Choosing Motherhood

I recently received the following e-mail and question from a friend who is looking for honest advice on the choice to become a mother. The question really struck me and actually kept me up most of the night thinking about it.

"I am 31. I am in a loving marriage. I have full confidence that if my guy and I were to have a baby and start a family that we would be the best parents we could be. BUT... I just don't know if I want kids.

Part of me does, so much! I see families and children and I feel ready. I love my friend's baby. I love my husband and I would love to make us into parents. I can picture my unborn children.

But, there's a part of me that doesn't want the hassle- for lots of reasons. There are a lot of people on this earth. There are problems, big problems. There are things I want to do and crazy dreams I want to act on still. Dreams that truly don't work with families and responsibility. all these things take away that "ready" feeling.

My question: Do these thoughts mean that I am not ready? If they don't go away, does that mean I'll never be ready to be a mom? Or are these common thoughts? (ie: cold feet before the wedding).

...but what would you say to someone like me? Someone who would be a good mom and love their babies too, but is still on the fence on having them at all... ? Did you all know that you wanted to be moms??"

This post is different in that it is my thoughts on a question asked specifically to me (and the Mama Birth facebook community). Some of my answers and explanations people will disagree with, for which I apologize. But, I was asked for an honest answer, so here it is.

Honestly, I don't think people should have kids if they don't want them. Children deserve parents who will cherish them and who are willing to sacrifice for them. That being said, I wouldn't exactly call any of my children "planned" nor did I really consider motherhood on this deep of a level. It seems like I just had done a few of the "things" I wanted to do before I had kids, I had reached an appropriate age, and then it happened. So the fact that you are even thinking about this in such a deep way shows that you are thoughtful and aware of the needs of others and want to meet them.

The Hassle-

There are still many non-kid friendly things that I would love to do with my life. One of the biggest struggles for me (and I think for many) as a mom is putting those things off so that I can be the mother that I feel I need to be and that I think my kids deserve.

I know that I want to be a "stay at home mom." My mom was and it just seemed right. I knew I would breastfeed and would want to be attached and with my babies. I actually thought I would go back to working nights when I had my first, but it seemed so impossible once he was here.

He required so much attention and seemed to need so much that only I could give him. I am sure I could have found people to be surrogate mothers for me while I was away, but once he was born, I did not want anybody else to be that mother figure for him, even for a few hours a day.

As poor college students I watched other people's kids so that I could stay home with mine. It always made me sad. Mostly because I realized that I did not love their children as much as I loved my own or as much as their parents loved them. It was harder to care for and be patient with little personalities that I did not understand, who I had not raised, and for whom I had only a babysitters affection.

I guess my point is that you need to determine what kind of mother you want to be and if you are willing to sacrifice what you need to in order to be that kind of mother. If for whatever reason you KNOW that your career will always be first in your life, then maybe kids are not right for you. We don't HAVE to have kids just because we are old enough and that is what people "do."

The Sacrifice

Giving up our own dreams and ambitions is possibly the hardest thing about motherhood. There are places I would love to travel, jobs I would love to have, and degrees I would love to earn that I will not do while I have young children. I could of course do those things if money were abundant, but I don't feel like it would be fair to the children who I brought into the world.

One thing I remind myself is that some of those sacrifices (travel, fun, career) are only temporary. "Just because you have not done it by the time you are 30 does not mean you will never do it," is something I remind myself often.

Someday I will go those places and do those things. I will be older, maybe wiser, and I will hopefully appreciate them more.

One thing I have noticed too though is that my dreams and ambitions changed once I had children. I always wanted to write a book (don't laugh please). Now that I am mother I have a passion within me about certain subjects (maybe you can guess what they are) that I never really thought about before the birth's of my children. I had dreams before kids, but now they are more concrete, more real, and more focused. Before children they were vague and for some reason I had a hard time accomplishing them.

Now, if I care enough about those things, I make them happen. I stay up late. I am more willing to do the things I need to do to get the job done and change the world in the way I think it needs to be changed.

So my point- you don't burst into flames if you haven't accomplished everything you wanted to by the time you turn 30, 35 or 40, and some of those dreams seem so inconsequential after children. At the same time your children will make you care more than you ever thought you could about other things. Your children may become the inspiration for ambitions much greater than the ones you imagine now.

The Big, Bad, Overpopulated World-

I had a teacher in high school who was a big advocate of zero population growth. The idea is that the earth and it's resources are maxed out and we should limit population growth in order to help some of the problems the world faces.

I remember at the time thinking she had a good point. Now, honestly, the whole idea is laughable to me. Bringing a spirit inhabiting a body of flesh and bone to the earth is so much bigger than the problems that the world faces. It is a truly amazing experience that I can not describe properly. I can only say that I simply have a hard time imagining how something so pure and perfect could add to the world's problems.

