Note: Originally published on Empathize This and republished here with their permission.
I knew when I was ten, playing with my Barbie Dolls, that I did not want children. When other girls would play house and talk about what they would name their children, I already knew that would not be a question I would ever have to answer. Of course people would laugh and shake their heads, telling me I would change my mind “when I was older.” But I never did.
When I began having sex I was very careful to not become pregnant. I took birth control pills without fail; however, after eight years of faithfully being on birth control, I nonetheless became pregnant with my daughter. So despite my lack of interest in children, I became a mother. But I never bonded with her or really even cared about her the way a fierce mother is supposed to care for her children. Despite all the advice I had been told over the years, I never became a particularly maternal person. I didn’t (and still don’t) go gaga over babies, or think about children; I just don’t want them, period.
When my daughter was two years and two months old, her father decided to leave me and return to his home and parents. We both decided she would go with him. We also knew that I would most likely never again be involved with her care. That was, indeed, the case. I saw her four more times before she died at age 28.
I still feel the judgment and condemnation of others. I still live with that pain on a daily basis and have no one to talk to about it. Often the comments are sanctimonious in nature. “I would never do anything like that, no matter what the circumstances.” Or, “What kind of woman would not want children?” Or (my favorite,) “Children are a gift from God…” The fervently religious folk get really nasty up to and including comments about my spiritual nature, and that there must be a ‘special place in hell…’ Almost always these comments are from other women.
Then there are the assumptions that a woman who does not want children must be extremely selfish, self-centered, or just plain narcissistic. Speaking only for myself, I was a paramedic for 15 years in which time people puked, pooped, or peed on or near me. I lovingly cleaned them up first and then whatever other mess there was. I am pragmatic but not selfish. Some of us are also afraid we would only perpetuate the abuse and neglect since that is what we have known (This is an entirely different story for another day).
Women are expected to naturally be good mothers, no matter who we are, but that can be a damaging stereotype. People that are ‘not cutout for parenthood,’ may simply be too busy, have an illness, or not want to bring children into our troubled world. And then there are those of us who are just not maternal. That would be me. Never have been, never will. I wish that motherhood wasn’t expected of all of us.