{Speaking My Mind}The Choice of Motherhood

Me No You

I almost didn’t have children.  By choice.

Obviously I changed my mind (and now count being a Mum as one of the most rewarding aspects of my life), but I can understand the motivations of women who, by choice, decide not to have children.

Recently I posed a question to one of my best mates – mum to four and mother hen to 15-odd getting-back-on-track teenage boys.

“Do we villainise women who don’t have or choose not to have children?”

Because for women now, having children has become a choice.

Back in the days before contraception not having children wasn’t a choice.  It was a given.  Children were your legacy.  The continuation of the family name – they helped with the family farm or business, and would take care of you in your old age.

Childless women were pitied – called ‘barren’ and referred to as ‘spinster aunts’ – because no man wanted to marry a woman who couldn’t conceive.

With feminism, contraception and advances in medicine, came choice for women.

A choice about whether to marry, or to continue with a career.

A choice about when to have children.

A choice about how they will become a mother when their own bodies won’t allow them to do so naturally.

For me the realisation that I needed to be a Mother occurred when I held my baby niece.  I knew then, as I cradled that squirming bundle of my sisters joy, that I needed to take that next step.  It was a deep-gut feeling.  A make or break decision.  And I made the choice to become a Mother.

I had been Maiden.  I had been content to skip over Mother.  And one day I would be Crone – because you cannot halt the ageing process.

Within 6 weeks of stopping my contraceptive, I was pregnant.  I don’t know what would have happened had it not happened that way for me.  I have seen the faces of girlfriends and family as they talk about their struggles to conceive, to carry a pregnancy… to become a Mother.

So what does a childless-by-choice woman of today feel when she sees swaddled babies, cute munchkins wearing crocheted moustaches and prima-toddlers in tutus?  Does her biological clock start ticking in her ear, screaming at her “Procreate now before your eggs dry up.” Or does she think “Cute, but what’s the fuss about.”

What does she think as she sits in a restaurant – trying to eat her meal in peace, as the toddler at the next table whines and throws a tantrum.

And does the childless-by-choice woman realise that the furtive-and-filthy glances she receives from the mother of said toddler are probably not contempt at the fact she does not have children, but envy at the fact that she is able to sit there and eat her meal un-interrupted…

What are your thoughts?

As a Mother or a childless woman – do you respect the choices of your counterparts?

Do you sometimes wish you had made a different choice?

And are you guilty of casting those furtive-and-filthy glances?

{This controversial comment was sparked by a discussion around a photograph posted by Colva W on Pinterest.  Said photo and comments have since been removed.}

{Image: Me No You from lucaskrech.com – courtesy of David deSilva of lightpaintsapicture.com}

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8 Responses to {Speaking My Mind}The Choice of Motherhood

  1. Jess April 21, 2011 at 5:11 PM #

    As you know, Tash, Nick and I aren’t planning on having kids.

    To be honest, neither of us has any maternal/paternal feeling. Your comment: ““Cute, but what’s the fuss about.”” sums it up perfectly for us… so far. I’m just turning 30, and have heard SO many people say to me “oh, you’ll hit 30 and change your mind” so I guess we’ll see!

    But I have so much I want to achieve in my life, and to be honest, a child doesn’t factor into those plans. We like our peace and quiet. We like to be able to do what we want, when we want.

    The only time I do think about this choice with regret is when I think that my parent’s would have liked to be grandparents (and would do a great job – I’m an only child) but they don’t hassle me about it. They raised me to be independent and make my own mind up, so I guess they have to live with that choice! I also worry who will take care of me when I’m old- seeing my grandparent’s now being totally dependent on their children, that does worry me.

    But even if I did have children – who’s to say they’d be around when you’re old? Who says they’ll be healthy? Having kids is a huge risk, and it’s not worth the risk or the sleepless nights for me.

    • Tasha Chawner April 21, 2011 at 7:17 PM #

      I’m so glad that you commented Jess.

      I was 27 when I had Clarissa – starting to get a little old for my generation – so maybe when you hit 30 you will change your mind, or maybe not. Only you will know if the decision to have children is right for you.
      You made two very interesting comments too:
      1. about grandparents (of which my children only have one set – interestingly enough, through choice) and
      2. of whether your own children will be around when you are old (which has recently happened to a family in our small town).

      I think the real idea behind this post is to be supportive of our fellow-woman, whatever choice they make regarding children. Be they childless or reckless procreators, at the end of the day the choice is theirs and theirs alone.
      T xo

  2. Sarah Lysaught April 21, 2011 at 5:12 PM #

    Interesting topic Tasha. For me as a mum the idea of not having kids never occurred to me. I can only ever remembering it being a given – that’s just what was going to happen, i was going to get married and have kids (in that order).

