I wrote a similar post back in 2005, but lately I’ve been thinking about all the women who say they are desperate to have a child (at any cost or sacrifice). I feel for them, but I can’t imagine how they really feel. I admit it. I’m child free by choice. I don’t get the tremendous “pull” to be a mother. Children do not charm me. They irritate me. I don’t like children and I particularly dislike babies.
Don’t hate me because I’m child-free by choice. I guess I was born this way. I have always known I wasn’t mom material. Baby dolls repelled me. The only doll I played with was Barbie, and I am pretty sure my dress up activities envisioned her with or without Ken in a child-free relationship. From the moment I knew being a mother was possible, I knew it would never be a possibility for me. In my teens and twenties, when I would tell people that I was sure I’d never want children, the “adults” would tell me that I was just a “late bloomer” and that I would change my mind when I met someone and fell in love. Actually, I met lots of people and fell in love lots of times. I could envision writing “Mrs. his-name” on my greeting cards, but still, I could never envision having a baby with any of my swains. Some said I was strange (because every woman wants babies) and others accused me of being selfish. A women who wants children but can’t have them is acceptable. People understand their longing and their pain, but a woman who just doesn’t like or want children is viewed as a nasty, selfish witch. Therefore, for literally, decades, I kept my true feelings hidden. I let people think I couldn’t have children, rather than I just wouldn’t want to have them.
I do have a nurturing aspect to my personality, but mostly it is reserved for my cats, other people’s pets, friends and family, and occasionally, other people’s kids (as long as they are over the age of 10, are somewhat socialized, and respond positively when an adult says “No” and “shush!”). I believe the best parents are truly excited about being responsible for a child, for a lifetime. They can easily, naturally and freely put the children first above anything else, and feel good about it. These parents don’t just have a child because of external pressure, and then dump it on other care-givers because they want to go travel or go to adult brunches that last three hours. They want to be with their children, recreate at a child’s level (not just go to the opera and art galleries), and be a true influence. They sacrifice if required, to give their children all that they need to happy kids, and become great adults (and later, great parents).
I knew I didn’t have what was necessary to give my all, and I didn’t want any child of mine to feel unwanted or worse, a burden or an obligation. I was realistic, and unselfish in that I accepted my truth. Too many have children because their friends are having children, or their parents want to be grandparents, or to fill a hole in their lives, or worse, to try and save a marriage. These are the ones who I feel are selfish and, in time, their children will know and agree.
Over the years, I kept my feelings hidden, so I’d cringe when a friend with a baby would ask:” Would you just hold her while I …make the coffee…pay for the groceries…load the car trunk, etc.” I hated the feeling of that squirming kid in my arms, or the feel of sticky, little hands grabbing mine. But five years ago, when my sister-in-law adopted a baby (after wishing & hoping for this “miracle” for some time), everyone was full of excitement and joy. Except I really wasn’t ready to be involved with the baby. It was a tiny bundle of blubbery, rubbery flesh topped with some tufts of hair and lots of drool. How cute! they all exclaimed, while I was silently thinking it smelled, and looked sort of unformed, much like any other baby. When my sister in law asked if I wanted to hold the baby, I guess I should have been flattered that she would trust me with her squirmy kid. But no, I didn’t want to hold it. I realized that I could just suck it up and do it, and make the appropriate oohs and aahhs, but I knew the time had come to take a stand. I said no thanks, and that I didn’t really feel comfortable holding the baby. She pushed the baby out towards me. It squirmed and look tentatively at me. I didn’t want to take the baby in my arms and pretend, and then be subjected to baby sitting, so I said: “I am so happy for you, but I really don’t like babies and I honestly, I’d rather not hold her.” Everyone in the room looked at me like I was a freak. But I endured the shocked silence and the stares of disgust, feeling relieved that I had finally been honest.
I know for many, being in the company of children is a delight. I can even understand wanting something so badly you’d lay down your life for it. But I can’t feel what they feel. And I know that most people can’t understand how I feel, either. For those who want children, there’s plenty of respect and understanding. Sadly, there’s none for those who won’t. So if you are trying hard to have a child, I wish you nothing but the best and I hope your dreams come true. But don’t ask me to hold them or even like them. Just be responsible for them at home and when you’re out in public. Remember that not everyone feels the way you do…and that’s…ok!