05.10.12 Truth & Wisdom

Happily Ever After?

Happily Ever After?

BY Janey Ballantyne

My first proper boyfriend dumped me a few weeks before my 18th birthday party. I was heartbroken and thought very seriously about cancelling the party, locking myself in my room and watching Running On Empty on repeat, fantasising that if River Phoenix hadn’t so tragically died he would definitely have come to my rescue and we’d have lived happily ever after.

I’m trying to remember what my ‘happily ever after’ looked like when I was 18. I’m sure it was much simpler than my life has actually been and I’m sure I didn’t expect to have quite as much fun – or heartache – along the way, but there is something missing from my happily ever after. A relationship and children.

At 35 and single, I realistically have 5 years to make that youthful presumption a reality. I always admire women who know for sure whether or not they want children. Recently I heard a story about a woman who decided with her partner, when they were 24, that they never wanted to have children. She got sterilised. They are now in their 60’s, still together, blissfully happy and don’t have any regrets about their decision. I also know women for whom having children has been the focus of their entire life and they have been unable to conceive. Although they get on with their lives it must be hard not to feel that something is missing. We don’t always get what we want and there are not always happy endings.

With the opportunities afforded to women nowadays, many of us forget to think about starting a family until it’s too late. After a certain age it seems there are two tribes of women in this world – the ones with children and the ones without. Of course they overlap and are still friends but they will never truly understand each other again. Where do men fit into this equation? They don’t have a time limit on when they can choose to have children and consequently many men I know don’t want to think about having children until their mid-forties – but of course they have to because we do, even though science has made it very likely that my generation will live till they are 100, women’s bodies have not caught up with this evolutionary miracle. We have (very recently!) come up with ways to make the blind see again, but we still cannot find a way for women to have babies later in life easily and safely. If I want to live ‘happily ever after’, I need to make a decision soon before my biological clock strikes twelve.

It is difficult, though not impossible, to make this choice without a partner. Unless you have an overwhelming desire for motherhood, which many women do, it is a real conundrum to know what to do next if you are unsure. Maybe that’s why biology has not yet caught up with us – the arrogance of youth makes you stride into parenthood without wallowing in this mad middle-aged fear of the future.

I’m not gonna go out and find a boyfriend just to get knocked up, that would be mental. But maybe I should open myself to the possibility of falling in love, of settling down, rather than living for the moment. One of the best reasons I’ve heard for having children came from my sister – because they make you laugh. That’s pretty much all we can wish for. However, I suspect I’m approaching this all too logically, after all life is full of surprises and I may not be able to have them anyway, who knows? I have never approached any aspect of my life with a plan so I don’t think I’m about to start now but in order to face what’s next, I need to make peace with the fact that I may never have children.

You’ll be pleased to hear I didn’t cancel my 18th birthday party and when I returned from sobbing in the toilets something wonderful happened. The music stopped and a couple of the boys started to click their fingers and walk towards me. Then I heard;

‘You never close your eyes any more when I kiss your lips…’

I found my self surrounded by 8 rugby playing teenagers singing badly, trying to be like Tom Cruise and just trying to make me laugh, which it did.So, in spite of the fear and anxiety about facing what’s next, I don’t think I’ll cancel my plans for a happily ever after. It might just be a different one to the one I pictured with River *sigh*.

Featured image by Blondie ACT on Flickr

Janey Ballantyne is an aspiring screenwriter with a passion for salsa (both the sauce and the dance), film and New York City. Her greatest achievement was winning the Junior Literary Trophy in the Mid-Somerset Festival aged 10 and a half. Oh and, more recently, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. She currently lives in Notting Hill and writes a weekly blog at janeyballantyne.com . You can also find her on twitter @janeyballantyne


  • I never planned to have kids. Not ever. I didn’t marry till I was 30. But having a kid… I say that “it popped me out into 3D.” That’s what it feels like. Like I thought my life was good and I was happy enough in it, and then SHE came along, and there was a lot of trauma and sleep deprivation and fear (related to my relationship and money) but eventually I realized: I’m in more dimensions now. Somehow although the basic surface looks the same, she radically changed me. Like my life was an old Chaplin-era movie and after her it was hi-def 3D with Dolby sound. But the dimensions were mostly emotional, and some psychological, only some were physical. Now, I can’t imagine who I would be without her. Looking back, my life and mind and heart seem so ‘flat’ before the last 15 years spent with her.

    I have friends who plan these things. Nothing is ever at all like planned for the most part. Fortunately nature kicks in a gazillion years of instinctual hormones to help with all that. People get less fertile as they age especially in today’s food climate. I have a friend whose husband is a leading fertility doc and she says the women, they all say, I was planning it. I put it off till early 30s. I wanted to work, we didn’t have enough money, and so on. And then it wouldn’t happen for them. Who knows what the best choice is on that front. Being pregnant with no money is horrible for everyone, I know from experience. But expecting that the body works at 40 the way it did at 20 is based on a sort of propaganda myth we’ve been sold. It’s not.

    The thing about kids is that not making a decision is making a decision. There’s a window timeframe on it after which conception is less likely, problems are much more common, etc.

  • I have already made peace with the fact that I may never have children. It is hard, but when you really realize it, the only thought of letting go, is charged with freedom; and you feel powerful again, because you know this is what you want, not what other people tell you to do.

  • Well said. I’m inclined to agree, I think regarding having children ‘one’ can over think it…and try to be too logical rather than seeing what happens.

  • I really don’t want to be negative or judgmental, but I have this strong-enough-to-mention dislike of the idea that you have children to make yourself happy. (I’m referring to the aforementioned “one of the best reasons to have kids is cause they make you laugh,” which to me personally sounds like one of the worst.) I feel like striving to make the kid laugh is would be a better (and I hate to use a term like that, implying there’s a right and a wrong, but sometimes I can’t help myself) goal. Does anyone else feel this way or just me?

    • Good point…do you think ‘share their joy’ would be a better way to express it? What do you think is a good reason to have children?

  • So very very true…. to decide not to and regret it? Or go for it and risk being the worlds worst parent who books too many baby sitters and parties too hard??? A daily conundrum in my head…. Plus, I now seem not to be invited to certain things as I don’t have the latest pudgey accessory in my arms……Thanks for sharing Janey. Always a pleasure xxx

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