Turning 35 and Letting Go of Fear

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Today is my thirty-fifth birthday. Every year, I look back and reflect at the changes in my life over the past year. How I’ve grown and learned from the past year’s lessons.

The biggest change this year? How I’ve handled a big question that has dominated my life for the past few years, often relentlessly.

I’m turning 35. Shouldn’t I know whether I want a baby or not by now?

Readers often privately ask me if I’m planning to have a baby, and I always decline to answer. I get why they ask — I’m a woman they’ve grown to trust over the years. However, I don’t talk about this subject online because no matter what a woman in her mid-thirties without children says, she cannot win. 

Thirty-five and you want kids? Yikes, you’re running out of time!

Thirty-five and you don’t want kids? Wow, you’re a selfish person!

Thirty-five and you’re not sure if you want kids? How can you be so dumb as to not know yet?

I get enough of that already. You will not believe the number of male readers I have who mansplain that maybe I should get started on the kids, because did I know that women’s fertility begins to decline with age? (I roll my eyes and evoke Phoebe from Friends: “THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION!!!”)

Let’s put an end to that here.

First off, the idea that it’s much more difficult for women to conceive after age 35 is massively overstated. Much of that data is based on French birth rates from 1670-1830. Seriously. I couldn’t believe it when I read it, but we are still using statistics that predate electricity and indoor plumbing, let alone modern medicine.

While fertility does decline with age, 40 is a far more significant hurdle than 35. And in spite of that, pregnancies at age 35 and older are labeled “advanced maternal age” or even “geriatric pregnancies.”

So why isn’t this better known? This misinformation too conveniently plays into a narrative that benefits the patriarchy. When women are led to believe that their fertility shuts down at age 35, they’re less likely to achieve in their careers. And when women intentionally hold themselves back from financial success, men are able to consolidate their power further.

“In short, the ‘baby panic’ — which has by no means abated since it hit me personally — is based largely on questionable data. We’ve rearranged our lives, worried endlessly, and forgone countless career opportunities based on a few statistics about women who resided in thatched-roof huts and never saw a lightbulb. In Dunson’s study of modern women, the difference in pregnancy rates at age 28 versus 37 is only about 4 percentage points. Fertility does decrease with age, but the decline is not steep enough to keep the vast majority of women in their late 30s from having a child. And that, after all, is the whole point.” –Jean M. Twenge, The Atlantic

We’ve rearranged our lives, worried endlessly, and forgone countless career opportunities. It took me awhile to realize I had been doing the same thing.

Kate in a yellow dress in front of a Statue of Liberty mural in SoHo, NYC

I moved to New York in 2016 because I was tired of being nomadic and ready for the next step. I had built a cool career and had traveled the world for five years, most of it solo. Now it was time to live in a city I loved, get into a relationship, and eventually have a family. Once moving to Manhattan, I jumped into the dating scene and tried to figure out how to balance my travels and a more settled life in the city.

I dated a lot of men. Mostly finance and tech dudes who ran and cycled in their free time. Mostly foreign-born men who came to New York for work, with a few Americans thrown in; the Europeans considered themselves centrists; the Americans, liberals. Most of them lived somewhere between the Upper East Side and the Lower East Side. All loved to travel. (It’s amazing how a composite of your dating habits forms over time, isn’t it?)

Each time, we would date for roughly three to five months and it would end when one or both of us realized that it was going nowhere. We would be stuck in a stasis of hey-it’s-Friday-so-let’s-go-to-dinner-and-then-back-to-your-place-because-you-don’t-like-to-come-to-Harlem-and-my-Sunday-mornings-belong-to-Zumba.

Let me be clear: these guys were and are lovely people. I had a great time with them and I’m still friendly with most of them. But it was frustrating to date guy after guy who indicated that he was ready for something serious, then a few months later would say that actually, now he was thinking he wanted a few more years before getting serious.

I hear the same thing happen with my single women friends in the city. Is it a New York thing? Is it an over 30 thing? Is it a 2019 thing? Probably a combination of all three. It’s hard to commit when it’s never been easier to look for something better.

As these men came and went, my biological clock grew louder and louder. Soon these thoughts were violently pervasive, stabbing me in the head 20 times a day. YOU FUCKED UP, KATE. YOU WAITED TOO LONG TO HAVE A BABY. YOU ARE CONTINUING TO FUCK IT UP AT EVERY OPPORTUNITY. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO NOW?

Kate sitting outside a restaurant in SoHo, NYC, in black and white.

I started seeing a therapist — something I’ve done on and off over the years. Stress and anxiety were starting to consume my life and I wanted a way to deal with it in a healthy way.

I started my sessions talking about other issues, but inevitably, my screaming biological clock came up. “I worry about this twenty times a day, at least,” I told her. “I can’t escape it.”

“You need to figure out a scenario where you would be happy without children or a relationship,” she told me.

Why was that so hard? I already have a life I love! I travel and I have a beautiful apartment and I built an awesome career from scratch.

I felt lighter after every therapy session, but it was so hard coming up with an image of what my life would look like without children. I could picture it intellectually, but I couldn’t make myself feel happy about it — it felt like no matter what my life would be, it would be filled with regret.

In the meantime, I was cutting my travels way back. Every time I met a guy that I thought had potential to be something serious, I would privately freak out, wondering if my travel schedule would drive us apart.

“If he can’t handle your travels, he’s not the right person for you,” my therapist told me.

“But if you go away for three weeks, you can’t expect someone you’re newly dating to just sit around and wait for you,” I pointed out.

