We have a ritual, my flatmates and I. We sit down after dinner over a pack of cigarettes and discuss our relationships, our fears, parents, sex, society, feminism, marriage; pretty much anything and everything you can think of. We talk our hearts out, indulge in healthy debates. It is one part of the day we all cherish and look forward to.
During one such adrenaline fuelled discussion, the conversation veered towards the prospect of motherhood, and how as twenty-somethings, having a child (or a couple of them) is an inevitability and it is going to happen sooner than we’d anticipate.
While my friends chirped on about how raising a child is a gigantic and beautiful responsibility and that they want to do motherhood right, I quickly jumped in to assert that I don’t want children. Ever.
This, quite obviously, triggered some raised eyebrows and vehement attempts at trying to convince me otherwise. The girls animatedly talked about the naturalness of motherhood, how as women, it’s our destiny to become mothers. That as women, the only way that we can be full, complete human beings is when we become mothers.
No, their assertion was not one that stemmed from a staunchly patriarchal mindset, or so I believe. My girls, as my well wishers and close friends, truly believed that motherhood is an experience every woman should go through. They talked about the importance of starting a family and leaving a part of you behind, a legacy.
I understood what they were saying, for the most part, but I couldn’t exactly relate.
My best friend is getting married later this year. She can’t wait to have kids, she says. Most of my friends actively want this- she wants to feel life growing within her, she wants to give birth, she wants to be pregnant, to be able to give love unconditionally, to have someone to look after her in the future, to experience the joy of motherhood. I feel none of these things.
But I decided to not write myself off as a cold hearted bitch. While childbirth holds the promise of being a fulfilling, life-altering experience, it isn’t something I am ready for, or ever will be. As I sit down to ponder over why I am averse to the idea of having children, it hits me that being responsible for another life, is serious business.
As young adults, trudging through our days, trying to get our shit together, bringing to life another entire person, and being responsible for them, is more than what I bargained for. It’s an active choice I have made for myself.
I think about how much my parents, all of our parents worry about us. Every waking moment of their lives is spent thinking about the wellbeing of their children. That is the thing about unconditional love. There’s no escaping it.
My mother abandoned her career prospects to ensure that I turn out fine, that I am not neglected, that she is a good mother to me. I wish, for her sake, that she had not done all of that. This holds true for most parents. It’s almost as if their lives aren’t their own anymore- every tiny detail, every act is an attempt to make life better for us children.
As selfish as it might sound, I want to live a life of my own. I want to live a life for myself, not through someone else – not even my own offspring.
I’ll tell you why motherhood is a scary prospect for me. I don’t want to wake up one morning, a mother of an adorable little two year old – a screaming, pooping mess- my bundle of happiness, and resent having given birth. I don’t want it to come to the point when my teenage daughter hates me and I am caught in a soul-crushing wheel of unconditional love and frustration.
I don’t want to give in to societal pressure and give birth, become a mother half-heartedly.
Motherhood is not something a woman should undertake as an afterthought. If I choose to bear a child, I need to do it right. It is absolute blasphemy to bring a life into the world and not doing everything in your power to ensure that the child has a healthy upbringing. I am afraid I might not be able to do that. I am afraid of failing to live up to the standards of parenting I have set for myself.
Then, there’s no ignoring the fact that there is the constant, gnawing fear of loss.
Everybody leaves, even your own children. I don’t want to lose my most precious possession to adulthood and inevitable separation. That is what unconditional love does to you. It robs you of reason. It makes you want to hold on even when you are theoretically aware that you probably shouldn’t.
One might make the observation that I am being an escapist. For me, living my own life, without being responsible for another, isn’t a life filled with the lack of what might have been. It is an active choice on my part to live a fulfilled life, a life of contentment, despite – or perhaps because of – being what is called ‘childless’.