I’m Pretty Sure My Biological Clock is Broken

If we really want to fix the teenage pregnancy problem, I think we should require all teenagers, male and female, to be live-in nannies for at least two weeks as part of their high school education. I’ve never watched the Teen Mom shows on MTV, but I believe they were originally intended to show young people the reality of teenage parenthood, yes? Instead, they have made “celebrities” out of these kids, splashing their drama all over the tabloids and totally shooting to shit the whole plan to make too-soon parenthood look like a bad idea. While it may have been a nice attempt in the beginning, it’s not working. What would work? Showing kids the reality of parenthood. From the ages of 18-24, I was both a live-in and live-out nanny. The years that most kids spend partying and getting into mischief, I spent helping raise babies. I also think that is what broke my biological clock.

Being a nanny was the hardest and most wonderful job I have ever had. I moved in with the first family when I was 18; the older son had just turned three and the mom was six months pregnant with the younger boy. I was quite spoiled up to that point; my mom did all the cooking, laundry, grocery shopping and most of the cleaning. While I had chores growing up, nothing I did prepared me for caring for a house full of people and babies. It was a huge dose of reality, one that I definitely needed and one that has definitely made me a better person. Some nannies care for the children only; that was not the case here. Because the dad traveled extensively for work and the mom was getting more pregnant every single day, I ran the house and everything that entailed. I learned so much those first few months, but the most amazing thing was how much I freaking adored the little man in my care. My heart had to grow bigger to contain my love for that kid. When his brother was born, it grew bigger still. Meeting the little nugget that had been punching and kicking my hands through his mom’s belly for all those months, I can’t even describe how in awe I was. I never felt like the “help” as the nanny; I was a part of the family. The mom used to refer to me as her wife, and would say everyone should be so lucky as to have a wife like me. We went through some amazing experiences, as well as incredibly hard times, together, struggles that will leave us forever bonded to one another.

Being a live-in nanny is rarely a 9-5 job. I woke up for middle of the night feedings, I went weeks on end without a day off, and during a particularly rough patch, had the older kiddo sleep in my room every night for weeks because his parents would often have really loud arguments in the middle of the night. If he was with me, when the yelling would startle us both awake, I could gently cover one of his ears and sing a song or tell a story in the other to drown it out so he couldn’t hear the discontent around him. I would have done anything to protect them from pain, from knowing too soon how hard the world could be.

The second family I nannied for was a completely different situation. While the first family I lived with was quite wealthy, the second family was run by a single mom fresh out of a 10-year-long abusive marriage. I had moved to LA to go to school and live with my best friend, envisioning making up for the years of responsibility by partying my ass off. I also moved down there with no job and very little money. I met Karen, the single mom, at a bar through a mutual friend. We hit it off, chatted and drank all night, and by the end, I was her nanny. So, the plan to be carefree was pretty much out the window, but I was happy to have a job. Soon thereafter, I was as attached to the two new kids as much as I had been to my prior charges. Karen and I were a team in every sense of the word, shaping the brand-new life she had started for them and doing our best to create the loving and stable environment they deserved and had been lacking when their father was a daily presence.

I lay all this out in an attempt to show that I have substantially more parenting experience than most people without children. I have gone on field trips, thrown birthday parties, mediated sibling disputes, folded countless onesies, and changed hundreds of diapers. I love kids; I would rather spend time with my two- and four-year-old nieces than pretty much anyone else on the planet. My friends call me the Baby Whisperer because I have the uncanny ability to calm the most pissed-off infant on the planet or to make a tired and cranky three-year-old switch into a lovable little sweetie. Can’t get your baby to go down for a nap? I got this. Trying to get through a peaceful dinner at a restaurant with a toddler who hasn’t napped? I’m on it. And yet, no desire to have one of my own. I hear people talk about how they always knew they wanted to be a mom, or that they definitely want at least three kids, and I just marvel at their assuredness. I honestly cannot summon up the desire to procreate.

