8 Reasons I Should Never Have Been a Mother

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This isn’t easy for me to admit.

But it’s the truth.

Here are eight reasons why I should never have been a mother:

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As a child, I never really saw myself as a parent. I played with dolls and committed to one of them for a while—I dressed her in real baby clothes and diapers, and the neighbor across the street saved cleaned baby food jars for me. But that’s all it was. Play. When I thought of my grown-up self, getting married was in the picture, but children weren’t anywhere near the frame.

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I never liked babysitting. I did it because of the money, that’s it.

number_03 I’m a lot like my dad, and he was emotionally absent for most of my childhood. I’m happy to say we have a loving, present relationship now. But growing up, I had no reason to believe I would be any different.

number_04 At 16 years old and after an unexpected surgery, I was told I would most likely never conceive because of a “female problem.” I almost lost the ability entirely due to the decisive surgeon who couldn’t imagine I’d have any use for my reproductive parts if I couldn’t have children.

In my early 20s, I worked in a doctor’s office with a woman who struggled with infertility. Almost daily I’d watch her direct her manic grin at all the babies and moments later I’d find her crouched in an empty exam room sobbing. That was enough to convince me I didn’t want any part of that.

number_05 The maternal bone was buried so far outside my body, I walked around in a bag of childless flesh. I didn’t think babies were cute, feared holding them, and felt anxious and annoyed around them. I heard no ticking clocks. Ever.

I wondered sometimes if all that poking around during my earlier surgery had severed some maternal artery or vein—the mother juice never made it to my brain or heart.

number_06 There were examples of childless families all around me growing up (and plenty of people who said without children you weren’t a real family). In college I wrote a research paper about childfree-by-choice couples. The ones I interviewed were content with their lives and had devoted, couple-focused marriages (similar to the parents in this TIME article). They seemed serene in a way I’d never seen in my own parents or friends’ parents. (Full disclosure: One couple got divorced, but it wasn’t because of not having children.)

The couples who had children? They looked exhausted and battered, and lived more like two friends than husband and wife (on good days). It seemed as if they had deferred their lives until the kids were grown and they could go their own separate ways. To me, in my 20s, it looked like this:

CHILDREN=MARRIAGE KILLER

number_07 When I became pregnant, I was devastated, for all the reasons above, but mostly because I didn’t want to share my husband with another person. We hadn’t spent near enough time alone: We got engaged six weeks after we met, married six months later, and were pregnant within five more.

Due to reason number four above, we thought trying to prevent a pregnancy would be like wearing seat belts in a vacant parking lot—an unnecessary precaution.

number_08 When our daughter was born, I developed postpartum depression and anxiety before we even left the hospital. That was the icing on the I-shouldn’t-have-children cake. But that cake was already baked and slathered with frosting, and I couldn’t put it back in the box.

When I stared in the mirror during those first few weeks, I didn’t look like the other mothers around me. Not like the ones on TV, in the movies, or in real life, like my best friend who had her daughter two months before ours.

She floated. I drowned.

She glowed. I faded.

I wanted to run, far away, and never come back. I was insane from the anxiety. I looked at my daughter and all I could see were the next 18 years of my life being sucked into the black hole of motherhood. If I was so different from all the mothers around me, didn’t that mean it was all a big mistake? Didn’t it mean I should have never been a mother?

Didn’t it?

No, it didn’t.

Here are seven reasons why I turned out to be a damn good mom, despite those eight above:

number_01 I learned from others’ less-than-successful attempts, mostly my dad’s in his earlier parenting days. I’m present, interested in, and curious about my daughter’s life. (In my dad’s defense, he did the best he could with the skills he learned from his parents—I love you dad.)

number_02 My marriage, after some weathered and rubbed-raw patches, is now front and center (what we’d vowed to do when we got pregnant). We are husband and wife first, parents second. We are a team, and support each other in everything we do. The best gift we give our daughter isn’t an iPad, a car or a college education. It’s a strong marriage.

number_03 My husband and I decided within days after our daughter was born that one child was enough for us, and we’ve never regretted that decision. We wanted the time and energy to live as multi-faceted individuals. When we looked around, those two commodities seemed in shorter supply with each additional child.

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number_04 As our daughter grows, my non-mom roles evolve and blossom. I’ll always be her mom, but she doesn’t need me in the same way she did when she was three—she and I recognize that, and know it’s okay and natural at this stage of her life. We celebrate her independence.

number_05 I know now that the mom with postpartum depression/anxiety wasn’t the real me. I had an illness courtesy of deranged hormones, amplified by lack of sleep, and new-parent inexperience and floundering. Those weeks when I was lost and detached did not make me a bad mother or person…just a sick one who was much better after some help.

number_06 I’m not my daughter’s best friend. She already has best friends and will have more later. But she only has one mom. And I’m willing to bear her anger and resentment as part of that role (like Brianne McDonald talks about in #10…the rest of them are pretty interesting too).

