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Population Control

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.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dear Barb,

    What an amazing article again! I sponaneously had to think of 3 things:
    1) How my grandmother always says that only after she has had my father, there was a purpose to her life.
    2) How I talked to my mother and her friends at her birthday and we – 4 women from 27 to 50-something – all agreed that there should be one person devoting their time to the children (no matter if that is the father or the mother) and that incomes should be on a level to make this choice possible (and none of us consideres herself conservative…)
    3) How many of my acquaintances (day-one-feminists in their sixties) would probably stone me for saying I wanted to become a fill-time mother.

    Isn’t that interesting how the womens’ liberation worked? Now we have all the same rights as men have, but have the communication and relationships between the genders become any better and more fulfilling? I don’t think so. I’m not saying I don’t value these rights – I do! But it just hasn’t been the complete solution. And I wonder: if we had started from the communication and relationship side, wouldn’t the rights have changed along with it?
    Well, no matter what, we still have a lot of work to do!

    I share your question on women choosing marriage and parenthood: actually, one of the only reasons I could find for marriage nowadays was that there is more than one person needed to raise children and you never know if a feel-good-relationship will end spontaneously and you’ll be alone with the kids (granted, marriages do end, too).
    And the question for me goes further, still: if today we have the same rights as men, can earn our livings and support a family as men – how do we choose a man? Our grandmothers may have had the possibility of choosing candidates according to if their incomes made it possible to raise a family… I find it much harder today to know what we should choose a man for🙂
    I mean, if we can do anything ourselves if need be, we are ready to do so if some things in the other person don’t meet our expectations. However, our expectations may have risen, but the people haven’t changed as much… this makes me feel as if the willingness and the “glue” for a relationship has become scarce. I think that now, as we are not dependent on a relationship anymore, we don’t quite know how to lead one out of the joy of doing so.

    Actually, I have always thought of the relationship between a man and a woman as a chance for growth and learning, much as you describe the effect of children. So maybe we can choose today if we would rather learn from a child or a partner? Or maybe from friends we live with? Maybe we have to come up with completely new forms of relationships.
    I’d love to hear your daughter’s take on all this – she has my age, but I consider her quite a bit ahead as she has been raised in your spirit🙂

    April 24, 2012
  2. Thanks for your thoughtful comments again Robyn! I actually don’t believe in “choosing” a partner. While I realize others have different ideas about this, I believe the “choice” is made for us via the compelling, unexplainable chemistry that exists when one meets the person that spurs this. When this occurs, it is so compelling that one can’t live fully and happily without the other. One can consciously choose to give it up for rationally-based reasons but the heart wants what the heart wants. I believe in saying yes! to the people, thoughts and things that allow me to feel that electricity of chemistry: the match of what my heart and soul want, desire and dream about.

    April 24, 2012
    • Dear Barb,
      Thank you so for this answer. I had to digest it some days before responding – the reason for it being that I am currently in a very “reasonable” relationship with a man I love because he’s always there for me when I feel bad, completely reliable and giving me a sense of security that I never had before (and that I was craving badly – for the first time I am able to believe that I don’t have to do everything on my own but there are in fact people to rely on).
      However, I know this chemistry… with someone I tried to cut out of my life in various ways because he had a grilfriend when we met, now I have someone and anyway, I’m not sure if all his actions that I know of make him someone I want to spend my life with (or an extended part of it). Nonetheless, he is able to touch my soul and I feel he understands who I am in my innermost – a level of understanding that I am missing with my boyfriend.
      It’s like having to choose between a warm coat and underwear. They’re like two halves of a whole. I feel I’m unable (and unwilling!) to give one up for the other, to constantly live with only half of what I need or to give them up both… but maybe it’s also just a case of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence”.
      But your post will keep me thinking about it…

      April 26, 2012
      • I am a very rational and thoughtful person and I know how easy it is for me to over think and side with what ‘seems’ like the best decision. As I have challenged myself to counter this conditioned way of being with a trust in my intuition and FEELINGS, I have not only enjoyed life much more but eliminated so much angst and stress as well. The core of my being always knows what the ‘right’ choice is and I have learned that I can’t access it through rational or intellectual thinking. It’s all about how my body feels when I weigh the options, where my mind drifts when I don’t try to occupy it with facts, listening to the little voices in my head that are always guiding me.

        Robyn, who do you wake up thinking about? Who do you think of when you connect with that feeling of love? If the answer is not clear or if you have to think about it, then neither of these men are worthy of committing yourself to. That’s my two cents.

