As a woman in her mid-30's I am often asked in social situations or in my day-to-day work life if I have children. The answer to that question is no.
The next question I'm asked is if I have a partner. The answer to that question is also no.
Then I often see a twinge of concern flitter across the face of the person who asked those questions. I can only assume that they are thinking 'tick-tock lady, not long left for you now'.
It's not a big deal to me that I'm currently single without children. It certainly seems to worry others more than me. I've been single most of my adult life, I'm used to it and to be honest, I really quite like it.
I've lived alone for the past 8 or so years and I've enjoyed every minute of it. No, I don't get lonely and no, I'm not a crazy cat lady with 18 cats. I don't even have one cat ok! I took my first ever holiday alone last year to Hawaii and although I was a little worried beforehand that I may not enjoy travelling alone, it was the best experience. I met so many people along the way and I just enjoyed doing what I wanted, when I wanted and doing nothing when I felt like that too.
I do often wonder how I'll cope with cohabitating with someone when Mr Right eventually comes along. I'm perhaps a little too set in my ways. In my house it's not just a case of keeping the toilet seat down, it's the lid too. Sometimes when even my female friends come to visit they will leave the lid up and I will have a little conniption, but maybe I can adapt. Maybe.
I have a number of female friends in a similar situation, long term single independent women who are getting close to tipping over into late 30's. We all have well meaning (I hope) family and friends who like to remind us that the clock is ticking and that we better hurry up and find a man. Often we are told that we have been too picky and that we just need to find someone nice who will treat us well. If only it was that easy huh!!
Recently a single male friend in his late 30's told me that he doesn't date women his age and he ideally only dates women in their late 20's as there is usually no pressure to get serious quickly and have a baby as they are not running out of time. In his mind women in their mid-30's and onwards are desperate to settle down and as he at this stage doesn't know if he wants children, he is avoiding the situation by only dating younger women.
I know from my experience dating that his perspective is not unique, nor is it completely unfounded. There is no doubt that there are women out there who desire to have a child so much that they want to move a relationship swiftly along so they have the best chance of conceiving, and perhaps even settle for less that the perfect partner to achieve this.
I am fortunately in a position where I am prepared to take things as they come. Firstly, at 35 I am still quite unsure of if I really want children or not. I have had a busy professional career to date and I actually enjoy working (most days) so I feel like I would be giving up a lot whilst my children were young, which is a decision I'd need to weigh up the pros and cons of. I really cannot imagine my current lifestyle with children in it. I work long hours, I like to go out to nice restaurants, I like spending my cash frivolously on cars and other expensive things and I'd really like to do more of that travelling alone that I mentioned earlier.
I feel 'too young' to have children right now, which I know sounds ridiculous considering by conventional social and medical standards I am actually getting close to being too old. But my independent streak was uncomfortable with the fact that my biological age could potentially take the decision to have children or not out of my hands, so I decided to intervene.
Just after my 35th birthday I froze my eggs. It was something that I had looked into about a year before by attending an information night for single women. I thought at that time that I definitely saw a baby in my future, so I wanted to know what was involved in making that happen alone should Mr Right never eventuate.
I completed one treatment cycle and I have 12 eggs in the freezer in case I need them at a later stage. It's not a lot of eggs really considering the stats on a viable pregnancy eventuating from egg freezing is currently about one in six, but it felt like enough of a safety net for me.
Strangely I never felt a real immediate desire or pressure to have children before egg freezing, but having gone through the process has completely dulled any maternal instinct I had. This might not always be the case, but I feel that if I do decide to have children, it will be a number of years away still, which is ok considering that I have stopped the clock at 35 on those eggs.
Now it's a new world of dating. I don't have to be in any rush. I can take my time finding Mr Right and not worry too much about my advancing age. But it's still an awkward thing to bring up whilst dating.
If there are a lot of men who feel like my friend does, they may avoid clicking on my dating site profile and sending me a message in fear that my clock is ticking LOUDLY. But, having frozen eggs is not really something that one would highlight on a dating profile. Is it?
Perhaps as egg freezing develops and becomes more commonplace, we will see more open conversations about preserving fertility. I speak quite freely about my experience as I want other people to know that it was a relatively simple and straightforward process and it didn't really disrupt my life too much (apart from my bank balance), but often when people ask me about it they whisper their questions like it's a dirty little secret.
But I'm proud that I did it and I'm pleased that I have given myself more of a chance to have a baby as an older mother (if I decide to). I would be happy to tell a date that I've done this and that I'm not in the tick-tock mindset, but only if he brings it up first....