I am turning 36 in a month. After my annual visit to the lady doctor last year, who breezily announced that being 35 means you’re “AMA,” or “Advanced Maternal Age,” the thought of biological kids has been a pretty constant undercurrent in my brain. Like a current, it’s tossing me from side to side, sometimes into a calm eddy where being a “mom” actually means raising animals and hanging with my nephew and camping and writing and deep friendships.

And other times, the current tosses me up on the rocks, like yesterday’s annual doctor visit where I said I still wasn’t sure and the (female) doctor announced that “not having kids is a major regret for a lot of people.” I tried to articulate the thoughts that have been forming for the last year, like rocks being smoothed by the current: There are ways to be maternal even beyond an Advanced Maternal Age. Fostering. Adoption. Raising baby goats. Leading a Girl Scout troop, for chrissakes.

I think she got the picture, because she said goodbye and told me to enjoy “sleeping in and going out to dinner and other things you can do without kids”…which, however inadvertently, made a childless life seem supremely trivial. And then I was filled with doubt that I was just rationalizing what I didn’t really want and fear that I would look back on my trivial, lonely life and be filled with bitter regret


Last week, I came across this article by Rebecca Solnit, which I debated sharing (because this shit is getting personal). But she sums up the issues of happiness vs. meaning, childlessness vs. femininity, and everything else so perfectly:

We are given a single story line about what makes a good life, even though not a few who follow that story line have bad lives. We speak as though there is one good plot with one happy outcome, while the myriad forms a life can take flower—and wither—all around us.
[…] People lock onto motherhood as a key to feminine identity in part from the belief that children are the best way to fulfill your capacity to love… But there are so many things to love besides one’s own offspring, so many things that need love, so much other work love has to do in the world.


The whole piece is fantastic but those two passages really jumped out at me. To be reminded that there is no one right way to live a life–or to love–was seriously cathartic.

I don’t have any easy answer. I’m still writing the novel of my own life, and it may or may not have the expected plot line. The reality is I don’t want a kiddo right now (hell, I just bought a car instead of five years of diapers and preschool). And since the present moment is all we have, I’ll just have to move forward, moment by moment, checking in. No matter what, “there are so many things that need love.”

There is work for my love to do.

There’s work for everyone’s.