Are You Feeling Pressure To Have Kids?
So after turning forty last spring and considering, I am single, childless and still searching for the American Dream, I embraced my newly minted status without having a major breakdown. That came much later.
When my day arrived, I did a mental tally of the positive things that made my life worth celebrating; Despite my lack of a trust fund or socialite status, I had managed to last 16 years in NYC, my recent physical exam had revealed that I was in excellent health, and I was still being told that I looked much younger than my age. I figured those three main highlights were reason enough to pop the cork and paint the town red with the a little help from my friends.
But my family and some of my close friends were quite concerned that I was perhaps pretending to be happy and content because in their eyes, turning forty for me was almost like a nail in the coffin. There were expectations that needed to be met and I had failed to meet them so how could I accept my fate so complacently?
The major category of interest is the marriage and family section, which has always been a tricky territory for me. Coming from a Nigerian background, after the age of 30, you are seen as some kind of a curse to your parents if you are an unmarried female. It’s even worse when you are the firstborn child and only daughter because all your mother’s hopes for grandchildren are dependant on you. You are her only access to experiencing the complete joy of being a grandmother without much interference.
My younger brother thankfully tied the knot a couple of years ago and diligently produced the first grandchild but despite this welcomed blessing, my mother still took every opportunity to remind me that I wasn’t off the hook. My brother’s daughter brought them a lot of joy but they would never be truly fulfilled until I had my firstborn.
When I was in my early thirties, my parents started to panic, it was almost as if they sensed the danger ahead, so they worked overtime to try to pair me with men who were based in Nigeria from good stock. Just like the British, who colonized us, we were reared in a classist society and so I wasn’t going to just end up with any man on my parents watch. I appreciated the efforts being invested on my behalf but it was pretty challenging trying to date guys who were literally on the other side of the equator. Coincidently enough I wasn’t having much luck at home either, with the emergence of online dating and speed dating, I sort of got lost in a whirlwind of options and unavailable men.
But don’t get me wrong, I am a hopeless romantic and always envisioned myself finding my mate and settling down with a couple of kids and a golden retriever. My name means “Good Mother” in the Igbo language so basically my destiny was sealed at birth. I had the best mother any girl could ask for and I have always hoped for the opportunity to pass on the torch to my own children. And most importantly, I can’t imagine anything more inspiring than watching your parents suffocate your kids with love and adoration. It’s definitely a right of passage and signals a comfortable continuance that every family strives for.
I am consistently tormented by the idea that I may never be a mother and as my parents’ age, and the gravity of my situation sinks in because I realize that time is no longer my side.
But I haven’t completely given up hope, neither am I paralyzed by the idea of being motherless. I still believe that I can possibly give birth to my love child in the next two years. But some of my friends and a handful of acquaintances are ready to throw in the towel on my behalf. Lately, whenever the subject of marriage and kids come up, I have been consoled with a standard declaration – “You probably won’t have any kids. But that’s okay.” It’s somewhat alarming and invasive to have someone decide your fate with such finality as if they are the masters of your universe.
How do they know that I am okay with the notion that I probably won’t have any kids and why do they feel the need to convey such a loaded sentiment with such ease as if I am devoid of any level of sensitivity?
I have perfected my immediate response – ‘Thanks for sharing, but I will most likely have a child. And that’s a fact!”