They Do Exist.

Women In The Workplace: Babies Ruin Lives

Editor’s Note: In Ashley Samsa’s submission email, she explained to me that she used to feel like a bad woman for not wanting children, and being torn between her ambitions and child-bearing. She wished that more women could to hear stories like this, because the pressure to reproduce can sometimes be unbearable, and not knowing how you feel about having children does not make you a bad woman; on the contrary, thinking it through and making a decision that works for you makes you a good woman. I wholly agree. Ashley blogs at smallstrokesbigoaks.com and tweets at @samsanator. – Lauren

As my husband and I were watching television one night, a car commercial came on. A woman and a man are walking down the street and she turns to him and drops the ultimate bomb: “I want to have a baby.” He, in turn, dives into full panic mode and starts listing all of the things he wanted to do before he had a kid because, of course, he can’t do anything once a kid is in the picture.

I turned to my husband and joked, “Did you see that? You better hope I don’t get pregnant any time soon. Your life will be over.”

The idea that pregnancy will ruin your life is not a new one. This particular myth about motherhood starts when you are a teenager as a way for high school health classes to scare you. After all, all it takes is one sexual encounter to get you knocked up.

It follows, then, that my first experience with babies was one of fear. It was like a really long conditional statement from math class. If you get pregnant, then you will have a baby. If you have a baby, then you won’t have time for school. If you don’t have time for school, then your grades will drop. If your grades drop, then you won’t get into a good college. If you don’t get into a good college, then your life is ruined. Therefore, if you have a baby, then your life is ruined. And this isn’t even taking into account the scarlet letter of a bulging belly as you walk through the hallways, judging eyes following you all the way.

My formative assumption about babies, then, was that they ruin lives. Why would I ever want to take part in that? I had big things ahead of me: college, graduate school, writing the next Great American Novel, traveling the world. I couldn’t be bothered with kids. And this was the popular opinion among my peers as well. I remember being in undergrad, sitting with a very good friend on the quad just before her graduation, and she looked at the sky and said, “You know what the weirdest part about graduating is? That, for the first time, my life would not be ruined if I got pregnant right now.” When I met my husband – in graduate school, where I was successfully still kid-free – I laid it all on the table for him and told him that I didn’t want kids any time soon, if at all. Thankfully, he agreed.

After graduate school came the wedding, and after the wedding came the weddings of about a hundred of our good friends. And after the weddings of our good friends came the inevitable slide into our late twenties. And after that came the sudden dinners out with distant friends we hadn’t seen since their weddings where they announced the happy news: they were pregnant. Frankly, I had mixed feelings about the news. In my one-track mind, getting pregnant would still be an accident that would change the entire course of my life. After all, I hadn’t even started my Great American Novel yet, nor had I gotten my PhD or traveled the world.

It wasn’t until my best friend told me she was pregnant that the realization that my close friends would take the plunge, too, started to take hold. When she told me, I made the stupid mistake of spitting out the first words that came to my mind: “Did you plan it?” I asked, not because I thought she didn’t, but because I was genuinely curious to know whether or not adults actually got pregnant on accident. Was I, myself, at risk? It was just beginning to occur to me that people would actually want to have a baby, let alone plan for it. Eventually, I got my foot out of my mouth and apologized and told her how happy for her I was. Honestly, though, I had been telling myself for so long that babies were awful inconveniences that it was hard for me to start thinking about them as agents of joy and excitement.

Months later, I was at the same friend’s baby shower. The last gift she opened was from her mother – a vintage-looking box filled with all of her favorite baby toys and clothes. She started to cry as she pulled out items I, too, recognized from my childhood: the Gloworm, the Cabbage Patch Kid, the tiny shoes, the baby spoon, the blankie. I looked over to her mom, who was also holding back tears as she, undoubtedly, remembered cherished moments as her daughter was growing up, but also as she looked to the future of a happy daughter with a happy family, growing and mixing their new traditions with the old and creating something wonderful.

