Mother’s Day is coming up. Calls will be made, dinner will be had, and I’ll probably blow up more than a few Facebook pages with well-wishes to the mothers I know.
Me, I don’t get breakfast in bed, or cards, or flowers. I’m not a mother. There isn’t any holiday for someone like me, the woman who made a conscious decision to not have children.
What follows is not a tirade against the fact that I don’t get a special day. I know (and love) lots and lots of mothers. I admire what they do, and can’t begrudge them a day of props. What follows is simply some reflective prose about the decision I made, what it means to me, and some of the reactions I’ve encountered over the years.
I have known that motherhood was not going to be in my cards since I was a little girl. I am not ashamed to say that I have virtually no maternal instincts. I do not believe that this is a flaw in my genetic makeup. I don’t believe it’s a flaw at all. It’s no more a flaw than the color of my eyes. And yet, even in an era/society in which we presumably respect the life decisions of others, this particular decision is still one which invites a lot of unsolicited opinions and assumptions.
Coombsie and I weren’t married more than a couple of years when one of his coworkers ACTUALLY ASKED him if he was “shooting blanks,” because we didn’t have a child, or one on the way.
Now, obviously, that is just nine kinds of rude and not something we regularly encounter, but I’ve also had people tell me things that, while not necessarily meant to be impolite, still make some broad assumptions about me. For example, I’ve been told that I’m “selling myself short” by stating that I’m not meant to be a mother. Well, no, I’m not. I’m being honest. I know you enjoy being a parent, but the fact that I know in my heart, after years of thorough and careful deliberation, that I’m not somebody’s mother does not mean that I am putting myself down or denying myself something that I “deserve.”
Too, there is the assumption that I don’t like children, which is nonsense. Some of my favorite people happen to be under the age of 12. Coombsie and I have 14 nieces and nephews between us. They’re smart, funny, and good kids. I have some of their artwork on my fridge. I even have some of their artwork framed and hanging on my walls. And anyone who knows me knows that I will always rally for kids that are bullied, for kids that feel “different.” I will fight until my dying day for their rights to feel safe in their own schools. I’ve watched dear friends struggle with infertility and/or getting cleared for adoption, and ardently prayed for them to have that which they want so badly. I am not anti-children. Not wanting them for myself is in NO WAY indicative of that.
People also tend to assume that because I have no children, my life is a perpetual holiday. I can take off somewhere fun and exciting on a moment’s notice. I prepare lavish, gourmet meals when I am not out on the town, seeing and being seen. I have just oodles of disposable income and time. In point of fact, my schedule is packed. I work for a nonprofit arts organization, have my own little theatre company on the side, talk to other people in recovery, try to get an hour or two of writing in when I can, and am helping to care for my mother-in-law, who has Alzheimer’s. Many of our evenings are spent trying to figure out if “I need that…thing” means a new iron or an updated prescription. And it’s not going to get any easier. We moved here to be able to keep an eye on her…the decision to do so was a no-brainer. Why wouldn’t we? The reason why we are able to keep my mother-in-law living in her own home, with dignity, for as long as she is able to remain fairly independent, is because we don’t have the added responsibility of children. I know many other childless couples who are in similar situations. This is why I have to laugh when I hear that people who choose to be childless are “selfish.” Bite me.
I’m not supposed to be someone’s mother. I know that many people out there find this a difficult concept to grasp, particularly those who ARE mothers, or have been trying to have a child. I don’t doubt that motherhood is exhilarating, heartbreaking, and rewarding. I’m having plenty of rewarding experiences; I experience joy and despair and gratitude just like anyone else. I am not someone to be pitied, scorned, or ignored, simply because I have made a serious decision regarding my life and the way I need to live it.
I have accepted that there are some conversations that I’m just not going to be asked to be a part of. I’ve never been pregnant, never given birth, never nursed. I have nothing to add to these discussions, and that’s okay. I’ve accepted, too, that there are times during family events where I am conspicuously out of the loop, being the only sibling/sibling-in-law without children. That’s okay, too.
I’m not supposed to be someone’s mother. I am a daughter, a wife, a sister, a friend, a bandmate, a godmother, a coworker, and an aunt. My life is full of amazing people; I just didn’t happen to give birth to any of them.
To the mothers – Happy Mother’s Day. To the not-mothers – you’re awesome, too.