I am married.
Anyone who has read my postings here will know that occasionally I refer to the hubby or the spouse.
I have a partner, and we have been married. In August we will have been married for four years, which is just a blink of the eye compared to my parents, who have been married to each other since they were 18.
I have been married for four years and I am childless.
This is an issue.
Not for me, not for my husband. God knows the middle of a dissertation is not the time that I want to contemplate spawning, and hubby wants a permanent job before I get knocked up (and incidentally, wants me to stop referring to having a child as spawning).
It’s a problem for my parents (specifically my mother) and other members of my family.
In my family, married couples have duties, and one of those duties is the production of children. Marriage without children is an anomaly – that is what shacking up is for. Often children and marriage occur in my family in reverse order. Couples live together for several years, acquire furniture and an apartment, and then discover they’re (or she is) pregnant. The pregnancy provides the impetus for marriage. Sometimes the pregnancy occurs during the dating period. This also often leads to marriage unless one of the partners is obviously unfit.
Marriage and children, hand and glove, my duty in the eyes of my parents now that I’m legally wed.
My parents gave us a couple of years to settle down and then the questions started – “When are you going to get pregnant?” Hubby was in school so that provided a convenient excuse. Now that he’s graduated and looking for a job, the pressure is on.
In many ways I’ve already unsettled my parents expectations about what their children’s marriage was going to be like – I looked for a partner who declared himself a feminist. It wasn’t enough for me that he endorsed women’s rights, I needed an ideological companion. I demanded equality in all areas of social life, I wasn’t going to be the one keeping house and responding to any sick calls if we had kids. I wanted to be able to devote myself to a career and not get hung up in any mommy-track. Hubby is more nurturing than I am, and we agreed to split responsibilities 50-50.
I married someone who does not conform to expected gender roles. He worries about not washing the coloreds with the whites. I’m the one that checks the oil and the transmission fluid in our car, listening to the sound of the engine to diagnosing problems with my father when we visit my parents. He wants his gifts wrapped, attached to a card bearing a personal message, and representing my thoughts about what I thought he would like. Until I met the hubby I chucked presents in a bag, after asking what the recipient wanted first (no cards were attached). Other things are flipped too, when he talks about a problem he doesn’t want me to offer a solution. The list of gender reversals goes on.
All of above doesn’t really concern my parents because, in truth, they are separated from us by distance, and don’t really encounter our habits on a day to day basis (I suspect if we did live closer some of the non-gender norm stuff would concern my parents, particularly since I, not hubby, am the “handy” one). However, the two issues that have put a bee in my mother’s bonnet is my refusal to take my husband’s last name, and our lack of children.
The former problem was wiggled out of when, after my mother pressed the issue of married couple’s not having the same name as important because “the two shall become one” I pointed out that if the two were really to become one I wouldn’t take my husband’s last name, but rather we should combing the last two names. My mother has generally accepted that changing my last name isn’t going to happened (I’m Ms. Mylastname thank you very much), but still address the occasional package to the non-existent Mrs. Hislastname (well not really non-existent, technically that would be hubby’s mother, but I digress).
Kids are not so easily dealt with because we do intent to have them…later…maybe…but we’re married…and married couples have kids, otherwise what’s the point of being married? You can just live together.
The hubby faces pressure from his own family as well. His mom wants grandkids too, but focuses her arguments on him for more utilitarian reasons. Hubby is one of two siblings, but he’s the only one who has expressed interest in producing grandchildren (of which his mom has zero at the moment). Ergo, requests for grandchildren have to go to him. He has less sympathy for my mother, who has two grandchildren, with one more on the way.
As the last year of my graduate program draws closer, parental pressure is increasing, but we have no plans to spawn…er…reproduce just yet.
There are all sorts of reasons not to get pregnant –
Getting pregnant while completing a Ph.D. is apparently doable. My department happens to have had a bumper crop of babies over the last couple of years, with students and spouses giving birth. But supporting children on a grad student and contract worker’s salary is difficult. Financial aid ends after 5 years, just when you’ve defended the dissertation and apparently just when members of my department also consider having a child. I can’t figure out how they support the expenses of a chlid and word on the street is that some have had to take out loans to finish their last couple of years due to the baby boom.
[btw whoever keeps raising TGR tuition, all you do is increase time to graduation and the ABD rate as students like myself stop writing FT and start working to afford fees].
I can’t imagine getting work done with a baby in the next room, and my department-mates who have had babies, are writing, and are on the market amaze me. I have enough energy to work to make rent and write the dissertation, but even that has induced sleeping problems.
Then there’s insurance. Babies are expensive, and SU has no dependent plan. For good reason – the plan was unsustainable because the majority of enrollees were student spouses who were planning on getting pregnant (when it was available hubby and I didn’t consider the plan for that reason, the cost of a plan that covers mostly pregnant woman is only going to up each year). My student insurance only covers my pregnancy, and hubby is not on a group plan. Covering him costs quite a chunck of change every month. We can’t afford to insure any child that we have just yet.
All the obsticles I see makes me wish I had had a kid when I was 22, I would have been young, and dumb, and convinced I could do it, but out of college and employable (and hey, the tech bubble had just started and I had a math degree). It would have been hard, but the toddler years would be well over by now.
My mum points out that there is never a good time to have a baby and that as I get older, the inconvenience to my lifestyle will only increase, and she wants another grandkid.