Are there limited resources? Yes. But I believe that human kind has an amazing ability to find answers to questions that need answers, and solutions to problems that seem to have none.

Is the world full of evil and awful things, people and problems? Certainly. I have no illusions about me being a good mother. I see my many flaws. But I think that every child born who is raised with love and tenderness had an amazing ability to right some of the wrongs, and tip the scales on the side for good. The world may not need more "people" but it does need more "good people."

Any woman who contemplates her ability to mother as deeply as you have certainly has the ability to raise a good person that will make the world a better place to live.

Other Deep Thoughts-

Sometimes the things we fear doing or struggling with as mothers are things that we thought our own mothers did wrong. That is something to consider too as you decide if you are ready. Maybe you are ready, but you just really fear doing things to your children that were done to you.

Do you fear that you will have a hard time with those sacrifices and hassles because it seemed as though your mother did?

For me I remember as a child thinking that my mother was overwhelmed and unhappy. That has been one of my biggest worries as a mother, that my children will see me that way, that they will think that they caused trouble in my life and brought me unhappiness. This is one of the reasons that I feel a need to do things outside of my children (like my blog, teaching others, and community work) that bring me joy. I do not want to be a miserable housewife with no interests who resents her children, but at the same time I want to work within the walls of my home. Finding a balance where I can do both is delicate and difficult. But it can be found.

The idea of the miserable housewife is prevalent and persistent among the feminist movement today. As I read "The Feminine Mystique" by Betty Friedan, I remember thinking she was right about so much, but also wrong about so much.

It is possible to be happy and fulfilled as a homemaker. It is possible to give up things like a career without taking happy pills to fill the void. Women can find joy, purpose, direction, and meaning in their children and the work that involves children. Women can have and develop talents without working outside their home. We can also change the world, not just through our children, but through our own works. Sometimes motherhood opens up opportunities that we would not have had without it.

Be careful not to buy into the idea that the only good we can do and the only difference we can make and the most fun we can have is outside of the role of motherhood. It is a lie. It is also one of the blackest forms of misogyny. It is hatred not just for women, but for their special gifts.

Good luck in your journey to motherhood or not. Sometimes I look at women without children and envy some of their gifts, time, and freedom, but I know that some of them envy what I have too. Looking at what others can do or have that we cannot is natural. Finding the joy in the journey that we have chosen is divine.


Fire said…
Thank you for sharing your beautiful thoughts. I miss being able to walk and talk with you!
Anonymous said…
I LOVE this post!

My husband and I were married eight years before deciding to have kids (for financial reasons). I loved my life before I had kids. I was afraid the responsibility would be too much - that kids would be a hassle. I wouldn't change a thing now (I have two little boys, ages 3 and 1). I look back at my pre-kids life and realize I was missing so much of life. Life just seems to have so much more meaning and joy with kids in it. That said, I TOTALLY agree that if your career is really important to you that you should rethink having children. I've seen how kids have become the new status symbol and it's sickening. There are a lot of kids out there that aren't getting the attention they deserve from their parents. Don't have kids just to 'keep up with the Joneses'.
Christina said…
My question to her would be: How much do you want to be a mother? If you really, really want it, the rest sort of falls into place. That child changes your life, yes, but it changes you, too. Suddenly those other things don't seem as important, and you realize that if you do them at 50 instead of 30 it's not a big deal. Different things become important. (Which is not to say, of course, that you'll never go "why did I do this?" - every mom does, if even for a second.) It's harder than you could ever imagine, but it's more rewarding, too. :-) Don't have them if you don't have that kind of want; that kind of craving. If you do - you'll work it out.
January said…
Also something to think about is it's not necessarily a population problem as much as a CONSUMPTION problem.
I absolutely LOVE your answers! You are an eloquent writer and hit the nail on the head as far as I am concerned! I have recently found words to describe the 'motherhood really changes everything' statement. It changes more in your heart and your views on things and you internally, as a person than anything else. A wonderful transformation to behold! Well done, Momma!
Mama Birth said…
Thanks ladies! Much appreciated-
Unknown said…
You nailed it!!! I've been mulling all these thoughts and feelings in my head for a couple of days now. You said it quiet eloquently! Thanks!
Christel said…
Wow, so nicely said. I have changed as an individual sonce becoming a mother, dare I say, since becoming pregnant!! So many of my close friends had babies in the same year as I and I am the only one, after 18 months, still home, nursing, cloth-diapering... Being the mom I knew I wanted to be. So many of my friends told me to get a job as a distraction (never mind the diaper service business I started), that I needed to "get out". Is it tough some days? Yes. Is it all as I imagined? No. Is it better in most ways? Yes!!! I feel so "stuck" in my current circle with people who think Im weird for extended breastfeeding and strange for not circing my son or choosing to be poor and stay at home with him? I cant wait to tell them I might want to homeschool! :/ Where are all the non-judgmental crunchy moms in my world? Why doesnt this make sense to other people in my circle?
The choice, Im afraid is whether to continue with your current lifestyle or not. I was 34 when my first child was born and was working 12 hr days downtown Chicago. I certainly can not imagine going back to that ever again.
Thank you for writing such a nice, introspective blog!
Krista Eger said…
I've done a lot of thinking on this subject because my brother in law was so against having kids that I felt like I needed to defend why I wanted them for so long. I've come up with a lot of reasons why having kids is so great.
First of all I've realized that having kids helps you heal from things you felt you needed growing up. For example, my mom had to go to work when I came along. I hated going to a babysitter so being a stay at home mom as much as I can is very important to me so I work from home for an airline which brings me to the fact that I wished we could have traveled more as a kid. I think that's partly why I married someone from Jersey. My husband has been in over half of the states (we drove to Jersey from Utah once) He has actually been to more states than I have because my husband took him by himself to his brother's wedding in Canada (My husband has taken him by himself to Jersey before too!). Anyway so being able to provide for my kids in a way I wasn't provided for as a kid has helped me relive my childhood in a way, but the way I wanted to. And I'm sure I can't provide everything for my kids so they'll need to do the same.

