Friday, February 3, 2012

The Buzz

My whole life I've been rather a proponent for mild feminism. I blame it on my mom, who despite raising 4 crazy children, also got her Master's degree, served a mission, didn't get married until she was 29, speaks a million languages, is way smarter than most people I've met, and somehow managed to work on top of everything else while we were growing up.

Being a young woman at BYU has exposed me to a lot of the ridiculous pressures and stigmas held around here. For example: as soon as you get to university, start looking for a potential spouse, because Man, you're already an old maid. If you're not married by age 21 (ugh, who are you?) serve a mission, otherwise people might start to question what you really want in life. Once you finally do get married, you'd better get on the baby boat right away, because we all know you're committing some kind of sin by putting it off in favor of a degree or anything else.

Okay, so those are harsh generalizations, but really, those are the kinds of things this community makes you feel sometimes. Now, I've never really been one to want to follow the crowd (surprised? Hopefully not). Both my older sisters shuffled off to Utah right out of High School and got married at age 19. I have nothing against either of them (far from it, I admire their ability to do what they did), or their choices (which I know were very personal and well-considered), but when your younger brother starts telling you to get a move on in the whole marriage thing, and you are the only single granddaughter older than 12 at family reunions, you start to feel the pressure. I almost got married at 19. And oh, oh, oh I am so glad that didn't work out. I was a young thing at Cal State Long Beach, he didn't know what he wanted in life, and 3 years of being together was enough (a bad sign, guys). So I moved to Utah when I was almost 20, and didn't really think about marriage for a good long while after that.

I remember my 21st birthday party, which was a small party with only me and my roommates (and thankfully not the non-boyfriend-boyfriend of the time). Two of them had just gotten back from missions, and they were like "Woohoo! You're 21 now, what can you do now?" And I said, half jokingly (because I want to learn to cook with it, Helloooo) "I can buy alcohol?"


" alcohol?"

"And go on a mission!" Duh.

But I didn't. And honestly, while a part of me was intrigued by the concept of giving up a year and a half of my life in service to others in a totally random location on the planet, I didn't really want to. And there was some guilt driven into me because I'd made that decision.

Eventually, I got married. Yes, I realize I'm still incredibly young, but I'm almost 23, which to me beats the record of young people getting married around here. And now that I am, there's this question people ask, with their eyebrows wiggling like they have some kind of clever idea. That question is "when are you going to have kids? Eh? Eh?" And really, I just got married a month ago, give us a chance to adjust at least!

We got a cat instead. People don't think that's as funny as I do for some reason.

I've always told myself that I'd think about having kids when I was good and ready, which honestly, I've never thought would be soon. Aside from the baby fever everyone got in high school when we had about 15 pregnant girls in our year (oh don't worry, some of them were on their second or third kid), I've never really been super eager about raising kids right away. I've done plenty of babysitting and nannying and interacting with kids, and I have seen the good and the ugly.

A few weeks ago in my religion class (yes, I know I'm about to graduate, shush) it got a little ridiculous. My professor drove home the point very solidly to everyone in the class (who are mostly all Freshman) that you must have children right away or you are literally committing a sin. He threw quotes around from various church leaders, told stories about people regretting waiting because they found out they were infertile, etc. Essentially, the theme of the day was have kids now or you'll be punished. As you might imagine, I left class more than a little aggravated.

And then (ah yes, the more personal aspects I've been trying to include in my blogging) I thought I was pregnant. Like a month after being married. No fair! And yet, those four days of imagining it, I felt so internally happy and excited. After I saw the negative pregnancy test, the first thing I said was "Phew!" but inside I felt a little melancholy. I've always been interested in genetics and inheritance, topics that (don't judge me) get me pretty excited about having kids. When a random video popped up on Youtube about the "miracle of life" so to speak, I watched it. And I honestly got a little choked up when the sperm's genetic material blended with that of the egg's. Yes yes, I realize I'm a sap and more than a little weird. Bear with me.

The point of all this is that now I'm conflicted. I want to go to Graduate School, I want to work and travel and do amazing things (oh that's right, I got married-- that sort of put the kabosh on most of those plans...). But now that I'm healthier because my pancreas problems are nearly sorted out, I'm feeling a little yearning in my heart, and a vague feeling of currently being a little unfulfilled. Creating life really is a miracle. I didn't give birth to the cat (thank goodness), so his role as a child isn't really filled. When it happens, even if it's a lot sooner than I ever thought I'd get around to it, I'll be excited to be a mother, especially with Sam as a father (oh give me a break, I love him).


Majorie said...

That was a very thoughtful post, and I agree, sometimes it's a little weird when people get marriage/baby obsessed around here.

But of course that could mostly just be because I'm on the younger age of the college spectrum and it hits me out of left field when people I went to seminary with get hitched.

LP said...

Good post.

Speaking of your kitty being like your child (or not), I had a dream once while I was pregnant that I gave birth to a perfectly adorable baby which about fifteen minutes later turned into a cat. It was very disturbing.

And speaking of all that stuff your mom did, it's worth noting that she didn't do it all at the same time. When people talk about "having it all", if they have any common sense, they'll realize it's not going to be all at once. Not unless they're rich and wealthy and comfortably well off, and either a) prepared to let other people raise their children, or b) doppelgangers.

