Do you want to know what some of my girlfriends are discussing on a Friday night at the Baron? Yup, over beers and wine we are chatting about the decision several late thirty-year old, single women are faced with. To have a baby by themselves, or potentially never have children.
I have quite a few single friends, from different spheres of my life. Single friends with kids. And single friends with no kids, some of them in their early thirties, ranging to late thirties and forties. These girlfriends are all professional, good looking women. They are all looking for someone special to share their lives with and would love to have a family of their own. The million dollar question is:
What if you don’t meet someone? Would you have a child all by yourself?
Biologically, women’s reproductive systems have an expiry date. And, statistically it becomes much more difficult to fall pregnant when you’re in your forties. And more risky. So, if you really, really want kids (with or without the package), then waiting for Mr Right has far reaching implications. Tick, tock, tick, tock.
For me, this is an interesting debate. Most of us want to be happily married and most of us (not everyone, by the way…) dream of one day being in a family unit. Having kids. But you never ask the question of how much you want kids until you get to that point. You don’t envisage raising kids by yourself. It is a tough thing to do. That I do know, because I am doing it. But for me it was not a decision I made up front. It sort of happened by default. That is very different.
And I am thanking my lucky stars for that. I am lucky that I didn’t have to make that decision up front. Because I am pretty sure I would have chickened out. Too much responsibility. The cost. The time. How do you do it without a partner?
And now I am doing exactly that, and coping (mostly, anyway). Yes, I am a single mom. And I am raising my kids by myself. And I can state without a shadow of a doubt that having kids was the best thing I did in my life (ever). Having a child saved my life. I know that sounds cheesy and like a cliché, but it is true. I was on the brink of a major depression when I fell pregnant. Hindsight is a perfect science, and I have to admit that the boat, that was my marriage, was rocking all too dangerously. We were young, we had lots of financial and relationship problems and we didn’t know how to deal with it. I was immature and insecure. He was chasing his dreams. I lost contact with my friends when I got married, moved towns and I felt that I had no purpose in life.
I kept asking myself ‘Is this it? Is this as good as it gets?’. I was only 26 years old and the pregnancy wasn’t planned. But I was ecstatic. Scared (dead scared, actually), but ecstatic. Overnight, I had acquired a purpose in life. The minute cluster of cells growing inside me was my purpose. When my daughter was born, I decided that I was gonna be happy, come hell or high water, because I wanted her to be happy and I truly believe you cannot make a child happy if you are not happy yourself. So I started building friendships again. I focussed on myself. It took time. It took effort. It took years.
But today I look back and realise where I came from. I look back at the young woman (big child?) who submerged her head under the bath water and wondered how long I can keep it there and I know that having my daughter was a lifesaver. My life is not empty anymore. In fact, some days I wish it was a teeny-weeny bit less hectic. I am enveloped by the love of my girls, surrounded by wonderful friends and I think even if the kids had to leave the house (which they will do – in less than 10 years…tick, tock), my life wouldn’t be empty. I have plans. I have dreams. I love my life. I am happy.
But that doesn’t help my single friends. I am pretty sure that if I was in their situation, I would have opted out. And, knowing what I know now, probably missed out big time. I would hate to give advise. It is a very difficult decision. And what if Mr Right then does come along, but doesn’t want the responsibility of someone else’s child? (Yeah, I guess then he probably isn’t Mr Right, but at the very least your fishing pond becomes smaller, I think). And at least I get a couple of weekends a month off! Having a child all by yourself is a huge responsibility. But boy-oh-boy, it can be a source of unlimited joy as well.
So, I am not giving any advise. If someone asks me I will be honest about the pro’s and con’s in my mind. Yes, school fees are mind boggling. Yes, finding good help not that easy. Yes, you probably won’t have much time for yourself in the first few years. And, yes, the white furniture HAS to go…:-)
But nothing can prepare you for the smile on a child’s face that tugs at the corners of your heart. Nobody can explain the stress relieving effects of a child’s hug after a long and busy day at work. And nobody can ever put into words how much love you can feel for your own child. Nobody will ever be able to comprehend the amazement I still feel when I look up (yes…up!) into my daughter’s eyes and know that she belongs to me. That she is part of me. That she is part me.
After all is said, all I can promise is that I will support them in whatever decision they make. And hopefully this turns out to be a debate that they can smile over 20 years from now. Wherever in the world they are.