It's so weird when you have kids how what they do isn't as big of a hassle as it is when you take care of other people's kids. Because you're the mom so you don't have to worry about what the mom will think. I think about life before I had kids and I didn't appreciate date night, and being able to do what I wanted when I wanted. Now I enjoy those things more because I don't take them for granted.

Having a children is like living childhood all over again. You get to see everything for the first time again, but through different eyes. It's awesome!

I'm a long term thinker. Motherhood is challenging when they are little, but it pays off. I want to be like my parents one day where I am surrounded by my grandkids. No kids means lonely late adulthood in my opinion.

I can totally understand why people don't want kids. I'm not trying to say they're for everyone, but they are definitely for me! :D
OrganicMama said…
Beautifully expressed!! Love this. I have been thinking about the topic of contentment while being home with kiddos a lot lately and your comments expressed so many of my thoughts, esp. "Be careful not to buy into the idea that the only good we can do and the only difference we can make and the most fun we can have is outside of the role of motherhood." Thank you. :)
Jessica Dimas said…
Wow. While reading this I felt like you were inside my mind and writing out my own private thoughts. I'm a mother but some of the things you mentioned really spoke to me. It feels so good to know that other mothers have the same worries and concerns that I have. I also LOVE LOVE LOVE your mentioning that women can find joy in being homemakers...I agree 100%. For the first time in my life, I feel like I've found what I love to do...which is mothering and taking care of my home and family. It's fulfilling, challenging, tiring, requires flexibility, multi-tasking, and brings so much joy, love, and happiness to my life. No career could ever compare Thank you for this wonderful blog post!
Mandi said…
This was just beautiful, and could not have come at a better time for me. I've been lost lately in all the things I used to want but don't have time for now that I have three kids. I still want some of those things, but truthfully the only thing I ever really wanted as a kid was to be MOM. And I have that, three times over. They are beautiful and sweet and wonderful and bright and they love me. I need to focus on them more, and turn my d*** computer off. They are my life and they bring me so much joy if I just let them.

Thank you!
The Colvins said…
This was a beautiful post. Thank you for your insights. You are doing a wonderful work inside the walls of your home and by uplifting and encouraging other mothers...thank you.
Becci said…
I really like that last part about how having children blesses us, even in later years. Obviously, it's uncomfortable to make absolute statements. There is always some exception to every rule.

That said, I think having children IS for everyone. I think it's hard to replicate in any other way the kind of giving and learning we do as parents. I think being parents is an essential phase of our development.

I really like that Sarah also touches on the blessing it is that we have the ability to create life. What a sacred and beautiful opportunity. Obviously, timing and number of children is a very personal decision, with heavy responsibility, but I think it's obvious we were meant to have the experience.

This is a theory in human development, that each phase of life has an objective we must master. Our completion or failure of a phase determines our growth and, as you said, will impact our sense of achievement in our last phase of life. Those who are unable to have children (or who choose not to) will still feel the impulse to nurture others somehow. Some people become teachers, volunteer, or mentor to fill this void and accomplish the objective of this phase of their lives.

I view motherhood as a responsibility and even a calling, but especially as a privilege. I know, even in just a few months of being a mother, that I have grown and developed in ways that would have been more difficult for a childless me.

I love cultivating my own knowledge and talents, and I'm still trying to spend time doing that, but I know that this part of my purpose does have a small window of opportunity. I know this has been said, but I just wanted to reiterate that we have time before and after the years of mothering young children to think a little more of ourselves. We have only a few years, right in the middle of our lives, to have children and to help them grow. DON'T MISS OUT ON THIS EXPERIENCE!