THE SENTRY OF MY WOMB

By Jennifer King

My friend told me to pitch a fit the next time they start. "Do something to grab their attention and tell them you don't want to hear it anymore," she said. "Doesn't matter if you have to scream in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, just do something to make them stop."

The problem? My parents and in-laws want grandchildren. Currently my husband and I are their only hope. And I feel like the sentry of my womb.

My husband and I have been married for less than a year. I'm 26 and he's 27. We have a few years to decide for certain whether we'll try to have children. Our parents, when asked outright, will agree we have a few years. But in their minds there is no question about whether we will have children, and truth be told, they wish we already had them.

I assumed that once my husband and I married we would have at least a year of peace. I was so naive. Six months after the wedding, my mom, who'd held back pretty well until then, started in. For years, when asked about children I'd respond that they were out of the question until I finished my thesis-I'm working on a Ph.D. in Cell Biology. The toil of building a thesis is stressful and time-consuming; I don't have the time and energy to
devote to a thesis and a baby. Although this response had been a sufficient defense for a number of years, I should have seen it would not hold up forever. At Thanksgiving my mother announced that, despite what I think, I can have children before I complete my thesis. Yet when I told her I'm more interested in getting a dog than having children, she told me that I don't have time for a dog.

I've found this obsession with grandchildren is by no means unique to our parents. Many of my friends hear the same lines, "Christmas just isn't as much fun without children," and "Your aunt just called to say your cousin is having another baby. I think she just called because she wanted to rub it in," and don't forget what even acquaintances of five minutes will say, "If you don't get started soon, you'll miss your chance."

Don't parents have better things to worry about? My friends and I are accomplished, caring young adults struggling to find our way in the world the best we can. Many of us have spent much of our lives trying to please our parents. But no matter how much we love and appreciate our parents, we are not under obligation to give them grandchildren. Why must we endure
these guilt-trips?

I must admit, if this whole business were just about the guilt, it wouldn't get to me so much. Our parents' remarks give me the impression I'm no longer a person with dreams and opportunities-I'm just an uninhabited incubator. When my mother-in-law makes it clear that I'm expected to produce, I often wonder what separates me from livestock.

When I was a teenager, my parents and their friends told me to protect my future by saying "no" to boys. I cannot tell you how many times I heard, "You have the opportunity to go places-don't do something that will mess it all up." They still want to decide what I should do with my future, but now they are the ones I have to defend against.




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