You never are really ready for motherhood, even if you want it badly. The joy is joined by anxiety and you learn as you go. In the end, most moms get the hang of it sooner or later. For some of us, it also becomes the toughest and most beautiful job and mission of our lives. Because it is hard work. Every. Single. Day.
Being a parent has been the best choice for me, but it isn’t necessarily for everybody. That’s why it didn’t surprise me at all to see this week’s TIME cover, which looks at the choice more American couples are making — to purposefully live their lives without children. I don’t think that choosing to not be a mother is selfish. I actually think that it can do the world a ton of good. Yes, some of the reasons to be childless (at least those mentioned in the article) might be selfish, but that’s exactly what might make them lousy parents.
Over the years, I have seen too many cases of child abuse and neglect as part of my job, either as a news reporter, a parenting editor or a television host. More than once it has crossed my mind that there are human beings that should not have children.
Of course unexpected motherhood does not mean that a child will be abused or unloved, but I do believe that if more people really thought about what it means to bring a baby into the world, they might end up choosing to avoid pregnancy. That could avoid a lot of suffering, in particular, in cases in which children do not receive the love they should get.
A woman I know who is in her seventies once even confessed to me that she shouldn’t have been a mom. That she loved her children but that she couldn’t help but feel they had intruded on her and her husband’s life. She believed her relationship with her husband was so tight that it left her kids feeling like outsiders and in the end, she thinks she wasn’t equipped to be the best mother.
It was painful to listen, but extremely thought provoking. My husband and I wanted desperately to be parents. Perhaps it was cultural, since we are both Latinos and having a family is a given. That is why infertility was especially painful. For years we tried to get pregnant and until this day, you can ask any of us and we will both say that our children are our biggest blessing. But that is how we view parenthood. That does not mean it has to be every other person’s point of view.
What does bother me is the way parents and those who decide not to have children are pitted against each other. Why insist on creating conflict? Why keep passing judgment on the choices of others? Why ridicule those who do choose to be mothers?
Some of the quotes in the TIME article None is Enough written by Lauren Sandler really irked me, like this one explaining Jena Starkes’ point of view: “She says these days she can’t really talk to her old friends, whose priorities have all shifted to the “glamorous martyrdom” of child rearing, as she calls it.” About being a mother, Ms. Starkes believes that “If it’s the hardest job in the world, I’m damn happy I don’t have to do it.”
I have many friends that don’t have children. I don’t love them less for not producing a baby. We all have different roles and goals to fulfill in life. The key here is being tolerant and respectful of the choices we make. That is the real beauty of America. Let’s not forget it.
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