Wednesday, 22 April 2015

To be or not to be a mother

It is that time of life, when suddenly everyone around you speaks about weddings, real estate and procreation. Being one who does not enjoy the centralised attention and organisational stress which accompanies birthday parties, wedding is out. As for real estate, it is my bank who decided it is not for me. Only the procreation question remains open.

Up until recently, I had never questioned the fact that I wanted children some day. And one morning I realised that some day means now, or at least in the near future.

Being surrounded by couples with young children, I feel I know what deciding to have children means, or at least how and how much it changes one’s life. Especially women’s. This led me to the realisation that I do not want my life to change, not now. Nor in the near future. Yet how will I feel in a further future, when I will not have much of a choice? The classic modern feminine procreation catch-22.

So let’s try to decide, now.

On the one hand I am good with children. I may not be the most entertaining person they have met, but I give them structure and security. Having taken care of my two baby sisters at the tender age of 10, I have no fear of crappy nappies and crying toddlers. I equally know how to manage homework and balance them with organised leisure activities, and through my 15 years younger step-son I am learning how to deal with teenagers. So if I were to have a child tomorrow, I think I would be ready.

That may actually be part of the problem. I think I know too much, at least of the responsibility and burden. So much so that I started to perceive motherhood as some sort of alienating experience, just when my friends enter their baby-craving phase. I remember going through this phase too, a few years. I would book a return flight to visit my sister, who had two young girls. Playing part-time surrogate mum for a week and witnessing what motherhood had done to my sister’s everyday life was a homeopathic mental contraceptive.

I understand there is much more to motherhood than sleepless nights and dirty clothes. Some will say it is a unique cosmic experience, others will speak about the infinite unconditional love, the rejuvenating effect or the sudden unquestionable purpose it gives to their lives.

For now, I have purpose, I still feel young and I have enough love.

All may change, I know. Which is why I felt the need for advice from other women, who already had had to make these choices.

I am surrounded by many mothers who share their desperation. Of course, none of them would say they regret having had children. After all, the existence of a human being remains sacred and unquestionable. I did not need to hear that from those mothers. It was enough to ask myself whether I would want to be in their shoes, and hear a “no!” echo in me.

These uncertainties remain difficult to discuss with mothers. It feels both like an insult to their own children and knife twist into their open wounded overcharge.

Perhaps surprisingly, it has been easier to talk to women who had chosen against motherhood. Maybe because I am so clearly of the same view that they feel safe enough to share. None of them tell me they regret. It might be for the same reasons than mothers: at this stage, not much to be done.

I have nothing against children. I actually do like them. I also like my quite evenings and sleepy mornings. And I hate being pressured by organisational preconditions in my private life. I hate sport, and my body is already not in the best shape. What would pregnancy and breast-feeding do to it? I like my job, although I also like free-time. I don’t think one can have both and children on top.

The unconditional love argument is compelling. Yet many couples with children see their relationship go down the drain. This may be what happens to relationships in any case. I guess the sleeplessness, constant individual sacrifices, lack of intimacy and time can’t help. Sometimes I think I value my relationship too much, just like the rest of my life, to put it through the challenges of raising children.

The cosmic experience point is not bad either. Let’s assume it is a cosmic experience. One which is available to everyone who can procreate, not based on merit that is, but mere natural randomness. Does it mean it is the only cosmic experience available in life?

As for the rest – passing on my values, spreading my genes or continuing the human race – I see no reason why it should be done. Not that I am not convinced that my values and my genes are better than many.

I guess the only person who could give me real answers to those questions would be someone who has lived both lives, with and without children. If you are that person, your comment to this post would be much appreciated.

So I still don’t know. Maybe the lack of baby urge is an answer. Maybe the constant questioning is one too. Or not. Maybe I don’t need an answer yet. All I know is: I am happy to be childless tonight, to just sit and write or watch a movie with a glass of wine, freely. Just like every other evening.

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