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The Ticking Clock

Browsing around the blogosphere today I found this article from a blogger named Megan about her desire to have children and resentment of the biological urgency. She's a vivid writer and you should read the whole thing. Here's a taste:

I always wanted kids, but for a long time it was just that I liked kids and thought that families laughed an awful lot and it seemed like a pleasant thing to do after you had had a lot of fun in your twenties. Until my mid-twenties, kids were an abstract good idea that I could have been talked out of by a better idea. Around twenty-seven or twenty-eight, babies became more interesting. They were just more… interesting. It became mesmerizing to watch one in a room full of people and to wonder was it was doing; nothing else in the room was really quite as vivid as the baby. By twenty-nine it started to hurt. And by hurt I mean some in the way where you are denied something you really, really want. But I mean mostly in the way that it physically hurts me. It feels like hunger, if you never ever get enough food. My breasts ache if I hear a baby; my throat closes; my womb clenches and my arms hurt. It has been like this for years. It has eased recently, and I dont know if that is because the babyhunger is passing or because I've pushed it away for so long.

… I am scared that I will not be able to make this right, that I cannot work hard enough, meet enough men to find one who wants to do this with me, be appealing and funny enough, be lucky enough to do this in time. I am doing whatever I can think of to solve this problem; whoring my life on the internet, meeting strangers, moving to a new town. And I AM increasingly desperate, because I DO believe there's a deadline for this. I just passed my thirty-fifth birthday, which might mean all sorts of things to all of you, but to me it was the "mandatory amniocenteses" birthday.

When I was younger, I couldn't have told you whether I wanted children or not. The topic simply didn't interest me and I didn't spend any time thinking about it. This has changed for me over the past few years as I've seen most of my co-workers get married and many of them start families. In fact, some good friends of mine are expecting their first child within the month.

It was a gradual realization for me that I want to have children, too. A couple years ago I started asking a few friends, both with and without children, how they realized they wanted (or didn't want) children and how those desires fit into the context of their lives. I don't think I learned anything actionable, but it was helpful for me to talk to people about it.

I recently passed my 29th birthday, and I'm starting to feel the clock ticking, too. It isn't as urgent for men as it is for women (men are fertile for longer and don't have the biological risks of child-bearing) but at the same time I'm aware that large age differences are atypical in successful relationships. For men in general, and myself in particular, the risk is that by waiting too long I won't be able to find a woman still young enough to have children. (Don't give me a hard time about this. I know I'm still under 30. I have a low discount rate.)

My parents had children by the time they were my age. That's less common today. People are waiting longer to have families, spending more time on education and establishing themselves in the world. This makes sense; the world is a more complicated place than it used to be. There's more to learn and it takes longer to specialize in a career. But the biological imperative doesn't adjust to the modern world.

I have a great sympathy for Megan, but I don't think I have any advice. Her situation serves as a warning to me: don't be too patient — you don't have all the time in the world. This is the second time in recent memory when I've had to stop and reflect on my time horizon. This is a change I need to make.

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