My Future Family?

21 Sep
Baby on Scales - image from Flickr commons

Baby on Scales – image from Flickr commons

I’ve been thinking about kids again recently – probably due to the recent arrival of my niece. I now have one of each – a niece and a nephew, and with that there is a strange sort of completion in the family unit.

I’m fast approaching my mid-30s, and the eldest of the family, and yet its my younger siblings who are responsible for the next generation. Life of course doesn’t follow strict rules of chronology. This first born son of a first born son of a first born son has no offspring of his own. And finding myself resolutely single, I’m quite content with that fact.

There was a time, perhaps, in my teenage years, where I assumed the thing to do would be to settle down, marry and have kids, just like my parents did, and all before I reached 25. But as time grew on, real life interactions bring about a rethink.

I wouldn’t even blame it on bad relationships, because while not meeting the right person to have a family with is no doubt part of it (or not the right person at the right time), other things – education, work etc. – also play a part.

I’m sure many of us looking to our next event birthday as 40 (still some way off thank goodness, but a scary prospect all the same) begin to panic about a seeming lack of direction. No steady job, excessive debt, no partner, no children, no hope?! And as friends start to pair off, settle down, buy houses and have families one begins to feel left out. On the shelf. Alone.

Curiously while most of my male friends and relatives have settled down, I have acquired a select few female friends who find themselves in a similar boat to me. They’re all in their early to mid 30s, unattached, and unburdened. It is reassuring for the moment, at least until they too start to find new partners and families (yes, I’m assuming they’ll do it before me) and then like my male friends, we end up speaking maybe twice a year – at children’s birthday parties which I’m tokenistically invited to, only to feel awkward in the corner.

Do I sound prematurely jealous? Perhaps. Somewhat selfishly I appreciate being part of a wee club – bucking the tribal trends that dictate our domestic existence. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t aspects which I can appreciate and to some extent aspire towards. There remains a misconception in our society that children equals happiness. While I have no doubt for some individuals that is the case, I’ve witnessed too many couples for whom children have aggravated relationship sores, leaving wounds open to further infection.

Being a man I’m aware that I have considerably longer than women (in theory) in which to reproduce – providing of course I can find a suitable female willing to take on the task with me. But as I get older, finding a suitable other will prove more difficult. With the advances in our technology I’m assuming children are an option for me at least for another decade, after which I’ll be on the way to 50 and less willing to take on such a task.

In the meantime I can rebuild my life after the mistakes and emotional turmoil of the last few years, and maybe even do some of the things I’d always talked about doing. If somewhere along the way I find myself acquiring a girlfriend then I might consider settling down and building a family, but it isn’t a priority.

As the family genealogist I’m very aware of the various genetic lines and the constant cycle of reproduction that is human existence; that position also leaves me feeling slightly guilty that my own branch of the family tree looks set (at present) to come to a stop. Is that an ironic state of affairs?

My life would have been very different if I’d had children by now I’m sure – I look at my siblings and friends with some slight envy as they embrace parenthood and bring up their own tiny terrors. I sit down and I play with their kids, feed them, put them to bed and chill, and a little part of me is in awe at their existence. But I don’t envy the responsibility, the commitment, the unending protectiveness. I can’t see that it would have been a viable option for me in the past, and as far as I am able to control it I refuse to reproduce simply for the sake of it.

That is of course the real risk as we get older. The body clock starts ticking, and as we find ourselves in a shrinking minority we panic. We make ourselves parents through some brief encounter that fizzles out either just before or soon after the birth, satisfying the ‘family’ need in a lacklustre manner. Or we make the decision and settle down in a mundane relationship with a partner we sort of care about a bit, but would rather not have bothered with. We form families because we feel we have to.

Maybe that’ll be me in ten years. Tired of being alone I find someone in a similar situation and we make a pact to end our respective solitude and form a relationship – warm but not sizzling – and build a safe family. When all is said and done, that does sound slightly more appealing than spending the rest of my days in isolation.

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One Response to “My Future Family?”

  1. tenderlytina September 21, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    I keep forgetting that you are still so very young. Your maturity, the way you write always makes you seem older than your years. The goal of a species may indeed be to reproduce but the joy of humanity is that we have a choice in the matter. My advice is to live a life you enjoy and let the rest take care of itself.

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