Later that night, I asked her how she knew she was ready to have a baby. She said, “Listen, Ashley. If you wait until you are one hundred percent ready, you’ll never do it. Take your time, but don’t wait for it to hit you over the head. It won’t. At some point, you’ll just realize that the risks are worth the reward, and you’ll be ready.”

I started to see how happy my friends were. I saw how people rallied around them, rather than judged them. I saw the look on their faces when they glanced over at their sleeping children. And I saw how beautiful their babies were.

I even held a few of them.

I started realizing that childbirth will not kill me, that people won’t look at me and scowl with judgment as my belly grows larger, that my Great American Novel may, very well, be inspired by a tiny human being of my creation. And who says I have to write it now, anyway?

This has been the greatest realization of my life: I can do it all, but I don’t have to do it all right now. I can write the book, get the degree, have a great marriage, travel the world, and have a baby. But it doesn’t all have to get done tomorrow, or even next year.

I will never have a happily ever after story about how I just knew my whole life that I wanted to be a mom. If my future daughter ever has the same crisis as I did and asks me when I knew I wanted her, I’ll have to be honest. The truth might be that I never knew for sure; only time will tell. But that doesn’t mean I won’t be a good mom. I’ll be a great one, in fact, because, if I do bring a new person into this world, I’ll be ready to give this whole mom thing everything I’ve got.

For now, I’m still writing, studying, and traveling. But it’s entirely possible that a baby will creep its way into those plans in the future.


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34 Responses

  1. There is so much beauty in the honesty I find in this post.

    I will be married for a year next month, and naturally all people want to know is when I will get pregnant.

    Heck if I know!

    But it’s nice to have the reminder that I am take my time to do what I want to do, including motherhood.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm

  2. Ren

    This is so refreshing. Thank you.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm

  3. Tiana

    I love this, especially as a young woman who doesn't know if wants to ever have kids. I just don't have the desire for it; and some people look at me in surprise when I say that. To each their own, in my opinion. Motherhood isn't for everyone.

    June 14, 2012 at 1:56 pm

  4. I. Love. This.

    My hubby and I have been married for about 3 years now, and a lot of our friends are starting to have babies. The guilt/fear about whether we should now, what it means about us if we don't, etc. has been a real struggle for me lately. But the biggest struggle of all has been learning to recognize exactly what you said – just because you don't do something when you're 25, that doesn't mean you'll never do it.

    I would add that in addition to the myth that your life ends when you have a baby, there's also a myth that your life ends after a certain age (be it 35, etc.) As in, you can't accmplish (blank) if you haven't started it by the time you're (age). One of the most empowering moments in my life came when I was able to grasp that that isn't true.

    Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this! So good to know there are other women out there feeling the same. :)

    June 14, 2012 at 2:17 pm

  5. junice

    oh.my.word. thank you for this! it was like reading my own thought process. i'm one of the very few in my group of close friends who struggles with the thought of having kids in the future and when i've given voice to my doubts, people usually respond with sideways glances and muttered comments of my mutiny against the familial institution.

    it's really encouraging to know there are other women who are working through this decision and aren't all hearts and flowers about it!

    June 14, 2012 at 2:21 pm

  6. andreatyrell

    This is a great piece. However, I feel like this still doesn't address the issue of never wanting to have children (planned, uplanned, etc.). I understand that babies are beautiful- I have godchildren myself, but I have never once wanted to be mother (being married, on the other hand, is a different story). I've felt this way for a long time, from my early teens to now (my late twenties). Maybe it was the way I was raised and dealing with my mother who should have never had children to begin with (and thinking about how much I'm like her, I could never bring someone into the world).

    I just wonder what one is supposed to say in her late thirties or forties about being married but never having kids. I still don't know what to say now when my younger sisters are getting pregnant and I'm still dating around.

    June 14, 2012 at 2:31 pm

  7. acp1004

    I love this so, so much and agree! It's refreshing to hear the other side.

