I think it's probably something to do with my age, but my friends currently seem to largely fall into two groups: those who have or are having children, and those who are putting it off until they've achieved any number of goals. There are, of course, a few who do not want children at all, but today I'm writing only in reference to those with an active desire to reproduce.
The people who have or are having children at younger ages (under thirty), and I include myself in this (just), are doing so in order to be 'young parents' and to have their freedom in their middle age. Personally, I'm living by my own mum's example. She had her children in her twenties and is now enjoying her fifties exactly as she wants. When we were small children, she had all the necessary energy to run around after us and for the constant attention and play that we demanded. Despite the fact that thirty is nipping at my heels, this has always been my intention: to be a young parent and to be able to keep up with my children whilst they're young, and then to have some of my freedom back again before I'm too old.
At the other end of the spectrum are the people who want children, but who have made a conscious decision to wait. The idea behind this is that you have your freedom first, and the children in later years. More often than not, this decision is driven by career aspirations, although the urge to travel, money issues and a love for spontaneity are also often given as reasons.
Although I have explicitly taken one of these paths, I do not see that one is more correct than the other. Yet, more and more I find myself questioning, why do we have to make the choice? Why does having children mean that our own lives go on hold, or even cease to exist? It's only now that I have a child that I realise I still feel like me. My body and my priorities may have changed, but my dreams haven't. In fact, if anything, it suddenly feels more urgent that I achieve them, if only to Blake something to be proud of when he looks at me. I may not wear make up as often as I once did, and wine may be an occasional luxury due to the feeding power of my boobies, but that's not to say that my life is on hold; it's just entered a different chapter. I still study when I can, and I still write when the baby takes one of his lesser spotted naps: I am still the exact same person that I was before I had him.
Time and money naturally take a big hit whenever you decide to have your children, but it's a sacrifice that feels absolutely nothing like one. A family doesn't mean the end of your freedom; it signals the beginning of a kind of free that you'd never even imagined before. The freedom of knowing that, no matter what, this little human isn't going to judge you. The freedom of having a very distinct purpose in life, one goal that supersedes any that came before it. The freedom of knowing who you are and what you were put on the planet for.
The time to yourself before children, or after they've grown up may be wonderful, but the time in the middle, the time when you have no time, that's the most wonderful of all.