Expectations

by

One of the posts on here has just reminded me of the first time I met my fiance’s mother, about three years ago. Bear in mind this is the FIRST time I met her. My fiance’s nephew (about 7 years old) was in the house at the time so he took him outside to play football or something. Gazing dreamily at them out of the window, his mother turns to me and says very firmly ‘He’d make a wonderful father’. Err…yeah. Thanks for that – of course, I have a partner therefore we will be having children, right?!

Unfortunately, his family’s attitude has never changed. The most insulting part is that when I ‘explain myself’ and the fact that I don’t want children, their reply is ‘You’ll change your mind later’. Yes, yes, of course I will. I’m in my late 20s and have always known I don’t want them, I have a good career in academia and love my life, but yes, you’re right: I’m not smart enough to know my own mind. I guess all that PhD work addled my delicate female brain. But then it’s #MFIF.

Jen

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24 Responses to “Expectations”

  1. CM Says:

    I hear ya Jen.

  2. H Says:

    ‘You’ll change your mind later” – I hate being told that so much! It’s so offensive for them to presume they know my mind better than I do. From the last article I read I think 1/5 women remains childless, which is a big proportion of the population, and I suspect that’s not all because they waited too late. Some people don’t want children, other people who do need to accept that their lifestyle choice isn’t the only valid one.

  3. stay child free Says:

    I’m 37 and have graduated in the last 20 years from ‘I think I don’t want kids’ to ‘I’m certain I don’t want kids’. My partner and I are so sure of this that he had a vasectomy last year. We’ve deliberately made friends lately with other childfree people. It’s good to feel normal, in the majority and a relief to be away from (head on side sympathetically/smugly) ‘you wouldn’t understand’ comments when topics come up like: never having enough time or money, having to get up early, being tired, feeling compassion for disadvantaged children, being shocked by media stories about child abuse etc. Like you, we also used to get ‘you’ll change your mind’ – after the vasectomy, we get ‘Don’t worry, it’s reversible’. There are narrow minded people out there who can’t conceive a of a family or fulfilling life without children. Stay strong – your choice is a valid one.

  4. JB Says:

    Wow. I cannot even remember how many times I’ve heard those exact words, or how my biological clock must be ticking (I’m only 26.) More than one woman has looked at me as though I had said I ate puppies for breakfast when I have truthfully said how I felt about having children. I say, why do you feel that you have to explain yourself?

  5. Charlotte Says:

    Ah, yes, this is exactly me too. Although I’ve had no pressure to procreate (yet), being only 23, I’ve sure as hell had people rendered flabbergasted by my child free future decision, people just can’t seem to comprehend that, I dunno, some women don’t want children, shock horror, I know! The whole sympathy thing irks me big time too, you know, the look of mock sadness. Don’t feel sorry for me, lady! I’m completely happy with my choice.

  6. Holly Says:

    “You’ll change your mind,” is absolutely infuriating. I once got that response from my mother and fired back, “It must be exhausting knowing what everyone will think and feel in the future.” Unfortunately, she did not back down. Everyone would agree that it would be incrediby rude to run up to a pregnant woman and say, “You’ll change your mind about wanting this kid; it might not be too late for an abortion,” so why is it okay to question women who have made the opposite decision?

  7. Who Dat Says:

    I’m pretty sure they are trying to voice their desire that they want grandchildren. That’s how families work. It has nothing to do with you being a female, they probably say the same thing to your fiancé. It is quite selfish to assume that they are trying to belittle you as a female when they only have good intentions and love for you.
    And it’s healthy to change over a lifetime, so their ‘assumption’ isn’t gross. Yes, it is your choice but no one ever knows what they feel one minute to the next; men and women alike. People decide to have kids after 30-40 years of not wanting any.
    Regardless, consult your partner and trusted physician before making the decision of having a child and be safe.

    • Jen Says:

      Goodness, thank you SO much for enlightening me about my ‘selfishness’. To quote Holly, it must be exhausting for you knowing what everyone else thinks!

    • A Different Sam Says:

      It doesn’t matter whether the intention is to belittle someone as a female or whether the intentions are good; a sexist comment is sexist regardless of whether its conscious purpose was to be offensive.

      And yes, some people do change their minds. That doesn’t make it even remotely reasonable to assume that every single woman you meet will do so.

      Who Dat, the end of your post – “Regardless, consult your partner and trusted physician before making the decision of having a child and be safe” – is particularly shocking in that it seems to be acting under the assumption that Jen will indeed change her mind and decide to have children not just in the future but in such a near future that she’ll be able to take advice from your comment. It’s good to know that you, too, are so certain that Jen will decide to have children, even though all you know about Jen is that she’s female and she has said that she doesn’t want children. And it’s also great to see that you understand that those silly women need to be told such brilliant advice as “talk to relevant people and be safe”. Thanks for enlightening us with your wisdom!

    • David Says:

      I fail to see why Jen is being the selfish one, and not the people who feel that they ought to map out her life for her according to their expectations.