    Now though as a mum i can understand why people choose not to do it. It is hard and it’s for life. I neither judge them nor envy them. I believe having a fulfilling life takes many shapes and forms and is more about the relationships we nurture than the legacy we leave behind.

    • Tasha Chawner April 21, 2011 at 7:25 PM #

      I completely agree with you Sarah – that is it “more about the relationships we nurture than the legacy we leave behind”.

      Growing up my father had this somewhat archaic notion that he was building a dynasty. During his ‘building-of’ he forgot to ask his children what they wanted to do with their lives. As a result, it has left our family fractured and dysfunctional – and is something that daily I strive not to repeat.

      I am glad to know too, that as a fellow-Mum, you understand the ‘why’ some women choose not to have children. Kids are hard work. They are demanding and time consuming, and you no longer get to do ‘what you want, when you want’ as Jess mentioned in the previous comment (oh, how I remember those days!)
      But still, at the end of the day, I wouldn’t go back….
      T xo

  3. Sasha April 21, 2011 at 9:16 PM #

    Oh, yes, I definitely reminisce about the days ‘BC’ (before children). Our first was a much-loved accident. I had a great career, a happy relationship, travel, fun, I often wonder whether I would ever have chosen to have kids, if N hadn’t come along – even though I was on the pill. Now we have 2, and I love them dearly. But I still have days when I dream about how weekends used to be – long, lazy, peaceful. Now they are fraught with arguments between Miss 4 and Mr 2.

    We love our kids as individuals so much (what personalities they have!!), I wouldn’t take them out of my life now. But I am definitely the Mum with the crying child, who is looking wistfully at the singles or couples enjoying their meals without having sauce smeared into their one good dress…..

    • Tasha Chawner April 22, 2011 at 11:49 AM #

      I can remember being that Mum too Sasha (vomit in my shoes – yuck!). It definitely gets a bit easier as they get older – the demands on you change – but one day you will be able to sit down and not have sauce on the front of your dress!!

      I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t of had that biological-clock-moment.
      We’ll really never know, will we. Just be able to re-live the memories of a BC life – until you hear “Muuuuuuum….”
      PS I put my hand up to babysit for you next time I’m in NQ!!

  4. Elizabeth April 22, 2011 at 1:54 AM #

    I think it’s a bit sad that a topic like this is considered by and large to be such a controversy. My genuine personal belief is that both sides of the fence should respect the other for their choice without the sneering looks at the mom loading kids in car or the insults about having “no purpose” just because you have no children. I think it’s in the choice that life is beautiful. It’s not a decision that should be forced on anyone, least of all by the pressures of society, but even now, that’s still very much the case. If you have a career but no family, you’re clearly frigid and something’s wrong with you. If you’re a mother, you’re lazy and have no ambition, or if you’re working, you’re neglectful for not staying with them 24/7. It always seems to be one extreme or the other and it’s completely ridiculous.

    I don’t have any children, and while the choice isn’t right for me RIGHT NOW, I’m not saying it’s impossible for me to change my mind if something happens to ping my life and my feelings in that direction. For now, I recognize that I don’t have the physical or financial capacity to give a child the level of care I would need to be able to give them. I wish more women weren’t as flippant with their reproductive capabilities because it’s REALLY not a decision that should be made lightly or irresponsibly. But it’s so drilled into everyone’s heads that it’s just “what you do,” there are more and more stories of women with multiple children from multiple men. Most of which are equally irresponsible and refuse to acknowledge and/or support them.

    So, I guess to make a shorter statement… I think everyone should be able to make that choice without pressure or disdain. I admire women on both sides of the fence for doing what they do. Lastly, while respecting everyone’s personal choices, I wish every woman (AND man) would put more thought and responsibility into their decisions. To me, parenthood should be the result a conscious decision when you’re in a stable environment (be that alone or partnered since everyone has different lives and livelihoods). It should never be the unfortunate consequence of repetitive drunken accidents or fodder for talk-shows about not knowing who fathered your children.

    • Tasha Chawner April 22, 2011 at 11:42 AM #

      Elizabeth, you’ve hit on a point that I was going to make in this post (but purposely decided to leave out) of ‘reckless procreators’.
      One has to question why some women continue to have child after child, with little regard to the “thought and responsibility (of) their decisions”. Emotionally and financially children are a very big choice.

      Your point also, about being damned whatever decision you make – children, childless, working Mother or stay-at-home Mum – however you decide to do it, ultimately it should be your choice, and as you say, respected by others.
      In my 13 years of being a Mum, I’ve experienced all 4 stages, and whatever stage I’ve been at there have been people in my ear questioning my decisions and trying to tell me what to do and how to do it.

      My genuine personal belief is that both sides of the fence should respect the other for their choice

      – you sum it up beautifully here.
      Thanks for you thoughtful and honest comment.

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