Don't Tell Me I Have Time
“Don’t rush into anything!”
“You’re young! You have nothing to worry about!”
“Thirty three? You have tons of time!”
People like to suggest that my time is somehow more abundant than ever before— that I have plenty of time for dating, plenty of time to find love, and, especially, plenty of time to become a mother. I hear it over and over and over again from entirely well-meaning friends, family, strangers, and Instagram inspirational quotes. When I was married, people would tell me to hurry up and have kids before it was too late. Now that I’m divorced? Suddenly my time is infinite.
But, I am worried about time. I’m particularly worried about having time for motherhood.
The more I reflect on my complex feelings about wanting to be a mother, but not having a clear pathway to be one, I’ve realized that what I’m actually feeling is grief. Good ol’ grief. I’ve written about it. I’m processing it.
But this motherhood grief is a hard pill for folks to swallow in America. And that’s why people keep telling me I have so much time. The “Don’t Worry, You Have Time” response is a habit for so many of us—I know even I’ve said it to friends before—because of the endless optimism our society puts on women to become mothers. We feel an unconscious duty to remind women that it’s still possible.
But it’s dismissive.
As grief expert David Kessler writes, although everyone’s grief might be expressed differently, we all share a need to feel seen and heard: “That doesn’t mean needing someone to try to lessen it or reframe it for them. The need is for someone to be fully present to the magnitude of their loss without trying to point out the silver lining.”
When we say “you still have time” to a childless woman who tells us she wants children, we deny her grief, even if we think we are being kind or polite or helpful or hopeful.
When you tell me “it’s not too late” to become a mom, you’re not hearing me. You’re pushing past the pain I’m sharing with you because it’s uncomfortable to even entertain the idea that I might not have much time.
I wonder when people will stop telling me I have time. Will it be five years from now? Ten? At what age will the hope stop and I’m finally granted permission to face my feelings about motherhood? And what are we supposed to do with our grief until then, us childless women who want to be mothers? Just remain endlessly optimistic about how much time we have? It’s exhausting.
So how should we show up for each other in these moments? Just be present. Someone who is brave enough to share their grief with you deserves your bravery, too, by sitting with them in their discomfort. Just listen, and tell them that their feelings are ok.
It’s about time that we talk openly and honestly about our grief, even though it’s uncomfortable, and even when it’s about something as complicated as motherhood. So, today, I’m grieving. And I’m giving my grief all the time it needs.