        April 26, 2012
        • I just read some days ago: “The surprising solution to a dilemma often is to pick neither of the two seemingly only available options”…
          Heavens help me.
          I think part of the problem is that my own father left our family and that’s why I desire a very committed, reliable partner – if not for my sake, then for the sake of my future children. On the other hand it’s always me that tells all her friends: “You don’t do your children any favour if you do something >just for them< (staying with a man you no longer love, forsaking an opportunity abroads out of fear of making them lose all their friends and having to go to another country, …). The biggest favour you can do your children is to be completely yourself…" – it might sound selfish, but I believe in being our authentic selves and thus empowering children to do the same.

          April 26, 2012
          • interesting coincidence here! Yes, our psychological baggage really wants to weigh us down and keep hold of us. As challenging as it can be, we always have a choice, every single minute, to decide what we will allow into our field of thought… the past, the present or the future? We can’t control the future, the past binds us and only the present allows for authentic opportunity. How will I spend this moment? How can I focus my thoughts and actions to feel good, joyful and fully alive IN THIS MOMENT? Everything good stems from the ability to feel GENUINE joy and contentment in this moment. Does this sound confusing to you?

            April 26, 2012
            • For me it is hard to see in which direction my psychological baggage is actually pulling me – while growing up I’ve seen family members choose security over love (and lose) and love over reason (and lose). I think if I get to lead any reasonable happy relationship, I’m pleased! (Not that my relationships were all horrible! They were all fine, even though not permanent)

              No, this doesn’t sound confusing at all. It sounds like something to keep working on🙂

              April 26, 2012
            • Is there a way of choosing our thoughts (and thus creating our reality) that does not make us living in our own world completely?
              You know, to avoid me creating my reality and then the “outer” reality clashing with mine when they have grown too much apart?

              How does one know which thoughts to choose without manipulating oneself in the wrong direction?
              As a practical example:
              Being in a relationship, there always are ups and downs. When being in a down, thinking too much about the downwards trend may cause the relationship to end, even if this was just a temporal rough patch and the relationship would have continued very happily thereafter.
              But on the other hand, might choosing to always think good thoughts about a relationship cause it to permeate even though it is outgrown?

              I hope you can give an absolute beginner some tips how to start out with the choosing🙂

              And, Barb, thank you so much for all your answers. I hope I don’t take too much of your time. I am so grateful for this highly inspirational exchange that really helps me so much!!!

              April 26, 2012
              • here’s a radical idea: since your whole world, YES, YOUR WHOLE WORLD, is all in your head, you can even change the past, or change a nightmare, into a fantasy of your own choosing. If you have a troubling memory that crops up for you, give it a fresh start. Imagine how you would LIKE that memory to play out. Feel good about the fantasy of that. Begin to realize that you can make that happen with everything in your life. In the end, your day to day life plays out exactly how you expect it to. If you believe relationships are always fraught with conflict and heartache then guess what? They will be for you. If you believe you are capable of being different than others in your family, then imagine how your relationships will be different, how YOU will be different. Follow through on the ways you WANT to be, the ways you believe you can be.

                You don’t ever have to think about whether a decision is right or wrong, only what feels good. Do you know what feels good? Sometimes people have lost touch with what feels authentically good. Can you remember a time or times when you genuinely felt really good, happy, loved, connected to yourself or another? That feels good. Remember that feeling and make choices that allow you to get as close to that feeling as possible.

                Yes, of course relationships have ups and downs and maturity is required to discern the intent of both of you in a situation. We create downs in our relationships largely so we can more fully enjoy the ups. After all, you can’t have a 24 hour orgasm or it wouldn’t be an orgasm anymore, would it? There is a huge range of ups and downs in relationships however, from a cycle of abuse to differences of opinions. Your heart knows the difference. Listen to it. If it feels like abuse, realize that you if you stay in the relationship you are asking for the experience of abuse.

                In an average case of a down in a relationship you might try first imagining how you WOULD like to have played out the altercation if you had it to do all over again. Does your fantasy give you space to change future connection and communication with your partner? Can you evolve with this person into something better, something that feels more connected? If so, it feels good. Do it.

                does this help?

                April 26, 2012
      • I will let you know if it helped when I’ve tried it out for some time🙂
        What DID already help a lot was “talking” to you. Often my thoughts are way too messy and I need someone to play them back and forth with to gain some clarity. If I was to award it, you’d get the Agony Aunt Gold Medal!

        I truly love what you say about not choosing between right and wrong, but choosing what feels good. Right and wrong are so abstract, whereas we should be able to determine way more easily what feels good to us. And the great thing: we can argue a lot with others about what’s right and wrong – but nobody can reasonably challenge our perception of our feelings! No need to justify anymore!

