Why the thought of motherhood scares me

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.

pregant woman

* Image courtesy of Garrison Photography


11 thoughts on “Why the thought of motherhood scares me

  1. Don’t worry your boobs will droop to your belly even if you don’t have kids and the label “yummy mummy” would never have been invented if women weren’t able to get their figure back !
    As for losing your identity. That’s up to you! It does take a bit of juggling and spontaneity disappears but it’s still possible to do most of the things you enjoy. What’s more fun is watching as your own child learns and grows watching you pursue your own passions. If it wasn’t for my interest in UFC (yes… the violent beat them to a pulp ‘sport’) my daughter would probably not be so fearless at karate! She doesn’t watch UFC with me but she has trained with me many times (not UFC training… I’m not NUTS!).
    As for juggling your career and motherhood. I don’t have the answers to that one. I run my own business which allows a bit of flexibility.
    The first few years SUCK but there is lots of fun to be had. Just don’t focus on the childbirth bit !!
    Cheers Michelle

    • Thanks for your comment Michelle. I think you’re right, it’s up to you whether you end up losing your identity or not. I guess if certain things are so important to you then they will still be important whether or not you have children hey?

  2. Great post. I can certainly understand the points and concerns you put forward, although I don’t believe that your identity is necessarily intrinsically linked to your interests and hobbies. Is your identity really that you’re “a traveller” or is it that you’re “adventurous” or “fun-loving”? Personality traits don’t change once you have a child – and I think in that sense, neither does your identity. Your way of life changes, not you.

    • I guess the way I see it is that your interests and hobbies are some direct result of your personality, so because I’m adventurous, I enjoy travelling and skiing, for instance. I suppose it all forms part of your personality. I could see me forcing my sense of adventure on my children, whether they like it or not. They’ll be following me around on my travels and will be learning to ski at a young age!!

  3. I agree with Perfectly Random.. While children may take up more of your time, did you worry about your identity changing when you decided to learn to ride or buy a bike?

    Having children is a commitment that will alter your lifestyle, place limitations on the things you can do, change your social circle and expand your experience … but couldn’t you say the same about moving halfway across the world?

    That said, you couldn’t sell children or return them to where they came from last time I checked …

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  7. I just came across this article and it blew me away! Every single line could have been written by me (though not as articulately)… I cannot believe how similar we are (except for the skiing part).. All I want to do with my life is travel, enjoy life, explore cultures and civilizations, and do humanitarian work.

    So I am in a terrible position right now … I am 41 and I am pregnant! We never really tried for the baby – it just happened! It’s been 6 weeks since I found out, and I have not been happy or excited for one minute…I look at people with babies/children, and all I can think is “poor you, you life is nothing but feeding, changing diapers and paying constant attention to the demands of this little (beautiful, amazing to be sure) creature!” I can’t imagine myself doing any of it… What I can imagine is having a child who is 20 years old and is half me and half my amazing boyfriend, but all the work leading up to it?! No, I freak out!!!
    My boyfriend is supportive of any decision I make but he himself is divided about fatherhood, so we are stuck!! We are both pro-choice, so all options are on the table,…Has anyone out there been in the position like this – truly faced the option and decided not to go ahead with a child and never regretted it?

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