This is the 7th blog in the Mothering Matters blog series…
This blog by Trisha Carleton was originally written for Mothering Matters in 2012 but it is just getting posted now – with a short update at the bottom as to where Trisha is at regarding the motherhood decision:
Do Children Equal Happiness?
By Trisha Carleton
“Viewing the women in the documentary really made me think that in a very simplified and generalized way, children in one’s life equals some kind of happiness, while the absence of children equals some kind of unhappiness.”
– Trisha Carleton
I recently watched the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat… Perspectives on Motherhood, and was surprised at the effect it had on me. I am in my late twenties, not married, and have never wanted children.
If you were to ask anyone who has known me for a long time, they could definitely tell you my strong views about why I never want children:
1. Pregnancy — who wants to be big as a house for months?
2. Giving birth — gross, need I say more?
3. Babies — crying, diapers, no sleep and puréed food — yuck!
4. Toddlers — unnecessary noise, goodbye to vacations and time for one’s self, tiny humans swallowing small objects!
5. Kids — can you say drain on the bank account and being a taxi service?
6. Teenagers — living with an alien!
Okay, joking aside, there are two main reasons I haven’t wanted children:
1. I don’t want that level of responsibility. I view being a mother as recognizing everything you do directly affects who your child will be and become as a human being and citizen of this earth. There is no way of knowing what events or actions will have significant or lasting impacts on how a child forms its character, personality, behaviour, and views.
2. To be completely honest, I’m too selfish! I enjoy doing what I want with my time, being able to pick up and take off for the weekend without prior arrangements, schedule a vacation and not worry about people who need supervision, and I’ve dedicated so much time and effort to my education and career I’m not sure how much I have left to give.
Then I watched the Whatever Floats Your Boat documentary, and my mindset was turned upside-down!
Strangely, the take-away-message I got from the film was that the women in the documentary who did not have children — for whatever reason— were the ones who were upset, having to rationalize their lives and state of “happiness” and were the ones crying to the camera in the one-on-one interviews.
The women who did have children, by whatever circumstance, seemed genuinely happy and satisfied with how their lives resulted. Not one person with children expressed even a hint of regret for having them (although it’s questionable if anyone would express these feelings, especially on film, as it is considered unacceptable in our society).
But it really made me think that in a very simplified and generalized way, children in one’s life equals some kind of happiness, while the absence of children equals some kind of unhappiness.
Now I’m left with the fear I might be missing something potentially very important and valuable in this life — that unfortunately has a small window of opportunity in a woman’s life.
Based on my personal view, let’s review the criteria that would be required for me to have a baby and be a mother in the traditional sense:
A) A devoted, monogamous male partner
B) One I could be absolutely in love with
C) One who could be absolutely in love with me
D) Will marry me
E) Also wants children
F) Is fertile
G) Some level of stability in life
Maybe many people can’t totally “afford” to have children, but some financial stability would be good
H) A home (not the cramped apartment or converted basement with a roommate)
I) A satisfying job that won’t write me off for taking maternity leave
Oh ya, and accomplish all of this by, let me think — NOW! At the latest by my early thirties, to finish having children by my late thirties (I think a child needs siblings, so two to three minimum)
So should I just give up now?!
At the end of the day, I’m reaching the age where I need to seriously consider motherhood, if I want to participate in the traditional sense of giving birth to my own children. When it comes to being a parent, for women the pressure is on as there are only so many years when this can happen.
I don’t want to stress about it though. I don’t want it to be a decision.
I feel I should just know what I want – yet at this time, I’m really not sure. I’m honestly not sure what I should do. Or maybe the better question would be: what can I do to figure this out?
Update as of June 2016
I would say 95% of the above still stands. Now that I’m 32 and in a great relationship with someone who also doesn’t want children, I feel reassured in my original certainty of NOT wanting children. There’s no question for me anymore…having kids is not for me and that’s okay. I’m okay with it because I know it’s the best decision for me, regardless of what anybody else thinks.
Trisha Carleton is a Museum Professional with a BA Anthropology and an MA Museum Studies. Trisha is passionate about travel, horses, and books and values honesty, authenticity, and integrity.
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