    June 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm

  8. It's so frustrating when I hear people comment on how women are being "selfish" because they want their lives straightened out before they have kids

    June 14, 2012 at 3:41 pm

  9. Loved this. I, like you, never dreamed of being a mom. I didn't daydream of growing up and raising kids and didn't look forward to having babies. I got married, fell absolutely in love (and still am), and was still scared witless about having kids, although the idea of creating life with the person I was forever in love with was a sweet thought. I had no experience with children and did not understand the big fuss. My husband was so so ready. I wanted to make sure I was 100% ready. But wow, is your friend right. If you wait until you're 100%, you'll never have kids. No one is ever fully prepared.

    I was suprised by my positive pregnancy test and took awhile to come to grips with it. In fact I cried hysterically for a good hour or two after I found out. I was entirely fearful. My son is now 15 months old. And it is oversaid, but you will never understand how in love you will be. Yes, it's hard, but man is it fun. I was absolutely amazed at how mothering came second nature. For someone who never wanted kids, I sure am enjoying being a mommy to my baby boy.

    Great article!

    June 14, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  10. Nicole J.

    Loved this so much. Thank you for writing this. My boyfriend and I have been courting for 9 months and we’ve talked about nearly evening under the sun, including having kids. I don’t want to until we’ve been married for a few years and I’ve flat out told him I would not mind having no kids. He’s so assuring and understanding.

    I just don’t like that a lot of ladies at my church (when I say that I don’t want to have kids) tell me that motherhood is the greatest gift and calling a woman could have.

    June 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  11. There's a quote by Lucille Ball's daughter (Lucie Arnaz) that floats around on Pinterest: "I try to remind myself and others that the two things my mother wanted most – to have a family and have a career – happened after she turned 40."

    Personally, I'm not all that attached to the idea of having children. I've been married for a year, and my husband and I share the feeling that we won't start talking about kids until we're in our mid-30s (we're at the 25-ish mark now). My mom had me at 37 and my sister at 40. Needless to say, I don't feel the tick-tick-tick of any clocks, biological or otherwise.

    Some women desire from the depths of their souls to be mothers, and know from the get-go that it's the path they want to follow. As for me, I feel that motherhood is a calling that I haven't been drawn to (yet? at all? I'm not sure). I'm blessed to have a lot of support from my friends, family and women in my church for my feelings on this – from mothers, women who want to be mothers, single women and intentionally childless couples alike.

    Just because you haven't made the decision to have kids, or because you're not sure you ever want to make the decision to have kids, doesn't mean that you're any less a woman. You, women like you, women unlike you, mothers, careerists, homemakers, CEOs… we're all called to different paths in life. Baby or not, you are complete in the love of Christ, beautiful and wonderfully made for an awesome purpose.

    Thanks for the beautifully worded, heartfelt, relatable post.

    June 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm

  12. Nicola

    YES! I have never felt the need to have children. If I picture my future and see no children in it, that doesn’t bother me. People are always so shocked whenever I tell them that I don’t want children. Thank you for this!

    June 14, 2012 at 5:36 pm

  13. Christi

    Be true to you! Children or no children……..it is easy to be swayed based on the influences in your life. Church, friends, family, parents all influence our thinking and decisions. My husband and I talked about if and when we wanted children before we said "I do". And I think this helped a lot when we found out we were expecting our 1st baby. We also were 28 when we got married, no debt, both had college degrees and were ready for when ever God blessed us. I on the other hand did not expect to be "blessed" 4 times! So I had to adjust my plans and ideas of how and when I returned to work so I could be home to raise our kids. I think that if you do want kids that you should be the ones raising them. (but this is another topic that isn't covered today) Find the plan that God has for you, using the gifts and talents He has given and you will be on the right path!