As far as having children goes, I've been taught and I agree that postponing children on purpose because you want something else first (a house, a car, a career, travel) goes contrary to counsel we've received, and in my opinion is kind of selfish besides. And there is a tendency that has grown during the last 25 years or so to put off marriage and starting a family, mostly because people don't want the responsibility. They don't want to grow up. I see manifestations of that kind of thing all the time. I think that's what most people are thinking about when they say things like your teacher did.

What a contrast from some eras in the past when children (especially among the poor and middle class) were expected to take on adult responsibilities by the time they were 14 or 15, if not younger. (Not that I think we should go back to those times.)

But postponing children because of health concerns or reasons of emotional maturity or even lack of health insurance or because you've been married for only one month for crying out loud is reasonable and sane.

Ultimately, however, the reasons (whatever they may be) for having or not having children are the private business of the couple involved, and other people should just mind their own business and keep their eyebrows under control.

PS I think your brother was joking. At least, I hope he was. Otherwise I'll have to speak to that lad.

Kara Rush said...

Hi Shannon, it's been awhile! I stopped by your blog a couple days ago and read the post about your wedding. After that I was pretty hooked...I love the way you write, your sense of humor and your honesty!
I can relate to this post soooo much. I also lived in Utah when I got married (at 23) and felt that pressure from the "culture" of the church. I was all about waiting and waiting to have kids, but my husband was more in tune with the spirit and got me to start considering it, and then praying about it (much sooner than I had ever anticipated). I became pregnant after being married for just 5 months, but we felt it was the right time for us, as crazy as it seemed to those outside.
Currently I am finishing my bachelor's degree that I put off (partly to start a family but mostly because I was sick of school) and I have been so blessed throughout this!
Having kids is a big sacrifice and has taught me a lot about being selfless. I'm so glad we didn't wait too long, and that we tried to follow the spirit through it all.

p.s. congratulations on your marriage!!!

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Megan said...

I agree with Mom. When to have kids is an incredibly personal decision, it's between you and Sam and the Lord and nobody's eyebrows have any place in that. (Such a weird image, btw... intrusive eyebrows)

Ohhhhhh cats. You remember that dream I told you about, right? When I was pregnant with Nathan and I dreamed I was nursing him but I looked down and it was Sylvester? So, so weird. So weird.

Anyway, I remember the longing feeling, and I know Adrien's felt that before, too, but you should know that it comes and goes, until it's the right time for you to have kids. Whenever it happens for you guys, I'll be excited for you and excited to see your kids and how you decide to raise them. Just finish potty-training your cat first! Haha jk.

My word is "vench". It makes me laugh. So many scenarios in my head right now...

Zach and Kelly said...

I totally totally totally agree with your Mom and Megan. I was married two and a half years before I got pregnant, and while waiting that long wasn't really what I wanted, I knew it was right. Zach and I were both in school and we had no money and lived in a crappy apartment and had no insurance, so there really was no feasible way to have kids at that point. And I was where you were several times when I thought I might be pregnant and I wasn't. When I saw that the test was negative, there was a feeling of relief mixed with sadness. Basically it's a matter of prayer and deciding when the right time is. Don't base the right time on selfish things, but realistic obstacles that would interfere with having children. I feel like I got pregnant exactly when I was supposed to. We had decent jobs (not rolling in money, by any means, but enough to get by), we had a place to live that had more than one room, and we had insurance. The right time will come for everybody, but you have to decide for yourself when that is. And never, EVER, make any decisions based on people's crazy eyebrows. :)

katie said...

See, I'm a little on the fence about this one. I do believe it's nobody else's business and they need to keep their eyebrows out of things, but I also believe in following the counsel of the apostles. Now, whenever I hear people talking about how life is hard and they can't have a kid right now, I think of Elder Andersen's talk from last conference. He quoted President Kimball saying, "Would the Lord want you to break one of his important commandments in order for you to become a doctor? With the help of the Lord, you can have your family and still become a doctor. Where is your faith?” I fully believe that you shouldn't put off having kids, but I also fully believe in not judging others if they do make the decision to put it off.
Shaun and I lived in a one-bedroom house when I had Caleb. We were pretty close to having 2 babies in that house. I quit working when Caleb was born and we've done just fine on one income. I've always had feelings about this issue that go along with President Kimball's sentiments: With the help of the Lord, you can do it. Where is your faith?
Again, I'm not judging you. I agree with your mom when she says that you can have it all, but not usually at the same time. You can still go to grad school if you want. You can still travel. Having kids doesn't stop those things. It just makes them more difficult. But the way I see it, you can't grow if you don't struggle.
So, I say don't worry about what other people think and just worry about what the Lord thinks. If you feel like he wants you to be married for more than a couple of months and make sure you're emotionally mature enough to handle parenthood, there's nothing wrong with that. Just make sure you're in tune with the spirit and you'll be just fine.

Megan said...

Oh yeah, about the travel thing that Katie mentioned... look at me! Yeah, my case is rather unusual, but I've been way more places than I ever thought I would at this age - with and without my family (meaning Jared and/or the kids).