I don’t know what the future has in store for us. Jon isn’t itching to knock me up, either, so it isn’t a huge issue at this point. But sometimes, perhaps when I am feeling particularly full of myself, or when I am filled with rage when members of NOM use their children in ads against gay marriage spewing lies and hatred, I wonder if we don’t owe it to the world to have a kid, or to adopt one. I really, truly don’t mean that to sound as utterly arrogant as it comes across, so please hear me out on this. We see people on the news and in our lives that are raising their children with the same closed-minded, bigoted ideas they have. We see stories of child abuse and neglect, children struggling in school and in life because their parents just don’t care. We see cruelty and pain every single day, parents who resent their children or who are just tired of being parents, thrown into a responsibility they may not have wanted for any number of reasons, be it religious or parental pressure, or lack of access and education on other options. I know I would be a good mom; I trained hard under some amazing women, and while financially it might be a challenge, it wouldn’t be insurmountable. I know what raising kids entails; aside from actually carrying and birthing one, I don’t have to take anything else on theory; I’ve lived it. There isn’t much that could go down that would come as a surprise. We have a huge and wonderful immediate and extended family and any kid brought into it would be adored and doted on. We are relatively intelligent and intellectually curious, always trying to learn new things and voraciously consuming information, traits that we would do everything in our power to instill in a child. Couldn’t one of our spawn cancel out a least ten Tea Party members’ kids?

I guess instead of doling out advice or projects this week, I’m kind of looking for some, or maybe to help others who might have similar thoughts feel less alone. I know parenthood and the choice not to be a parent have been discussed around these parts, and it is really interesting to see how the Persephone community handles the discussions. It can be such a contentious issue, but I love that it has been discussed here with such respect and compassion towards both sides. People often feel very strongly one way or the other; does anyone out there feel kind of ambivalent about the whole thing, like me? And lastly, please tell me someone else out there has had the “owe it to the world to breed” thought, or else I am going to feel like an asshole. Well, more of one, anyway; we all know I’m already kind of one. Anyone?

26 replies on “I’m Pretty Sure My Biological Clock is Broken”

Well, I’m definitely not what anyone would consider a fence-sitter on the no-kids issue, but I talk to a lot of people (women younger than me, mostly- I’d say lots in their early- to mid-20s) who feel much the same way you do. I think that regardless of which side of the fence you end up coming down on, the important thing is that you put thought into the decision. Lots of people don’t realize that a kid is what they wanted until they found themselves faced with having one, but lots of people don’t realize that they don’t want one until that very same point in time, and it’s a lot harder to make that decision later rather than sooner.

Which is all a very convoluted way of saying that I may be rabidly childfree, but I realize that the decision isn’t so cut-and-dried for other people, and being conflicted or ambivalent is really common.

And, yeah, I’ve heard the old, “People like you should be the ones having kids.” It’s horseshit. There’s no guarantee I’d end up having an intelligent kid, or a kind one, or an attractive one, or a cancer-curer. Chances are just as good that I’d have your run-of-the-mill juvenile delinquent car thief asshole brat as anything else.

This may seem off-topic a little, but didn’t you just get married? And do the majority of your wedding work yourself? Reading between the lines a little, it sounds like you are saying that you want to have a baby, but you’re confused because you are happy taking it easy right now and playing with other people’s babies. I’d guess that those two things are related.

You’ve just worked your ass off to make a major life change, and the first year of marriage is hard regardless of how long you were together before the wedding. You deserve some time to just be married and chill out. Don’t worry about making baby decisions right now. It’s not like there’s some sort of deadline for making a five-year family plan.

I know what you mean about envying your friends who have known exactly what they wanted forever, it seems like it would make life easier, but some of us just aren’t like that.

I don’t want kids in the same way I don’t want to be in a relationship: it’s easy to have a broad conviction like that, but obviously if I found the right guy I wouldn’t turn him down on principle. Same thing with kids. I generally don’t want them, but if I married, say, Prince Harry and had a guaranteed cushy life for myself, I might reconsider my feelings.

You’re not alone in your thinking. I also look around at my friends who always ‘knew’ they wanted to be mothers and wonder what that’s like! I wonder if I’m just too selfish to have children. I think about the time investment and my visceral response is always that I want that time for myself. Taking kids to sports games on the weekends? Bugger that, *I* want to be playing sports on the weekend! And more thoughts in that vein. I’m just not sure I have it in me to voluntarily remove myself from the centre of my own universe.

The ‘you owe it to the world’ argument reminds me of the movie Idiocracy – isn’t the plot (inasmuch as there is one!) that the educated people are out-bred by the uneducated people? I can’t remember specifics.

I totally think selfishness plays a big part with me, too. I love going over to see friends or relatives, playing with the kids for however long I like, and then saying “peace out, I’m going shoe shopping” or something along those lines. I do enjoy being the center of my universe…

I need to watch Idiocracy. I have seen it referenced 4 different times today, now, and I have only seen the first 15 minutes or so. I’m on it!

