I have very distinct memories of myself, as a child, pretending to be pregnant.
I used to lay in bed, with a pillow stuffed under my dress, and rub my “belly” in a circular motion, in the same way I saw moms on television do it. At just five or six-years-old, really all I wanted was to become a mother.
Now, I’m in my twenties, and I can’t think of anything more frightening.
Child psychologists will tell you that this is normal behavior. We learn our gender’s role during that stage in our lives — in other words, how to be a boy or how to be a girl. These roles are defined by differences between them, and what is more ‘”feminine” than giving birth?
As the years have passed, I’ve learned to express my womanhood in ways other than having a child, whether it’s through clothing, physical mannerisms, or even sex. The need to have a baby in the future now feels obsolete, even unnecessary. I like my life the way it is, and how it’s been for years: I have a job, I have friends and loved ones, good health, and hobbies to keep me busy. I hear horror stories of moms who drift into the background of their own lives because they become so preoccupied with their families.
Still, I hear it all the time, parents who tell me that someday, I’ll want something more (the slight rise in their voice implying that I will never be satisfied with my life until the moment I become a mother).
They’re never specific as to what “more” really is, but I can imagine that it’s that biological and emotional void that many modern female professionals feel the need to fill once they hit their forties, or even fifties.
These parents don’t seem to understand exactly why I don’t want children.
And it has nothing to do with how I was raised. My parents are two very lovely people who tried their best to raise a functional, productive, and well-adjusted adult. I think they did a fantastic job, but there were many parts of my childhood they couldn’t change or shelter me from.
I can tell you that memories of being bullied during my formative years stick with you well into adulthood, and you remember just how cruel children can be. I ended up okay — but will they?
What’s even more concerning to me is not having to raise a bullied kid, but having to raise a bully. It means that you, as a parent, failed to teach this child the basics of right and wrong, and there’s no guarantee that he or she will grow up and out of this behavior.
I don’t need to raise a Gandhi or a Mother Teresa — I just don’t want to raise a monster.
It doesn’t help that I have a total lack of motherly instinct. I have the strangest reaction to children: I run away. I don’t find them very interesting. I find them, frankly, quite irritating with all the screaming and the fussing.
And for someone who admittedly has a particularly short temper and lack of patience, I find it impossible to be in the company of a baby for more than five minutes. I found myself on the train with a set of quintuplets sitting next to me, and all I could say to the one relentlessly kicking my leg was, “Hi.” I was at a loss for words.
But once they get to an age when words come a little more naturally to them, I can feel a shift in my approach. I spend a good deal of my time volunteering by tutoring pre-teens. It’s intimidating at first but I couldn’t imagine my life with them.
“My kids,” I like to call them. Two years ago, I was assigned an 11-year-old girl from an immigrant family. Over the course of a semester, I taught her how to read. There is nothing I am more proud of than the day she passed her reading test with flying colors.
Eventually, my seemingly never-ending internal debate about whether or not to have children comes to the same conclusion: guilt. Growing up, my parents took great pains to instill in me the value of the so-called natural order of life: First, you go to school and find a job, then you get married and have children.
I have accomplished the first two objectives, but have yet to find a life-partner (honestly, I am in no rush). The next big step is to have a family. I have been following this path all my life, firmly believing that it is the right one for me, so I know that it’s only a matter of time before my sense of responsibility overpowers my desire to remain child-free.
My parents also like to remind me how much they want to become grandparents, and being their only child, there is no way they will be until I have kids of my own. My mother and father have given me every tool I’ve needed to thrive, and have provided all the love and support a parent can give. It makes sense to me that, not only should I have kids to fulfill what I am sure is my destiny, but also to give them the happiness they deserve. If they sacrificed for me, I can surely sacrifice for them.
Bottom line: Despite all my best efforts to convince myself that I won’t become a mother, when it really comes down it, I have a strong feeling that when the eventual next big step comes along, I will succumb to it.
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