It may seem crazy when we humans are biologically programmed to reproduce, but the idea of having children scares me. All those sleepless nights and sore boobs are definitely unappealing, as well as losing your figure, having your boobs droop down past to your belly, and the financial cost. Sometimes I think that the only real upside of motherhood is those 9 months when you can “eat for two” (although this is well offset by the ban on soft cheese, blue cheese, sushi, alcohol, rare steak, pâté and deli meats, raw shellfish, coffee, and the list goes on).
I know that I’m not alone here when it comes to denying our biological urges. A Pew Research Center study in the US from 2007 showed only 41% of couples thought that children were very important to a successful marriage, which was down from 65% in 1990.
Certainly there are many lifestyle reasons to remain childless. You have the freedom to buy as many Louboutin heels as you want without guilt, blow your savings on travel, sleep in on weekends, spend hours on end reading the weekend papers over cups of tea, and go out whenever you want. You can live your life however you choose.
However the real reason for me that motherhood remains a deeply unappealing prospect is the idea of losing my identity – the person I’ve become, a product of all my experiences to date. I am a traveller, a foodie, a thinker, a leftie, a loyal friend, a biker chick, a diver, a skier, a loving daughter and sister, and a cool girlfriend (that last one may be slightly exaggerated!). I am passionate about humanitarian issues, politics, building a satisfying career, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Can I be all these things and still be a mother? Mothers everywhere will no doubt indignantly reply that my question is absurd and insulting, but an observation of my girlfriends or colleagues seem to suggest that being a mother takes priority (as it should) and everything else falls away. They no longer travel or eat out. Skiing holidays don’t happen anymore, and their career takes a backseat as they return to part-time work. Intelligent debate about politics and current affairs never occurs at get-togethers, and instead, the conversation inevitably swings between the availability day care places, the merits of controlled crying, and the latest naughty thing their kids have done. Life revolves around the children, even above their partner and relationship.
I’m not suggesting that their priorities are all wrong, but it just seems as though the “mother” role is all-consuming at the expense of everything else. This is undoubtedly due to the sheer amount of time demanded by children through feeding, activities, and just ensuring they don’t injure themselves at every turn. There is the constant struggle for some semblance of balance, and of course the myth of “having it all” has been confirmed as such.
I was at a women’s forum luncheon recently and the theme was around work-life balance. The three panelists, all women in senior executive roles, spoke about the challenges they faced balancing their high-powered careers with motherhood. When it came to question time, I asked the panelists about the possibility of fathers shouldering more of the parenting burden, for the husbands and boyfriends to be impacted at work by going to their kids assemblies, getting the kids ready for school, or picking them up from school rather than just the mothers being impacted. Surely if we could all act to change our work culture and reduce the professional stigma in the workplace around men undertaking these activities then women could have more balanced lives? Disappointingly, this wasn’t an idea entertained by the panelists. Instead, they insisted that they wanted to do the school drop offs and pick ups and the assemblies. They speak of work-life balance but then don’t want to give anything up to actually make this happen because they see their “mother” role as the defining one.
Maybe I just don’t know what I’m missing out on – the beautiful, unconditional love between a mother and child, or satisfaction in shaping your children into thoughtful and intelligent human beings. Maybe these things more than make up for the loss of your identity, which will live on in the stories that you tell your children.
* Image courtesy of Garrison Photography