How do you maintain a fledging relationship when you have to keep leaving the city? It was one thing to say I had a campaign or work assignment somewhere and needed the money in order to pay my rent, but what about the trips I did for fun? Was I a terrible person for wanting to travel somewhere for two weeks every other month while the person I was dating was stuck at home in his 9-5 job?

Over time, my travels dropped off more and more. I tried to fill my home life with more routines — more classes at the gym, more walks in Central Park, more podcasts to listen to, more coffees at Birch. I loved my routines, but felt the constant travel itch and wished I was on the road.

Kate sitting on a stoop in front of a red door with a diamond-shaped window in SoHo, NYC.

Around that time, my closest friends began to have kids. They mostly waited until their mid-thirties, making them perhaps a bit outside the norm in America. And while people often follow in their friends’ footsteps, the opposite happened to me. I started feeling doubts over whether parenthood was something I wanted.

Let me be clear — I love my friends’ kids to the moon and back. I adore them. They are some of the funniest, cutest, most special people in my life. I love spending time with them, cuddling them, singing and dancing with them, buying them far too many books. And I love spending time with my parent friends as much as before, even if our habits have changed so much since our twenties.

It was seeing the reality of raising a kid that held me back. There is never, ever any downtime. Your kid takes over every aspect of your life. It’s loud, it’s messy, you never get a decent night’s sleep. You’re expected to sacrifice everything. And my GOD is it expensive. Especially in New York City. And that’s not even getting into the reality of raising kids in America today, starting with active shooter drills in schools.

I would spend an afternoon with a kid — a baby, a toddler, an older kid — and have a blast. It would take me forever to give the kid back at the end of the day! But every single time, I would think to myself, “Man, that kid is amazing, but I’m so glad I don’t have one.”

It’s easy to think that sure, things will be different once it’s your own kid. You get that giant, all-consuming love that overpowers everything else. But that’s if you have a good kid, a healthy kid, a normal kid.

What if you end up with a kid with such severe special needs that he will never be able to take care of himself?

Nobody talks about that. And honestly, I don’t think I’m cut out for being a parent to a child like that. Should that disqualify me from parenthood altogether?

So imagine these two scenarios swirling around in my head at all times. Worrying 20 times a day that my time was running out. Hanging out with my friends’ kids and loving it, then going home and thinking, “I’ve always wanted this, but I don’t know if I can do this.” It was like two storms hitting each other at the same time. It’s bad enough when you need to make a monumental decision; it’s worse while constantly being told that you’re running out of time.

Kate standing in a long gown in SoHo in black and white.

And then something remarkable happened.

I went to Antigua and spent a week surrounded by my travel friends. Nothing out of the ordinary happened — I mean, other than drinking a bottle of champagne every night, as it was an all-inclusive. It was just a damn good time and I don’t think a smile left my face once. I told myself, “I need to do more of this. More trips. More fun. More time with my travel friends.”

I came home, and realized with shock that I no longer cared whether I had a baby or not. The worries that had dominated my thoughts for years had just vanished. I was just so happy with my life as is. I shared this with my therapist; she told me I was glowing.

“It’s weird,” I told her. “It’s like it suddenly clicked into place when I was in Antigua. My brain got to the place it needed to be. If I don’t have kids, I will have an awesome life! The best life.”

“It doesn’t just happen like that,” she told me. “You’ve been doing the work all along. Maybe it took you that long to notice it.”

Maybe it did. Either way, it’s been a few months since then and the feeling hasn’t left me.

Kate standing in front of a column in a yellow dress in SoHo, NYC.

So if anyone were to ask me if I want to have kids or not, the official answer is that I could go either way. My mind isn’t made up, even as I turn 35. Some people will say I’m an idiot for not having decided yet. But that’s okay. The fear is no longer controlling my life. Whatever happens, I know I’ll have a fantastic life either way.

That’s when I met someone.

Someone who moves in my circles, works remotely in a creative job he loves, and lives the same kind of travel lifestyle that I do — in fact, he might travel even more than I do. It’s an enormous relief to be with someone who understands my life without explanation, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of destinations, who suggests we go to Mexico for a few months this winter, and who similarly could go either way when it comes to kids.

And that’s when it hit me — I should have been doing this all along. I thought it was enough to date men who loved to travel, who traveled adventurously, who traveled solo. It wasn’t. I needed to be dating someone who did all those things but also had the flexibility and desire to work from anywhere. It’s too big of a part of my life.

Also, he lives in a very cool city that is NOT New York.

I used to think that would be disqualifying.

So yes, things are going very well right now. Hell, this is the first time I’ve talked about my current romantic life on the internet for the first time in five years.

Kate in a yellow dress beneath the Balmain sign in SoHo, NYC

I remember the episode of Sex and the City when Carrie turns 35. She is set to have a big birthday dinner with lots of friends, but nobody shows up. They all have seemingly valid reasons, but it’s the pre-cell phone era and nobody can reach her.

She spends hours waiting alone in the restaurant. Then the staff apologetically ask her to pay $70 for her fancy birthday cake. Then while walking home, she trips and drops the cake in a construction site and the construction workers yell at her. She is utterly alone.

I almost never have birthday gatherings because most of my friends are away in August. I would rather have no celebration than invite 30 people to a bar and have only four show up.

This year is different, though. I get to have a two-country birthday for the first time ever today, thanks to a morning flight from Azerbaijan to Georgia, and this evening I get to celebrate with several of my blogger friends at the coolest restaurant in Tbilisi. Georgia has been at the top of my list for years, and I’m so happy that I get to enjoy it on my birthday!

I’m entering this new year with a curious mind, an open heart, and a grateful soul. I lost some friends this year, and I have other friends who are struggling. It’s made me all the more determined to live fully today.

