For a number of reasons, I’ve found myself thinking a lot lately about the idea of having children someday.
Some of you have either already groaned and felt the urge to stop reading or you’re jumping to conclusions and freaking out, but bear with me while I explain.
I think a lot of women who aren’t already mothers think, at least from time to time, about the idea of having a baby. It’s been coming up a lot in the public forum lately because of national politics concerning planned parenthood, birth control and abortion. My awareness of those topics has been amplified because two of my siblings both recently celebrated the births of their first-borns, one in August and one in November. And if there was even a small chance I could mentally avoid the thought after all that, I’m also in a stage of my life when I’m constantly seeing posts on Facebook about friends getting engaged, married or expecting their first children.
So, based on all that, I hope you can understand why this post seems timely for me, and why it’s not a confession or a rant.
I also think there’s a larger conversation to be had.
To a certain extent, I think the idea of giving birth is just one of those things a woman naturally thinks about every now and then (personally, I occasionally have pregnancy dreams and they freak me the hell out). But it’s recently occurred to me that I have no idea how most of my close friends feel about motherhood.
We probably don’t talk about it because it’s complicated and personal, but maybe we don’t talk about it because we’re afraid we won’t like what we hear.
Like many non-mothers, I hate it whenever I voice doubt about having kids and the response is, “You’ll change your mind someday.”
Coincidentally, I’ve recently stumbled on a few articles that address why not wanting children is perfectly acceptable, and why the “you’ll change your mind” response isn’t accurate or fair.
I totally agree with that idea an those articles, but now I’m stuck with the notion that the topic is cut-and-dry: Either I should be proud of my desire to be a mother or confident in my decision not to be.
I haven’t yet found someone talking about the fact that she has no fucking idea what she wants, and that she actually changes her mind about it all the time.
So I guess I’m just going to have to write that point of view, because I’m that woman.
I’m going to refer to two pieces of writing I’ve seen recently and, when put side by side, sum up my feelings as well as anything can.
The first was posted on Facebook by a friend. It’s a thoughtcatalog.com article (http://thoughtcatalog.com/abby-rosmarin/2013/12/to-the-women-who-choose-not-to-have-kids/) that falls into the category of “why it’s okay not to want kids.”
The writer starts:
“To the women who choose not to have kids, I have one thing to say to you: Thank you. You probably don’t hear it enough. You probably don’t hear it at all. What you do hear is an array of pro-childbearing responses, such as, “You’ll change your mind someday…”
She goes on:
“Thank you for recognizing that childrearing isn’t for you and being true to who you are. It doesn’t mean you hate kids. It just means that raising one is not part of your path in life.”
“…Raising children is a difficult, onerous, frustrating and disappointing gig. It’s tough enough for those who want it. It is a rewarding and loving gig as well, but it’s not something one should go into while focusing only on reward and love and societal acceptance.”
I agree entirely. I love kids, but they kind of terrify me and I don’t feel entirely confident that my stubborn personality and aversion to commitment are great ingredients for parenthood.
Then again I also recently read a piece by Ariel Levy in the New Yorker that caused a reaction I wasn’t expecting.
Levy is a woman I admire and respect for her journalism and amazing ability to capture humanity through her writing. She starts by explaining how she became a successful and worldly reporter, one who has traveled to most corners of the earth and has lived a life many journalists only dream of. Her job was her life and she loved it. It’s a sentiment I identify with. She made the decision to become a mother sound almost like another story assignment – something you embark on because you’re curious and want to know what it’s like.
Eventually she goes into excruciating, heartbreaking detail about losing her baby only minutes after he was born while on assignment in Mongolia.
The article is likely to break your heart no matter where you stand on the topic of motherhood. I think I need only to quote the following sentence to help you understand what I mean.
“But the truth is, the ten or twenty minutes I was somebody’s mother were black magic. There is no adventure I would trade them for; there is no place I would rather have seen.”
I, for one, sobbed through that part of the article and continued to weep for an unexpectedly long time after I finished reading. She evoked a deep, primal feeling in me that still makes my heart ache when I think about it, but I have no earthly idea why.
Maybe it was good writing. Maybe it was genetic coding. The point is, I don’t think I have to know one way or another. If I end up with kids, I’m sure I’ll never regret it. If I choose to be a good aunty or a good role model, friend or teacher for other peoples’ kids, I think I’ll be just as fulfilled.
I appreciate the support on both sides, but I don’t need someone to tell me if I’m doing the right thing because the truth is they can’t. I want to be more open about the notion with my good friends because that’s what good friends do – they talk about what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling, even if they’ve changed their minds dozens of times about the same topic. And in that same line, I want people to support me no matter what I ultimately decide.