I am from a small village in rural Hungary and was mainly raised by my grandparents with the idea that “I have to find a rich husband.” As soon as I turned 13 and got my period for the first time, I was declared a “complete woman.” My grandma kept telling me that I was ready to be married off. She even started to buy me things for every occasion from birthday, name day (we celebrate such things too), Christmas to Easter that I would be able to use in my home once I got married (stuff like coffee cup collection and similar useful goods). As a young teenager discovering new parts and functions of my adult-like body, I still had the heart of a little girl who just wanted to play in the park with the others. No one asked my opinion about this.
As I grew older I decided I didn’t want to get married. For me it just seemed useless to have a piece of paper that proves that you belong with someone. I saw many bad marriages with couples who seemed to hate each other, and on the contrary unmarried couples who where together for 10+ years and seemed to be so in love and deep harmony with each other. Of course that’s only the surface that we see, so we don’t know what really goes on, but it set my mind on this theory.
After living far away from my family for years, I recently returned home for a couple of weeks and I realized something interesting. My sister, who has been less exposed to the influence of my granny turned out to be the one who’s dreaming of marriage, having a house with a white picket fence and becoming a mother. She’s 27, so she’s doing pretty well in our family’s eyes.
I’ve always been the black sheep in my family—I never wanted to get married, settle down, own a house, have children, a career, a rich husband who will provide for our family and the rest. Instead, I always dreamed of adventure. I used to make lists and action plans on how I could travel—the whole world by walking, starting from our house. Even Antarctica was planned in the itinerary.
Now my sister is living her dream. She has a serious boyfriend and they just bought my grandma’s house. So some people just can’t help to compare us. I’m 32, unmarried, living out of a backpack, sometimes not even knowing where I’d wake up the next day. All they can ask is when I plan to get married, when will I gift the family with children? In which country do I plan to settle?
The pressure is huge, and as I realized after talking with friends who are 30+, still without children, I am not the only one with this struggle. It seems like it is a pre-decided fact that everyone has to want to have children after turning 30. Like, no one ever asked us if we want this or if we can (because some people can’t have children and do not want to adopt…). Sometimes I wonder if people consider that our body is our body, our life is our life and maybe they should ask us first. Or better. They shouldn’t even bump into our business to begin with? But until minding your own business becomes the new normal, we have to deal with this.
So I collected the tips and tricks that help me to cope with family and social pressure when it comes to the topic of marriage and especially children. Hopefully, it will help others to cope with the pressure as well. 🙂
- For me the whole thing got easier when I started to really understand myself and why I make the decisions I do. A solid understanding of yourself and your reasons can help with conversations, and to more easily let go of stubborn people who are holding onto their ideas. Knowing your reasoning can lead to interesting conversations and opening up the eyes of the other person. For example, I love to tell people that I think it’s better not to have children when you don’t feel like you’re ready yet or you didn’t find the right partner. Having a child you don’t really want to have just because others want you to have it causes a lot of trauma for the child with your subconscious resentment toward him/her. Many people, especially from the older generations never thought about this but they are really understanding once they hear this explanation.
- Setting clear boundaries is a way to go too. Often when I go for a walk I bump into an old teacher of mine or someone who knows my family, who starts to ask questions about my personal life and seems to judge me for roaming the world on my own. It is completely okay to tell them that you do not wish to talk about your personal life. Or if you do choose to talk about such aspects of your life, then do it assertively.
- Understanding differences between generations and cultures is key. And explaining them to others as well. I’m lucky to live in a world where as a women, I have free choice of doing what I want or being who I want to be. But it wasn’t like this in the age of my grandmother and it is still not so in some areas of the world. Older generations don’t always see these differences, so explaining it to them can be helpful. Most people are always happy to gain new information and see the world through “younger eyes” and gain more perspective. Funny how often they end up saying things like, “You know what, you’re right, If I were you, I would do the same.”
- Understand that no matter what, there will be people who will never agree with you or even stigmatize you for your personal life choices. It feels bad to be labelled negatively, or as if I failed to make them understand me, but what can I do? The only way I found to cope with this is to let it go. My overall health is a priority for me. I won’t go depressed, anxious or beat myself up just because someone doesn’t understand me and still feel like they have the right to tell me what to do and call me names. It’s their decision, the way they are. We shouldn’t feel bad or limit ourselves because of the way others think.
- Knowing that I can change my mind regardless of what I think or say now, helped me out as well. I keep telling people if they ask me that right now, this is what I feel but it doesn’t mean that I have to stick to this decision forever. I am open to the possibility, that maybe in 2 years or 20 years I will feel different and I will change my mind. I might have children in the end and it is okay. Just because once you said you do not want, you can change your heart anytime. I like to let my family know this, and they always stop nagging me and accept the fact that yes, people can change—and probably they hope it will, but that is the song of future.
- Having support in this matter is important as well. I love that I have friends who I can talk to whenever I feel overwhelmed by the topic. I have support from people with similar way of thinking but also from friends who have children but still understand my point of view. It’s interesting as well how these different perspectives relate to my experiences and can bring the spotlight on different things I otherwise would not even notice.
- Though I got pretty good with dealing this by now, sometimes people still don’t get me and I feel sad or frustrated for being judged. It’s okay, we are human after all and not robots who have to be perfect 24/7. Connecting back to myself and my core beliefs help tremendously. Spending time alone, doing soothing activities are the best for me—taking a long walk alone in nature, meditating outside, journaling. Digging deep in who I am and buildng a foundation of worthiness was the most helpful. You have to know that you are worthy, regardless of what’s going on in your life or what decisions you end up making.
Frankly I still go back and forth between wanting to have children or not. I am still exploring where my conditioning ends and where the real me begins. The benefits of being child-free currently outweigh any potential pros of parenting. So right now, I lean heavily toward choosing not to become a mom. Whether or not you ever decide to become a mother, it can help to remember that you’re still whole, you’re not selfish, and you may not change your mind one day. And even if you are worried that it will be too late, there are other ways to take care of someone, not only by giving birth.
I feel that I’m doing what’s best for me now. My decision and yours are worthy of respect, admiration, and support, regardless of what anyone else has to say about it.
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Photo: Hannah Busing via Unsplash