Written by Victoria Slater
I remember when it was cool to want to be a mom.
When one of my proudest achievements was getting the babysitter certification patch on my Girl Scouts vest.
When in elementary school, my friends and I fought over who got to name their daughter Hermione.
When I thought the ideal age to get married and start pushing out babies was 22.
Back then, having children wasn’t just a desire, or an expectation — it was a given. What did us young ladies want to be when we grew up? Mommies, of course, and maybe doctors, or lawyers or princesses on the side.
Fifteen years later, and I am now 22. Perhaps not so ready to get married and start pushing out babies, but the desire to do so has not gone anywhere.
But for many of my peers, it has.
Nowadays, the idea of kids before 30 is often equated with leaving the party at 9 p.m. Vocal longings for motherhood are met with looks of disgust, despair and pity. You want kids soon? You might as well throw in the towel, buy yourself 10 cats and invest in some knitting classes.
Having children is no longer seen as a viable occupation for women, but a limitation to reaching full potential. And, despite my baby fever, I can’t say I wholly disagree.
One-third of millennials, about 25 million, do not want children, a recent Cassandra Report study has found, compared to 22 million in the older Generation X. And why don’t they want kids? According to the study, we young millennials simply don’t want to give up our lifestyles, sacrifice our flexibility or take on more responsibility.
That makes sense. Why would we want to relinquish that kind of freedom, opportunities, the ability to live or work wherever we want?
We come from a generation of wanderlust, and a society where we can take a weekend trip to Machu Picchu or the Eiffel Tower. With children, though, it becomes increasingly difficult to board a plane on a whim and fly somewhere new.
We no longer have the choice to be selfish. Another person’s life becomes more important than our own.
We also come from a generation that has racked up more student loan debt than any other in history — the average student in the class of 2015 graduated with more than $30k in debt, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many of us can barely provide for ourselves, let alone for another human being.
And others are simply disgusted by children. Sure, they can be loud, rude, stinky receptacles of disease and boogers. And the trials of pregnancy and childbirth are enough to make even the most maternal woman shudder.
Even if we do want kids, women like me are relishing the notion that having children is no longer an expectation, even a womanly duty, as it once was. As we have gained control over our own choices, we have also secured the right to do whatever the hell we want with our bodies. We are getting married later — 27 is now the average age for women — and many of us aren’t getting married at all. And 69 percent of millennials now believe that there is no longer a societal stigma attached with not having or wanting children.
That’s all well and good.
But why do I often feel like that social stigma of not wanting kids has now been replaced with a stigma of wanting them?
Why must you look at me as if my baby fever is contagious, like I need to be quarantined? Like wanting to be a mom means wanting to waste my life away? I want exactly want you want — to pursue my dreams, to see the world, to have a fulfilling and successful career, just like you. (And it IS possible to have kids and a full-time job, as evidenced by the 67 percent of U.S. mothers who work, according to the 2010 census.)
I am not judging you for not wanting kids. So why are you judging me?
Let me tell you about why I want to be a mom. About the moment my maternal instincts swept over me like a tidal wave, and everything changed.
It was the day I met my newborn niece, lying in her hospital bassinet, skin flushed from birth, eyes peering into her brand new world as her arms and legs flailed. Those beady blue eyes meeting mine for the first time. Me, 15 years old at the time, drowning in a kind of love I had never experienced before.
I remember my heart stopped when her heart monitor beeped, then flatlined, only to find out a moment later that her little body had simply wriggled out of it.
The first time I held her, feeling her fragile weight against my arms, and vowing to her I would keep her safe from everything.
The first time I managed to hush her wails with a lullaby, rocking her to sleep beneath the shadow of a dancing mobile.
When I became her after-school nanny, and my life became a comfortable routine of 7 p.m. bathtimes and falling asleep to Dora the Explorer with her curled up on my chest.
When she learned to walk, chubby fists clinging to mine, taking a few ungainly steps, wobbling into her mother’s arms with a spluttering giggle.
The first moment she babbled my name — Toto — her special nickname just for me.
When she was 3 years old and I said goodbye to her for college, feeling the gaping hole she had filled within me widen again. Knowing that each time I would see her during the next four years would be like meeting a different person.
When it is three years later, and she’s a first grader, lying in my lap, almost as big as me, reading me the first few paragraphs of the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I got her for Christmas.
There is something exquisite, and slightly harrowing, about watching a tiny human grow, helping her discover the world, teaching her about love and laughter, knowing the smallest decision you make can change her life forever. Molding her into the person she is meant to be.
Trust me, I have seen my fair share of poopy diapers and ear-splitting tantrums, and had my fill of sleepless nights. But you forget about those moments as soon you see that little girl smile.
The point is, children are so much more than limitations and money pits who ruin your bodies and terrorize your houses. It isn’t that simple. When it comes to children, you can’t the calculate pros and cons.
Children come into your life and change you. They fill every hole inside you with all-consuming, completely unconditional love. A love so full you feel it spilling over you and flowing into every aspect of your life.
I don’t know why anyone would wish to live their life devoid of that kind of love.
Wanting and having a child isn’t the end all, be all. It will not destroy you and your life. If anything it will make you whole.
So excuse me while I go succumb to my baby fever. I can’t promise you that you won’t catch it one day, too.