I was having a discussion with a friend the other day. She is about 20 years younger than me, smart, funny, ambitious, beautiful, and kind. The conversation gravitated to her likely engagement and eventual wedding. Of course, that conversation then flowed into the discussion of her having kids someday.
My friend stated that she and her partner were not going to have children. They just didn’t want to be parents. I think she was surprised when I responded with an enthusiastic “good for you, that’s great!”
I don’t think young women are used to hearing this, especially from a middle-aged woman who has two girls who she constantly talks about and whose lives she revolves around.
In fact, I think the pressure for young women to have children is ridiculous.
The usual arguments include some variation of “Oh, you will change your mind” or “But you have so much to offer” and “Your life will be so much more fulfilled.”
But will it? Will their lives really be more fulfilled? I’m not so sure.
I have many friends who do not have children and they are living seemingly very fulfilled lives. They travel, they have exciting careers, they volunteer, they give their time and talents to others, their communities, the environment. They are politically active, they have amazing partners and families, they run businesses, and bring creativity and beauty to the world. They seem very fulfilled to me.
On the other hand, I know plenty of mothers who are on the quest of “finding themselves” or are looking for more meaning in their life. They seem to be searching for more fulfillment, more passion, more creativity. This leads me to believe that a woman’s happiness with her life doesn’t necessarily correlate to whether she is a mother or not.
Speaking from my own experiences, the most painful, difficult, and lonely experiences of my life were a direct result of me yearning to be and eventually becoming a mother. I love my daughters. Of course, I do. But with that love comes an incredible amount of unrelenting worry and pain.
I experienced 6 years of infertility and it almost cost me my marriage. I lost a baby at 21 weeks, and it almost cost me my sanity. I am currently trying to raise two girls, a pre-teen and a teenager, and most days it brings me to my knees. Finances are always an issue, and self-care is an elusive pursuit most days. I am in a constant state of fear and anxiety that their health or happiness will be, or currently is, in jeopardy.
I am oftentimes disappointed in them and most of the time disappointed in myself for not being able to protect them from themselves or the world. Then there is that unspeakable fear, the fear something will happen to them so terrible that your mind won’t allow you to even think about it. Many parents have had those experiences, and I marvel as to how they keep breathing. I’ve had those experiences, and I don’t know how I kept breathing.
I know this seems to paint a very grim picture of the pursuit and actuality of motherhood and that isn’t my intention. I am also very cognizant and sensitive to the fact that some women long to be parents and can’t, and that is an unimaginable sorrow. My point is that being a mother is a different experience for everyone and for me, personally, it sometimes provides as much pain as it does joy. The smallest accomplishment of my children outweighs my greatest personal accomplishments any day. The smallest struggle of my children outweighs my greatest personal struggle.
In short, motherhood dominates the entire spectrum of my emotions, my energy, my resources, and my life. It’s a gift I am thankful for, and I believe it was why I was put on this earth.
I also believe that if I did not have kids, I would channel my emotions, my energy, and my resources into something else as many people do. Our personal happiness is unique to our own circumstances, temperament, attitude, mental health, and a million other variables. One of those variables may be motherhood. But it may not.
Being a mother is not something you should want or feel obligated to be. Motherhood was a choice I made, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It is my life and I have a beautiful life. But to the women who choose to take a different path and dedicate their emotions, energy, resources, and life to something other than children, I admire you. And dare I say it? There are many times I envy you.