It's possible this question came up at some point in my 20s. I clearly recall a couple of conversations around it in my early 30s.
I've lost track of how many times the question has come up in the past year or two as I straddle the line between mid and late 30s.
"Have you thought about having kids on your own?"
It's not a question we start with. No, it comes up when we're well into the conversation and our meal or drinks are almost gone. We've pushed back a little from the table we're sitting at, our bodies more in tune with ourselves and each other.
It's not a question I would want my married and mothering friends to ask me, though it's possible one or two have. I would probably be horrified if a relative brought it up. (This is different from me raising the topic with them, when I can set the tone for the conversation with the people closest to me.)
But when I'm with my friends who are also single, the question is natural at this point. It might flow out of a discussion of singleness or dating or something else altogether.
For those of us in our late 30s and early 40s, the question takes on a different tone. Not all of my friends want to have children but most of them do. The years of this particular possibility start to dwindle and it may not be left to fate. We may still get married but will it happen while we're still able to have biological children? There's an urgency there now.
So this is why we ask each other. We want to know whether the dream of motherhood matters enough to do something about it. Do we want to be mothers regardless of whether marriage is in our future?
This question is both clarifying and revealing. Each time it comes up, we learn something about each other and we reaffirm our respective decisions.
For me, I've determined parenthood isn't something I would want to purposefully do on my own. Wanting to be a mother has always been in the context of raising children with my husband.
That could still happen but it might not. It won't negate feelings of sadness if I find myself in the same situation a few years from now. But it does show me I don't need to take concrete action toward motherhood either.
I remember the granddaughter of a hospice patient who adopted her daughter when she was in her 30s. She lived next door to her parents and they watched her daughter while she was at work and the set-up completely worked for them. I've met a few other single women since then who adopted and at least one friend is seriously considering it now.
A couple of friends have tried or are thinking about trying IVF. I always think of one of my high school English teachers when this option comes up. She was the first person I knew who was unmarried and had a child this way.
A couple of friends volunteer for CASA or something similar. They're not acting as mothers but they are playing an important role for those children and that's worth noting. There are a number of ways to nurture children without being their sole caregiver.
There is beauty and joy in cheering someone on who is pursuing a path different from mine and in talking things over with someone who has come to the same conclusion.
More than anything, I'm grateful to be friends with amazing single women who are a safe place for the hard conversations and who consistently champion one another. I've grown to love discussing this question with them because it reminds me of the support and solidarity we extend to one another, no matter where we land on the subject.