So I told my sister-in-law M that we're not having children.
It was my future sister-in-law's wedding shower, and I was sat at the table with all the sisters and cousins, all of whom have children. I was also seated directly across from M and baby J. I was treated to a great deal of conversation about topics ranging from "I sometimes don't even know my husband anymore" to "I almost couldn't come today because I couldn't find a sitter [and my husband is a lazy hack who wouldn't watch the kids]" and "I'm getting ready to go back to work but employers are so horrible about being accommodating for mothers".
Yeah, so I sat silent most of the dinner. I felt as if I had no allies, especially as these women kept looking at me to pipe up and contribute, but to contribute what, exactly?
There was also the Passing of the New Baby. Just two months old, little J is adorable, with soft tufts of orange hair and a smile that could make anyone melt. She is absolutely adorable, no doubt. But thank you, I'll pass on holding her.
She was tossed from one cousin to the next, cuddled and snuggled while the women talked longingly about wanting "another one of these", missing the little cries, the little whines. "I miss this!" they all say. Luckily I was at the end of the table, so I wasn't put in the awkward position of actually having to say no when someone handed me the child, instead just passively sitting while not asking to hold the baby. I don't like holding babies, in general, for the sake of holding them. If there's a reason, if Mom needs a hand with something, I'll gladly take over, but it's not something I enjoy doing just for the sake of doing it.
So later in the evening, M was sitting opposite me with Sleeping J in her arms and asked me, "so have you guys given any thought to whether you want to do this", gesturing to the baby. She assured me she wasn't judging, just asking, and I believed her. I told her about my career aspirations, that I want to start my own business, A's finishing up school, and we're just so busy all the time, and that I just didn't see fitting a child into that routine. She nodded and said it was good that we were thinking it through, and that we should never let anyone tell us that it's a decision we should make without careful consideration. She conceded she never could have done her previous job while raising a child, and losing that part of her career was a big decision to make.
It was nice talking to her. I didn't close the door completely, but I certainly didn't lead her to believe I was changing my mind anytime soon. It felt good. I knew she would be understanding -- she's not blood. The blood of A's stepfamily is where the judgment comes in that family.
In the meantime, my future sister-in-law is ripping her gifts to shreds and breaking every ribbon she can find intentionally because she plans to get started early on a large family. She'll be a good addition to the family. They'll approve of that.
When I told my mother-in-law that A was going back to school in January, she asked me what prompted him to do so. "We have the money now," I said. "We're financially stable and he's ready." I could read in her eyes when she said "are you SURE that's the only reason? Was there any other reason that made him consider that?" that she really wanted to say "is it because you're finally coming to your senses and realizing that the husband is supposed to support "the family", and it's about time you come to your senses and stop it with these career goals that keep postponing the babies".
Am I putting words in her mouth? Only because she implies it constantly. I know she disapproves of the fact that I make more money than my husband, that she thinks a woman's place is, indeed, at home. She's said it, just not as a direct criticism to me.
I hope my words to M make their way to my mother-in-law. I hope the conversation we finally have is a confrontation, the result of a direct question, because I cannot lie. I'm done smiling and giggling uncomfortably when the subject comes up, and I have my husband's support to tell them. I just don't want to be the one to open the conversation.