We don’t know how much time we get — but we also don’t how many good years, or healthy years, we get. Don’t save that dream trip for retirement. Save up and go this year or next year.

Kate in a yellow dress walking down a street in SoHo, NYC.

And this is a travel blog, so of course we need a travel preview for the coming year! I already have some trips scheduled: Georgia and Armenia, then Newfoundland, in August. (Arriving in Armenia, I will achieve a new milestone — I’ll be eligible for the Travelers’ Century Club, having visited 100 of what they deem “countries and territories.” It’s a weird list. Some of my qualifications are places like Prince Edward Island, Srpska, and the Ionian Islands of Greece. But I’ll take it.)

In September I’ll be speaking at Borderless Live in London and appearing at the Social Travel Summit in Ravenna, Italy, and around those conferences I will be spending time in Puglia, Italy, then driving northward along Italy’s Adriatic coast to Slovenia, Austria, and the Czech Republic.

Other goals? I would like to get to the Arctic in 2020, and I would love to do more expedition cruises. I’d also like to continue working toward visiting 100 countries (Armenia will be #82) and all 20 of Italy’s regions (I’m at 12 now and will probably be at 18 by October).

If I had to guess which new countries I would be likeliest to visit this year, I would put my money on Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Ecuador, Israel and Palestine, Morocco, or Panama. But who knows? This time last year, Kenya and Guyana weren’t on my radar at all, but I made it to both!

I’m so grateful to be here today, surrounded by loved ones, still working in a career I built out of nothing. I’m grateful that you’re still here, my dear readers, and you care enough to hear what I have to say. Thank you for being here, today and every day.

Past Birthday Posts

What’s It Like to Turn 34?

Notes from the Brink of Age 32

30 Things I Didn’t Do Until I Turned 30

Here’s to Being Crazy In Your Twenties

28 Things I’ve Learned About Life, Love, and Happiness

Turning 27: A Leap of Faith

Reflections on Turning 26

What was turning 35 like for you? Share away!

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64 thoughts on “Turning 35 and Letting Go of Fear”

  1. I’m not 35 yet (turning 30 this December), but I am glad you got clarity into when women’s fertility actually goes down. I had researched the same question a few months ago because I previously had the mindset that I needed to have a child by 35 – but now feel comforted that I have the next decade to have one, should I so want to.

  2. First, I gotta say… This photoshoot is amazing!!! You look stunning in every picture!

    Secondly, wow I am living the same struggle right now! The pressure on woman around 30 is real! I’m turning 30 this year and feel this pressure of deciding everyday. Do I want a child or not? You can’t go back once you have this child and you don’t want to have regret when you’re 60 and it’s too late. Plus you get told that every year you wait increases the chances for disorders like down syndrome. Not helping at all. And I thought it was 35 too, so I was thinking: great I only have 5 years “left”.

    It’s def not easy. I’m happy you are in a good place mentally regarding this struggle! And it gives me hope that I will be too, I just have to be patient and kind to myself.

  3. I always told myself I’d make my decision re kids when I turned 35. When I turned 35, I felt so liberated because I STILL didn’t want kids, and I decided I no longer had to think about it. It was such a good feeling.

    For future destinations, I just returned from Kazakhstan (Almaty and surrounding area and Nur-Sultan), and LOVED it. It’s a really beautiful country – the mountains surrounding Almaty are awesome and easy to get to, and Charyn Canyon is gorgeous. It’s inexpensive, there’s delicious food, friendly people, and it felt very very safe. There aren’t many western tourists at all – I was surprised at how – usually there are Germans and Australians everywhere, but not in Kazakhstan. It’s such a great destination – especially if you have time to combine it with more of the ‘stans – I didn’t, but would love to go to Uzbekistan next.

    1. I’m glad to hear you say that about Kazakhstan and the Almaty area in particular — it could be fun to pair that with Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, as they’re all close together…

  4. Oh man this is the best post I’ve read all year! Mostly because it finally made me realise that I’m not the only person on the planet who feels that way. Most of my friends either have kids or are completely sure that they want to live childless lives. At 33 I’m still not sure, I don’t own my own home and I still want to achieve more in my career – it makes me feel like I’m not quite at that stage yet.

    And I absolutely hate when people ask even if they have the best intentions. Even if I said yes I want to have kids? What do they think I should do? Go our and grab the first man off the street? Trap a one night stand guy I met at a bar? Love, relationship and family is not something that you can calculate or plan for. For whatever reason it hasn’t happened yet and really people adding more pressure don’t help at all. I’m just trying to make the absolute best of the cards I’m dealt and not worry about what I don’t have. I wish everyone worried about their own business as much as they worry about mine.

    But that’s not a place for a rant!

    Happy birthday! Your travel plans sound amazing! Arctic is so on my bucket list too and I’d love to go on an adventure on an expedition ship one day (such as those run by The Icelandic Explorer to Greenland).

  5. Congrats on the birthday and the hard work in therapy and the new relationship! Keep doing you. My husband and I kick around the kid idea every so often but we’re ultimately, we’re pretty indifferent. If there’s a random surprise, fine. If not, great. It’s nice having money and the freedom to do as we please. We’re also hit the phase where our parents need more help than they used to – this will hit you when you least expect it and it totally sucks. So keep doing you! 🙂

  6. Could not love this post more, Kate! I am 37, single, and don’t have an itch for a baby. I have so much other stuff I want to do! But I do think of it often. Like, “Am I making the right decision??” But I’ve come to the conclusion that I can have an INCREDIBLE life with our without children. Maybe I’ll meet someone and immediately want to procreate with them. Which will be great! But you’re right; life is short and we don’t know how many healthy years we have left. I’m not waiting until retirement to follow my dreams. Love you!

