Tuesday, May 14, 2013

On Not Being a Mom

It took me awhile to get over the fact I would never become a mother. Not because it's the way it's supposed to be in modern society - I've never been one to follow that anyway. Not because I was always told I had a high probability of having twins. Not because I was always told I would be good at it. It was hard to get over because the choice was made for me. 

Once a decision is made for you, there are a lot of "what ifs" that go through your mind. Mother's Day is hard, and the idea that you're not complete if you don't have a child is in your face all the time. I've always thought adoption is really cool...to me, adopted kids are so wanted. But, I either have a broken biological clock, or it just never got set. I just don't have that yearning that many women have. My life, my legacy has a different meaning - and a different focus.

My friends and family know what an independent spirit I am. And I've always been so much more drawn to animals. I mean, what can I say? I don't "ooh" and "aww" over babies like I do animals, especially dogs. My former job had me taking care of disabled people, which more than took care of any nurturing need, and my new job is working in a business with those aforementioned furry friends as service dogs. I'll be working as a writer and photographer for a company that really makes a difference in people's lives. 

After losing my own mother a couple of years ago, Mother's Day has a different sort of sadness now. Admittedly, I'm glad it's over for another year, and even though I have my sad moments when I think about not being a mom myself, they're pretty rare now. Most of the time, I'm actually quite relieved. I have a freedom and open-mindedness that is liberating (not to mention an entire aisle in the pharmacy that I don't have to look at). In other words, even if the choice hadn't been made for me, I don't think I would have had children, anyway. 

I know there are a lot of women out there - including some friends - who feel the same way. Women have more options now than they did years ago. They can choose how many kids they want to have, whether it's several, one, or none.

In reading comedian Jen Kirkman's new book, "I Can Barely Take Care of Myself," I found someone else who feels the same way. Our lives have no less meaning, no less depth, and no less importance because we aren't mothers. There are many other things in life. In her book, Kirkman says that people who come to see her comedy routine offer strong, unsolicited opinions about her choice to not have kids. In her interview about the book in Marie Claire magazine, "I Don't Want Kids - Get Over It!" Kirkman says people tell her she'll regret it:
"The first one I always get, which I wanted to name my book, is: "You'll change your mind." Or people come up to me and say, "Who will take care of you when you're old?" which I take to mean, "You'll die alone." My short answer to those people is, "Have you ever watched the Golden Girls?"
I can say from many years of experience working in social services with elderly clients: There's no guarantee your children will be there for you. The majority of people I worked with had kids who had little to do with their care or even had time for them. We also live in a society that is constantly changing with people living all over the world, so expecting a child to be there for you later in life, is a nice thought, but not always a realistic one. The truth is, true friends can be there for you just as often.

There's also that freedom you have when you aren't held back at all with kids. When Kirkman was asked about her child-free inspiration in the Marie Claire interview, she talked about Miriam. Both of them are an inspiration to me now:
"I was 22, broke, single, and miserable. She was 62, broke, single, and fabulous. She did her own thing, never asked permission, never apologized. I always knew I was a Miriam. Parents talk a lot about how much strength and dedication it takes to raise a child. I think it also takes a lot of strength and dedication to carve out a life that doesn't seem normal to anyone else." 
I came across an old card from a friend written a few years ago when I became very ill and had to have an immediate surgery that made the choice for me - there would be no children. Ever. In the card she wrote: "It takes a strong and intelligent woman to resolve not to bear children. It takes a woman with a lot of love in her life to be at peace knowing that the decision has been made for her." 

The card is tattered and slightly ripped now, but it's still very clear - and very treasured. The truth is, it isn't so much that the choice was made for me anymore, it is more that different choices and a different life that I didn't even see is pretty clear now...and it appears that it's the one I wanted in the first place.