Lately I have been pondering the concept of not having kids. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Clearly it’s a little late in the game for me to reconsider. The return policy on offspring is not particularly liberal. And dropping a 14 and 12 year old off at the local ER would fall outside the “no questions asked” rule. Thankfully, I’m not interested in ridding myself of the children that were blessed upon me. In fact, the brothers have been particularly enjoyable as of late, which is why I have had the luxury of having the philosophical discussion with myself about what my life might have been like if I never became a mother. There’s no scary guilt associated with contemplating this hypothetical.
But that wasn’t always the case.
For certain, there have been times when childless fantasies seeped into my heart and mind over the last fourteen years. There were those post partum days when I was operating on 8 hours sleep (over a period of a week)… and the time(s) something was ruined, broke, permanently soiled by the fruit of my loins… or the plans that were cancelled or opportunities forsaken while trying to maintain the “right” balance. But these “what-did-I-get-myself-into” feelings eventually subsided or were quickly buried and I marched on through the gauntlet of parenting, knowing that the choice I made to enter into this “mother of all agreements” with the Universe was indeed the right one.
Or was it?
As I move further along the parenting path, my rear view perspective has changed and become more clear. And I feel I can now say in a very rationale way that as a young woman, I was sold a societal bill of goods about having children. The pitch Iwas given goes something like this:
- Motherhood will make you complete.
- Motherhood will bring endless love into your life.
- Motherhood will make you important.
- Motherhood is a prerequisite for meaning.
- Motherhood is a natural state of being.
I don’t think anyone ever actually spoke these words to me, but the signals were everywhere. I certainly bought into each and every one of the statements above, which I know now are half truths at best. But the kicker I think is that no one really tells you what being a parent is all about. There is probably a good reason for this because if we truly understood what was ahead of us, many would choose not to move forward and the future of the human race could become compromised. But I think we are doing ourselves a disservice by not sharing the full story with Moms yet to be.
So here it is, straight (from one Mom who doesn’t speak for everyone but has come to terms with a few things over the last decade):
If you want to become a parent, be prepared to lose yourself in every way possible. You will lose your identity, your security, your sanity and your control. For quite some time, in fact. Some of these facets you may regain – but you will have to work very hard to do so. And just when you think you have it all together, you realize that you don’t. And you will constantly question yourself and your abilities to get it right. Because the one parenting mantra that does hold true is that you will never love another human being more. And with that love comes a tsunami of responsibility from which you will never recover. Millions of men and women become parents and from a distance it looks completely fulfilling and life changing – and it is. It is all that. But no one can prepare you for the emotional toll it takes. Perhaps that’s why so few people are willing to share the rawness of it all. It’s not a state of being easily described. The best we can muster is a half hearted, “Enjoy this time now when you don’t have kids!” And then we smile.
I realize this is a heavy topic — and those close to me are wondering right now where the hell did this come from? The truth is, I have been thinking about this for a while, not because I am unhappy with my choices but because I don’t feel we are giving good information to the next generation. Its not something we have ever done well. I also bring it up because there are men and women in my life who may be contemplating having children someday – and some may choose not to do so. And where society might suggest that they are selfish, or cold hearted, or wired incorrectly, I have another diagnosis.
They are self-aware. They are thoughtful. They are wise.
Because they can see through the Hallmark commercial that society puts forth regarding parenting and understand the enormity of the commitment — and the huge personal sacrifices that are made in the process. They get it, despite the fact that no one has really explained it to them. And they are making good choices for themselves.
So, Mom, don’t be worried that I have gone off the deep end. All is well. Great, in fact. But I just wanted to acknowledge that it isn’t always. If given the chance to go back in time and make my decision again, would I change it? No. But I would welcome a little more honesty regarding what was in store for me. And I want to go on record saying how much I hold in high regard those who have the courage to take that path less traveled, a path just as wide and wonderful as the one I chose, but without the stroller.