  8. Sam Says:

    From 28 to 30, I completely changed my mind and have two beautiful daughters. It does happen.

    The grandmother wanted grandkids. It would be very enjoyable for her. All the benefits of parenting without the work. I think construing her comment as sexist is being a bit too sensitive.

    • Jen Says:

      I think there is a difference between people who ‘change their mind’ and those of us who know, absolutely, with clarity and certainty, that this will NEVER be something we want. All I (and a lot of other people here) are saying is that it would be respectful if others could accept that.

    • A Different Sam Says:

      On top of what Jen said, there’s also the important distinction between “It is a fact that some people change their minds” and “I know for certain that you, specifically, will change your mind”. In fact, to claim that moving from the former statement to the latter is even remotely logical is to claim that all women are the same. Sorry, Original Sam, I guess it’s Jen’s fault, she’s female.

  9. Kara Says:

    Wow, Who Dat and Sam’s comments are pretty infuriating. I think it is kind of rude to assume a woman wants children in the first place, but that’s not exactly the point of the story. The point is that they KEPT making an issue of it even after she had explained her desire not to have children. That is disrespectful and lacking in compassion. She shouldn’t have to explain herself over and over. They should respect her choice and not harass her about it.

  10. Lewis Says:

    You may be sure, but the odds are with your mother-in-law. One of my best friends from high school was positive she never wanted kids. Didn’t even like kids. She hit 34 and suddenly needed to have a child, and she’s not alone. Granted, she should have said something more like, “You might change your mind when you’re older” because no matter how certain you are now, you ate not the person today you will be in 5-10 years.

    Biology is much stonger than most people think.

    • Jessy Says:

      I happened to this one person I know! It MUST be applicable to everyone else!

    • David Says:

      So from this limited experience based on ONE high school friend, you think this can be made into a generalisation about ALL women? Hmm….logic is stronger than you think too.

    • A Different Sam Says:

      Lewis, I have this one friend from high school who didn’t want kids and then hit 34 and still didn’t want kids. And because all women are the same and one anecdote generalizes perfectly to the entire female population, our anecdotes together prove that Jen both will AND will not want kids later on. From this, we can logically conclude that she will develop dissociative personality disorder.

    • Jen Says:

      I find it very difficult to believe that you know of NO WOMEN WHATSOEVER who have chosen to remain happily child-free. I have many friends with children but off the top of my head I can also think of many women friends and family who have chosen not to have chidren, including my stepmother (50, and let’s remember she fel in love with my father, not me, before someone jumps on that one), aunt (58) and a very close friend (59). Not to mention the many women I meet through my job who lead very fulfilling lives without children. Perhaps Lewis, you are being a teensy bit naughty and choosing the evidence that fits your argument? 😉

  11. Evan Says:

    I don’t really think this one has much to do with being a woman. My mother and grandmother both have given me similar spiels when I told them I didn’t want children. Granted I’ve never gotten it from In-Laws, but you choose your spouse, not your in-laws. If this is the most offensive thing you ever hear from them, then you’ve got it made in the shade. Mine still calls me by the wrong name and calls me a commie.

    And I’m not saying there is anything wrong with the choice, I get it (I used to think the same way….although I changed my mind….not implying you will.) I’m just saying that it’s a viewpoint that will be challenged by potential (great)grandparents at every step.

    • Pavlov's Cat Says:

      Evan, do you think it’s nearly so common for anyone to react in the same way if a man says he’s not interested in having children? Would people look at a man saying that as though he must be an alien, or have some sort of mental disorder? That’s how people generally look at me if I say I don’t want children. I realise that my anecdote, like your own, doesn’t constitute proof of a widespread behaviour, and that the plural of anecdote is not data, but there are a whole lot of anecdotes about women being treated this way and, er, yours about men getting the same treatment.

      Also, please can someone bury the ‘worse things happen to people so you can’t possibly complain about anything’ argument in a very deep and thoroughly unmarked grave please?

  12. Madfishmonger Says:

    I was just discussing this today. People have extremely strange feelings on this subject. I have been told I :
    – obviously just want to party and be irresponsible
    – I’m selfish
    – will be lonely when I’m old
    – will change my mind
    – just haven’t met the right person
    – the “biological clock” will tell me

    Regardless of my personal opinions and experiences on the matter, some people can’t get out of their mindset. A woman must want to have a child or there is something wrong with her, and they can’t think outside of that. My mother in particular has been harassing me about having children, and I find that very disrespectful and very selfish on her part. She wants me to have kids, no matter how I feel. I don’t ever really know what to say to this.
    Honestly not wanting to have children is the best reason NOT to have them.

  13. Meghan Says:

    Right now, being 18, my view is that I do not want to have biological children. I would much rather adopt a child who does not have loving parent(s). I have received many a strange look when I tell someone this and have gotten a couple “you’ll change your mind” replies. Stick to your feelings and do what’s best for your situation, do what you feel is best for you and your partner’s life.

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