When I was no more than six years old, one night I remember pottering around in my bedroom and putting my "baby" to sleep just before going to bed myself. Strangely, I then kneeled down at the end of my bed, pressed my hands into the praying position, shut my eyes tight and prayed for a baby – a real life baby – to magically appear at the end of the bed when I woke up. Obviously, it didn't happen (and probably for the best – my parents would've killed me).
It's safe to say that for as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to, one day, have children of my own. These days I am not so sure.
My entire life I have been surrounded by kids. I am one of five girls, I have oodles of cousins, growing up we always had bus-loads of friends over and slumber parties were common. My mum was (and still is) a Supermum! It might have been chaotic at times (for my parents, not us) but no matter what, mum always managed to keep an immaculate house, throw epic dinner parties and having the five of us kids looking more than presentable (hello, matchy-matchy outfits for our party of five).
In our teens, all of my sisters and I babysat regularly. In fact, two of my sisters studied early childhood and teaching at uni. And four out of five us worked as nannies while studying – including me.
So, you can see why having kids has always been on my radar.
Three out of my five sisters now have children of their own, totalling five girls and one boy. It's been amazing to watch my sisters become mothers. Watching the people you love make little humans is just incredible. I can see that it's not easy, though. Amazing. But not easy. Life changes and living a carefree, fly-by-the-seat-of-your pants, theatre-going, restaurant-loving, once-a-year (at least) holiday life becomes a little bit (ok, maybe, a lot) harder.
Still I thought with the right partner, we'll just work it all out and manage some kind of amazing life. After all, I've managed a team of people in a deadline-driven, stressful work setting, so how hard can life with children be?
Now 33 and in a serious relationship, I've been thinking quite a bit about kids recently. More and more lately, however, I am wondering if I am kidding myself to think my life is suited to having a baby in it.
I am not alone, it seems. These days women are choosing not to have children for many reasons. From career-motivated decisions to a concern for the population growth's impact on the environment, it's often a carefully considered decision. In fact, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the number of childless women in the 45 to 49 age group was at 14 per cent in 2006 compared to 11 per cent in 1996, and 9 per cent in 1986.
According to my baby sister, I definitely should rethink my childhood dreams. Since my sister had her bub two years ago, she has been strongly cautioning me against starting a family of my own. While she's a selfless, fun, amazing and creative mother who puts her little one first at all times (and he adores the ground she walks on because of it), she says it's bloody hard and wonders if kids are for me. She says this because sometimes she thinks she might not have had a baby if she had her time again because it changed her life so much. She doesn't think I'd take as kindly to my world changing. I'm not sure.
Full disclosure: My 37-year-old partner isn't 100 per cent sure if he wants kids either. We've discussed our views on parenting and talked about how we would juggle the parenting/work/life balance and it's not quite clear if it would work. I love my career and I would like to do both simultaneously if I did have children. We've both lived and worked in different countries. We love travelling, going out for dinner/dancing/drinking/theatre/music/museums/exhibitions. Quite a lot, too. My sister says having kids would mean we can kiss our busy social schedules goodbye.
Naturally, this has me running through a bazillion questions about having a baby. I love my sister dearly. And vice versa. So I know that when she says something like this that she is looking out for me with real heart behind her advice. Should I take this on board? Let it inform my future?
All of a sudden, the little girl in me is sinking and saying, "But this is what you've always wanted". At what point do you let the little girl, and her hopes and dreams for a future with children in it fade away, and allow the adult you (and your loved ones) to influence a reimagined picture? Is it possible (or even easy) to maintain my lifestyle with kids in frame?