  7. Thank you for this! I think these types of open and honest articles about the struggle women go through when making this huge life changing decision are really missing in the media. I’ve never wanted kids, but am plagued with the idea that I will wake up one day and regret it. I hope to get to the place where you are today and not live my life based on fear of regret. Thanks for sharing your story.

  8. I just turned 38, and I really relate to this article. Up until March, I was never in a relationship where a baby would make any sense. Now I could see it being a possibility at some point. I’ve also been reading how the fertility statistics are old and outdated, and I’m glad me and my boyfriend still have time to figure out if it’s right for us. Thank you for this article, Kate! It’s so important for women to stick together and support each other, regardless of their life choices!

  9. I think the most important part of this articles (which I loved the whole article), was your therapist saying you need to learn to be happy with either scenario. She wants you to be in control of your life, but not attached to a specific outcome- at least as it pertains to having children. Best of luck to you!

  10. This was a wonderful post. I certainly feel similar pressure as someone who is career oriented and loves to travel. It’s lovely to see you come to a place where you are happy 🙂

  11. Kate I LOVE this post! I’ve felt this way about having kids. I’d like to have some, but it might not be in the cards for me (cancer), so I’m trying to refocus on different versions of the future. Thank you for sharing ❤️

  12. As someone who’s gone back and forth on the idea of kids for years I really appreciated this piece. I don’t know if you’ve read the Dear Sugar column “The Ghost Ship That Didn’t Carry Us” but it’s another piece that I always find myself drawn back to when I’m considering the whole kid thing and I think you’d appreciate it.

    Thanks for being so open and talking about this so publicly, since it really is a divisive topic. It’s honestly reassuring when I see that other women feel the same way I do since a lot of the narrative that exists around having children is very black and white for or against and misses a lot of the gray areas in between.

  13. I related so much to this post and I really appreciate you having the guts to write it all out. I went through a similar chapter of solo traveling (truthfully, inspired by your blog!) and reached a point where I knew I could be happy with my life the way it was, with friends and fun and adventure. That’s when I also met someone who changed my life. For me, while I no longer travel alone, I still haven’t given up that adventurous streak because we travel together around the US. It helps to have a partner who is supportive of exactly who you are. He also waited for me while I went on a 2.5 week trip to Asia not long after we met. 🙂

    I have also struggled with the kid thing–for me, I NEVER wanted kids until I met my fiance, but my heart opened up dramatically with this relationship and I have come around to the idea and like the idea of a family with him. I still worry that I couldn’t be a parent 24/7, but I also fear that I could be missing out on something amazing by saying no to kids. It is SO hard, and I also turned 35 this year so I have that panic that it is getting too late. You’re not alone in this!

  14. Hi Kate, I’ve been a fan for many years and love your blog. I even met you briefly in Chiang Mai in 2013 I think??? I love your honesty and totally appreciate your decision on whether to have or not have kids, and as someone over 35 I also understand what it’s like to still not KNOW if you want kids!! I didn’t decide until I was around your age either. Thank you for sharing.

    The one thing that scared me a bit with this post is downplaying fertility issues after age 35. If anything, I think women should be MORE aware of the reality. I ignored it, thinking I would be totally fine, that only “OTHER” women had issues. I think almost every one of my friends over 35 (with the exception of 2, maybe) had difficulty getting pregnant. Two did IVF, one did IUIs, others took fertility drugs, and others just took a really long time to get pregnant. I did not realize how f-ing awful infertility is, emotionally grueling, and, not to mention, expensive. The thing is, a person doesn’t *know* if they have fertility issues until they start trying, and the longer you wait (even months) the more it matters. I cringe when another celebrity comes out being pregnant at age 45 or whatever, making it sound like that’s normal. Maybe you read some studies that made you feel better about fertility at older ages (sorry if that sounds harsh) but I can tell you from a couple years of dealing with it, know others dealing with it, and reading commiserating for many hours on reddit r/infertility, that it’s real, it f-ing sucks, and I HATE that women have to worry about this crap. But it IS real.

    Anyway, that doesn’t change most of the point of your post. Congrats on your relationship and work with your therapist, it sounds like you’re happy and you look great!! I love your outfits lately 🙂 Looking forward to more on your Caucasus trip!

    1. Indeed, infertility can hit anyone. I have friends in their twenties that were basically told it would have to be IVF or it would never happen, some of whom went on to attempt IVF several times without success. It’s sad and can hit at any age. 🙁

  15. Hi Kate – Happy birthday! I started to follow you before your 30th birthday… I can’t believe how time flies!

    Puglia is one of my absolute favorite parts of Italy and I’m sure you’ll love it. 🙂

    But as I’m half Italian and half Swiss I have to tell you… please give Switzerland a second chance at some point! I usually love everything you write, but I still feel sad and upset when I think of your post about Switzerland. You visited everything I would have suggested you not to do, and during the worst time of the year.:( Please give this country a second chance, but write me before you come! In my free time I often prepare personalized itineraries in Switzerland for first time visitors… it’s a hobby. I do it for free. I’ll help you if you wish. You won’t regret it, promised! 🙂

    Wishing you all the best for your 35th year and upcoming travels!

    1. I would love to spend more time in Switzerland, but it’s so expensive that it hasn’t been a big priority! But I do have a friend living in Zurich now, so that’s a pretty big incentive to make a return.

  16. My 32nd birthday was yesterday and I loved this. I feel much the same way about having children, but my younger sister is pregnant and it has made me feel inadequate, even though I know intellectually I have no reason to feel that way. I also hate when my mom or really any people in my life ask me when I’m getting married or having a baby. Is that really the most I have to aspire to in life? Will I be less successful or a less good person if I don’t do these things?

