I can remember as a small child going to my aunt’s house on weekend afternoons. Instead of playing with my cousins in their rooms, I could always be found sitting at the kitchen table while the adults talked and drank coffee. My mother was never surprised that I didn’t want children when I grew up. “You never liked kids when you WERE a kid!” she always tells me.
As far as playing with dolls, I remember getting a Cabbage Patch Kid when the craze hit in the early 1980s, and for subsequent birthdays and Christmases I wanted every single piece of “Mommying” equipment money could buy. Felicia Lilah (I still even remember her name!) had a stroller, playpen, and even a highchair that clipped to the table for meals.
As I moved into my teenage years and started dating seriously, I remember envisioning my future as a wife and mother, even going as far as to pick out names for kids. (In some strange kind of irony, I remember thinking Christopher James was a wonderful name for a boy – guess what my husband’s name is??)
After high school, my active dating life abruptly came to a halt when my high school sweetheart dumped me for some floozy, and I enrolled at a woman’s college. I spent those years focused intently on my education, wondering about my future, if I would ever find someone to marry, and what our lives would be like.
I first met my husband when we were both interviewing for a prestigious museum studies graduate program. We were both accepted, and I remember being nervous about attending school with “boys” again. I had spent four years almost exclusively focused on my career, and I was worried about “distractions.”
We became friends right away, and one thing led to another. We were officially “an item” by the end of our first year of grad school. That summer, we headed in opposite directions for our internships – I went to Pittsburgh while he moved to Mystic, CT. We wrote letters daily (with real paper and pens, since neither of us had internet access in those days!), and I spent hours writing in my journal about how much I missed him.
After we were married, and had already established that we both didn’t want kids, I was startled to look back at those journal entries and discover references to how Chris would “make a good father.” After major surgery the fall after our summer separation, I remember yelling out in recovery that “we could still have babies!” much to his embarrassment, since we weren’t even engaged yet at the time.
I felt like I had always known I didn’t want kids, and yet, how could I explain these incidents where I talked about having kids?
It took me a long while to reconcile these seemingly disparate aspects of my personality.
Finally, I discovered that my fantasy life as a mother “someday” with high school boyfriends and even Chris before our engagement, derived from what I thought I was “supposed” to do with my life.
As soon as I got engaged, graduated from my master’s program, and started my first job, this idea of my future suddenly became my present.
When it was time for me to start thinking seriously about my future, instead of just being a dumb kid dreaming about it, I started to think about what I really wanted out of life.
And the idea of being a mother was about as appealing to me as moving to a deserted island and eating bark for dinner.
Chris and I never had “the talk” where we asked each other whether or not we wanted kids. But I know we had both independently come to the decision that we didn’t long before our marriage. In our pre-marital counseling, we talked about how both of us didn’t want to become parents. So when we said our vows, there was no doubt we were on the same page.
I get a lot of email from folks who have “been where I am” and now have a wonderful, fulfilling life as parents. I applaud them for their decision. But I demand that they respect mine too.
Motherhood is simply not in my future.