Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Not the mom...

A week or so ago I was having a discussion with a friend about how much of the basic human personality is what it is due to cultural conditioning and how much of it is due to biological imperative.  Our conversation centered mostly on sex and coupling and how while our basic instinct drives us to mate, we don’t seem to be designed for long term fidelity (the more our DNA is spread around the better for the diversity of the gene pool, etc.).  And yet, our culture has elevated coupledom to shrine status, and while many of us are brought up to desire it, once we are in it we are not really very good at keeping it going and often have to fight against our own instinct to stray and sprinkle the world with our offspring. 

Many do succeed at this, living monogamous lives for years or decades.  The human mind is a powerful thing and when we really want something badly enough, we are often able by will alone to make it happen.  We can overcome our own biology and live quite happily. 

Now, my blog post isn’t about the topic of coupling, though I could likely write pages about my opinion on whether permanent partnership is a natural state of being or not.  The idea however, did arise due to that discussion.  What my post is about is a biological drive that has never, with one exception, figured prominently in my life but which, purely by being born a woman (according to biology) should have, and that is children; more specifically my lack of desire to be a mother.

I like kids; my brother’s children are great and one of my best friends has a son whose birth I was present for and who has since grown into one of the cutest things on two legs.   And while I’m not sure I’d be the world’s greatest mother, it certainly isn’t because I don’t think that were it to come down to it that I’d be a terrible parent.  I’m sure I’d rise to the occasion.  It is simply that I’ve not had the desire to be a parent.

 When I was younger I thought that I might have kids one day, not because I really wanted to, I just sort of thought that it was required.  When I look back at old journals I actually wrote about how if I had kids I simply had to make sure I had a job that paid well enough that I could send them away to boarding school so I could travel.  In fact in one entry from high school in which I made a 15 year plan, I had myself married, divorced, two kids away in boarding school (or living with their dad) and living in Paris with a well established writing career, all by 27.  It was apparent that part of me thought, “Well if I HAVE to do this, I might as well get it out of the way early.”

While it may seem I am being a bit light hearted here, there was a time I gave motherhood serious consideration, because I had to.  In my early twenties I found myself unexpectedly pregnant.   For about a million reasons that I won’t go into here, I made the decision to give the child up for adoption.   Saying I didn’t want or was not ready to be a parent and then sitting with the reality of holding the baby I just birthed into the world are quite different things.  So, while my lack of desire to be a parent played a role in the decision, giving him up was not by any means an easy thing to do.  It was, however, the best thing I could do for that child at the time, I’ve never regretted the choice and I still think it was one of wisest decisions I have made in my life. 

Since then, the thought has crossed my mind when I’ve seen friends with their new babies and wondered if parenthood was for me.  Once I even told a significant other that I’d reconsider my decision to not be a mother because he wanted a child so much (I know, go ahead, hit me with a high heeled shoe.  I wasn’t rational at the time, I’m quite sure that in that moment I would have been declared temporarily insane).  However, the desire was always temporary and soon faded.

I grew up hearing about that tick-tocking biological clock which should be ringing alarm bells like mad right about now, but I’m guessing someone hit the snooze button because I’m nearly 40 and it hasn’t made so much as a buzz.   

Both coupledom and parenthood are things that, according to custom and/or biology, I am supposed to desire and yet I don’t (and in the case of parenthood, I never really have…I definitely came and went on the couple thing for a long time).   This might mean that I have in some way failed to fulfill my ‘duty as a human,’ but I can live with that, because in the end just as I don’t feel anything is missing by not being paired off, neither do I feel I am lacking something in my life because I’m not a mother.   


  1. What a beautiful, well-crafted post you have here (and also, I'm so glad I clicked on your Twitter link!). I struggle with this myself sometimes. I always knew I wanted children, but now that I'm at that perfect "baby making" age, the thought becomes far more daunting when I think of all the sacrifices that are made in the name of motherhood.

    Many of my friends are wonderful mothers; some have opted out of parenthood entirely. It sounds as though you have no regrets about any of the decisions you made in life so I think it's safe to say that you chose the right path :)

  2. I hear ya. I must have overslept the morning The Man Upstairs was passing out the mommy-gene to women, because I've never really had a desire to had I didn't.

    eleanore - The Spinsterlicious Life