  17. Thank you for your bravery and candor in sharing these important words! Wishing you a happy birthday, and thank you for all that you bring to this community!

  18. Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your internal struggles. It can’t be easy having all these critics around and really, it’s no one’s business but yours.

    Regarding women’s fertility, you’re right that the research is woefully inadequate. We should start screening early because every woman is different. I felt lucky when I tested my hormones levels at age 35 and was told that both levels are high/good. However, I have a friend who hit early menopause in her mid-20s and it’s really hurtful when people ask her about children. She absolutely would have frozen her eggs if she had known in her teens and would have more choices now.

    Ok, done with my rant now. Happy birthday and I wish you all the best this upcoming year!

  19. Thank you so much for this post, Kate! It really resonated with me.

    I’m single and turning 31 in December. For the longest time, I thought I wanted to have children one day, but now I’m not so sure anymore. My brother and his wife have a two-year-old son (and another baby on the way) and I LOVE spending time with him, but seeing the reality of raising a family has made me realize it might not be for me. It’s such a huge responsibility.

    Who knows, maybe I will change my mind someday, but I’m not worried about my time running out anymore. Like you, I feel like I could go either way, and I know I will live a happy and fulfilling life even if I don’t have a family.

  20. Great blog post! I am happy to read you got rid of your fear! Keep doing great work and enjoy your life! 🙂
    P. S.: I am also glad to hear you are coming to (my home country) Slovenia! Welcome! 🙂

  21. I love this post! I think one of the issues is that before, people assumed they had their lives figured out by society. Now, people have realised they haven’t and they can do whatever they want with their lives. And that’s both liberating and scary – and it’s SO hard to figure out what you want! Because no matter what you do, you’ll wonder “what if” you’d done something else instead. I’ve had a pretty unconventional life, I’ve had regrets, but those choices led to where I am today. It could have been so different. If I hadn’t met my partner, I would probably be nomadic – but would I want to be? Would I have been happy? There’s no point thinking about it – but I am happy now, settling into an every day life! I think you just have to do what feels right, and that can be situational as much as anything. That’s NOBODY else’s business, and I don’t understand why people have to question your life choices as if it affects them (spoiler: IT DOESN’T).

  22. Thank you for this nuanced and thoughtful discussion about women, fertility, age and life choices.

    I think that you have come to a great place on this subject and I hope that you continue to be happy and glow 😉

    I just want to add one thing to the discussion. The information you cite about the irresponsible use of statistics related to fertility is true and an important point. However, these statistical studies, which are getting better with time, only provide information about large groups and not individuals.

    I think that *every woman* has to consider the potential of leading a life without children because it is *always* a possibility for individual women.

    I went through multiple miscarriages and failed fertility treatments before 40. Society never really prepared me for this scenario and I have had to figure out a different life without children for myself (for various reasons I was not interested in adoption or other options, which, nevertheless don’t ‘fix’ the fertility problems, but offer a different path).

    I am much happier now and living a fairly nomadic life as well. I just wish I had had the support of someone like your therapist a long time ago.

    1. I recently hung out with a friend in Torino, Italy, who said most women there don’t have kids until they’re in their early forties! Women about to turn 50 are picking up their kindergarteners at school!

  23. Happy birthday, Kate!
    Thanks for opening your heart to your readers and for being an inspiration. This is a topic nobody is willing to debate about, but most are fast at judging! I haven’t made a decision yet, but I’m glad to know I am not the only one!

  24. Hi Kate! Happy Birthday!!! Love your blog, have been a reader for many years and follow you on Insty! I thought I would chime in as someone who had the exact same struggle and came out on the other side being very happy with my/our decision. I got married at 32, having traveled for most of my 20’s and early 30’s, and met my husband while living at a buddhist template in Korea! We went back and forth for 5 years on whether or not to have kids – one of us would have baby fever while the other didn’t and vice versa. We could see our lives being happy either way, but honest to god not at all being sure what the right decision was – we talked and talked for five years and the back and forth was driving both of us nuts!!! We pinky swore that for our new year’s resolution in 2017 that i would either be pregnant by the end of the year or he would get the snip – we just needed to make a choice and own it, whatever the possible regret, happiness or situation with a child, child with special needs, you name it. We ended up choosing the snip and honestly have not looked back! Actually just making a decision, especially when your life looks happy either way (as yours appears to be!), is 95% of the battle. Whatever you choose, you will be happy. Just choose it and own it! We both knew that the decision would never be 100% either way, and both he and I were ok with having 5-10% of a feeling of regret, which rarely comes now a few years on and now that I am 41 and he’s 37. Realizing that it was ok to never feel 100% sure one way or the other strangely brought me peace. I also knew at the age of 37, if i wasn’t sure sure that I wanted to be a mom, I probably didn’t want to be one, and that was helpful and liberating for me too. Thank you for sharing your struggle, I think there are MANY single women, couples, men out there who are going through it, but who don’t feel free to share due to societal pressures (as Caroline said in her comment above – I’m from the South too and that sh*t is real!). OK, didn’t mean for that to be so long, but I just wanted to thank you and let you know that you are not alone and I hope that whatever decision you end up making – you will find peace and happiness!

    1. No words to say how much I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this comment. Thank you for sharing your journey. It does seem like the act of making a decision was what was giving you the most grief! And knowing that you’ll never be at 100% no matter what you choose is great, too. Thanks so much.

