The Turning Point for the Kids-or-Not Decision
Drew and I were out house-hunting last weekend when we stumbled onto a cute little bungalow with a Midwest-sized backyard in El Segundo. Those of you who don’t live in California, prepare to throw up a little in your mouth: it came with 850 square feet, two tiny bedrooms, and a price tag of $650,000. Drew and I stood on the lawn and talked about blowing out the dining room wall and slapping an elaborate master on the back for an extra $100k or so.
I was pretty deep into my backyard reverie of firepits for s’mores and finally getting around to reading Hunger Games in a hammock when it hit me: Until we figure out if we’re having kids, we can’t buy this house. Or any house for that matter.
A $750,000 mortgage for a couple of DINKs? No problem. Same mortgage + two kids? Big problem. Even if we could afford it, is three bedrooms enough? That leaves no guest room, and our current condo is essentially one a big revolving door for relatives and friends in less fortunate year-round climates.
Life on hold
Okay, so we’re not buying this house. There’ll be another one. Fine. I can live with that. But this is just one of 100 times in the past year we’ve had to say:
We can’t [insert activity] until we figure out if we’re having kids.
We can’t get rid of my ancient Honda Accord yet because if we’re not going to have kids, we want a highly unreliable two-seater Alfa Romeo convertible as a replacement. I can’t start my career over and take the incredibly low-paying editorial assistant position I really want because it won’t support a family-sized budget. Drew can’t buy his highly coveted le coq sportif shoes because such exotic purchases seem frivolous next to the diaper budget. Come to think of if, we can’t buy anything – all that money should be going into a 529 to fund the $85,000/year we’ll need for private college by the time our kid would be 18. [Want to freak yourself out? Use the Cost of Raising a Child Calculator.]
I could easily accept this ambiguity or put these decisions on hold if I knew when it would end. There’s very little that I can’t tolerate when I can see an end date, a light at the end of the tunnel. So this seems simple – just set a decision deadline, right?
The moving target deadline
When I turned 25, had met the man I was going to marry, and realized that I still hadn’t had a single maternal inkling, I began to get a bit restless. Limbo and I have never been friends, starting with a poor performance under the bamboo pole in grade school gym class. (I’m tall. And clumsy.) My opinion of limbo – being in it, or trying shimmy under a bar of it – hasn’t improved much since then. I didn’t like the unsettled feeling of not being able to plan for the future, and I decided I wasn’t going to live like that forever. Not thrilled with the idea of being an older mom, I set a deadline to make my baby decision by my 30th birthday.
Two weeks ago, I turned 31.
Oops. As you can see, the blog lives on, and my missed deadline one year ago is actually the reason it exists. I started setting new deadlines. I knew the chance for birth defects went up substantially after 35, so I told myself if I was having kids, I’d be done before 35. But if you’re having two, and need to factor in time for not getting pregnant the first month out of the gate, time for them to actually gestate, and a little break in between, that puts me at needing to start, well….right about now. The decision deadline has become a moving target that inches further and further out as each year passes and I’m still not ready to have a baby.
I’m not stupid: I know that a non-decision will eventually become an actual decision because Mother Nature will have decided for me. Or may have already decided for me! But with the adoption option and some women having babies well into their late forties these days, I could potentially be facing another 15 years of limbo. 15 years is a loooooong time. That’s enough time for an infant to grow up and start driving with a learner’s permit.
And that’s simply too long to live this way.
Frankie Say Relax
I know people are going to respond to this post and tell me to relax, and that you can’t plan everything in life. But as you know, I don’t believe in accidents, so this does require planning. People will tell me that I shouldn’t worry so much about the future. But the issue isn’t that I’m anxious – it’s that I find it exciting to think about where my life is headed and make plans. If we’re not going to have kids, I want to start dreaming up that 2-week trip to Paris NOW. People will tell me to live based on the information I know now, that I can always change my mind later. But what if Drew and I have gone no-baby crazy by then and spent all our money on the palatial 850 square foot estate in El Segundo?
Can I poll the audience? Phone a friend? 50/50 lifeline?
Here’s the frustration: if we could just decide to have a kid right now, this would all be over. That’s a complete no-going-back-now sort of choice (presuming you wouldn’t give it up for adoption). Once it’s done, it’s done. Period. This is your life. But saying you’ve made the decision not to have kids is not a no-going-back-now sort of decision – unless one of you has an operation. I could say I’ve decided I’m not having kids, but then change my mind five years from now and all would be well. It leaves the door open. And damn it, I’m getting tired of the draft from that open door.
I know a lot of you reading this blog are diehard Childfree people. So let me ask you – when you made your decision not to have babies, did you feel like it was a Regis Philbin-style FINAL ANSWER? Or is the door still open a crack?