You’ve made so many good points that I agree with, so I’ll just stick with one of your questions-
Yes, it does feel arrogant, but many childfree people are confronted with the “owe it to the world” reasoning. I think it’s a good thing to consider, no matter what the answer is. MrWine and I have some solidly good traits and would be committed parents, which is what most people see. What they don’t often know is that we both have some serious hereditary health problems and we have strong feelings about not passing them on. So I’ve been thinking about what I *really* owe the world, and I’ve decided that my contribution is simply elsewhere– in my career and then maybe eventually in teaching. I hesitate to write the next part, because it sounds even more arrogant but… I believe that many people can be excellent parents, yet not many people can do what I do. Several grants have contributed to my education and I take that debt seriously.

I don’t think that sounds arrogant at all! That is something I think about a lot, actually, as I sit behind this desk managing a bunch of attorneys all day, kicking myself for not doing something more productive with my life. I think it is awesome that you have dedicated yourself to a more noble cause, particularly one in which you can reach a wider array of people. And thank you for bringing up the hereditary health issue. This is a really important consideration, and one I hadn’t really thought about. I need to do more research on both of our family health histories.

I’ve definitely had the “I would be so much better at parenting than that person” thoughts – not necessarily owe it to the world, but at least the cancelling out another badly parented kid thoughts. at this point my biological clock not ticking is for the best, since I’m single and without thoughts of getting married anytime soon, but I’ve always kind of assumed that I don’t have to make that decision right now because it’s not JUST my decision to make.
That said, my thoughts more steer toward – does it have to be MY biological kid? I have no burning desire to have a mini-me running around. i’ve actually put a lot of thought into potentially looking into fostering when i’m in a place where I can provide for someone besides my cat and me, though.
Looks like there are lots of people with similar thoughts to yours, though. You’re not alone!

I tend to lean more towards the idea of fostering or adopting than having biological kids, too. My step-dad adopted me, and he freaking loves the shit out of me, so I don’t subscribe to the “it has to be your blood to love it” school of thought, and watching my sister-in-law give birth was one of the most traumatizing experiences of my life, so that’s a factor, too. There are so many kiddos that need a good home, it breaks my heart. But yeah, the dog and two cats are about all I can handle right now, too. Thanks for making me feel less alone!

You may end up wanting to have children in the future. Or maybe not.

I think that we make too big of a deal of the childfree-versus-the child having. Some people don’t want to have kids. Some people grow into the idea, some people grow out of the idea. Sometimes you just feel ambivalent about it.I know that’s not particularly helpful, but it’s true.

I never particularly wanted kids — I grew up the oldest in my very large generation of cousins and grandchildren and often felt put upon in having to care for them all. I would loudly declare my intent to never bother having kids. And then I found myself pregnant at 21. SlayBeau and I discussed our options and in the end we decided to keep the pregnancy (hi Minibelle!), but it wasn’t particularly because either of us were overwhelmed with feelings of ‘YAY BABY’. And we’ve been happy with our little group of three for years. It looked like we might have more kids and then it looked like it wouldn’t. And now, suddenly with my daughter 13 and my friends finally starting to have babies, I am totally that sitcom crazy baby lady. I coo and squeal and have to restrain myself from buying up every tiny cute baby thing I see. I count how many years I have left of good possible reproduction (and since I have PCOS, its not a sure thing I could get pregnant again anyway). Its insane.

As for the owing it to the world bit? I don’t think anyone owes it to the world to havekids, but I sure as hell think that if you do have them, you owe it to the world to raise them to be empathetic, tolerant, loving individuals. We always need more of them.

Not buying up all the tiny cute baby stuff is the hardest thing in the world for me. My nieces and friends babies have complete wardrobes courtesy of Auntie Kymmie. Jon often comments that if we did have kids, I would a) be completely broke and b) finally have to give up some closet space in the house to someone else (when he moved in he got half the closet in the spare bedroom. That’s it. I don’t even let the man keep clothes in his own bedroom closet. See? I’m an asshole!).
Isn’t it strange how our own desires change as life progresses? Here we are, happily strolling along and then BAM! All of the sudden we are compelled to do something we hadn’t really thought of before. I do wonder if it is going to just hit me like that one day. Every once in a while I will see Jon playing with our nieces and nephew and he is so sweet and awesome with him that I won’t lie, my uterus gives a little twitch…

Hah! SlayBeau doesn’t have space in the closet in our bedroom either (he has to use his office) and has 1 dresser to my 2. Plus my satellite closet in my office I call ‘the closet of shame’.