  25. Happy Birthday!!! Thank you so much for sharing all of this, I recently turned 27 and shared some of my own reflections and goals for the year over on my blog: https://teaspoonofadventure.com/27-goals/. Even though I’m a little younger than you, I totally hear you about baby panic. It’s insane that I’m thinking about my life based on how soon I need to get pregnant. Reading this has helped me relax a little bit. There’s no need to rush through life just to hit some arbitrary age for motherhood. Very exciting that you’ve found a new mindset on this (shout out to therapy!) and a great partner. PS: That dress is GORGEOUS!

  26. Thanks for the great post. I am 32, and engaged, and my fiance and I have no idea if/when we want children. I like the idea in a vague sense, but I also love my life, and want to keep my options open. The other thing we have talked extensively about is adopting, either internationally or out of foster care. There are a lot of kids out there who need someone to love them, and a lot of ways to have kids and a family that don’t involve biology at all. Just because you wait till 40 and then decide not to go the biological route doesn’t mean you won’t have a family either.

  27. Happy birthday, fellow Leo!

    I just welcomed my second child but can relate on a different level – that one where you assume that your life and finances and romantic partner will be the way you always wanted it. For years, I envied my younger sister because she was more stable, married someone who made a lot of money and could afford to travel for months at a time. I chose a totally different path – marrying someone older than me after moving abroad to teach for peanuts right after graduating.

    It took her opening up about her insecurities about having children (she’s 32 and her husband is 33) and whether or not they want to do so for me to realize how petty I was being. Whenever one of my friends comes to me for advice on kids – I’m the only one in my American friend group abroad – I just shrug. Whatever you choose, it’s YOUR choice and your decisions have led you to a life you can be proud of. Have a great time celebrating (I’m with you on the no parties – my husband turns 40 in two weeks, and we haven’t planned a damn thing because everyone is on vacation)

  28. I’m reading this and the tears are just flowing. You will never know how grateful I am for your posting this, and at this time in my life. I’m not 35 and I do have a baby, but that’s not the point, this post spoke to me in an entirely different way. I struggle with anxiety and see a therapist who helps tremendously. Thank you for being honest and genuine about your fears, struggles, and doubts. Thank you for giving so many instances in which you show that you are a human aside from being a writer, blogger, and world traveler. I look up to you in so many ways, and this was such a relief to know that we’re never alone in our experience not just as travelers, but as people navigating life. Whether or not you choose to have children, your purpose in life is huge, never forget! I wish you the most joyful, brightest, loving birthday yet!

  29. Hi Kate, this post really hits home for me. I have been struggling with very similar issues regarding making a decision about having kids. I am also 35 and I feel “the clock ticking” but I also want to keep the lifestyle I have grown to love. I have had many ignorant comments from people, I won’t say negative because my thoughts are that they don’t know any better. This is what society has taught them. Basically that a woman can’t be happy in life without a partner and kids. “Don’t worry, you’ll meet somebody” or “Oh, I’m sorry to hear that”. UGH. Not a single question about how my career is going, or whether I enjoy what I am doing with my life.
    Anyways, thank you for shedding some light on this, it is much appreciated.

  30. I’m 43 with no kids. One thing I want you to know is that if you don’t have kids you won’t live your life regretting it. When I was your age and told people I didn’t want kids, they would always say, “You will regret it when you’re 40.” I don’t. Not even a little. I have lots of kids around me when I want and send them home when I want. That’s only true if you buy into that. FOMO is to go to parties that you can easily leave if they suck, not a reason to have children. I do occasionally wonder what it would’ve been like, but I also occasionally wonder what it would’ve been like if I went to a different college, took a different job when I was 25, or never moved that time. That’s life. Also, many of my friends have children 8+ years old. (Past the initial baby excitement.) None of them would say they regret having their children, but openly say they are jealous of my life and that having kids isn’t what they expected. (I’m not saying you would regret having children. There is two sides to everything though. Especially when it comes to women, we only talk about the one in this case.)

    1. That’s an interesting point — people say that you will regret HARD, and I do often what life would have been like if I had gone to a different university (I could have gone to UMass Amherst FOR FREE but I was such a snob that I thought I was too good for UMass…if only I had known).

  31. Dear Kate

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this article. It’s good to know I am not the only one with this issue and the big bad biological clock, ticking away.

    I just love my life as it is, but I am constantly being pushed by all the people around me. Social pressure is still omnipresent, even in liberal western Europe.

    I lost count of how many strangers and friends have told me: “oh, but you will regret it. Oh, you would be such a great mom! Oh, aren’t you afraid of ending old and alone?”. Etc.

    Just like you, I haven’t made THE choice yet and it’s a very hard one to make. The big “35” is coming up soon, but I have also decided to postpone my decision to 40. I am just not ready yet.

    Good luck to all of us girls who will have to make the same choice! Choose wisely, whatever it is! And don’t let social pressure decide for you.


  32. I’m 2 months from 57 and am child-free. I’ve been married a couple times, one time for 25 years, and never chose to have kids. No worries about deciding not to have kids if that is inevitably what you choose to do; don’t let pressure from society make your mind up for you.

