Woman, yes. Mom, no.
If you’re a bridge troll like me, you understand how very difficult it can be acclimating to a new group. Now several weeks into my new gig, I’m pleased to say that I get to spend my days with talented, kind, even funny people…and none of them have run away from me screaming. Yet.
But even among the nicest people, I can be counted on to inadvertently make things awkward.
It’s kind of what I do.
On any given day, you can find me spending my lunch hour sitting at my desk—”pinning” to my heart’s content or writing blog posts that never get published or otherwise frittering away my time. No peer pressure to eat or be social or make eye contact; just me and my computer. But upon moving to this department, I was invited to join the lunch club (a genial group of ladies who eat lunch together). My first impulse was panic. Am I going to have to start eating a real lunch? When will I have time to write blog posts that never get published? What about Pinterest? Is eye contact mandatory???
In a very uncharacteristic turn of events, I opted to join the girls for lunch. I ate lunch and tried very hard to be social, and all was well until…
First let me give you a bit of background. <clears throat> When people find out I’ve been married nine years(!), there is no escaping the question of if I have children. The default answer has invariably been “not yet.”
…all was well until the get-to-know-you conversation went to that inevitable “Do you have kids?” place. And for whatever reason, I changed my answer that day at lunch. I left it at “nope.”
When this elicited an uncomfortable “Oh” from my lunch party, I felt compelled to keep talking—an unfortunate nervous habit. I volunteered that it was both ‘by chance and by choice.’ This admission was greeted with an equally uncomfortable “Oh” and change of topic.
To be clear, I consider each of these gals to be friends, and none of their reactions offended me in the slightest. The situation itself, however, made me realize that I’m evolving as a person. I’m no longer ashamed to identify myself as a (mostly) willfully childless woman, an anomaly. Here’s why…
We decided 7 years ago that it might be nice to have a baby, but it hasn’t happened.
There was an incident six years ago (almost to the day) that may have been a very early-term miscarriage. I’ve no clinical diagnosis thereof, but the evidence suggests it.
Since then, we’ve gone through career changes and moves and financial challenges and the occasional bout of marital discord (anybody who’s been married this long and claims to not have had any of the aforementioned troubles is flat out lying). And now that things are sunny, we are both increasingly comfortable with the idea that parenting might not be in the proverbial cards for us.
If we’re surprised and it happens eventually, wonderful! If it doesn’t, I’m not interested in undertaking extreme medical and financial steps to make it so, and I don’t want to be one of those women that people feel sorry for. Enter childless ‘by choice.’
While I’m learning to embrace the notion of life without children, I also find myself wondering if this bit of apathy is something of a glitch. I mean, I like cutesy wootsy widdle clothes and itty bitty fingers as much as the next girl, but I’m not going to try to force it. Frankly, I don’t want to. Am I somehow broken for not actively seeking motherhood? Did one of my woman genes fail to activate or something?
I have a friend who suspects that it may be some subconscious result of having wanted a baby and not having one yet. I think that’s a possibility—there’s always a tiny twinge of pain when I find out about newly expectant parents. But, honestly, I also
really REALLY enjoy my current lack of responsibility. On days off, I can sleep in as late as I want and waste time watching Portlandia or playing Lego Star Wars or going shopping (for me!) or doing any number of things that don’t involve paying constant attention to another human’s well-being.
Regardless of the reason or motivation, I continue life as a chick without kids. A “not mom,” if you will. I picked up that label from the good folks over at thenotmom.com; they make me feel like I’m not alone in the world, even if I don’t always agree with their contributors’ politics. It’s kinda nice.
I’ve even become increasingly aware of the presence of women like me in my everyday life; in addition to two of my aunts, I have several coworkers and friends with similar situations. It doesn’t change the cultural/social stigma, but it helps.
Now let me set the record straight on a few things…
Women without children aren’t any less intelligent and don’t harbor any less common sense. That might seem like an obvious statement, but it’s apparently not. Do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard some variation of the “you’ll understand when you have kids” comment over the years??? Frankly, it’s insulting and frustrating. Parents have a completely different set of experiences that yield other learnings, things I may never know. But I’m alive; I’ve had my own unique experiences and observations. To say that I can’t understand something or that my opinions are less valid is infuriating.
And elaborating on that, women without children aren’t inherently at odds with parents. In fact, I revere the massive undertaking called parenting. Still, there are times (oh so very many times) that I wish parents would take more responsibility for how their kids behave, since they’re ultimately the ones who teach respect and enforce or neglect boundaries. Now before I start getting hate mail, please understand that I know children have their own personalities and some are more compliant than others—remember that point about childless women still having intelligence and common sense?
Women without children aren’t necessarily selfish. Admittedly, some of my motivations are a bit superficial and selfish, but that’s certainly not the case for everyone. To assume so would make no more sense than assuming that all moms are as selfless as Mother Teresa (also a ‘not mom’ haha). By the same token, women without children may or may not really like kids; just like women with children may or may not really like kids.
Women without children are not people who should be pitied because they don’t know ‘real love.’ This is another peeve of mine—the assertion that only mothers know ‘real love.’ Mothers inherently feel a different kind of love but that’s just it, it’s different. The differing qualities of something do not make it any more or less real to any given person.
You mean to tell me that childless people who are married for decades don’t know about real love? Heck, it’s not even limited to married people; everyone who feels loved knows what ‘real love’ is to them, and that is different for everyone. So let’s just can the idea of ‘real love’ altogether, shall we?!
I guess that’s basically it: everything you didn’t want to know about why I don’t have kids.
Just like The Game of LIFE, I’ll keep going down my little road in “full 3-D action,” and time will tell if any little ‘peg people’ are added along the way. In the meantime, I’m content.