My lord husband and I were watching Michelle Wolfe last night on Netflix. I love the way she talks about feminism and women’s issues, and, surprisingly, I also enjoy her quips about motherhood. For those unfamiliar with her, this is surprising because she’s very adamant about the fact that she never wants to become a mother.
My favorite thing in the world is being a mother. I would give up writing in exchange for my children. I miss my son when he’s not with me and I can’t wait to have another baby in a Moby wrap, nursing at all hours. Even after the horrors of hyperemesis gravidaarum, I’m already planning to be pregnant at least twice more after this one is born… I love my children and I love being their mom.
Why do I like what someone who never wants to experience this incredible circus of wonder, innocence, cuddles, nursing, and sleep loss has to say about utterly rejecting the life that I wouldn’t exchange for anything? Because, this is my calling: it’s the thing at which I’m truly skilled and it gives me fulfillment, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
Getting up long before 7am, when all you want to do is sleep, in order to change diapers and provide meals is not for everyone. Staying up until 4am because that’s the only time you’re able to work to provide for your child because said child’s demands on you are too strenuous during the day, is not for everyone. (Did I mention getting up with said child after only four hours of sleep?) Also, putting your desires aside for your child is not for everyone.
When one of my friends say that they don’t want to have children, rather than join in the chorus of older women saying she’s just going through a phase and she’ll change her mind when she finds the right person, I say, “Leave her alone, it’s her life,” because it is. I’m also secretly thinking, “That’s good, because trust me, she’s not cut out for this.”
In the defense of the childless and/or single-by-choice people, I admire their independence. I’ve sometimes daydreamed about owning my own house, my own car, and living the self-governed life of my single friends. There are definitely freedoms and powers to the childless, single life. My lord husband and I can’t go see a movie at the drop of a hat and we haven’t been out to dinner without our son since our honeymoon. (Not that we mind the latter since we both rather enjoy having the tot around, but for two Star Wars fans, waiting to see the new Han Solo movie is frustrating.) Visiting friends is always an ordeal because their houses are brand new worlds for my toddler to explore and new venues for him to push the boundaries and embarrass me. (Not to mention that, as a result of being a medievalist, many of my friends own swords.) As a married woman, I can’t simply splurge when I feel I’ve earned a treat as I did when I was single, the mess in the house that I clean up is rarely mine, and my husband and his schedule must be consulted before trips and outings are planned. I can’t wake up one morning after judiciously denying myself the pleasure of going to war and spontaneously decide to drive to the site without stopping and simply sleep in my car.
However, just as some of my friends aren’t cut out for parenthood, I’m definitely not cut out for the solitary life. (Which is ironic coming from a high-functioning introvert.) I need my attachments, my husband and my children. I have a lot of love to give and I need someone with whom to share my life; it’s how I’m wired. I’m not even wired for a career outside of my home. I flourish working from home and setting my own schedule and I get ill under the strain of constant social interaction and constricting schedules. (I know, that makes me sound “lazy”, but I’m just highly independent in a different way. I also suffer from chronic illness.) I’m wired for being a mother, but as much as I recommend it for those who feel called, I reiterate that it is not for everyone.
I know people whose parents lived in a time where becoming a parent was simply what you did. Socially, there was no other option and as a result, they ended up with mothers who found themselves in situations they didn’t truly want and weren’t equipped to handle. They were miserable and their kids were neglected as a result. Children know when they’re not loved, they’re much more intuitive than one might think, and it is damaging for them to sense that they’re unwanted.
In 2010, my college professor talked about a conversation he overheard between two dads while observing his daughter’s karate class. One dad was complaining to the other that all the technology (tv, gaming system, etc) he put in his son’s room didn’t seem to keep him there and out of his hair.
Children are not accessories yet so many people still view them as level marks to indicate their growth and achievement as adults. But children don’t fit into your lifestyle or adjust to your schedule, they make you change both for them, especially when they’re babies. The demands they make on your time and attention are real, which is actually wonderful when you open yourself up to it. They’re also not mini versions of you, they have their own goals and dreams, and that’s not always easy for parents because they require so much of you and the life they build with the materials you’ve provided is usually one in which you play a bit part.
That’s not for everyone. It certainly hampers the jet-setting lifestyle.
Now, I could still see the world if I wanted to, I just couldn’t backpack through Europe and stay at hostels like a normal twenty-something. However, when Himself graduates high school, my dream is for the two of us to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela together as a rite of passage before he starts college. I daydream about the type of young man he’ll be, the things we’ll talk about, and the ways he’ll show me that he’s not a little boy anymore, but is always my son… Being a mother is pretty wonderful.
Of course, being a mother is also unpredictable. After all that dreaming and planning, he may decide to spend his last summer before college in Florida with his girlfriend or something annoying. 😜