Lately, I’ve noticed something that I actually find a bit unsettling. There is a battle raging, just under the surface of our day to day lives, that pits women against each other in ways that are so insidious and destructive, it boggles my mind. It is a battle between women who have children and those who do not.
As for myself, I am caught somewhere in the middle. I am the mother of one. My daughter has been the driving force in everything I do since the day she was born. Indeed, I could not, for one second, imagine my life without her and I would go through pregnancy and childbirth a thousand times for my sweet girl. That being said, I decided on the day she was born that she would be my one and only. I never felt that craving to have more children. Even today, I can walk past a newborn baby, snuggle it for 30 seconds and give him or her back to her parents and not even feel the slightest twinge of maternal instinct making a reappearance. Since the day of Tricia’s birth, countless people have pelted me verbally with the same question, “when are you having another one?” to which I bluntly answer without any hesitation “Never, she’s my one and only.” Almost always, they are taken aback with my statement, like somehow I have no heart, or that I’m somehow “defective”. Clearly that is not the case, I just never wanted any more children. I don’t think that makes me heartless, or evil, or any less of a woman. It just means that one is more than enough for me on any given day…period. The funny part is, if you were to ask Tricia if she wished for a brother or sister, she would answer "absolutely not." She is content in her standing as an "only child."
I know women on both sides of the maternal spectrum – those with nearly a baseball team, and those who have no children at all, and never intend on having children. My own sister has been blessed with four spectacular children, whom I adore. I might also add that my sister has never looked at me as some sort of freak for only having one child, nor have I ever looked at her as someone who should be medicated for having four. But it’s not always that way with others. It seems that those who have and those who have not often look at each other with something just this side of contempt...not always, but frequently enough for me to take notice and shake my head. There is a perception that women who have no children are selfish, uncaring, and career-driven in ways that go against the very grain of being a woman. Likewise, these same childless women look at those with children often with a sense of resentment for being treated or looked upon as self-centered and narcissistic. They also frequently see mothers as "out of touch" with the rest of the world and "not the sharpest knives in the drawer", as if they had delivered any brain they had right along with the baby, leaving them an empty-headed shell. My personal opinion is that there is no right or wrong. It is simply a matter of choice. I respect those who have devoted their life to their children with complete selflessness, and I also respect those who do not feel that instinctual need to walk the path of motherhood. Motherhood is not for everyone, I can personally attest to that fact. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had. Any mother who says differently is either a pathological liar or needs to stop smoking crack. I know for myself, I waited until I was 34 to have my daughter, so I knew what was out there in the world, and all that it offered to me. At 34, I had worked hard, played harder, knew what I wanted, and really enjoyed having a career. I was not accustomed to putting anyone else first, and admittedly, I’m still not always good at that part. Maybe it is a sign of my generation. Many of us waited longer to have our children, and put ourselves and our careers ahead of motherhood. It’s not a bad thing, but let’s face it, if you have your kids when you’re 20, you really don’t know anything about that glorious life of a twenty-something - footloose, fancy-free, not a care in the world lifestyle. If you’ve never tasted chocolate, you don’t know what you are missing. But once you’ve tasted it...wow! Many of my friends have also paid dearly for their decision to wait, suffering through infertility issues, and spending tens of thousands of dollars to have a much-wanted child. My heart breaks for anyone who goes through that experience. But it seems to be the price for waiting to start a family until later in life.
I would hope that we could all develop a better understanding and appreciation for each other and our decisions to choose whatever path suits us, however different they may be. Being a mother does not make you a better woman. Likewise, foregoing motherhood for a career does not make you more valuable monetarily or more intelligent. We should respect each other for our choices, and embrace our uniqueness. There is room for everyone at the table, and I believe that in my heart.