There’s an older woman at my former church in Louisville, Ky., who has a talent for being inappropriate. She says things like, “I hope you don’t end up like your sister,” and “You sure have gained a lot of weight.”
One day I ran into her at the grocery store and as we stood surveying overpriced milk I expected she’d just make small talk about the weather or upcoming church events. Instead, out of nowhere, she asks, “So when are you and your husband going to start a family?”
After shaking off the shock, I smiled and simply said, “Oh, not for awhile.” She gave a funny look that let me know she was not satisfied with my answer.
Now that I’ve moved back to my hometown I get this question constantly, not only from church ladies but also cousins, uncles, aunts and friends.
I’ve written in past blog posts and columns that I’m not 100-percent sure I even want to be a mother. When I share this with people some seem shocked. Others, especially those who are parents, seem downright offended, as if I’m somehow implying I think it’s foolish to have kids, which is certainly not the case. I greatly admire good parents and perhaps one day I’ll join their ranks. But right now, I’m just not sure.
Reuters reports that a recent study by the Pew Research Center found that perhaps I’m not as strange and folks like the tactless church lady may think I am. According to the report nearly 20 percent of older women do not have children, compared to 10 percent in the 1970s.
“In recent decades, social pressure to play traditional roles has lessened in a broad variety of ways and there is more leeway for individual choice. This could play a part in lowering pressure for people to get married and bear children,” said D’Vera Cohn, a co-author of the report. “Women have more options than in the past to build strong careers and to exercise the choice not to have children.”
Cohn said another reason for the increase is that children are seen by some as less important for a successful marriage. A 2007 Pew survey found that 41 percent of adults said that children are very important for a good marriage, down from 65 percent in 1990.
I know that “start a family” is just a phrase people use to mean “get knocked up,” but the truth of the matter is my husband and I are a family, with or without a kid. We have memories, traditions and unconditional love for each other. Isn’t that what a real family is all about?