        It is true that I have lost genuine contact with what feels authentically good. Remember us talking about passions we had as children a little while ago? So it justs adds to the same homework🙂

        April 26, 2012
  3. There were some really good points you raised. I have tried, and hopefully will see one day that I have succeeded, in teaching my own children that becoming a parent one day is just one of many choices. For me I enjoy the idea of introducing to the world other human beings that will make this world a brighter more interesting place. As my children (I have 7) grow older the more excited I become and the more grateful I am that I made that choice in my life. I watch as they take in the world around them and interact in meaningful ways with people and look forward to the day when they are “grown” and my part is over and I can watch with delight all the various choices they make. But I have a very firm realization of where I start and where my children begin. I think that can be very difficult for many parents, and I even struggled for a few years towards the beginning of my parenting journey. It is my belief that children do not need or want us to become lost in them, they just want us to believe in them and to deeply want them as a part of this world. The rest are just details that are different for each family and child. It makes me sad to think of so many of my friends and family that have came into parenting because they felt that it was something they “had” to do. What better world we would have if such pressures were not forced on others like that either on purpose or subconsciously through societal tone.

    As far as being married, I think having a long term committed relationship is well suited to my personality. I enjoy having someone that I trust completely that I can talk with without fear of rejection around me on a regular basis. I think everyone needs that in their lives and that it does not always have to be a spouse, it just happens to be in my situation.

    Great thoughts, will be sharing. : ) ~Sasha

    April 24, 2012
    • I agree with what you have to say here on all counts. I am left to wonder however whether or how my life might have been different if I had enjoyed an atmosphere of freedom and empowerment as a child, teen and young adult. I am not saying I would not have had children or a husband – I love and am extraordinarily grateful for the richness of my life with them in it. I’m not a ‘what if’ or ‘only if’ kind of person, much more of a ‘now’ person… but my recent enlightening conversation with my daughter got me thinking… again. I do really love to think.

      April 24, 2012
      • I can understand that. In my younger days I did these wonderfully fun sculptors (my favorite ones were the large metal ones I did with welding) and worked in a dinner show theater. I find it interesting that as I get older I am going back to doing so many of the things I did back then. It is not as if my life has been on pause so much as I put one book down, picked up a very different but just as delightful one for a time and now have gotten back to the book I was originally enjoying so much. I do, from time to time, wonder “what if”. I think that is natural and helpful to explore all the sides of yourself even the parts that never happened. The promises of something, even if it only ever in our own minds, are still something worthy of attention and can help us learn more about ourselves. You sound like a truly wonderful mother and your daughter sounds like a very amazing person. Once again thank you for sharing your conversation with the rest of the world, it was wonderful thinking food.

        April 25, 2012
  4. Lindsey Royal Anderson #

    I think it’s a wonderful twist on population control, and how empowering to follow the beat of your own heart, especially when it sings with children in the community! Another way to help control the population, perhaps for women and men like your daughter is to seek adoption, as there are many unwanted children in the world (wandering aimlessly around those orphanages and school programs).

    I think it’s interesting that you write about marriage as “a partner to shore them up, support them or share expenses/responsibilities” when, I think of marriage in similar words, only the sentiment is altogether different. I believe that marriage (which does NOT have to be “forever”–whatever that means; it can actually be a five year contract, a contract through menopause, etc.) is a beautiful expression of love between two people, to find a partner (or several?) to shore and share and support and how about sharing experiences! This said, I do not in any way believe that one should get married to express those sentiments. But I love when anyone does what they feel true to their core.

    Thanks for posing such provoking questions and concepts. You are spinning the wheels of the gears in your readers’ heads. I appreciate your dedication to stirring the pot, to thinking outside the box, and expressing it so eloquently all the while. Love!

    April 24, 2012
    • Thanks so much for your comments Lindsey, although I must reply that adoption is definitely full time parenting and an unlikely option for one who is choosing not to become a parent! Also, I think you misunderstood the marriage connotations. In my perfect world, of course marriage (or partnership) means a deep and connected love with another. In the real world however, I see a great many marriages that are formed for many other reasons that come from a core of insecurity or feeling of lack. This is truly a much more involved discussion, of course. The beautiful thing is that, no matter how we become coupled or become a parent, we are all capable of change such that our inner and outer worlds fall into alignment with grace and flow, power and empowerment, love and connection with the essence of who we really are and what allows us to feel magnificent.

      April 25, 2012
  5. sparklingadventures #

    THanks for such a thought-provoking article, Barb! I have been exploring similar things in my mind as my husband has found someone with whom he wants to have a relationship (and a child!) and I am left wondering 1) what is love? and 2) why am I willing to do anything to keep my husband?
    It’s heartbreaking for me, but I am learning a lot about myself and also trying to remember the bigger picture of unity and one-ness in this part of me that wants to be an individual and wants another individual selfishly.

    April 25, 2012

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