To Breed or Not To Breed — That Was the Question

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I think early in my life I took it as a given that I would one day be a mother.  Life changes us.   I married my college sweetheart.  It was a bad decision from day one (which is NOT to say that he was a bad guy, necessarily).   Because we know now that I am a people-pleaser who tries to do what’s expected of her, I worked at that marriage for 7 years.   No one in my family was divorced, so it was hard to fathom it.    I feared failure, and felt shame when the marriage wasn’t living up to standards.   A year of marriage counseling and private counseling were not alone sufficient to allow me to end that marriage — I needed to imagine, practically embody for a while, what an older single me would look like.   I decided she would be something of an Auntie Mame character, with no children of her own but adored by other people’s kids for her fun-loving quirky spirit.   Once I had a new persona I could adopt with anticipation rather than dread I was able to face the serious choice ahead of me and part ways with husband number one.

Imagine my surprise when I realized not terribly long after my divorce that a man I had before seen only as crush-worthy was in fact life-partner-worthy.   I had to rewrite myself yet again.   I was going to be a wife after all, and if it was to be to this particular man, that meant I would also become a mother.   I sometimes wonder if men are quicker to wish for a family (at least before the first child is born) than women.   We had big, serious conversations.   Repeatedly.  I would be over 35 when we married.   The Auntie Mame I was still carrying inside of me could see us living a very fulfilling life full of travel and adventure without kids.    For my husband, it was an imperative — something that was necessary in order for him to feel complete.   I could see that, too, and so we agreed to take the plunge.

Did we have any REAL idea what we were getting into?  Of course not.   Raise your hand if you knew what parenthood would be like for you before your first child arrived.   Thought so.  I love my life as a mother — my messy, complicated, up-ended life.   Wouldn’t have it any other way.  Except that had we chosen not to have kids, I am pretty sure I would have loved that life too.   I’d like to see us make it socially acceptable to choose NOT to have children.  Without that pressure, the… whatever that made me assume as a girl and young woman that of course I would be a mother, I think both women and men would have a chance to be more reflective about the decision and therefore more committed to it.    People still wouldn’t have a real clue as to what they were getting themselves into, but somehow I think they’d be better equipped for the ride.

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