  33. Ive been a Fan since your beginning years, 2012,2013?
    Im soon turning 69. Have been a Professional Portrait and wedding photographer since 1970. Opened my first studio in 1971 in one of the largest all enclosed malls in southern california. I had also been active in my Professional group of photographers the PPA. Because of that I started lecturing, teaching along with working 6 days a week at my studio with up to 20 staff members. I traveled the world for business mostly. I had three studios at one time . I had plenty of boyfriends, lived with a few but never found the one I wanted to marry. Plus I was just so busy doing what I loved. Had massive overhead to pay. At 36 I set my sites on finding a husband. Got married at 39 yrs of age had my daughter at 41yrs. and my son at 43 yrs. They were the most happy and amazing years of my life. 30 years later IM divorced 3 years and have a 28 yr old daughter who crews and is a captain of Catamarans on Maui, Hi. and my son 26yrs just graduated from UcSB and his gap year consists of Skydiving, IFly Tunnel instructor and Base jumper. We are all meeting up in KualaLumpur in september for a 4 dayBase jumping event ! Needless to say I now travel more then ever, Backpacker style often, and alone. Im semi retired. Volunteered in Rwanda ,Africa for a few months when I was 65 photographing different projects my Church had their. I want you to know you can have kids in your 40s . I had more energy then ever . I was so happy to be a mom. It Is The Hardest most stressful job you will ever have but so worth it..if I did it anyone can! Have a great life!!

  34. Wow what an amazing read. I’m 37 and felt like I was reading the last year or so of my own life. I’ve dated people and yes, each one has only lasted 4-5 months or so and I’ve had months/breaks in between. I’m having a break now and actually loving it and the freedom to learn new hobbies and travel. It will happen when it happens – a cliche we’ve heard all our friends and family say. Thank you making me feel I’m not the only one who has felt or does feel like you explain. Hope you had a great birthday and are enjoying life to the max!

  35. Happy Birthday Kate! This is such a well-written post.
    I wanted to share with you and your readers that I’m 38 and when I was 12, I decided that I would never marry and have children. I’ve never changed my mind. I’ve known from a very young age that it would be risky for me to try and carry a pregnancy to term, so I always imagined my future without children and marriage and then realized how many positives (for me) there were to that lifestyle.
    I used to be afraid to share my choice and would tell people I “hadn’t met the right person.” Now, I proudly tell people that I’ve chosen to be single (and I live in a conservative part of the country where people marry young). I think people find the concept weird, but they also realize I’ve made a good choice for myself.
    Anyway, I LOVE being able to travel by myself, and I love reading about your adventures all over the world. I’m glad you’ve met someone. I want you and your readers to know that there’s not one path that everyone should follow. It doesn’t matter if you marry or not; it doesn’t matter if you have kids or not; and the only opinion that matters is your own. Follow your heart and do what makes you happy. Can’t wait to read about more of your travels this year!

  36. I was sat here on my own watching Netflix thinking I want to read something interesting before I go to bed. And I found myself typing your blog in google. I’ve been visiting for the past 5 years now and this is just what I needed to read right now. I’m 33 and my husband died 3 months ago. I started a PhD last year which involves travel to Kenya (which I love) and we decided to put off starting a family so I could do that whilst me and husband battled his leukaemia together. He completely supported me all the way. Now I’ve fallen out of love with the PhD and everything in my whole life and I’m missing that person who understands my dreams and life choices and I’m grieving the family we will never have. Although we do have some sperm frozen so technically I could give it a go. But truth is having kids is hard! They are all consuming tiresome ungrateful creatures at times however I’ve still been feeling panicked that my time is up and I’m never going to meet someone in time to have kids and finish this god damn PhD which is like an impossible task to my ‘widow brain’ right now (yes it’s a thing, like baby brain but just with more misery and less support). Anyway you helped me 5 years ago when I needed to change my life and you’ve helped me again that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I really do want a baby just not now let’s hope I will make up my mind in my own time and I’m glad you have spoken out about it just when I needed to read it x

    1. Oh, Jessica. I’m so sorry. ?

      It’s okay to not have the next steps figured out right now. Take time to take care of yourself and let your family surround you with love. I hope it gets easier for you.

  37. Hi Kate, your best column yet. What amazed me most (of course other than the basis of your story!) was the fact that you’ll be part of the Century Traveler’s Club! I always wanted to join that club and was getting close to the prospective membership bar of 75 countries when, you guessed it, young Daniel came into our life. He’s 22 now. My desire to get to more countries slowed, and of course other things opened in our lives. He came into our life when I was 45. I had had the discussions about children for a while. It’s been a wonderful journey. I fully support your goals and vision. Maybe we’ll both be in the Century Club in the future. Thank you! Mark

  38. Happy birthday Kate! Thanks for the incredibly moving post. For as long as I can remember, I’ve planned on eventually starting a family. However, I keep on waiting for the day to come when I actually WANT kids… but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. I convinced myself at a young age that this was the trajectory for me but, despite being 30 and married, I still don’t have any desire whatsoever to be a mom. Maybe things will change, maybe not. Regardless I just wanted to say thank you for opening up about the struggle that so many people (especially women) must grapple with as they enter into their 30s and 40s.

    Also, I’m so excited to hear that you’ll be speaking at Borderless Live. I’ve been a reader since 2012 and 2 years ago you graciously agreed to feature in my little website about studying abroad. I’m not familiar with this conference, but I can’t pass up the opportunity to see one of my travel mentors 🙂

  39. First off love that you shared the honest truth that most wont ever disclose! I said when I am 30 I will have kids. I am now 31 and still on the “I’m not ready… I don’t think” I have been with the same man for 11 years married for four. We have a great life. Travel a lot. Have family around. If we were to have a baby human we would be just fine. However… I have been driving myself mad for the past few years trying to talk myself into a life I fear and not being in control…raising a baby and regretting or not being happy or causing us to split. All the what if’s. I love US as a couple, silence, freedom, clean home, sleep, pick up and go whenever… however… I know I love my family so much and I know I would probably love being a mom and show and experience the world with them and I know SO many people that can still do their own life and raise humans. I know I will never be that “I want to be a mom” person… I will just have to do it and figure it out along the way. However, getting to that point is terrifying and I just am not ready. My husband is just the same, he’s happy with or without… and that drives me even more nuts! I wish he would just be like LET’S DO IT or LET’S NOT. I have been thinking about going to a therapist that understands me. I legit have NO one that feels the same around me. I just want to be okay with my decision whatever that may be because you are right… its insane how easily these thoughts can control and take over your mind! Thanks for sharing and hope you had an amazing Birthday! PS you were the first blog I ever started following over 5+ years ago! You look more beautiful than ever!

