I wrote a few weeks ago about my thoughts and feelings turning 34. Since reaching that grand old age, I have thought a lot more about ageing. When my mother was 34, I was four years old and my brother was about 18 months. Whilst I was in my twenties, I always thought that I would have children by the time I was 30, following in her footsteps. Thirty seemed like plenty old enough to have ‘done stuff’ and settled down.
Then, when I was 30, I ended an eight-year relationship and found myself single and childless in Brighton. As it turns out, Brighton is one of the best places to be single and childless. After the initial navel-gazing period subsided, I discovered the concept of ‘fun’. A little late, admittedly – but better late than never.
As a 34-year-old woman, it’s inevitable that one’s group of friends splits into two camps: those with and without children. I have nothing but admiration and, frankly, awe, for the ones in the first camp. Looking after kids is bloody hard work. I actually don’t know how they do it: it seems relentless and overwhelming, as well as obliterating one’s entire social life.
I am heartened by the fact that there are quite a few people in camp number two: women of my own age and up who, for some reason, don’t have children. Some of them may not want them at all; others are not currently in a relationship; some, like me, are still waiting for that time when they might feel ‘ready’. I know full well that one is never completely ‘ready’ for children, by the way: it seems to be a question of just closing your eyes and taking the plunge.
I must admit that I feel very ambivalent about having children. Not just because of the noise and the mess (although the latter in particular REALLY does nothing to sell the idea to me: when proud parents show pictures of their offspring covered in spaghetti, I have a hard time controlling my gag reflex). But it’s also the thought of putting yet more humans on our vastly over-populated planet. Ideologically, then, adoption might be a better idea, seeing as there are so many kids out there who are already here yet have no one to care for them properly.
The fact of the matter is, despite my age and the increasing prevalence of baby pictures in my Facebook newsfeed, my ovaries have yet to start rattling. I think I want children – my parents have always set an excellent example of what a happy family looks like and I can imagine it’s great when you get older to have your children round for Sunday dinner. I’m in a happy relationship and wouldn’t want kids with anyone else. I just haven’t had that ‘yes: now’ moment.
Back to ageing in general. I do think that my ambivalence about procreation is at least partly to do with the fact that I really don’t feel like I’m 34. When I think about the person I was in my twenties, Dylan’s My Back Pages always pops into my head: “Ah, but I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now.” In some ways, of course, that’s bullshit: I’m actually a lot older and wiser and more confident than I was then. But at the same time, I do genuinely feel younger. Maybe I just need to get this ‘second youth’ out of my system before I can allow those ovaries to start rattling.
Do you have children? Or maybe not? Do you recognise any of this? As ever, I would love to hear your thoughts!