    June 14, 2012 at 6:47 pm

  14. Well-written article. It goes against the expectation that women will naturally have children…and some women/couples should not be parents, in my opinion. You do need to be true to yourself. Your epiphany that you can have it all, just not all at once, is a great one…that many older women could learn from. I never felt comfortable holding other people's babies, and as the youngest child in my extended family (I was an only child), I had little experience with babies before I had my own. But when I had my own, I fell in love with them…despite cracked nipples, sleep deprivation, cleaning up poo and other wonderful stuff, and nursing them through childhood illnesses. I also worked while raising my children, something I felt extremely guilty about at the time, but my husband was self-employed and we had all our benefits through my job. It was a delicate balancing act, and sometimes I felt my children suffered at the expense of my job. But we worked it out (my spouse and I), even though I used to fantasize what it would be like to be a stay-at-home mom. Now that our children are young adults, I finally feel free to explore outside interests (although I've always managed to set aside some "me" time for singing in choir and pursuing creative endeavors). Best wishes to you as you continue your journey and explore the options God has for you (I believe there is more than one "plan").

    June 15, 2012 at 10:53 am

  15. Leigh-Anne S. C.

    hmmm, this was interesting to read. I too have struggled with the idea of not wanting to have children. I do believe children are a precious gift and a blessing, and it's not that i'm afriad of the work involved (as far as raising a child). I feel I would be a good mom… I have a good mother, and good mother-in-law, and have been surrounded by positive family lives most of my life. Family is awesome! It's just… for some reason, even as a little girl, I was terrified of being pregnant. From as far back as I can remember (like 4 yrs) i have dreaded getting pregnant. I still am and I'm 23 and married!!! There was no bad experience or memory in my life to give me this feeling… it's always been sort of innate. The thought of soem fragile distinct human life growing in my womb fills me with fear that I might harm it…. depsite what every mom I have met has told me, I DO NOT want to experience something growing inside me!

    June 15, 2012 at 11:03 am

  16. Leigh-Anne S. C.

    (continued from above…) I, too, have struggled, quite painfully, with the idea I might be less of a woman, even less of a good Christian, for having these thoughts my whole life!
    But then, God has gently impressed on me over the years the idea of adoption. People freak out when I tell them this (which is not often… I get afraid…) that a healthy, potentially quite fertile female would forgo having her own kids in order to adopt! I guess it seems crazy, but hey, the wisdom of God is the foolishness of the world, right? My two best friends, my two cousins, even my grandfather were all adopted. There are so many homeless kids out there, needing a safe, loving family, and guidance into God's love… it seems a bit selfish for me to have my own kids just to fit into the status quo when those orphans need a home just a much, and I could be the one to do it.
    Is adoption expensive, and difficult? Sure, perhaps, in a way, as difficult as getting pregnant and having one's own kids, if you think about it. It's just where my heart lies. I have even asked God to change my heart and take away my fear of pregnancy so I could be "normal" and no question my own womanhood.

    June 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

  17. Leigh-Anne S.C.

    (ahh, still continued!!!) Fortunately, my husband supports me, even though he'd be happy to have his own biological infant child. He sees the value in adoption and still agreed to marry me even when I told him i might never be ready to be pregant myself.
    As far as your ladies and couples that decide to never be parents at all…. well, i do agree. People have different personalities and even though church and society frowns on you, I don't think God does, as long as the motives aren't primarily selfish. I don't think God intended every person to reproduce!!! Crazy thought. We've already filled out the Genesis command pretty well these past millenia, and the earth is certainly very full of human beings. What about taking care of the homeless already present? Young, old, alike??? That to me is a very clear command in the Bible: to care for the widow, the orphan, and the needy.
    I don't think any woman who doesn't desire to have children is abnormal!