  40. I genuinely find it annoying as hell that women have to be defined by whether they have children or not (I cringe at your initial questions as I have heard them all and apart from the fact they could be totally insensitive, whichever way you decide, it shouldn’t be something people feel they can judge you for.)

    I was an au-pair at 18 and the experience put me off children for life. I am now 46 and can honestly say I do not feel my life is less full for not having children. Quite the contrary…I have no idea how I would fit them in. I travel a lot (although not as much as you), have a highly fulfilling career in financial services, am heavily vested in my own personal fitness, personal challenges and adventure experiences and am still continually studying to improve my prospects and fulfilment. If people feel sorry for me for that so be it.

  41. “I hear the same thing happen with my single women friends in the city. Is it a New York thing? Is it an over 30 thing? Is it a 2019 thing? Probably a combination of all three. It’s hard to commit when it’s never been easier to look for something better.”

    I wonder about the above all the time (though I don’t think it’s restricted to just 2019)! I’ve lived in NY for a very long time and, from a dating standpoint, it hasn’t gone too well. I also feel both the societal and family pressure to figure this baby thing out NOW (I turn 35 next year), and it does give me some anxiety, even though I’m cognizant enough to know that I shouldn’t be letting myself get anxious over this. It’s definitely a struggle to combat those thoughts but I feel it’s so important to focus on your own journey.

    I am curious, though, if in any way you would feel differently about writing this post if you had not met a guy who fits into your lifestyle so well? Would you have felt in any way different turning 35 if you were single (I am very happy for you btw, so this is all hypothetical)?

  42. Wow. Thank you so much for writing this, Kate. So much of what you said about womanhood and motherhood (or not) resonated with me. I feel like I could have written half of this myself [though not as eloquently, of course ;)]. Thank you for being brave and honest in your writing!

  43. It’s the first time I post a comment here but I just wanted to say I agree with lots of the things you’ve said. I am almost 30 and from 25yo people around me asking me when I will have kids or preaching about how much I am gonna miss being a mother if I never have a kid on my own. Perhaps they are right at an extent but I realized from a very young age that kids aren’t my thing. For the same reasons you mentioned above but also bcz I am not the person to really care or have a baby 24/7 with her when I live all my life in panic and depression among other things.
    Of course, I am glad for my friends who have children and I adore them when I see them for minutes but in no way, I could do such thing and I feel mad when society tries to tell me what I should do rather than care most of my – let’s say – well being. After all my dream is to find someday the courage and travel the world like you. It’s not raising a family or being a stay at home mother.
    PS. You are so beautiful in the photos ! 🙂

  44. Beautiful honest post! Happy you’ve found a keeper of a boyfriend! And while I completely understand the desire to keep your personal life off your blog… please at least be clear if you’re travelling with him or solo! While I’m sure you can gauge how solo-travel friendly places are by now regardless of if you’re solo or in a big group, it’s always good to understand how you actually experienced the trips you post about!

    Also, anyone who says you’re an ‘idiot’ for your ambivalence on having a kid is ridiculous. Probably the same ridiculous people who think that being child-free is ‘selfish’ which is absurd yet somehow a common belief. The only person who’s opinion matters on the kids-or-not question is your partner’s because it’s their choice too.

  45. Do what you want, don’t listen to everyone else. I am 37 and I don’t want any children and when I say that, either I get funny looks or they say “You will change your mind”….No No No No, I know deep down I do not want to have children and I will never be pressured to have one just because society as a whole expects me to. The moral of the story is that you and ONLY you can make a choice, everybody else’s opinion does not matter unless you ask for advice.

  46. My opinion does not matter. We all do what we have to do in this life. Thinking is helpful, sometimes. Trusting your instincts or at least giving them a good listen is helpful. You are doing all that! I had a marriage with an older man when I was younger. I learned a lot. We didn’t want children. We lasted 12 years. Many people were nosy and opinionated about my choices and all I could think was what is wrong with your life that you are such a busybody.
    I had fun and I reconnected with a lot of my friends and I thought about love as though it was whittling. Every possible man, not quite right, was a sliver of wood I cast off. I thought about who I was, who would fit in my life and would I fit in their life. It was helpful.
    I found my man and it worked. We expected to work and do sports for the rest of our lives. Then I got pregnant and we had our girl. Something does happen when you get married and have a child. Everything is immediate. No time for reflection. Thinking on your feet. The physical body and mental life of a child becomes your life, forever. That is new. And it never goes away. Because health is forever and you and doctors are it. And there is tremendous joy with good health and happiness in a family and frustration and misery when health is not good. I have a friend who grew up in a family with six kids. I said, what was that like? She said, someone was always throwing up. Raising a child can feel claustrophobic. That’s the only thing I would look at, as a traveler. Maintaining a routine -because most little kids love their routine- while on the road, is a trick and a half. But some families do it perfectly. Find out what they know. My daughter loved quiet, so I flew us early early mornings, which her dad didn’t like, but tough. Every flight the attendants loved her because she slept. Our family rule is whomever is doing the lions share of the work, he or she gets their way. I hope it helps. I think you are great! P. S. you can travel in your mind. That’s what I do to go to sleep.

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