Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Not The Mama


A few years ago, I was discussing worldly philosophical things with my neighbor. I was enjoying our conversation on perception and how reality shifts with experience. Our conversation seemed objective and safe; we were considering the world at large when, out of nowhere, he said, "You know, Jen, you'll never feel complete unless you have children."

He said it casually; we were playing chess. Odds are, we were drinking, too. It was at a time in my life when drinking and chess made me quite happy, so I shrugged it off in that moment, saying he had no idea what he was talking about.  I was thoroughly fulfilled!  Right?  Our conversation was soon steered back to the general population.

My neighbor was a recovering addict who beat me, always beat me, when we played chess. I respected this and usually listened carefully to most of the advice he gave me, so when I returned home that night I was discontented and genuinely confused because I felt no desire to have kids, and yet here was a theory that I would never be a whole person until I reproduced. Could there be some truth here? After all, my neighbor was not coming from a place of anger or contempt; he delivered his message with what I believe to be genuine interest in my well being.

I'm thirty years old today, and I am childless. Many people accuse me of living as a younger person might: pursuing a writing career; living hand-to-mouth in a small apartment; making three trips each week to the grocery store, where I purchase frozen meals; having no equity and little in the way of savings. Nonetheless, I'm doing the best I can with the resources as my disposal. Further, I'm beginning to feel my age. And I have to say, I still have no desire to have a child. This is not because I'm successful in my career. Far from it. I'm always perplexed by women who say they want to put their career first. Life is always messy, so why does there have to be a pecking order to such things? I hold my family (husband, parents, sister, two grandmothers, dog and my cat) dear to my heart and would not sacrifice my relationships with them for anything. Yet, I don't have any inkling to expand that family, nor do I have any excuse as to why. I just don't want kids.

This might change, but right now it's how I feel and no tears have been shed since. I am thoroughly happy and fulfilled. And I wanted to make this statement publicly, just in case there is another woman out there who feels alone in her lack of maternal inclination. Feeling the way I do now in fact, I'll bet that if I ever meet this man again, he'd have a far tougher time putting me in check.

[The above illustration is from an early 90s TV show called "The Dinosaurs" The baby used to say "Not da Mama" repeatedly and bash his father over the head with a frying pan. It was quite the show!]

12 comments:

  1. Happy birthday Jen! I'm enjoying Musical Chairs - nearly finished.

    In my experience, some people need children to feel complete, and some don't. If you're the kind that doesn't, children may just make you feel stressed and miserable, and not contribute to your happiness at all. The important thing is to figure out which kind of person you are.

    If you learned a few openings, your chess strength would definitely go up a couple of levels. It's a fun thing to do!

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  2. Thanks, Manny. I feel compelled to send my book to those whose opinions I enjoy reading--but it always scares me.

    I will look into new openings; it might help because I tend to play a better defensive game.

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  3. I think sometimes folks should keep their kiddo opinions to themselves. I believe that we as women do not need experience childbirth to be productive and valuable members of society. (Liz M)

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  4. Many people feel the need to force their lifestyles upon others. I guess it justifies their life in their own eyes, or proves that they think they know everything. You're married without kids. I'm not with one. I hear the opposite sentiment. That somehow I'm incomplete because I'm not married, never have been, and have no overwhelming desire to do so. We are who we are...and not who they want us to be. Shades of Eleanor Roosevelt.

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  5. Happy birthday!

    I think a lot of people still think that life is: meet someone -> get engaged -> get married -> have kids. In that order.

    Anyway, you have to do what's right for you...in the timeframe that's right for you. I'll be turning 32 in March (ee gads!) and my husband and I don't have any kids yet either. The last time I visited family, one of the first things my grandma said to me was "So...when are you having kids?" Suffice to say, she wasn't too happy with my response and apparently told my mom she doesn't think we'll ever have kids. Maybe we will, maybe we won't. I guess what I'm saying is, people cannot be rushed.

    --Meliha
    http://straddling-continents-cultures.blogspot.com/

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  6. It's okay...you don't have to have kids. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Don't ever feel bad about it either. It's a life choice, and personal. I wouldn't say "you're complete" just because you had one...I've seen some pretty "incomplete" people who have had kids and don't take care of them properly! Good grief. I didn't want kids, I was terrified to bring one into this crazy world, and I didn't think I'd be a good parent, but I had one (oops) in spite of being "careful". Childbirth is amazing, but once was enough...that was the easy part, raising a kid isn't easy-peasy. It used to burn me up when certain people would nag me about having another kid...just because I should! (Excuse me, whose body is this...and who is paying for all of this?) Oy vey, the nerve of some people, right?

    No worries. Enjoy your life as you chose to live it...don't waste your time satisfying someone else's ideals.

    Best wishes,

    Laura

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  7. Yeah...Jen...your neighbor was full of crap. It's not at all what other people think you should do. A man no less. How on earth would he know? Maybe he talked to many women who told him that...but that doesn't make it some universal truth. Whether it's, "You shouldn't smoke," or, "You will not be complete until you have a child," it's not for anyone to say but you.

    Gotta' follow that heart.

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  8. Thank you, all, for your kind words. The fact is, Chris and I might, down the line, adopt. But, we are limited in some ways, and you're right... it's for no one but us to determine what will complete our family. I know that many men and women have been made to feel inadequate if they are not parents, but somehow I have to believe that those of us in such a position are supposed to give back to the world in other ways.

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  9. To thine own self be true: if you're living life in that gambit, you'll be happy and the opinions of others become mere bagatelle.

    Good luck Jen!

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  10. Wow, I could write a book on unwanted opinions. Opinions about marriage, opinions of divorce, opinions of child-rearing, value systems, etc etc.

    When I was a teenager, I didn't want kids. Fate and lack of preparation made that choice for me when I was pregnant at 18.By the age of 26, I'd had 4 daughters. Now, I'm 32, degree-less and jobless. I think about the choices I've made and though they're far from the norm, they were my choices. Now, I need to go out and get a career.

    My point is Jen, that there is no right or wrong choice. There's just what's right for you. And you might change your mind, and that's ok. But it's up to you to change it, not anyone else.

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  11. Thank you, Jennifer. (Sorry I didnt' see this for the last month - I don't have notifications set up, I guess). Yes, to each her own path. It would've been just as easy for me to have a child young, too, but it wasn't in the stars, so to speak... The thing is, I've not yet felt the drive to motherhood, and this should be okay. Like you said, things may change, and yes!!! that would be okay, too.

    (Don't worry about the career. It might be slow-going at first, but you have serious writing skills, and there's nothing more marketable in the age of computers. It just takes time to get bearings... In the meantime, write! ;))

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