When I was 13, I declared long and loud that I didn’t want children.
Everyone told me I’d change my mind.
It perhaps didn’t help that I was also passionately in favour of being a countryside vet while having a deep aversion to dirt. And biology.
Twenty years later and my protests are a lot less fervent. This is entirely due to the realisation that --should I unexpectedly end up burping a semi-swaddled infant while attempting the dangerous task of breakfast-- I will have enough problems without also eating my words. However, when I mention in my new calm monotonal voice that motherhood is perhaps not for me, it might be time to take me more seriously. The body clock is ticking loudly and I’ve slammed it on vibrate.
Don't get me wrong, it is not that I don't understand why you want to have children.
No, wait. It is EXACTLY that I don't understand why you want to have children.
For the first eighteen years of my life, I battled against all the outrageous restrictions my parents placed on me:
No, a five year old cannot drive daddy’s car.
No, chocolate pudding is not a suitable breakfast item.
No, we are not putting a huge swing-set in the garden.
No, you cannot go into the city with your friends at ten years old.
No, you cannot go to the skating rink every night during the school week.
No, twelve year olds cannot get part-time jobs as a lifeguard, even if you can swim.
Until finally I was at university and free! I was able to take spontaneous cross-country trips, buy impractically designed sweatshirts if I liked the colour, go to midnight premiers of the Harry Potter movies, eat fish n’ chips on the beach because I’d drank to much alcohol to drive for at least another two hours, go to bed whenever I felt like it, purchase TWO milkshakes if I could not decide on a single flavour, seriously contemplate turning my entire apartment into a giant ball pen and still fall into the 'mature and sensible' adult-daughter category when I called home.
In short, being an adult rocked.
Yet, if I were to have a baby at the age my mother had me, I'd only be enjoying this hard earned freedom for about ten years.
With a small child, I would feel obliged to be the carer and responsible role model required to give my off-spring the same advantages in life that my parents had bestowed on me. I would plan my day to ensure I could come home from work at an good hour, holidays would be booked a year in advance to negotiate school dates and a night-out with friends would be limited by how long I felt able to impose on the babysitter.
Eighteen years wait for ten years of fun? Who would want to invest in such a scheme? I'm really glad many of you do for the sake of the human race, but your choice is completely illogical and you should be banned from all Star Trek premieres.
I want to see the world. Maybe all of it. The main attraction of a career in academia was the chance to work abroad. From the UK, I moved to New York City and from there to Florida. I spent three months in Melbourne and four months in Tokyo. I lived for two years in Canada and I've just taken up a faculty position in northern Japan. I wake up in the morning and I'm excited to be where I am and even more excited by where I might be next year.
If you want me to give all that up, you are going to have to make a really hard sell.
Currently, I'm seeing sleepless nights, mercilessly little time to yourself, more bodily fluids than should be on any one garment and difficulties with moving location that often results in career changes.
I don't doubt that children more than make up for all the hardships for people who want to be parents...
... but you have to be pretty keen!
Will I regret it when I'm 50? It is possible. Yet, I suspect I would regret more not pursuing the dreams I have rather than conforming to the dreams others felt I ought to have.
So as I get up in the morning and and enter the kitchen, do I lay out for myself a large pot of chocolatey sugar-packed goodness? Absolutely not! My parents brought me up eat sensibly.
... but you know, I could…