To Be Or Not To Be…A Mother
“When are you going to start a family?”
The ink wasn’t even dry on the marriage license, I still had rice in my hair, for cryin’ out loud. Really?
How the hell did I know? I was barely twenty, my husband twenty-three. WE were the babies in the room.
It’s the rare individual who is introspective enough to ask him or herself at a young age: What kind of life do I see for myself? Will I have children?
Some people just KNOW. The rest of us, we just go with the proverbial flow.
We date, fall in love, have the wedding, the picket fence and….screech! (sound of a needle being dragged across a record) hey, not so fast.
Your early twenties are times of impetuous, risk taking behavior – not the picket fence and most definitely not parenthood – at least not for me.
I could back it up with SCIENCE:
There have been recent studies and in fact, research from the National Institutes of Health has shown, the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain associated with inhibition of risky behavior, and decision-making, doesn’t get fully developed until age 25.
Being a late bloomer, I think my prefrontal cortex finally matured at around thirty-five, sadly, it still wasn’t screaming “make a baby!”
What was wrong with me? All my friends were doing it. Even my little sister.
Hello?! Where was my maternal gene?
At the time it felt like it had been replaced by the much more irresponsible (red hair dye, wine drinking, spend every dime on shoes, travel around Europe) gene.
It wasn’t a calling for me. I know a calling. I move heaven and earth when something calls me. Motherhood? Meh, not so much. It’s not that I don’t love kids, I do. Just never enough to make my own.
There was also the fact that the stars just never aligned.
It didn’t occur to me to start a family when I was married, it always felt like a decision for another day; and when it finally did cross my mind I was epically, tragically, single. Not a man in sight, let alone “father material.” By the time I married my second husband, as fate would have it, my eggs were all dried up.
Sooooo, I gave single motherhood some serious thought, only to be discouraged by a very wise, older woman friend, a “crone” who asked me, “the maiden”, why I wanted to have a child?
I stammered on for a good five minutes, never coming up with anything better than
“Everyone’s doing it.”
“It’s the MOST important job, being a mama. Come talk to me when you have a better reason.” This maiden could never come up with one.
“To make the decision to have a child – is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body”
By my mid thirties, when I answered “no” to the kid inquiry, a sad, concerned look would wash over women’s faces; until I assured them that I was biologically able – it was a conscious choice of mine not to.
UNLEASH THE KRAKEN!
Many women got angry, really angry; especially at baby showers. You know the ones where you bring your babies? THOSE were the worst.
There was even some name calling.
I’ve been called that many times in my life.
It’s code for: why aren’t you doing what I’m doing?
It’s been hurled my way in anger, hitting me like a dagger in the back.
It’s happened so many times, I have a callouses there – these days the dagger just bounces off.
Is it selfish not to have children? Probably. Can selfish be a good thing? Yes, yes it can.
Call it what you want. I just knew I wasn’t wired for that level of self-sacrifice, and my unborn children are better off because of that.
Up until then, my life had seemed like a series of accidents, not premeditated in any way.
But soon I recognized that I had made a choice, that I had decided “my supreme and risky fate” and that I didn’t need to hide in a cave; then, and only then, did the name calling stop.
Isn’t that always the way?
Now I’m over fifty, and the question is: How many grandchildren?
What I know for sure is this: I’m so incredibly grateful to be born at a time in history when we’re not put in stockades in the town square, with villagers throwing eggs at our childless faces.
We decided it wasn’t for us…and that’s okay.
Luckily, times have changed, women are so much more accepting and supportive of different life choices. These days I feel anything but ostracized, some woman actually applaud my decision.
As Liz Gilbert and O talked about on Sunday, we get to be the spectacular aunties.
Mamas need the aunties.
We play a very important supporting role, we get to teach selfishness – which is thankfully something most mamas know NOTHING about.
Tell me about you. I’d love to hear YOUR story. When did you decide not to have children?