Thursday, April 8, 2010

am i too selfish to be a mom?

I’m 33. And let’s face it; the maternal clock has started ticking. Over the past couple of years, my husband and I have been weighing in on the issue of parenthood , debating whether or not it’s really something we want for ourselves in life. One week it’ll be a yes, another a no. [Ok, for my husband the time line pendulum is more like month to month, whereas for me it’s more like week to week]. As more and more people around me start having babies, I’m constantly confronted by the fact that I still don’t know if I really want to make all the necessary sacrifices needed in order to be a mother.

Perhaps I should have embraced motherhood when I was younger, less set in my ways, and more ignorant of just how much motherhood would demand of me. Because now that I'm really aware of the commitment, it is very daunting! But alas, I didn't follow that route. Having grown up with foster kids and seeing first hand some of the challenges that families face when there's not enough money, maturity, (or other reasons), it was more important for me to be at a place where I was ready to be a mother than anything else. Yes, I know that no one is ever really ready - but I wanted to be in a place where I was a ready as possible before bringing a kid into this world. And I still stand by that decision because as a child of a single mother (though she remarried) and as a member of a family who fostered other people’s kids, I know firsthand that just because you want to and can be a mother doesn’t necessarily mean you should be.

The thing is, although I was definitely selfish when I was younger; I expect that in some ways I’m actually even more selfish now. I have a certain standard of living that I want to maintain. At the moment I have the luxurious ability to travel, shop, or just spend the day thinking only of myself. Motherhood would change all of that and I don’t know that I’m all that up for that change. Don’t get me wrong, I know that parenthood comes with its own set of joys and rewards, but when I think of how hard it’ll be to travel, or how limited my free time will be… yeah… I won’t lie, it gives me pause. Then there's the angst of bringing a life into such a messed up world. I mean... will my children grow up to see a time when there's not enough water or energy? Or worse? You know? It gives me pause...

Added to that is the fact that my 20 year brother recently moved in with us and it’s been an eye opening experience to realize how difficult it is to negotiate the line between sitting back and giving him the space to make his own decisions/mistakes/learning experiences and be there to support him. On top of that, I’ve been negotiating the strange divide between needing to have things my way and learning to stand back and accept that sometimes I need to put him and his needs first. And I’m not always so gracious about doing that. Really… it’s not an easy thing for me to do.

So while I know that I’m sort of walking into a quasi parenthood situation with a full grown person and the issues are different… the tail end experience of quasi parenting has made me realize that I’m not so sure that I’m up to the challenge of caring so much and yet having to trust enough to let go. It’s made me wonder if I’m actually capable of putting someone else first, all of the time.

I suppose that one could argue that raising a child from infancy would bring about an entirely different perspective on the issue… but I’m not so sure. I mean… I want to take my Nia courses 2x a week, read my book when I feel like it, and spend the day out with girlfriends, and having a child would mean sacrificing a lot of that… Would it be worth it? Someone once told me that that motherhood was the single greatest thing she’s done in her life [in spite of the fact that she knows that her kids aren’t always happy with the way they were raised] and that being a mother teaches us to be less selfish. I don’t disagree with that and understand how being less selfish is a difficult lesson worth learning, but would I be able to maintain my sense of self in the face of so many sacrifices for a child?

Because even though everyone says they won’t only talk about their kids, they inevitably do. From dirty diapers at the dinner table to playground issues at school… my parent friends’ lives have become subsumed by the details of their children’s lives. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But is it for me?

On the other hand, to be fair, I read about all these new mom bloggers who are doing amazing things during the early stages of motherhood and I'm awed by their ability to pull it all off (publishing graphic novels, building an online empire, marketing for an online company, copy-writing from home, etc, etc..). How do these women find the time? And will I be able to be one of those women, you know, the ones that roll with motherhood but let motherhood only be a part of who they are and not all of who they are? Because that, well that is something that I really aspire to achieve.

All that to say... the jury is still out even though the pendulum is currently shifted in favour of labour.

3 comments:

  1. Wow! This post has really hit home for me and I understand your feelings completely. I've also chosen not to have children for many of the reasons you mentioned. And I've had to defend my position from others that don't understand where I'm coming from.

    I come from a broken home and saw first hand what that can do to a family. So I decided a long time ago to put off having a family until I felt I was ready to devote my time, patience and understanding to a child.

    My parents weren't ready to have children when they did (especially my father). They did it because that was the thing to do after marriage back then. And although I had a great childhood, I can't say the same for my tween and teen years. So, I decided I would never want my children to suffer the same fate.

    Well, I worked and worked and have maintained a comfortable lifestyle and now I feel I'm ready for the challenge of raising a family. But, I don't want to start from the beginning. Just can't see myself being pregnant and having to change diapers or wake up at all hours of the night, or deal with a fussy teething baby. So, now I ask myself, Is it time to look into adoption of an older child? I just can't see myself dealing with a teenager in my mid 50s.

    It is a big decision that should not be taken lightly because children change your entire life. But I also suggest that you don't wait until it's too late to make that decision.

    Think about this...Do you want them to change your life now or later? Where do you see yourself 10 or 20 years from now? Taking care of a baby or a teenager or neither? Therein lies your answer.

    Hope this helps you in some way.

    Cat

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  2. Thanks Cat. I've been meaning to answer for a while but wanted to have the time to really answer...

    I agree with all that you said and in fact, would actually love to adopt instead of having my own. Coming from a family with an adopted and foster sibling, I know that there's no difference, and I would love to be able to give someone out there who needs it, love and a better life. Unfortunately, Canada doesn't make it cheap or easy to do so. You know there's something wrong when it would actually cost less (at least in a visible sense) to have my own child than to adopt one that is already out there!

    My partner and I will have 1 child because ultimately we can't imagine being older without some family and know that the rewards will outweigh the negatives (for us), it's just a matter of when because we do want to have a few years of just us and all that comes with, but also want to be young enough to have the energy for kids. It's a tough balance.

    Thanks for such a heartfelt response. It's nice to know how others are going through the same process.

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