I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about what it means to be a parent, and a mother. I have read a few blogs and articles here and there about people choosing to be parents, and people not having children and how it seems to separate us into these different categories of people. I am in my mid thirties, and I have equal number of friends with children, and friends without children. Friends who are married, and those who are still single. Some who are married with children, and some who are single parents. I find theses labels difficult.
First, let me say that I never “chose” to have my children (but I love them and wouldn’t change anything for the record). I was young (21) when I became pregnant with my son. I didn’t actively seek out parenthood. It fell in my lap. I did however choose to be his parent. A decision I did not make lightly, and a story that I am not ready to share yet. My daughter is my technically my step-daughter so I can say that I had NO part in the decisions leading to her birth. But I did choose to be her parent when I fell in love with her father (and her too). But I do not feel that that I “chose” my role as parent before these amazing human beings came into my life. It just was what needed to happen.
After my husband and I married we did “choose” to be parents again. When I became pregnant I was over the moon. Finally a pregnancy I was ready for. I was going to enjoy every minute of it! But it was not be. Our daughter had anencephaly and would not live. After her passing, we tried off and on for another five years with no pregnancy. When we decided to “choose”, the choice was not ours to make.
So when I hear people talking about the choices people have made surrounding children, and more specifically making moral judgments about people based on whether or not they have children, it gets my back up. Each story is different, each story just sort of falls into place, some people make choices and others have choices thrust upon them.
Would I have liked to have more children? I think so. But as my children get older and closer and closer to moving out of my house, I am looking forward to finally having some time alone with my husband. Something that we have never had. Does that make me selfish? Does that make me more selfish or less selfish than someone who “chose” to not have children? There are many days when I envy my childless friends, and their ability to fly off to warm tropical places for all inclusive holidays. But there are also days when I envy friends who have 5 or 6 children and their house is filled with laughter.
Running parallel to this train of thought for me, are some thoughts on how I view myself and who I am. When it comes to writing bios, the first thing that I often write is “mother”. I have been rethinking this. Not that I am not proud of being a mother, I suppose that I am, but I don’t know if I want that to define who I am, just as I am sure, that someone who does not have children wants to be defined as “not-mother”. Especially now that my youngest has turned 14, my time spent “parenting” is really quite low compared to the time I spend say, surfing the internet. I definitely do not put “internet junkie” as the first thing in my bio even though it tends to take up just as much of my time! But it IS conflicting because it does consume so much of who I am and what I do. I share stories of my children with the families I work with. It creates a common thread. So being a parent is an important part of who I am, but it not the only part of who I am.
What are your thoughts? Are you a parent? How big a role does it play in who you are and how you describe yourself? Are you child-free and how does that impact how others view you?