“You do realise your clock is ticking, right?”
I remember the first time someone reminded me that my biological clock was ticking. She said it in a hushed voice like it was some kind of secret. I looked back at her in the way I had become accustomed to looking at people who prodded at my relationship status, why I didn’t have kids or what I was waiting for.
This brief exchange led me to wonder why it is that women are repeatedly reminded of their tick, tock.. biological clock.
If anyone is aware of their age, it’s the individual themselves. Age is the one thing we track diligently from birth, so reminding a woman that biology puts a limit on her reproductiveness is a little redundant. Most women are well aware and increasingly concerned as they approach and go past their thirties still childless.
We have been taught that our goal should be motherhood. We see it in the way women who don’t have or never had children are sometimes treated. It’s as if not having kids leads to some kind of expiration and beyond that, we cease to be useful members of society.
When we talk about a biological clock, it could mean any number of things; for example, the processes related to sleep-wake cycles that we commonly refer to as our “body clock”. Most likely though, when we hear these words we think of fertility – specifically in women – and it’s decline with age.
Research suggests the idea of a ticking clock as it relates to fertility originated in a 1970’s Washington Post article entitled “The Clock is Ticking for the Career Woman,” written by a man called Richard Cohen. Below is some of what he writes:
Sometimes, the Composite Woman is married and sometimes she is not. Sometimes, horribly, there is no man on the horizon. What there is always, though, is a feeling that the clock is ticking. A decision will have to be made. A decision that will stick forever. You hear it wherever you go.
Over the years, this idea has grown to become something of a life sentence for women. As I write this, millions of women are feeling the pressure to have children and that the sand in their timer is quickly running out. You don’t need to look far to see that this is real.
We see it in families and on social media. Women who never had children or didn’t birth their own are often ridiculed and scorned. We saw it in the UK Prime Ministerial race a while back when one woman suggested she was a better candidate than the other because being a mother meant she had “a real stake” in the future of the country.. a tangible stake, no less. Even at the highest levels of power and politics, not having children is seen as something to be ashamed of.
Our timekeeper (aka society), tells us that we may have to choose between career and family and that if we wait and marry later, men may not want us at all. We are reminded that if we keep sending them away, we may end up with none! And if we insist on having a good job, our own house or car, we could become intimidating and what would we then need a man for?
We express surprise when we encounter women who don’t want children because we assume that motherhood is everybody’s goal. And while it may be for most, we cannot look down on those who didn’t have, or chose not to have children. We are quick to fight for the rights of women to abort children but we hesitate to speak up for those who don’t or never did have them, and often face that silent battle alone.
Now this may be way too much honesty for you but I’m only scratching the surface. Anxiety over remaining childless is a real issue that a lot of people carry hurt over but rarely speak about.
I’m not opposing culture (or science) as I write this. In most instances, people’s observations are well intentioned. I am simply pointing out how outside pressure can cause us to make poor life decisions.. like getting married to get people off our backs or because that’s just what is expected of us. We may overlook clear red flags in relationships because “everyone’s having kids” and we feel that we are out of time.
Let me offer you a different perspective, if I may.
Again, I’m not knocking the science and medical research that backs what we’re talking about here but I also believe in the Sovereignty of God. I believe that God is infinite and isn’t bound by time. The way I see it, we have a choice when we feel panicked about the future to either take it into our own hands or throw our anxieties on Him. It may surprise you that He can handle it and that He cares.
In my article, “Is God’s Timing Really The Best?” I talk a bit more about waiting, timing and trusting. It is a vulnerable place to be, but it also protects our peace. One of my favourite Bible verses is 1 Timothy 6:6-8 which reads: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.”
I love this verse because it reminds me about obedience and contentment. While there are so many things we can’t control, we are blessed to know God who controls it all. He is teaching us something in every circumstance and we can find our peace in that.
So if you’re desperate to have kids, throw your anxiety on him. Casting your cares includes your desire to have children. You are casting your cares on the One who is able to do anything, regardless of what human beings think or say.
We can idolize marriage and family but we forget that marriage too can be hard (more so with the wrong person). Many marriages are sinking, painfully unhappy or have become something to endure. Infidelity is commonplace yet many of us rush into having kids, forgetting that our kids will observe our relationships and it will shape their worldview.
We don’t realise that a lot of people are in marriages where they wish they could have a do-over, miss their single life and would do things differently. These are the stories we don’t hear, except from a few transparent married folk.
The story that’s shouted louder is why aren’t you married and why don’t you have children yet? And if from the age of 25, you’re confronted with comments about your biological clock, imagine what that would do to you by the time you’re 35. The concern is real but it’s okay to wait for the right person and create a good foundation for your children to come into.
The goal may seem to be “bearing children before the clock strikes midnight”, but we can still be purposeful and content with our lives as they are right now. Every life can’t move on the same trajectory because every single story is unique.
Know that you are complete, valuable and whole as you are. Don’t let others pressure you into resenting your own life. I truly believe your blessings will find you without it being forced.