I Am a 31 Year Old Woman: Living Out My 'Ands'
I am 31 and I don’t yet have kids. I am 31 and I’m not pregnant. I am a woman in her 30s who is choosing in this season to place an emphasis on her career. Who is currently in grad school full time and working in a profession she loves. Who is writing books on the side and putting herself out there in every way she can to learn and grow and practice her research, her speaking, her writing. This doesn’t mean I don’t want children. This doesn’t mean I am not actively trying to have children. But it does mean I am more than my ability to do the amazing, miraculous, hard work of growing and raising a child. It means there are different questions you can ask young married women than ‘when are you going to start trying?’ or ‘are you pregnant yet?’
You see, a couple days ago, I wrote a caption on an Instagram post about the wins Justin and I were currently experiencing, making this difficult period in time in which we chose to live apart just a bit easier.
Almost immediately, in response to this post, we began to receive messages asking if I was expecting. Though I don't want to speak for all young married women, I will say this - many of us get accustomed to these questions, as seemingly from the moment we say 'I do,' someone somewhere along the line deemed it appropriate, welcomed even, to ask when the inevitable babies will begin appearing. But on this day, when I wrote this post, the thought that so many would assume this great news was aligned with expanding our family didn't cross my mind. Not even once. Instead, I was in the midst of pure excitement and pride in achieving a professional goal I had written in my notebook every single day for the past six months. In fact, it was my number one goal. Scrawled across nearly 200 pages. Over and over again.
Now before I continue, hear this, if you were one of the humans who inquired into the state of my uterus, this post is in no way meant to single you out or place shame or blame on you. I know you are excited about the prospect of us growing our family. I am too. I know your questions came from a place of love and genuine excitement. Because I feel those emotions emanating from you. But rather, the response we received from that caption simply made me think about how we as a collective respond to women in general, specifically young women in their child-bearing years. It made me wonder if a man (perhaps even Justin himself) posted that very same caption, sharing something happened in his life that he couldn’t wait to share, if the response would have been the same.
These inquiries, they caused my mind to begin to spin as I thought about all of my friends who've had fertility issues. And the incessant questions they have to dodge as they attempt to navigate their way through a path they never thought they would have to face. Or couples who choose not to grow their family with children and the skepticism their decision is met with.
I thought about the struggles in not knowing what the right path is or how to continue your education or grow your business or find success in your career AND start your family at the very same time. There isn't a handbook nor a road map to teach us all what the "right" answers are. Because there aren't any, right answers that is, though the world and their questions might try to convince us otherwise.
So here's what I hope you hear today: our expectations for someone else may not align with her own expectations. The path we've walked may be completely different than the woman next to us. And the stories of those we think we know - they may be distorted so far from reality. We can never be sure of the battles people are fighting and may not understand the choices they have made. Perhaps we need to listen more and assume less. Perhaps we need to attempt to see the whole person instead of one small piece. Perhaps we need to clear our vision, and allow this clarity to approach others without the clouded lens of our own stories.
I am 31 and I don’t yet have kids. I am 31 and I’m not pregnant. I am a woman in her 30s who is choosing in this season to place an emphasis on her career and education. Who, alongside her husband, made the choice to live hours apart so they could both follow their dreams. Who is fighting every day to live out the 'ands' other humans sometimes don't understand. This doesn’t mean we don’t want children. This doesn’t mean we are not actively trying to have children.
But it does mean I am more than my ability to do the amazing, miraculous, hard work of growing and raising a child.
I am a woman and a professional. I am a woman and a graduate student. I am a woman and I have massive professional goals. I am a woman and I want children. I am a women and a writer. I am a woman, AND.