Like most little girls, I always imagined growing up, getting married and starting a family.
At a young age, I became infatuated with wedding dresses. I picked out first and middle names for my hypothetical kids and even decided on the ages when I would get married and then pregnant.
It's ingrained in young girls from the very beginning that those are the biggest, most important milestones in life.
As I grew older, my career, sanity and happiness began to be more important than finding someone to marry and have kids with. But the frustrating thing is, the rest of the world has expectations for me already.
I am officially at the age where those milestones should be in my near future. I am asked about my plans for marriage and kids regularly, as if I have no choice but to go through with these experiences. But why?
I was once at dinner with a group of people who were twice my age and they asked me about kids. They made a comment about how I'm getting close to the age when I should get pregnant.
I told them I wasn't sure if I wanted kids, that it wasn't a priority to me and that I would be perfectly content without them.
“Trust me,” someone said, “you'll change your mind.” I stared, perplexed.
Every time I voice how I feel, I get the same reaction. People have a hard time grasping why someone might choose to not have children, why they might choose to focus on their marriage, career and experiences instead of committing to raising another human being.
I'm always told I'll change my mind, as if it's a horrible thing to waste my ovaries as a female.
Aren't there enough expectations put on women?
Every single day as a female, I feel pressure to look and act a certain way. I am in an endless internal battle with myself to feel at peace with who I am and what I look like compared to what I see around me.
I have to constantly remind myself that I'm good enough, smart enough and attractive enough, even though I don't compare to women flooding television, movies and social media.
So, why, on top of those standards (that I have to ignore for my own sanity), am I told I must get married and have children? Not only am I expected to have them, but I'm expected to do it sooner rather than than later.
I am told my job won't be as important as my husband's, that if anyone stays at home with the kids, it will be me.
I am told that if I don't become a mother, my life will be incomplete.
Some of my reluctance comes from the fact that I don't think I'm strong enough to handle my child's pain on top of my own. The moment I see them hurt or beaten down by life, I will regret bringing them into this world.
My sister is about to get married and have the wedding of her dreams with the man she is in love with. They are planning to have kids soon after.
I will be an aunt, and I know I will love every minute of it. I absolutely adore children, but I am more excited to fill the role of an aunt than mom. I promised to be there as much as possible in order to help them learn and grow.
And that is enough for me. It's enough to have children related to me by blood, kids who I know I will love completely and unconditionally, who I will watch grow up -- yet never be wholly responsible for.
I am content focusing on my writing until I'm a best-selling author, focusing on my career until I get my dream job. I want to focus on climbing the ladder until at last, I'm financially comfortable and able to see the world at my leisure.
Those are my goals now, and they are much more important to me than bringing a child into this world that I don't even know I want.
Maybe one day I'll have a change of heart about having children and suddenly desire them. But I'm not going to risk my happiness just because my parents and in-laws want grandchildren.
I'm not going to do something that makes me sad, uncomfortable and scared because my family, friends and society expect me to. I will only have kids it if it will make me happy.
**Originally published on Unwritten.