Failing at Life? Have a Baby.

A friend called last night – one whom I’d met in a study abroad program in Ghana, and with whom I’d later traveled through Northern Asia. She told me she had just become an RN and was starting a new year of school in order to become a nurse practitioner. She related how in the two days between when she sat for the grueling nursing licensure exam and when she found out the results, she felt a strong and sudden urge to “just have a baby.” She was convinced she wouldn’t pass, and sensing an impending life obstacle, she earnestly felt for a few days that the best remedy for being stalled in her career would be to start a family.

In my family, there is next to zero pressure to have kids, for now at least. I’m the younger sibling by five years, and my parents were surprised when I became engaged as soon as I did (after only three and-a-half years of dating!) I know a lot of newlyweds get the baby question immediately after getting married, but no one has really mentioned it to me, except for my boss, who jokingly advised me to ‘wait a long time to have kids’ (he would know – he has three).

Babies sure are cute and I think I want one or more someday, but until that day comes (when I’m 30? 32?) I will fiercely guard my freedom, my self-centeredness and my nights of unbroken sleep. Neither my husband nor I have jobs that could support a family on a single income. The way things are right now, both of us definitely need to work to keep up with our rent and pay off loans. It is nearly inconceivable to think of a third (very demanding) mouth to feed.

Yet as I face a time of personal disillusionment with the work world and indecisiveness about whether to go to school, stay at my job, or pursue another field, having a baby now versus later almost seems to make sense. Especially when a friend in my book club has the most adorable six-month-old son ever, and as I read about amazing mothers such as these, who make motherhood look both heroic and like a completely worthy cause to which to devote one’s life. As odd as it may seem, I sometimes long to go back to the days where women were “just” supposed to run the house and raise kids, while men brought home the paycheck. I realize that motherhood is in many ways a bigger job than simply clocking 40 hours per week in an office, but sometimes it just seems so much more natural than trying to shoehorn myself into career paths that don’t seem to fit me.

Some friends of my husband’s recently had a baby. Their timing had something to do with the fact that the mother wasn’t having luck finding work in the tight job market where they had just moved. Of course, she’s in her early thirties so there was less of a luxurious timeframe within which to work. I would consider doing the same, except for the above-stated financial and selfish concerns, and also because I know I need to make better sense of this career dilemma and figuring out my place in the world before I decide to bring another being into it.

I was telling an acquaintance at a party about my listlessness when it comes to thinking about the future. “Well, you could always have a baby,” she replied cheerfully. It’s true, I could. I’m married now and am certainly no longer ‘too young’ to start popping them out. However I don’t want to have a child just because it’s something to do. I want to really, *really* want one. I just hope that my desire, my financial situation and my biology can conspire to make it all possible within the next nine or so years. If there was just some way to speed up this whole mid-twenties self-discovery process, I’d be all set.

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