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I am awed by all the extraordinary aspects of being a mother:

Growing a human in your body
Seeing bits of yourself (the good and bad) in the person you made
Watching that person develop into a wondrous human being
Loving someone in a way unequaled in other relationships
Feeling the agony of that person’s fear, uncertainty, confusion, alienation, and heartbreak
Experiencing the bliss and relief in the results of that person’s hard-learned lessons

All of which I’d have missed if my daughter hadn’t careened into my life.

And I am so, so grateful she did.

Me and daughter

A final thought: This post is a reflection on my specific life experiences and that’s all, no matter what others may read into it. I speak only for and about myself.

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So what role did you take on or experience that turned out different than you had expected? When in your life did you start out as a reluctant participant only to end up as a rabid champion?

13 thoughts on “8 Reasons I Should Never Have Been a Mother

  1. I never wanted children until I had them (which sounds funny, but it’s true). I can’t imagine my life without them, even though we’ve gone through miscarriages, death of one child, and more. However, I think you’re very brave to list the reasons why you didn’t think it would work for you and how it did anyway. So many people are made to feel “less” or incomplete without children, and the bottom line is that not everyone needs that type of completeness…or even feels incomplete at all. It’s not selfish if it’s what’s best for you.

    Focusing on your marriage is the key to having a good marriage, whether there are children involved or not, but unfortunately too many people trade off one for the other, only to regret the lack of marital nurturing when the kids grow up and move on. You seem to have managed to figure it all out pretty well. I’m happy for you.

    1. Thanks Lynda! What a trying set of circumstance you’ve persevered through.

      I remember getting into an argument with a relative (by marriage) about why I didn’t want to have children. He was offended that I would even consider not reproducing. “Who will take care of you when you’re older?” he asked. I said just because you have kids it doesn’t mean they’ll be there for you in your old age. He’s lucky that his daughter is taking care of him now that he needs it. I’m sure he’d tell me “I told you so” if I saw him again. 🙂

  2. I never wanted kids either for many of the same reasons you listed. I wouldn’t trade my adult sons for all the money in the world, though. Of course, you couldn’t pay me enough to go back to the first five years of parenthood. Babies and toddlers still aren’t my thing.
    Everyone tells me all that will change once I have grandchildren. Maybe, but I’m not holding my breath. I survived my own boys’ early years by the grace of God, a sister who is Super Mom and a supportive husband.
    As for marriage, I tell all the young people I know to put their spouse before their children. There won’t be enough hours in a day no matter what, but the kids do grow up and make their own life. A spouse is supposed to stay with you forever.

    1. Thanks for speaking up Sharon. For a long time I felt like an anomaly for not wanting children, so it’s been encouraging hearing from other mothers that they felt the same way.

      I think the beauty of having grandchildren, like nieces and nephews, is you can “enjoy” them in short blocks of time and hand them back over to their parents when you’ve had enough. Although according to my daughter, she’s not going to have any children—they’re more trouble than they’re worth, according to her. 🙂

  3. Child-free and have never regretted it a bit. Somewhat surprisingly, I don’t feel like people have judged me for that choice. But maybe they just didn’t do it to my face 🙂

    1. Hi Sonya! Yeah, you don’t really know what people might say when you’re not around. But it doesn’t really matter, does it? Certainly wouldn’t change your decision. Thanks for popping in!

  4. Wow, Kelly, this is a really great post. First, as Lynda said, kudos to you for being brave and admitting the truth about not wanting children. There is much pressure (spoken and unspoken) in our society to grow up, go to college (or not), find your soul mate and have the requisite 2.5 kidlets to create the American Dream. It’s a lot of pressure to deal with if it’s not YOUR dream. It’s really great to know yourself well enough to know what YOU want and to have the guts to admit it and share it with others.

    The fact that you put your marriage first is, I think, key to making it all work. You’re right – I see friends of mine who don’t and they suffer for it. And the children suffer as well. It truly is the greatest gift you can give her. If she grows up knowing she’s loved and watching you and your husband love one another, she’s going to be an amazing person, and from what I’ve read about her in your other posts, she’s already there.

    I can tell you’re a GREAT mom, Kelly. Congratulations on that huge accomplishment… even though you were a reluctant participant at first. 🙂

    1. Thanks Kelly! I’ve been encouraged to hear other people speak out about not wanting children too and that they haven’t regretted their decision.

      And the pressure to have kids doesn’t stop with the first one. Not only did we get questions about when we were having our second one within days after having our first, the question kept coming until our daughter was around eight years old. I never understood why other people felt so invested in our child bearing decision and felt entitled to ask about it. Thankfully she’s old enough, or rather I’m old enough, that the questions have stopped. Aging has its benefits after all!

  5. Wow you don’t normally see someone admitting this stuff out loud… I have absolutely no desire for kids right now – do see them as a Life Killer rather than Life Enhancer… But who’s to say what the future holds.. Maybe I’ll change my mind and come over all maternal some day :p and if the ‘worst’ does happen, hopefully I’ll be able to own it as well as you.

    1. Thanks Sara. You never know, do you…

      But I do know that you can’t be kind of pregnant–it’s baby or no baby, and that negotiation is one of the hardest. I love being a mom, now; but I also believe my husband and I would have been content with just us.

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