Motherhood is not on my list of priorities and I am tired of apologizing for my lack of maternal drive. So can the baby brigade please stop rolling over my toes with their baby strollers?
I am not old by any means—just thirty-five years old with a lot of time and ambition ahead of me. I have lived a relatively full life so far by everyday standards—I have traveled, broken laws and rules, and gone against mainstream ideas for most of my life. I have survived a life that many would have retreated to drugs and alcohol for eternity (my retreat lasted a few years)—others would have let go of life many years before. I was a child of adoption from the age of one and a half, bouncing from home to home, rejected by most, gently damaged by all. My scars from my youth are both visible and buried within places I choose not to enter because the open door might let loose a tirade best left contained. I live this way, very cautious about my past, and in compensation, vehemently forging forward with my future. And in speeding ahead, I have hit a time in my life when I have to answer for my past in a way I never expected to. Children. I will say it. I simply don’t want children.
I have never found myself in want of a child—a partner yes, but the maternal aspect of my being has never been touched or shown through the scars of my past. I suppose some may say it is that I am simply “broken.” Friends look upon me with sadness, as if to say “you’re damaged goods” and repeat their sympathy in words like, “with your past, no wonder you don’t want children.” And for many years I have allowed them to, worried that they were correct in their determination, I was simply marred by my past. I felt ashamed in that being a woman, I should desire children (seemingly a drive beheld by all); after all “it was a blessing God bestowed upon the descendents of the virginal Mary.” I felt that lacking the maternal desire was somehow a penalty for my raucous past (let’s face it; I have been the farthest from virginal). Maybe I was not given these maternal desires because of how freely I sinned in my younger years. Maybe God is simply saving me from myself.
Whatever the reason, I have not once in my life truly felt the drive to take on motherhood. I have never “oohed” and “awed” over a newborn—and the screams of children bring a sensation of irritation, panic, and frustration to me. I have never once attended a baby shower freely and while there have been moments of fond baby clothes shopping—I am convinced it is simply my love of fashion that makes me stop and stare. When friends shove their babies into my arms, I stiffen up and clamor for a reprieve—will someone else please hold this little ball of poop and screams? And oogling over baby photos? Forget it—when I see a photo album coming my way, I mentally head for the hills trying to gracefully exit the situation without hurting anyone’s feelings. Occasionally, I get stuck feigning excitement and delight for the new mom and her “bundle of joy,” and yes, it feels wrong to lie to my friends, but it feels more wrong to exude hostility at such a precious time in their lives.
I was very lucky to marry a man who has taken the time to understand me. I am as far outside of normal as one woman could be and my husband has accepted most of my quarks. Some characteristics have been to his advantage—I would rather watch football than get together with the girls, I can drink and cuss like a sailor and I believe in loyalty beyond measure. Other attributes make him cringe—like my endless carefree side, the desire to live in the grey area of life, and the need to be independent. By all accounts, we are the yin and yang of life. He comes from a happy family of five children and two parents who have been married for fifty years. He has been graced with culture, tradition, and stability—all of which have made him a man of distinction and morality. He has led a typical life of fun and antics, coupled with serious study and responsibility. He has dabbled at the crazier side of life, but has not lived in it as I have. He lives for security and stability—I challenge the boundaries of life.
However, with all of our differences, we have one common thought—children are not in the cards for us.
While my husband has a strong sense of family, his desire to have children has waned over the years. He is almost forty and lives by his list of goals; higher education, money and then maybe, children. Like me, he is set in his ways and is not sure he wants to upset the balance in our lives we have worked so hard to create. He loves his space and alone time and would not appreciate being bothered by the chaos that comes with the patter of little feet and children “fussing about” his things. Yes, we sound perfectly selfish. We are. And this has been yet another barrier to the baby boom. Right now, we love our status quo.
It is my age (and that of my husband’s) that brings about endless questions of our desire and ability to procreate. We are constantly barraged by questions about starting a family. ”When are we having our own child? Can we have children? Isn’t it about time we took family seriously?” While I have been feverishly focused on my writing career and my husband on his work, most of my husband’s co-workers have been joining the baby brigade. Their wives have been happily pushing out next generations, while staying home and tending to their house and children. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad for them and the choices they have made—their decisions were perfect for them. But every work event my husband drags me along to has made me cringe for fear of the endless “baby” topic. Both he and I have been thrown what I call “baby grenades”—as we are looked upon as the last of the “it’s about time” work bunch to have children. We have been constantly questioned about our family plans in front of crowds of co-workers—“When is it your turn”, “When are you going to settle your wife down to have some children,” “Don’t you guys want children?”
While I understand questioning from close family and friends, does our lack of aspiration for children deserve to be challenged even by work peers? We simply laugh off their questions and answer in ways that politicians would be proud of—we answer without answering. We want to tell them that we don’t want children and the reasons why are none of their damn business! But we simply say, “It’s not our time.”
While we can get away with this answer for a while, the problem of having to answer these personal questions seems to stem from a much deeper place. I like to call it “traditional family values.” The mere fact that two perfectly healthy, married partners do not want to have children seems to throw people into a tizzy. “What?” It is unconscionable that we would not want to proliferate and continue the family name. In traditional ideology, we have reached the moment in our couple-dome when it is assumed we will take the next step. If there is no next step—it is as if we have lived the whole of our lives, the apex of our humanity! As if without children, there is no “next step.” In fact, it has been more than once in my thirties that I have overheard an acquaintance mention that women are supposed to have children and if we can’t we are somehow damaged or worthless. (Yes, spoken eloquently even in this day and age). Many wives of my husband’s co-workers insist they would love to invite me to parties and gatherings—if I had children. Without kids, I simply cannot attend. (I have to admit—at times I am grateful for the ability to avoid the soirées). But, why is there an insistence on me having children? Do we need to bear children to feel our worth? Or is this one pocket of society trying to dictate the path of my life because it is all they know?
My indignation about children could be a product of my past. And I suppose many would want to blame that for my lack of desire to be a mom. But it could simply be that (gasp!) I am a woman who does not want children. Yes. I will say it aloud—proud of my decision … I am a woman who does not want children!
So please, watch my toes as you blow down the street with your baby strollers and judgments. And stop hogging the sidewalk.