It’s Mothers Day. I’ve given my mother a gift and told her how much I appreciate all the things she puts up with, including the fact that I’m divorced and childless and pretty much a disaster on two legs.
Nobody will ever wish me happy mothers day, and that’s perfectly fine with me.
Do you find that strange? A lot of people do. “Don’t you want one of these?” my father asked me not so long ago. He was talking about my six month old nephew, a delightful child who smiles at everyone who appears in his field of vision, including me.
“No,” I answered. “Definitely not.”
It’s terrible, I know. I’m 38: according to every signal from the culture and society I live in, my ovaries should be screaming for attention.
My Facebook newsfeed is a ceaseless tickertape of announcements about pregnancies and births. (At this rate, I may have to download that app that changes pictures of babies on Facebook into pictures of lolcats.) There’s a demographic trend happening here, and I’m bucking it.
Does it bother me? Yes and no. Yes, because there is now a gulf of human experience between people I once knew, one that can never be bridged. And no, because if I’m honest with myself, I don’t actually want kids of my own. Maybe I’ll have an epiphany and suddenly want to adopt down the line. But right now, all I can think of is the reasons not to.
For one thing, kids consume your life.
One of the great joys of not being a parent: I don’t have to schlep anyone to the Justin Bieber concert. My 18 month old niece is too young to be a Belieber, but she’s a full time job.
My sister’s life quite literally revolves around her daughter; she has almost no time for herself at all. She loves it. I, on the other hand, would have started climbing the walls long ago.
They inherit your flaws.
I don’t want to inflict my dubious genetic heritage on another human being. I have three siblings and of the four of us, I’m the only one who inherited every single problem my parents could possibly have gifted me.
If humans were still living as hunter-gatherers on a steppe somewhere, I wouldn’t have survived childhood. I have single thirty-something friends who are having eggs frozen just in case, but I really see why anyone should have to labour under the burden of my genes.
They cost a bomb.
Clothing, toys, education, medical aid, pocket money, entertainment: it all adds up. You know what those stick figure families on the backs of giant SUVs actually say? “Massive overdraft to pay school fees”.
They take up so much time and energy. I work with parents of young children, and I honestly don’t know how they stay sane.
I don’t have the energy for a relationship with a fully toilet-trained adult, let alone supporting a human being who for years will rely on me for everything, including his or her sense of self-worth.
The crux of the matter is this:
None of these points would matter at all if my hormones were threatening to go on strike and march to the Union Buildings. They’re not, and that’s a problem.
The sacrifices entailed in having kids means that the desire for them must overwhelm all reason.
I simply don’t want them enough. When I see other women pushing a Graco stroller, I don’t feel an indefinable sense of longing. I don’t experience a strange sense of loss. I don’t wonder: what if?
I feel, mostly, a sense of intense relief. And that, to me, is a sign that even though nobody will ever give me a gift on Mothers Day, it’s really not the end of the world.
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