The Importance of Being Honest with Myself: Motherhood

People lie constantly. It’s true! They lie about how long it takes them to get to work or get something done so they don’t look like slackers. They lie about where they’ve been so mom and/or dad don’t yell at them. They lie to law enforcement. “I swear I only had one beer, ossifer!” And they lie to the clergy. “I go to (church, temple, etc..) every day!”

We lie so much that we have different flavors of lies!

  • bold face
  • white
  • exaggerations
  • fabrications (made up shit)
  • deception
  • slander
  • gossip
  • omission

I feel like this last one is bullshit. If you don’t ask the right question you’re not going to get an answer. That’s for another blog post.

The person we probably lie most often to is the one we really shouldn’t – ourselves. I try not to lie to myself as much as possible and that can really suck, but most times it keeps me safe and prevents me from making choices that would upset the balance I’m trying to achieve in my life. So when people challenge the beliefs and truths that I hold close, I tend to get a little ruffled. It can range from mild annoyance to “I will cut you” depending on how close-held the belief is and how insistent the opposing party gets.

Which brings me to my point and why the title is what it is.

Those of you who are child-free may stop reading, unless you really want to keep yelling, “Preach on, sister!” You’re not my intended audience. You already get me. -internet fist bump-

Those of you who love to promote the joy of motherhood, grab a chair and sit with me for a moment.

I totally get it. Some of you have wanted to be a mom since you got your first doll while some of you came to the notion after you found your significant other and wanted that type of family. And that’s awesome! A lot of dads have the same life journey, and that’s great too. Planned, unplanned, accidental, or convinced, parents come in more than just 31 flavors and you’ll find most of them love or come to love the job.

I’m not part of that group. I never will be, and yet -mostly with the older crowd- I still get a reaction when the subject of whether I have kids comes up. The first follow-up question is usually, “why not?” Fair enough, but when I answer, no matter which of the dozens upon dozens of reasons I call on in the moment, I notice that the opposite party finds counter arguments to an otherwise closed discussion.

For example:

I said, “The timing wasn’t right for me.”

I was told, “It’s never right. You just have to lean in and go for it.”

Reality Check: At the time I heard this I had no job, no prospects, no savings and I was living with my mother. Yes, there is a right and a wrong time to make major life changing decisions and THAT WAS NOT THE TIME.

Another one:

I said, “We don’t have the money.”

I was told, “You’ll find it.”

Reality Check: My husband and I were in debt up to our ears and had little concept of how to work within a budget. Tossing a baby into the mix would have been financial nightmare fuel.

The most dismissive and patronizing example:

I said, “I don’t want kids.”

I was told, “You’ll change your mind.” “You’re still young.” “You don’t know what you want yet.” “Who is going to take care of you when you’re old?” “You’ll be lonely.”

Reality Check: I thought having kids was supposed to be a selfless thing? 15 years later I’m still happy with my choice.

Having and raising children is promoted, aggressively even, in our entertainment. I’m not surprised since the wedding and baby/child industries are multi-billion dollar affairs. There are a ton of comedies about sudden parents, incompetent parents, anxious to the point of silliness parents and so on and so forth; in the drama genre you’ll meet the devoted parents, in-crisis parents, single parents, and dealing with the death of a parent. Romantic comedies start with a wedding and having kids is always implied or discussed right then and there. It’s rare that media will produce romance stories of women or couples who choose to be child-free, which ignores an entire growing demographic of young people who are choosing not to have children.

In How I Met Your Mother, Robin Scherbatsky went through a hell of a time over that, the Ted Mosby obsession not withstanding. Kevin, the character she was engaged to, left her because having kids was that important to him. The writers could have gone a different route with that and explored a couple who was child-free, because even though Robin couldn’t have kids, she still didn’t want to raise any.

Women who are child-free or childless seem to be portrayed in the media as having a problem that needs to be fixed instead of being accepted the way they are. There is nothing wrong with these women. Those who are childless have their own challenges, but because -to my knowledge- I don’t have this life experience I don’t feel qualified talking about that part of womanhood. I’ll stick to what I know.

I get that people are well meaning, and that’s fine! Kindhearted people are always in short supply, but when the response to the “do you have kids” question sounds a lot like “I didn’t want them” the conversion should probably stop. If you are curious as to why someone would make that choice even if nature hadn’t interfered, ask to understand and not to respond. Child-free couples have talked about this far longer than the ten minute conversation you’re having with them. My husband and I had the talk for 10 years, going back and forth on pros, cons, and reality checks. We decided we wanted to be together as a family without children.

Notice I didn’t use the word family until right now. I believe that my husband and my two cats are my family. So are my brother, mother, in-laws, and extended family. I don’t classify a family as two adults and 2.5 children because it takes meaning away from those of us who are committed to building a life together but don’t want or can’t have children. Some states will still block gay couples from adopting children, but that doesn’t make them any less of a family.

I was honest with myself when I got engaged, which let me be honest with my husband about how I wanted my life to be. By doing so it prevented a lot of resentment and regret, because once those kids are on planet Earth it’s your duty to look after them and do whats best by them. They never asked to be here, so if you’re not sure you’re ready, it’s going to be an uphill battle and it’ll be the kids that lose in that game.

I was honest with myself when I weighed my limitations. I didn’t want that responsibility. It was just too much for me to face. I’ve also had many nights, even since being a little girl, where I was angry at not having a choice to be alive because it’s really hard sometimes! As awesome as it can be, life can be vicious, dangerous, and completely unfair. I looked at the world around me, at the people around me, at the challenges that my children would face and I decided against it.

I was honest with myself when I looked at my fears. The physical undertaking that is pregnancy is one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen and that’s not even taking into account the cultural bullshit that pregnant women put up with. Going to the doctor terrifies me beyond normal jitters or discomfort, to the point of fainting in the waiting room, in the exam room, getting blood drawn, and shaking with fear the few days before having to show for an appointment. Even with the most amazing problem free pregnancy, that baby has to get out of your body some way. I saw Alien. Fuck that shit.

Choosing to have children or not is a very personal choice, especially if it’s going to grow inside your body. Trying to talk someone into something like that is extremely invasive and none of anyone’s business except the person or couple. So here’s a chance to be honest with yourself, if you are a promoter of having children.

Why is it so important to you for someone else to have children?


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