Tagged indecision

Suddenly Uncertain: How My Post-divorce Love Makes Me Reconsider Motherhood

Adamantly childfree her whole life, this week’s writer finds herself considering motherhood at the age of 37. 

I was a lifelong “I never want kids, ever” person until divorce at 35 nudged me into some unexpected indecision.  I didn’t think I’d ever be considering children, especially at this age.  I also didn’t know I’d find the type of relationship that I have now, which has revealed how incredibly different one pairing of people can feel from another.  Being with a new partner for the first time in 15 years suddenly revealed possibilities and emotions I never imagined having.

When I was married, I felt secure in my decision to remain childless.  I had someone bound to me by the commitment of marriage who felt the same way, at least at the time, and was relatively fine with it.  Sure, I felt some pressure from society (and maybe a tiny bit from his mother), but most of my closest friends and family knew better than to question me on my decision.  I felt generally accepted; my husband and I were a united front, for the most part.  When I no longer had the partnership of a marriage to lean on, to hide in, I was suddenly exposed.  I was well aware that the possibility of meeting many different kinds of partners was out there:  among them, men who would want children, who would expect them.  Men who would judge me and reject me for not wanting them. I saw my lack of desire for children as a major strike against me.  For the first time in my adult life, I felt afraid to be myself.

The whole landscape changes when you become a single person again.  Lots of people who heard about my divorce would say “Oh, it’s so good that you didn’t have any children.”  Really?  Because it was totally different when I was married and everyone wanted to know why I didn’t have any.  That left me to consider what was so fortunate about not having children with my ex husband.  Was that concern over kids being caught in a nasty or dramatic split?  Maybe it was because then I could make a clean break, and I wouldn’t have to deal with my ex again.  Whatever the reason, those statements and all related discussions stopped as my identity as a single person settled in.  It was as if not having a family was now a foregone conclusion and wasn’t worth talking about anymore.  I guess I’d blown my chance…at something I didn’t even want to begin with.

It’s hard to say what exactly put the current uncertainty over having children into me.  Divorce is hard and terrible because you lose a lot, even when it’s relatively amicable.  You lose future, love, security, money.  I lost a lot of those things, but the scariest thing I lost was time.  If this had happened to me five years ago, I could’ve had a chance to relax and think for a minute.  It takes time to meet someone, and know them and love them.  The relationship I have with my current partner is so different from anything I’d known before.  I can only describe it as a deeper connection, sort of a stronger emotional engagement.  Loving someone and being loved in that way soothed just enough of my fears about the commitment of having a child with another person that I ended up on the fence when I thought my mind had been made up for as long as I’d been alive.

That deeper connection, plus the insight I’ve gained by going through a divorce, has made me uncomfortable with absolutes and that’s where the fence comes in. It seems fair to be honest that I’m not eager to have children, or that I don’t see it is a necessary life goal.  It doesn’t seem appropriate right now to say no to a partner unequivocally.  Sure, I would be most comfortable with someone who knew they didn’t want children, because I think deep down, I don’t really either.  But how can I say I never want something when I don’t even know yet where this relationship will take me?

We’ve got friends who are around the same age, even a year or two older, who recently had their first babies and seem really happy.  My partner sees it too, and I secretly overanalyze his responses to every online picture and status update.  He’s happy when people have babies, like a normal person.  When I hear about people having babies, it’s riddled with anxiety, like it somehow holds a mirror up to some dysfunctional or broken part of me.  It’s not something we talk about a lot, and I realize that’s counter to my earlier description of a deep connection.  Now, I’m approaching 37 and realizing that there isn’t much more time to think about this before it becomes a decision I can’t reverse.  Maturity and hindsight have ensured that my days of rushing into things are over, but rushing is quickly feeling like the only solution.

lyon

Mina Lyon is the pseudonym of a New Englander with incurable wanderlust.  She loves national parks, dirt roads, maple syrup, and solitude.  She is pretty sure she wants to get into bicycle touring and has her whole life ahead of her.

Why MotherShould? Making the Decision

I was taken off guard when my friends started announcing that they were pregnant.  Before they got married off, we discussed guys all the time, in detail, but we didn’t have any conversations about babies. I was not privy to any deliberations. Suddenly, my friends were just pregnant, as if it were a foregone conclusion that after you get married, you procreate and that’s that. It never felt like a foregone conclusion for me, so with each baby shower, I felt more and more frustrated and a little bit angry. Why did the proliferation of babies make me mad? I felt abandoned and left out, but mostly I felt troubled that I didn’t feel any urge to have a child.

The common wisdom is that people who are not sure about whether or not they should have kids, should not have kids. A person, really a woman, needs to really, really want kids to be a mother, preferably from the moment they are little girls. (Fathers, on the other hand, can decide at any moment.) A fence sitter might feel inclined to keep it to herself for fear that revealing her indecisiveness might actually put her in the not-a-mother camp whether or not she’s ready to make that decision. Essentially, indecision tends to equal not ready for motherhood.

In my thirties, I came out of the closet as indecisive and started asking the people around me: why have kids? Here are the answers I got:

  • “Don’t have kids.” –my friend from first grade who has two rambunctious boys. How can she tell me not to have kids if she decided to have two? Is she doubting my ability to mother because of my uncertainty?
  • “You have good boobs, don’t have kids and ruin them. Mine are like half-filled pastry bags now.” –a friend of a friend tells me in complete seriousness. After she doles out this advice, she has a second kid, presumably because here boobs are already ruined.
  • “Your life is full enough that you don’t need to have kids.” —a friend from graduate school. Another friend thinks I can’t hack motherhood?
  • “You really have to have kids, Catherine. Don’t worry. You will like them so much more than you like other people’s kids.” —my cousin who swore she would not have kids so she and her husband could travel the world; she has three.

The advice I got was always short on evidence.

This site is the forum I wanted in my mid-thirties when I was trying to figure out if I wanted to have a kid. I didn’t want advice so much as I wanted a glimpse backstage to see what makes motherhood so challenging and so joyous and how childfree women experienced life in a world where women are expected to be mothers or to at least want to be mothers.

I believe our culture is moving toward making motherhood a choice rather than a foregone conclusion, particularly as more and more women wait until they are over the “high-risk” age of 35 to have their first child or opt not to have children at all, as fertility treatments become more advanced, and as single motherhood by choice becomes more socially acceptable.

Although I’ve made my choice—one and done!—I’m still hungry for the stories, the particulars of what happens backstage, of women who choose from the array of options available to us now.