However, unlike Lamott, I don’t mind Mother’s Day. I get along with own mother just fine and we both know that we love each other. She never criticized the way I hear other mothers do. She doesn’t guilt-trip me. She wants me to be happy. When the nuns tried to expel me for a crime I didn’t commit, she threatened to sue the school. When I called her in tears after my husband threw his fist through the wall above my head, she said, “don’t let anybody ruin your life.” She worked. Her relationship with my father was all-consuming. Emotionally, I largely took care of myself. But she was always there in the clutch, which was enough for me.
Me, I don’t have children. I never decided not to. And, of course, I’ve been asked, did I want them?
The best answer I have is, I was open to it. But I never fell in love with a man who I thought would make a good father, that together he and I would make a good team for the task. I’m aware, of course, that nor did I look, specifically, for a man to father my children. So, it must not have been a priority, and if it’s not, one should probably abstain. I wanted to be self-employed and I did that. I wanted to write a book and I did that. When I decided I wanted to get married, something I had never particularly sought out, I married the next guy who turned my head believing because I was ready, The One appeared. So, I seem to have a track record of doing what I want. I guess I didn’t want to be a mother enough to make it happen and if I had, it would have become my life, as I believe children deserve.
I once had a man say to me, “You’re not any less hot because you don’t have kids.” I said, “I didn’t think so.” It had never occurred to me that having or not having children would have something to do with my personal heat.
In my novel, Shaking Out the Dead, Geneva is a 62 year-old woman without children. When her friend ends up in a situation where she’ll be raising a child, she reflects:
Geneva could never admit it outside of the privacy of her own mind, but at first, she was not thrilled with the arrival of a child into her world. She had already once navigated the world of mothers as a childless woman while in her twenties and thirties. She remembered it as a world of women who either imagined her life as joyless or resented her freedom. They all seemed to believe there was a depth of love of which Geneva was incapable as it was a skill acquired exclusively through breeding.
Geneva thought they were wrong. She thought it was a skill some needed to have children in order to learn.
Writing it, even assigning such sentiments to a make-believe person, had felt dangerous to me, like it was a thing I had no right to say because I don’t have children. I was worried it would make the character unlikable, and I liked her a lot.
Either choice, children yes or children no, or either outcome, takes courage. Some aren’t fortunate enough to have the choice, such as those who have issues with fertility and conception. I know those who have experienced this heartbreak and undergone maddening treatments to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term.
To be denied one’s heart’s desire is vicious.
I have children in my life. Nieces, nephews, and goddaughters. I would lay down my life for each of them. But I have others, grown-up people, for whom I would also take the bullet. Hell, I’ve crawled over and fallen through ice in December to save my dog, half in and half out of the cold water and hanging on by her front legs. I think I would have been a passionate mother, a mama bear, but I loved my child too much to bear him or her without the proper support system, a father, financial stability. All praise to those who raise children well without such supports. I don’t think I could have done it the way I would want to without it. Perhaps had I been fantastically wealthy, I would have gone it alone.
I am deeply grateful for the life I’ve had and my heart’s desires that have come to fruition. I’m sure, as someone without children, there are things I cannot know. I’m sure, too, that those with children, do not know of the other life where meaning isn’t there to care for every morning and shape one’s purpose, where love is unbound from blood, biology, and obligation, but deep and desired and frightening and powerful and longing for expression, still.