Biological Clocks have Snooze Buttons – and Off Buttons, and Cords to Rip from the Wall Altogether

When I was younger and hinted to anyone older than me that I wasn’t sure I wanted kids, nearly all of them chuckled, did this dramatic hand-waving thing and then gave me the same response: “Oh, when you turn 28, that biological clock is just going to start ticking!”

And… then what? This internal clock is actually a pocketwatch on a chain and it’s swinging slowly back and forth, hypnotizing me? Turning me into a zombie unable to walk through the decision-making process? Or a cavewoman – me want babies! - looking for a man to club over the head and drag back to my lair?

Well, Maybe Lady Liz don’t roll like that. When I get the urge – even an overwhelming urge – to do something life-altering, it gets vetted through a certain process. Before I left my job to become a full-time writer, I made a pros and cons list. I compiled a massive document called Plan of Attack with all my get-rich-slow schemes for working from home. For months, I told everyone I knew that I was quitting, just to see if one of them could talk me out of it. And even then, I had to listen to Eminem’s Lose Yourself on loop for hours before I got the up nerve to turn in my notice. It was important for me to do all those things to feel good about my decision.

So why is the decision to have a baby – an equally costly and crazy proposition – one where we’re allowed to throw rational thought and deliberation out the window? Is it not monumentally, colossally important and life-altering enough to warrant a carefully weighed pros and cons checklist? Or does the strength of the urge alone justify the means?

Smart, Writerly People’s Thoughts on Biological Clocks

I recently finished Mennonite in a Little Black Dress (my mother tosses me some pretty curious literary leftovers sometimes) where Rhoda Janzen briefly mentions her decision not to have children. In the author interview at the back of the book (yes, I’m the dork reading those), she’s asked if that was a difficult decision. It was a lengthy response, but the part I found most interesting was this:

“You know what troubles me? The notion that we should reproduce just because we can. Seems to me we should be able to articulate some proactive, deliberated reasons for bringing a child into the world. When women cite their biological clock, I wonder if they’ve thought that out. Shouldn’t human beings assess their biological urges as well as admit them?”

Excellent point, Rhoda! We process any number of urges in a given day, and in most cases, don’t act on them. Sometimes I want to shake the cats, really hard. Sometimes I want to order a Forever Lazy and never leave my couch. Sometimes I want to eat a family-size bag of Pirate’s Booty in one sitting. Sometimes I want to leave Drew for George Clooney.

With the exception of the Pirate’s Booty (look, I’m not made of steel), I’m usually able to control my impulses when it makes sense to do so. It’s what separates us from the animals. It’s what prevents us from becoming mean, fat, lazy, poor, unemployed, broken-hearted, friendless adulterers. Society would be a hot mess if everyone just did what they felt compelled to do!

You can’t just sleep with your boss and tell everyone you just “overwhelmingly felt the urge to do it” – this would not garner much applause. Yet everyone seems to love the “my ovaries just demanded one” answer when it comes to babies.

Maybe I’m over-simplifying this.

Maybe “that clock just started ticking” is the answer people give because they think it’s cute and ties things up in an easy bow, when really their reasons for having kids are much more complicated. And maybe I’m not the right person to write this post – I’ve been listening for that tick-tock for years and hear only the rumble of my stomach (for more Pirate’s Booty, no doubt). Maybe I can’t comment on the pull of this elusive clock, or speak to its superpowers. For all I know, it’s simply insurmountable.

Has anyone heard the siren’s call of the biological clock and successfully ignored it?

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