I wasn’t too bad about the tiny baby stuff until my nephew/godson was born. If he was a little girl, I’d be screwed. Those teeny dresses? And teeny sparkly shoes? And teeny monster hoodies?

I saw in another comment you left that your stepfather adopted you. Mind did as well, and he has adopted and fostered children in his family. I’m big on believing you make your own families and that blood isn’t everything. Maybe you won’t have any kids or won’t have biological kids, but you sound like you’ve already got a great family in either event.

Dude, are you me? I worked in a kindergarten after school between 13 and 14, I’ve spent time substitute-teaching, I–yeah. I’m not awesome at babies (having no experience) but I can distract pretty much any toddler, talk to any kid, etc. I once got spontaneously kissed by a four-year-old on the subway after we’d made faces at each other for a few stops. And I love children! Almost all the ones I meet, in fact. They make me grin and distract me and I think they’re awesome, I love the way they look at the world, and yeah, I’ve had the thought that I SHOULD have a kid because I know I could deal, but I just–yeah. *hands*

We may, in fact, be the same person. I am the one who will actually sit next to babies and kids on airplanes by choice, and then proceed to play with them for an entire flight (I used to fly A LOT), and the parents would be so thankful to have someone not giving them side-eye or dirty looks, but I actually really enjoyed it, it made the flight go faster and gave me something to do. It takes a really, really awful kid for me to not like one.

I have had the “but you owe it to the world to reproduce” line thrown at me a few times when I mention to people that there is no way in hell I’m having kids. And frankly, that line of logic (while yes, totally assholeish) is enough to make me stop and pause for a second.
…… And then I think of the 8,000 reasons why I decided I won’t be having kids, and I’m back on track.

I’m pretty sure myself that I do not want kids, but my mom firmly believes that I “owe it to the world.” Every time I mention that maybe I might eventually decide not to have kids (that’s all I can bear to tell her until she at least has a grandchild), she goes on the “but you’d be such a good mom, and you’re so smart you’d be passing on good genes, and I know you could do it and raise amazing kids…” etc. etc. etc. It’s super sweet of her, and I don’t mind it (although it doesn’t convince me.) So…while I’m not of the “owe it to the world” breed, you’re definitely not alone!

The flattery gets me every single time, too, and honestly, I already have a bit too much self-esteem, so my friends and family probably shouldn’t be contributing more to my over-inflated sense of self. And hopefully my sarcasm font is working because if not, I am really amping up the “arrogant asshole” perception with this comment…

I know this wasn’t the main point of your post, but I disagree with your assessment of shows like Teen Mom and 16 & Pregnant. A few months ago, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy found that 82% of the teens they polled who watch the show said that it helped them understand how challenging pregnancy and parenthood can be and why they should avoid it. While some of the young women from Teen Mom are all over tabloid magazines, I think the show itself generally doesn’t glamorize their lives – you see young women trying to balance school, work, and parenthood, and often trying to figure out what to do when the boyfriend they thought they could count on for anything doesn’t pull his weight or simply leaves (that doesn’t happen with every couple, but I’d say it happens far more often than not). Over and over, almost all of the young women say how difficult it is and how they love their baby or babies but wish they hadn’t had them when they did. I’m 24, and although intellectually I knew the statistics and the many challenges that single teen mothers face, I’d say the show really drove home for me exactly how difficult everyday life can be.

Agreed, PiP. I had almost exactly this conversation in class the other night–people who don’t really watch the show are concerned that it’s over-glamorizing; people who do watch it say it really doesn’t. I’m not a watcher, but I know lots of people are and from what I’ve heard it’s pretty real-life. But yeah, I don’t think that was meant to be the point of the post!

Thank you for this information. I shouldn’t have made such a blanket statement, particularly because I haven’t watched the show- I am totally feeling like one of those obnoxious people who rail on about how bad something is without having actual first hand knowledge of what I’m ranting about. Can I blame it on this nasty freaking cold that just will not go away?

It is really encouraging to hear that it has had a noticeable effect on teenagers views on parenthood. Because I have gotten all of my news about the stars of the show from tabloids(I just can’t quit them!), my perception is quite skewed, and many people seem so obsessed with becoming famous by any means necessary, it has worried me lately. Thank, paperispatient, as always, for your insight and info. You continue to rock!

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