Sorry, Baby, I Missed the Memo!


One by one, my friends are becoming parents. There is a certain logic to this: we are in our early/mid 30’s, and it follows a few years of annually attending more weddings than I can count on one hand. But there is also something quite shocking to me about how universal it seems, like they are all reacting to cues given from off-stage that I cannot hear.

How are they all so coordinated, did I miss the memo? Maybe there was a letter that I should have received on my 30th birthday telling me that I should be preparing for parenthood with a sequence of events: wedding, home, stopping birth control, followed by labor and then 2am feedings. I imagine this memo must have hit a practical tone, with enough inspiration that everyone reading it saw a realistic, but exciting possibility and was eager to start down this prescribed path.

I am not at all sure that I want a kid; some days the idea is compelling, and other times overwhelming. As friend after friend tells me they’re have a baby, I keep wondering, how did I miss this? There have been some friends that I knew all along wanted kids. They were the ones that would mention children in a vague future way, and so it makes sense that that vague future has come to meet the present, and now must be shaped into a firm reality with cute cat-patterned onesies. But what about the rest of my friends? The ones that I’d assumed were not so sure about kids or the future? Even they seem to be falling in line with this next life stage.

Let me clarify: I understand the appeal of raising a child, the prospect of bringing a tiny, lovable thing into the world. I have a taste of it already as an aunt; I obsessively check every few hours for new photos of my nephew, and often zoom into his adorable, tiny face, stare and smile. And I know that there is no perfect time to start a family. But still, the puzzle for me is in the decision. How did they all decide? When did they all feel ready for this responsibility?

I can’t yet imagine giving birth and shape to a child when I am still shaping myself. I feel that I am still forming even at the age of 33, soon to be 34. There is still so much that I want for myself. I want to write a book, become a good coach, figure out my career, sip coffee in Cuba, try a ballet class, and learn to get through life with less angst, and more honesty and presence. I am still learning how to be myself, and I don’t know where I would find the time to devote to diapers and breastfeeding. I don’t know if I want to.

Thinking about the tidal wave of babies that are surfacing among my friends fills me with a sense of dread. I am happy for them, and even happy to spend time with their babies. But it is a reminder that I might miss out on the whole child thing just because I didn’t get the memo and didn’t get it together, didn’t get myself together, to plan the future and start a family.

It is a reminder that I have never before been so off track compared to my peers, never been so outside the norm. I’m worried about both choices; I am scared to make a different choice and forgo this essential human experience that so many around me are choosing. But I am equally afraid of giving my life away to another. I am afraid of not knowing which path to take, and which struggle to choose and which to avoid.  More than anything right now, I am at an utter loss when it comes to how to even make this decision that everyone else seems to have already made. I sure wish I could just get my hands on a copy of that memo.


Images: “Woman in the Night” (1967) and “Maternity” (1924) by Joan Miro.


  1. Meredith Sadin

    Wow, Steph, this is so beautiful and rings so true for me! I remember waking up and wondering if there was some “coordinated campaign” whose mailer hadn’t made it to my house. Thanks for being so ope about such a charged topic.

  2. Meredith Watts

    I’m repeating myself, but, here’s the thing: you grow up with your children in ways you would never be able to achieve if you didn’t have them pulling you along. It’s one of the semi-secret gifts of parenthood. If you have an open heart, you can relive and tidy up your whole life as they grow and learn. You don’t exactly live THROUGH them but rather WITH them. You gain sudden flashes of understanding for your own parents. But now, you have agency, and the ability to tinker, and rework some plot points that didn’t go all that swimmingly in your own life so far. Pieces of the YOU puzzle just keep falling into place as the kids take their own shapes and reflect back at you. I stumble over more clarity about who I am from my relationships with my kids just about every day.

  3. EP

    So interesting. I think the desire/urge comes to everybody differently, if at all. I was definitely the type that would vaguely talk about my future children. It’s probably no surprise to my close friends that I now have two kids by 33. But it was still a difficult decision on when to take the plunge. I was terrified of losing my independence (now, post-kids, the loss feels more like a temporary inconvenience). What motivated me, strangely, was as much about my desire to have kids now (biology, friends having kids, etc.) as it was to invest in my twilight years. I hope as I age, I’ll be able to watch with joy and amusement my adult children and their kids. That, strangely, was the strongest push for me. The desire to take the inconvenience now (and joy, too, to be sure) for, fingers crossed, a lifetime payout in joy and comfort and memories. Deciding to have kids, for me, was less about the now, and more about the then.

    • steph

      Hi EP- thank you for your comment! You are totally right that a longer term perspective is a good idea =)

  4. Misty

    Thank you for writing this piece, Steph! I admire your courage in sharing your truth with all of us. It is hard to look around and one by one, see our friends having babies and while they are stressed and overwhelmed, they are so glowing and happy. They seem exactly where they are meant to be.

    So many people have children because it’s the (and I’m quoting what friends have shared) “next thing to do” and “it makes sense. ” And, I’m sure it feels right for them. I never had that strong feeling. I never got the memo. And for me it is okay because there are at least a dozen other things that I MUST do in my lifetime.

    I’m confident that you will know. Keep questioning. Whatever unfolds will be because you want it more than anything. It will be an expression of your authentic self and how you want to contribute in the world.

  5. Hana Marritz

    I guess the good new is, you never stop figuring out who you are and sculpting that. That makes life so endlessly interesting.

    the other good news is that you’ll still have time to do other things, but you will have to put it off a bit, and that isn’t easy.

    The great news when and if you do have kids is that they grow up and have interesting things to contribute and say, and it’s great fun to be adults together.

  6. Dale

    What a generation gap between us! In my mid-20’s, I felt that I hadn’t heard the message that I was supposed to stop focusing on my career and get married. All of my highly educated, very capable friends seemed to be moving to less-demanding jobs and focusing instead on setting up housekeeping. Not haphazardly, like I did. Rather, acquiring china, silver, crystal, linens, etc. And of course, husbands. It was all in preparation for having children, so maybe it wasn’t quite so different.

    As for still becoming yourself, that is a lifetime process. You have the maturity to keep changing well into old age as your situation changes, the world changes, you keep learning, and you keep re-evaluating. For me, how I keep changing is one of the wonders of life.

    For me personally, I have few regrets, but the biggest one is that I never had a child. But that doesn’t mean it would be true for you.

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