My daughter is a natural mother. She has spent a good part of her life playing with baby dolls, talking endlessly about the ins and outs of mothering, parenting and things like discipline and abuse, babysitting – and being the best babysitter on the planet – and dreaming of being a mother. She was even pregnant once at 21 and miscarried. She is now 27, visited me recently for a week, and we had lots to talk about.
One of the things we delved into was whether she still had big dreams to become a mother. She has created a life for herself she totally and completely loves: she is a business owner and loves her work, she is a roller derby queen and passionately loves her sport. She loves being in a feel-good relationship without any plans or pressure to commit herself to the future of that relationship. She is in a place of asking herself whether she is willing to give up all that she currently loves and adores to become a mother… and why she would even consider it. We spent some time dissecting this.
We both have come to believe that the reason children come into our lives is to teach us something: how to live, how to connect with others, what’s important. We wondered: is it possible that given her immersion in the lives of children – through dolls and fantasy, babysitting, intense connection with children all around her for years – that perhaps she had learned what she needed to learn from children and that her future growth would come from ….. elsewhere?
We wondered whether, if women could somehow arrive at a place of confidence, achievement and fulfillment on their own, without a partner helping them get there, would women choose marriage (or partnership) and parenthood? There are so many ways to be with children if it is children we love: we are surrounded with children – through friends, relatives, neighbors. It is so easy to reach out to children and become a part of their lives, and it feels good to do it.
I have spent this past week thinking about this and am ready to pose some questions. Do most of us have children either through accident, cultural conformity, to fulfill an internal need to feel love or with the preconception that having children will satisfy some unmet need or hole inside us? How many of us consciously conceive and bring new life into this world just so that we can devote ourselves to providing a rich and nourishing life for another? For me, I responded to an intense biological drive to become a mother… or at least that is what I have always believed happened. As I look back I can so easily see that my life was common and dull and unfulfilling before I had children. Having children and then challenging myself to learn from their inherent wisdom has got me to where I am today: much wiser, more loving and fulfilled than I was before I had a family. For me then, in hindsight, I was (desperately?) seeking the growth I wanted that I believed having children would offer.
My daughter and I also wondered how many women would choose marriage if they not only consciously decided not to bear children but were fully and independently happy in their lives without a partner to shore them up, support them or share expenses/responsibilities. Sure, it feels great to fall in love, to enjoy another’s company, to cuddle, to make love, even to share life and care for another. But to commit oneself to one person for an entire lifetime? And consciously say no to whatever else lies ahead from a feel-good relationship standpoint? Does this even feel good to consider? While I have (mostly) enjoyed and loved my longterm relationship with my partner over the decades we have been together, I can also admit that there was a level of (dysfunctional?) need present that became some of the glue that held us together: I was weak and lacked confidence when we met and he shored me up, I was a full time mom for 20 years when his ability to produce an income gave me and my kids a life that was enormously enjoyable because we did not have to concern ourselves with bills and cost and all the stressors associated with money.
As I consider the nature of population growth and control, the ramifications of kids abandoned and withering in daycares and schools and after school programs, the general sense of overwork and overwhelment that adults lament about, I am led to fantasize about a world where everyone who has a child does so with a deep and abiding consciousness to give that child a life of empowered freedom to be, to experiment and choose from the multifaceted aspects of life that are continuously changing and evolving, to grow and prosper on one’s own self-guided, self-driven, self-designed path toward an intensely divine and satisfying life. Does that feel as good to you as it does to me?
Even if all this were true and possible and doable, it’s much too lofty an idea for big wide world – changing. Luckily for each of us, the world we live in, that unique world we create for ourselves, is actually much smaller… and entirely manageable. Whew. That makes it much easier. Breathing again. I am ready for change.