I want a baby — like yesterday. And it’s common for my 20-something peers to scoff at me, as if I’m a simple human who hasn’t risen above the need to procreate. The latest “cool kid” badge is given to men, and women especially, who state their disdain for children and refusal to spawn another mouth to feed. I’m sorry, but I won’t date a man who doesn’t want children.
A perfect example of my rule came across my screen recently via Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column: A soon-to-be 32-year-old woman wants children and her husband doesn’t. Should she stay or should she go? This would be my nightmare to chose between the man I love and the time-sensitive option of having children. It’s not quite Sophie’s Choice, but I’d rather not.
Many of my friends are in their 30s and do not intend to have children, but are looking for committed love. When I tell them about my self-inflicted rule, many of them tell me I am “limiting my romantic options,” which I admit is true. But I also pare down my initial options with arbitrary things like height, politics, and geography. (Brooklyn to Hoboken, NJ? Sorry, NorthernJerseyDude78 on OkCupid, it’s not gonna happen.) The difference with my children rule is there’s no wiggle room. It doesn’t matter how compatible we are, because sharing matching liberal opinions and a love of rye whiskey won’t make me want to have children any less, although it’ll make tolerating your vegan-ism easier.
The woman from that Dear Prudence column married with the expectation of never having children, and then changed her mind. It’s an undesirable circumstance for both her and her husband. However, the husband will never know what it’s like to have the option of children cut off from his life. No fertile man can understand what it’s like to know you’ve missed your opportunity for biological children. Since I’ve felt a biological need for a mini-me for most of the last decade, what’s the point in preparing for a future without them?
My partner will never be enough — I want more. It’s a cynical opinion to bring into a relationship, but that’s my truth. Cynicism may come easy to me because my parents divorced when I was six and it got messy. I learned romantic love can rot into a gnarly misshapen mass of its former self, so you’d better expand your world. My friend Katherine and I both had fathers who didn’t initially want children. Her father ended up wanting more than one and has been a major part of her life. My father wasn’t capable of the sacrifice and I will do everything in my power to prevent my child from feeling unwanted from such a young age. Since I’m not much of a gambler, I plan on erring on the side of caution early on and avoid the situation all together.
Eventually, when I picture a life with my future partner, it involves children. Our children. And I’m not ashamed of this. I want to create a bond not replicable anywhere else in society. Even if my rule will exclude a fair number of guys, I’d venture a guess that guys who do want kids are still in the majority. I may be young, but my biological clock started ticking years ago. Why should I pretend to be the “cool kid” I never was, anyway?