Children were always part of the plan for Ashley Coleman, a 37-year-old author and creative from Southern California.
“I’d honestly had an age I expected to have children: 27,” she said. “That’s when my mom had me, and it felt like just the right age to still be young enough once your kids were grown.”
Since then, so much has changed.
“I’m 37 now, so I’m ten years ‘late,’” she said. “Honestly, the indifference around whether it happens or not has made me question whether it’s something I want at all or whether I’ve been conditioned to believe that’s what I should want.”
Her reasons for pausing on parenthood are similar to what other millennial women have described: the cost, the time, the emotional capacity. Then, there are the things specific to her.
“I am married, and we both have on-the-go careers. As creatives, we’re not on a regular schedule. While children adapt to most circumstances, it’s asking myself, do I want to adapt?” she said.
“I enjoy quiet. Reading. Writing at coffee shops. Being able to go on a whim,” she added.
For about “two seconds” she thought about freezing her eggs since she has a full-time job with thoughtful fertility coverage, but then she realized it wasn’t that pressing for her.
“I had no interest in putting my body or my mental well-being through the steps to make that possible,” she said.
Still, it’s easy to question whether something is wrong because you don’t feel a strong pull one way or the other. That’s especially true when you are married, Coleman said.
“I know my husband would be an amazing father, and I imagine that sharing something like that would be a transformative experience as a couple,” she said. “If it happens at this point, there will be nothing that can stop that. If it doesn’t, I know my life will remain fulfilling.”
There’s a common cultural belief that not having your own children means a life devoid of joy. But Coleman firmly believes that being an auntie, godmom and a fulfilled creative can provide joy and purpose, too.
“I’ve always believed that family is what you make of it, and mothering isn’t a monolith that only includes having biological children,” she said.
As for getting older without assistance. Coleman isn’t too worried about that.
“There’s always this picture being painted that you’ll be at the end of your life and have nothing, and sure, that’s scary to think about, but also not necessarily the truth,” she said. “A life of love and community can provide what you need when that time comes, too.”
Do you have concerns about being a parent or child-free? Do you currently have children? Let us know your thoughts and feelings in the comments below.
This post originally appeared on HuffPost.