I hear this dichotamy a lot. This idea that women who have children later did so because they were working on building their career. Now, I find it great that people, that women, find careers that they are passionate about and love. There’s nothing wrong to me about waiting to have children until your career is established. But that isn’t the only way that a delay in family starting happens. I am not one of these women.
I sacrificed everything to make having a family a priority. And I failed.
I was the girl who, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, said, “A wife.” I went to college keeping my eye constantly out for a potential mate. I had a plan, a dream, and I knew what I wanted out of life. That included getting married right out of college, having four children, being a dedicated stay-at-home wife and mother. I made every choice in my life based on achieving that goal.
My parents were 27 when they married. No way was I going to be that old! Children before 30. Why is that always the age women pressure themselves about? What will I accomplish by thirty?
When people, particularly men, talk about what a shame it is that family building is often getting postponed in America, they always think it is because the women in question a) don’t care, b) don’t realize they have a time limit (seriously? How could we possibly not know that given how often that information is shoved in our faces?) c) put building a career on priority.
But there are some things we cannot control. I couldn’t force any of the men I dated to marry me (I tried my darndest with several of them. Sorry, guys!). I couldn’t rush the time it took for me to meet my husband. Twenty-seven came and went. I had done none of the things I planned to do sooner than my parents had. I had nothing else to show for it, though. I had no fancy career. Or even a solid and steady career to show why I was not yet a wife and mother.
I was twenty-nine before I met the right guy for me to start a family with. I’ll be thirty-one when we get married. All those plans of having a family by 30 are gone. I won’t be a young mother like I always wanted. I’ll be an average-age mother (if the universe doesn’t have more nasty surprises in store for me!)
Being a woman who put career first was never my plan, but now I think maybe it should have been. I might still be childless at 31, but I’d have something I built that I could be proud of instead of a stream of data entry jobs that were a filler while I waited for my dream of being a stay-at-home mom to materialize.
So no, there is not one path that leads to family and another path that leads to career. It’s rarely that black and white. I was on the family path the whole time, but here I am still childless.