I’d only logged on to check the extended forecast and find out if it’s safe to take the cloches off the eggplant and tomatoes when the avalanche started. I was bombarded by Mother’s Day reminders, advertisers seeking to exploit the living crap out of the quote/unquote holiday and toy mercilessly with everyone’s private and complex emotions about motherhood.
I’ll offer my disclaimer before I go any further: I know women I consider the best possible mothers I’ve ever witnessed personally or professionally. I’m in awe of their creativity, patience and love. They made their choice – and please please always remember it is a choice – – to have their child or children because it was right for them. They did not simply do what others expected. They did not have a whoopsie and resign themselves to their fate. They did not use their pregnancies as a means to an end. They are strong, beautiful women rearing fabulous little humans. Actually, some of their little humans are getting really big and it’s freaking me out!
But let’s get real. Parenthood isn’t for everyone. It’s not for me.
You don’t automatically love your mother, and she doesn’t automatically love you. I know this from years of listening to hundreds of women, mothers, and children tell their stories. Every story is different. Some are horror stories. Some relationships are abusive, and some are merely indifferent. Others are bipolar soap operas of love and hate. Some – and these are the good ones – are intimate, mutually respectful, long-lasting friendships.
I’d like to personally offer my congratulations to all the non-mothers who cringe through the sentimental stereotyping and unreasonable expectations imposed by the hallmark holiday. Buy yourself a box of chocolate. Walk your dog and laugh at all the men awkwardly taking the kids out to play on Sunday morning. Or sleep late and boink your partner blind, because you can and no kids will walk in on you!
Women who choose to go through life child free do their share of parenting in myriad other ways. Being the cool aunt counts, as all cool aunts will testify. Counseling work entails re-parenting injured adults and teaching them to become their own mother in the psychic areas where their real mother has failed. Tending good friendships often involves mutual mothering and nurturing, especially friendships among women. Committed and ethical pet ownership is almost indistinguishable from parenting except for differences in language, lifespan and species. Raising a garden demands daily attention, care, and feeding, and exercises (or exorcises?!) the maternal mental muscles utilized for childcare.
The big difference, of course, between people who are rearing other humans and those of us who are not is time. Having chosen to remain child free, I’m not nearing fifty with the nagging sense I didn’t get to travel where I wanted or practice the arts that enamoured my soul. I’ve been selfish. I’m so proud. How many times has someone said to me they wish they could _fill in the blank_but...and there is always a “but.” There is always a reason or excuse to avoid fulfilling your calling and potential, and I would not wish for any person to be used as the pawn in such a defeatist game. I know myself well enough to be clear that motherhood would have eaten my soul. Yep, I just said that. It sounds extreme, but I’m at the age where I’m allowed to be the brazen older woman and say these things.
I have no regrets. I’d do it again. I needed the time to myself to reach a good place in life. The lifelong intimacy of parenting isn’t on my wish list. I’m getting what I want out of life just fine without it. In fact, for me, that lifelong intimacy would bind me emotionally in a way that would exclude the fulfillment of more important needs.
I don’t say all this because I think I’m so interesting or smart: I’m writing this to all the women struggling with decisions, women on the brink of being benevolently coerced, women looking for a way to say, “I don’t want to have children” and to feel good about it.
It’s okay. You know what’s right for you. Wait until you’re ready, and if that time never comes, trust yourself that the universe will render gifts in accordance with your true desire.