Can A Childless Woman Lean Into Motherhood? Yes. Yes, She CanHeather L. Barmore
In high school I despised children. I thought they were loud and annoying. This feeling continued well into college, when I knew that I not only had no interest in having children of my own, but that children would harsh my (career) vibe. Children wouldn’t allow for late evenings for fundraisers or casual dinners. Children would drag me down. How and why any woman aiming for success would want children was a foreign concept to me. People with children do not enjoy wine. And have you seen a child on a leash? Like, with a harness? It’s because of Target on Saturday afternoons. That’s why.
One Sunday I saw a segment on 60 Minutes on young african american males that end up in the foster care system with little hope of getting out because no one wanted them .Isn’t that horrible? These beautiful children were unwanted and could go without a family for the rest of their lives simply because of their skin color and sex. I called my friend Pam and sobbed into the phone, “I…HAVE…TO *gasp* HELP..THESE BAAAAABIES”. Someway, somehow I would take one of these children into my home. It was the unfairness which hit me and left me heartbroken; the knowledge that as a black woman with black brothers I have witnessed how the familial structure and nurture of a family – any family – can lead to great opportunity for these young men who would otherwise be considered castaways.
And then I met Amy and Noah. I’ve told this story and remarked on my relationship with the Storch family time and time again. How I fell in love with this baby. I loved being with him and caring for him and, in hindsight, I was blessed to meet them – or by being so broke that I needed to babysit – because it was only then that I realized that I wanted to have children of my own. The idea of progeny was no longer met with a shrug but a yes. YES. I want to do this.
Eight years later and I know longer want’ to have children but I have’ to have children. If I were to wake up on my 55th birthday never having children I would be devastated. I’ve gone from passive to intentional and thoughtful. At one point I thought it was age and my body saying that it was time hence my dropping an egg every time I saw a newborn. But what makes me confident in my decision – however it may come to pass – is that I’ve surrounded myself by who I believe to be the best mothers and parents I could ever hope to know. Being a part of this particular community of parents started with my meeting Amy and, to come full circle, it has been my further involvement and the friendships that developed. Without these friendships, I doubt I would have women to look up to when it comes to parenting, women to emulate but to lean on. Sure I have family and friends but the type of intimacy I have been privileged to see between my friends and their offspring – the caring and even the firm tone when their kids act like hellions – it’s a way to enter into parenthood that I feel fortunate to have.
My mother kind of fell into motherhood and she did a damn good job but I think about it. I absorb it. I watch intently and read the words of the mothers in this space and across the Internet and while I feel terrified because it’s a baby that will grow into a sullen teenager…I don’t know…I still feel fortunate that I have women to look to and to ask questions. Women who like those who have come before them, will tell me that it’s OK. I’m not doing a terrible job. My child will not die from a scrape and s/he should just walk it off. They’ll tell me to have a glass of wine, take a breath and get ready for the next day.
We’re celebrating Mother’s Day by celebrating leaning in to motherhood, and by recognizing the extraordinary women that are our own mothers. We hope that it will inspire you to thank your own mother, or the mother who most inspires you. Find more letters and stories about leaning into motherhood here. And, of course, find your own Lean In inspiration at LeanIn.org.
*photo by Aimee Giese