
- The Hidden Costs: If I thought I had the opportunity to own a helicopter with a tiger airbrushed on the side, and I missed it, would I regret that? Probably. But am I willing to work my tail off for the next 30 years to be able to afford that? Possibly, if I loved what I was doing. But if I didn’t truly enjoy it, or it prevented me from doing other things I loved like playing chess in the park with stray dogs? Then no.
- Other Regret: Any time you choose one road, you’re not choosing another. Maybe you would have been a famous NASCAR driver, or 18th century royalty, had you not spent all that time birthing and mothering babies.
Well, Now That That’s Solved!
Okay, anyone else as confused as I am? I suppose this wasn’t a very helpful post. And coming up with that Maybe Lady Baby Wager grid was almost as mentally exhausting as writing a college term paper. Except I was less hungover.
But in case you’re not thoroughly befuddled yet, I’ll leave you with this quote from Arthur Miller:
Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
Okay, but which ones are those?! *Sigh*