Don’t ask me when I’ll have a baby. I’m only 22!

    Delaware Gov. John Carney has signed a law that guarantees state workers who have been on the job for at least a year 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave. (Shutterstock.com)

    Delaware Gov. John Carney has signed a law that guarantees state workers who have been on the job for at least a year 12 weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave. (Shutterstock.com)

    There comes a time in a woman’s life when her Facebook feed is all about babies. When her friends have kids and drive her crazy with endless streams of baby pictures. When she’s delighted to see her friends so happy, but she really has no interest in their progeny. When she wonders: “Jeez … Are we really all ready for this?”

    Usually, though, this doesn’t happen when she’s 22 years old.

    And yet, here I am, feigning excitement and empathy for my barely legal friends who are posting sonograms and captioning photos of their infants with “Dis da reason why I put up wit my stupid ass job.”

    Let me put this in perspective: The birth rate in 2011 was 8.5 percent among women aged 20-24. Of the 230 Philadelphia High School women I graduated with in 2009, about 30 have given birth to at least one child. That means 13 percent of my peers are mothers. That’s just a little hard for me to grasp.

    At 22, I am not ready for motherhood. A regular babysitting gig? Sure. A little person in my house all the time, taking over my life? Not at all.

    Why now?

    Part of me can’t fathom why these young women, most of whom can’t string together coherent, grammatically correct sentences, are having kids. The other part of me absolutely gets it. For many of them, having babies is a way to get the love they desire and haven’t found elsewhere. (This largely goes unsaid.) Some of them may actually think they’re ready because they played a big role in raising younger siblings and cousins. (I’ve seen them talk about this in Facebook comments on their sonogram pictures.)

    But I see so many reasons not to have kids at 22.

    Admittedly, a cute baby makes my uterus twinge a little. I know I could be a great mom. Some day. 

    My dad wishes I would have more casual romantic flings instead of living with Chris, who is only my third official boyfriend — not that I’d double-down on my current domestic situation and lock myself in by having a kid.

    Remaining childless requires staying on top of birth control, but some people wouldn’t consider being childfree at 22 a conscious lifestyle choice. In most circles it’s pretty widely accepted as normal. (But this Time magazine story looks at childlessness as a choice more women are making.)

    Still, I have to keep from feeling pressured into motherhood — by the girls who invite me to their baby showers, even though we haven’t seen each other since graduation day; by my boyfriend’s mother and extended family, when they nag me about when I’ll be the guest of honor at my own baby shower.

    This spring Chris and I attended his cousin’s kid’s baptism. In the kitchen, while helping Chris’ mom and cousin put together a cheese platter and start a pot of coffee, they asked me when I’d have kids. I told them I needed a good five years.

    “No!” his mom exclaimed. “You told me 25. That’s three years.”

    I played along to make it through the day, but it struck me as odd. They seemed so intent on treating me like an outsider until I produced a gurgling little human being.

    Plenty of time

    It seems incredibly silly to even attempt giving myself a due date three years away. Three years is so much time that I don’t know where I’ll be in life.

    It’s also so little time that I can’t imagine having done all the things I want to do before motherhood, such as buy ridiculously expensive designer handbags and travel to Paris — not to mention the things I need to do, such as learn to drive and get to a more financially secure state. I mean, how can you have a kid when you can barely support yourself?

    For now, I have Ryan Gosling to help me through. I downloaded the Hey Girl extension for Google Chrome, so I can replace pictures of those smiling cherubs with his handsome face. It’s just too bad I can’t also replace “Dis da reason why I put up wit my stupid ass job” with Shakespeare. It’s not so nice, but it’s totally true: If you wanted to find a meaningful job, maybe you should have put off the major responsibility of childcare.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.