If you'd asked me just five years ago, I'd have told you that I fully expected to be married and have at least one child by the time I turned 35. That birthday milestone came and went last month, but here I sit eating a piece of cake and drinking my coffee in relative peace, no baby or toddler to interrupt me as I type.
It seems single women in their thirties are a growing segment of society. And everyone has an opinion about it. Almost every day somebody feels the need to say something to me about my situation. This could as easily be my mum, my friends or even people I barely know. But they all have two things in common. They are always married and they are always parents.
When I hear these comments, I usually smile and say nothing. But on the inside I find it really hurtful to be stereotyped in this way, and treated like there is something wrong with me just because I have not got the perfect husband or perfect family life.
These are the five most common comments I hear, and how I'd really like to respond.
"You must have tons of time on your hands because you don't have children"
Yes, I do generally manage a solid eight hours of sleep every night, unless I am working late, or out having fun with friends. I feel bad for the new mums and dads who stumble around zombified from consistently getting less than three or four hours.
But this doesn't mean I don't have anything better to do than run your errands for you. I will happily pick up a few bits and pieces on my way over to yours (where we always meet these days). But, think back to the days before kids. Did you really have as much free time as you now fondly remember through those rose tinted glasses? I may spend most of my 'free time' on hobbies, drinks with friends and the pub quiz, but please don't expect me to give up my life just because you think yours is more important.
"You can't possibly understand what it's like to have children"
Well, this is true. I have never given birth to my own child. However, as soon as I reached my mid twenties and my friends started to have babies, I found myself surrounded by small children. As Auntie Beth, I am often the go-to babysitter. I have also lost count of the conversations where parents list every single detail of what having children is really like - from childbirth through the terrible twos, I feel like I have lived it several times over!
In fact, I have spent so much time over the last ten years hanging out with toddlers, that I recently started my own company (along with a friend) to help other aunties and uncles to take the guesswork out of buying gifts for toddlers. besobaby.com
"You should be out drinking every night because you don't have children"
Ummm, just think back to before you had children. No, really really think about it for a minute. I'm pretty sure you stopped the late nights long before you started popping out babies. In fact, with your newfound resistance to exhaustion you would probably fare a whole lot better than me on a big night out these days. The thing is, I may not be a mum, or have a husband, but I am the same age as you. Nobody really enjoys late night bars and nightclubs regularly once they are over the age of 28, do they? (or if I'm really honest, I probably mean 23!)
"You must either be desperate for/hate the idea of having children"
A woman in her mid 30s who doesn't have children is often thought of as having deliberately put her career before starting a family. She supposedly thought she had all the time in the world and has recently woken up and realised her biological clock is ticking and she may have left it too late. If, on the other hand, she isn't openly bemoaning the fact that she has indeed left it too late, she must hate children and not want to have any.
I personally don't feel like I fit into either of these camps. There are reasons that I don't have children yet which are nothing to do with my career, but I would really like to have children one day, if the timing is right. Right now, I'm perfectly happy enjoying my life the way it is and don't generally waste much, if any, time thinking about having a baby.
"What about that guy? He's single"
The assumption that just because I am single, I must be desperate is actually pretty hurtful. I know that my married friends just want me to be as happy as they are, but it annoys me that they can't imagine how I could possibly be happy without the husband and children that they have.
It would be lovely to find a husband, settle down and have children one day. But having witnessed more than a few friends 'settle' for someone who is not right in order to have this family life, I'm actually quite happy with how my life is going.
And what about the next five years? Do I see myself married with kids? The best thing about getting to 35 is that I now feel much more comfortable with who I am and the uncertainty of not knowing where I am going. I'd much rather be happy where I am right now, that spend my life waiting for that 'perfect' life I'm not actually sure really exists.