    June 15, 2012 at 11:05 am

  18. Jeannette

    Well, I am at a different stage of life and wanted to share an idea or two. Like the author I think that if you think too much about the awesome responsibility of being a parent it would freak you out and you would never do it. The same with marriage to be honest, and I say that after the highs and lows of 26 years of marriage. The due date of my first child I said to my doctor – I don't think I am ready to have a baby(I was 31 but actual age doesn't matter for this) and he said " it's a bit late to think that now!" no kidding. We had not given it that much thought, just thought it was the time. I had another child 17 months after the first! I am frequently asked when did I learn the most during my career. Despite all the challenging roles I have had my reply is always, the three years when I was a full time(nearly, sort of) mum.i learned more about listening and influencing skills during that period than ever. The kids were 8 1/2 and 10 by then. So, don't think too much, especially about downsides, as there are plenty of positives.

    However, I also know plenty of people who chose or through fate have nit had children. And you know what, they are just as happy (that elusive concept) as those with children. they all felt huge pressure to have children though which is not very thoughtful of others.

    What I would like to see is women enjoying their lives, choosing the right path for them with or without kids and everyone being respectful of other people's choices. Sometimes following your heart and not your head brings the greatest joys.

    Views from a 55 year old! jeannette

    June 19, 2012 at 5:19 am

  19. Pingback: Monthly Review: June 2012 | Small Strokes Fell Big Oaks

  20. Pingback: Pressure to be Pregnant | Small Strokes Fell Big Oaks

  21. Having a baby is the most precious experience for every woman! Though it's a choice that completely upon woman favor. As long as you think you right by not taking a baby it's your choice. But I don't think baby ruin lives at all!!

    June 2, 2013 at 7:16 am

  22. If we like to keep safe and protect our child we need to be careful about such kind of issue. That you've share is here. your all of entire tips is really very handful for all of the pregnancy women's. I hope most of the women's like your concept. Which helps them to keep safe their child.

    October 15, 2013 at 11:38 am

  23. Hi friends, how is all, and what you desire to say
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    November 23, 2013 at 3:07 am

  24. Whether you want to have a baby or not that is really a personal decision for both of you. However, you should always get a chance to choose is what I feel.

    May 3, 2014 at 12:49 am

  25. Pingback: Bump Ahead: An Announcement and 5 Things I've Learned in the Last 15 Weeks

  26. I will get marry soon. After married I also want baby for us. But I will take some time , It's really very important for me. Thanks for your info.

    July 5, 2014 at 5:00 am

  27. This article is very amazing. Before,i read this article i didn’t idea about babies ruin lives. Now i understood .Thank you sharing the information.

    August 5, 2014 at 7:31 am

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  29. Keke

    But it is also not weird too just never want one. You have to like babies and have SOME kind of interest right? I just don’t. Never ever having them.

    September 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm

  30. There are so many women who really want to get pregnant but they cant due to different reasons.
    The big secret is when do you ovulate? Once you know that you almost there'

    If you want to learn more on how to get pregnant then go to: http://whendoyouovulatetips.com

    May 5, 2015 at 2:25 pm

  31. anon

    you people are freaking nutz, you have to consider everything before having a child. is money good, are the bond between you and your spouse good. are you both healthy. are you willing to give your life and dreams up to give another a life… are you prepared to wake up at all hours of the night.,. love it how i hear people dieing to have children, then have children and wished they did not. or best one is sending them off to other family members houses because they wished they could have peace again. truth is 99% of people only want children for the attention rather then the true joys. mean wail the poor spouse has to work triple the amount just to cover the cost.

    this also applies to being married, statistics show that 1 in every 3 couples end up leaving because they felt it was implosive or traditional. wtf to that

    May 22, 2015 at 7:11 pm

  32. Pregnancy is the very precious thing . It is the gift of god. We are really lucky, God has given the chance. If you think, You are not taken baby, Its your choice. I can't agree with you.

    June 8, 2015 at 7:41 am

  33. tylerfincher

    It's definitely hard to balance work and family life, but some companies are more understanding than others. So I feel like it's important not to sacrifice both and find a job that will allow you to pay attention to your kids and have a career. My wife liked this https://bestcvwriting.com website to find a perfect job where she can take family time when needed.

    December 12, 2016 at 4:09 am

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