Now that Mother’s Day is in the rearview mirror, here’s my truth: I never heard the siren call of motherhood. If I ever had maternal instincts, I burned through them early when forced into the role of surrogate parent to my 11-years-younger sister because our divorced mom abdicated a lot of the caretaking to me.
As the “responsible one,” I also became a mother to my own mother—a role that didn’t end until mom died when I was in my late fifties. It soured me on mothering. Intellectually, I understood that having a child is different—their dependence on you is legitimate—but I still didn’t want one.
When I was in my thirties, a male business client opined that childbearing was a woman’s duty. I don’t recall the context in which he made his remark, but to this day I remember how I bristled when he said it. Believing discretion the better part of valor in a business setting, however, I bit my tongue. If someone said that to me today, though, I’d respond:
Um, no. Childbearing—and childrearing—is a choice. I chose to be child-free and I have no regrets. I respect women who choose differently, because parenting—good parenting—is one of the hardest jobs there is. It’s also not for me, and here are some reasons why I’m glad I never had kids:
- No boomerang kids showing up on my doorstep
- I never had to decide between paying for a child’s education and funding my retirement
- No changing shitty diapers (Well, actually, I did change more than a few of my sister’s diapers when I was a ‘tween. And in my and Hubs’ dotage, it could still happen.)
- I could pursue a career without feeling conflicted or guilty
- After a long, exhausting day at work, I could just come home, eat cereal for dinner and go to bed—without having to feed and bathe a child, help with homework or otherwise be engaged
- I was never at risk for post-partum depression
- I didn’t have to worry about passing on family dysfunction
- I never had to stay awake at night worrying about a child’s whereabouts and safety
- I could consistently sleep through the night (back in the days when I actually could sleep through the night, that is)
- I never had to lock my bedroom door to prevent, um, interruptions
- The only vomit I’ve ever had to deal with is my own (well, and the cats’)
- I never had to attend PTA meetings or parent-teacher conferences
- I never had to organize or supervise play dates
- I never had to be a child’s taxi service
- I never had to give up plans because I couldn’t find a babysitter
- I never had to use my breasts to feed another human being
- I never had to endure the pain of childbirth
- I never had to decide where to live based on the quality of the school system
- I never had to explain the birds and bees to a child, or witness the look of shock and disgust when the child realized I did “that”
- I never had to deal with the raging hormones of a child going through puberty, or a rebellious teenager
- I’ve never felt the sting of being taken for granted by a person I’d pushed out my birth canal
- I never felt duty-bound to attend kids’ soccer, football or other sporting events
- I never had to pack for every trip out of the house as if I were going to the airport for a two-week vacation
- I never had to nag a child to do chores, or clean up after him/herself
- I never had to deal with a two-legged fussy eater who turned dinnertime into a battle of wills (the cats are another story)
- I never had a child insist on accompanying me every time I went to the bathroom
- I never had a child demand my attention every time I got on the phone
- I’ve never known the frustration and helplessness of seeing a child make bad decisions
- I’ve never had a child assume I’ll watch—or raise—their children
- I could be as sweary as I wanted in my own home without worrying about “little pitchers having big ears”
- I never had to have endless baby conversations with other mothers
- I never knew the terror of having a seriously ill child or, God forbid, the soul-crushing pain of losing a child
- I never had to structure my life around someone else’s sleep schedule
- I never had to juggle raising children with taking care of aging parents
- I never had to give up drinking for 9 months or more
- I never had to worry that I might raise someone who turned out to be an asshole—or worse
- I’ve never had a child assume I’ll “fix” whatever problem he or she created (although my mother did)
- I’ve never had a child consider me “The Bank of Mom” (although my mother did)
- I never had to worry that I was doing everything wrong and screwing up my kid
- I never had to say “no” to the same question a bazillion times (well, there was that guy I dated in high school…)
- I don’t have to worry about becoming a burden to a child as I age (or have a child fear that I will)
- I never had to regret discovering that having a child didn’t make my life complete (on the contrary, my life has been fulfilling without having kids)
Some of you may think my reasons for being glad I didn’t have kids sound superficial, self-indulgent and/or selfish. I’m simply speaking my truth (with a little bit of what I hope is humor thrown in). And let’s face it—if these reasons reflect my priorities, then it’s probably a good thing I didn’t become a mother, right?
Look, I know being a parent isn’t easy. It’s a commitment like no other. You are responsible for clothing and feeding and shaping the values and helping with homework and changing diapers and making doctor appointments and chauffeuring and loving and forgiving and worrying about and modeling good behavior and simply being present for another human being for the rest of his or her life. Sometimes you have to make unspeakably difficult decisions. And sometimes you have to let go.
I let go of societal (and some familial) expectations that I should reproduce a long time ago. And I’ve let go of others’ judgment of my reasons for not becoming a mom because I know in my heart it was the right decision for me.
Just like my fridge magnet says.
What do you think? If you’re a mom, has motherhood been all you hoped it would be—or has it been more or less in any way? If you didn’t have kids, do you have any regrets? While you’re thinking about it, here’s this week’s haiku:
Life teaches us that
motherhood, like old age, is
no place for sissies.