Maternal Instinct… or lack thereof

The other day I was walking through the neighborhood with my sister when we heard a child crying in one of the houses. I could tell my sister was distressed over the wails we were hearing, and she admitted that when she hears a child crying all she wants to do is go and comfort them. She appeared to have to physically tear herself away from that house to keep moving on by. Honestly, it’s not surprising considering she’s spent her whole life taking care of children. She babysat, worked in daycares, got her degree in Early Childhood Education and went on to be an amazing teacher, and is now an even more incredible mom. She loves kids, she wants to take care of them all, and that sort of maternal instinct has always been in her long before she was a mother.

Now, when I heard that child crying I found myself actually walking faster. All I wanted to do was get as far away as possible. Even a happy child isn’t exactly pleasant for me to be around. My nephew is the sweetest most loving little boy in the world, and my patience wears thin after about an hour. I can’t help but recall the number of times people kept insisting that one day I’ll want kids of my own, that when I have a child it’ll be different, that somehow I should magically be able to care for a baby at that point. Basically, I’m a woman and I should want kids and that there should be some innate maternal instinct in me. But I don’t think that’s the case at all.

I’m currently going through a divorce, and oddly enough one of the ways people have sought to comfort me is to point out that I still have several good child bearing years ahead of me. Yet, the one thing I have actually been relieved about in having this divorce is that I no longer have to have a baby. We had been trying because he really wanted kids. I went into the marriage knowing that, and had believed that what everyone said was true, that eventually I’d want babies of my own. The years went by and it never became an urge for me. We only started trying because my doctor screwed up and didn’t put in a prescription for birth control. We figured that perhaps now was the time to try then, and he seemed quite excited over the idea. At times it kind of felt like I did, but truthfully I just wanted to make him happy. Every month I didn’t get pregnant was a relief for me.

I’ve been around babies. I don’t want to hold them, I definitely don’t want to change a diaper, and I don’t want to be the one person they have to rely on most in the world. Because being a mother is an extremely important job, and no one should become one just because that’s what they’re expected to do. I’m glad that I realized this before I actually did have a child. If I do get married again I’m going to make sure him and I are on the same page; that neither of us want children. Because if you do want kids, then you shouldn’t be denied that joy anymore than someone should have the burden of feeling obligated to have them either.

A woman not wanting to have a baby should be something that is more widely accepted. Whenever I’ve told people I don’t want kids many act like I’m just being ridiculous, and that I’ll regret not having a child. However, my sister upon hearing such actually laughed and told me how happy she was that I’d finally decided to forgo babies. She knows me, and, as she pointed out, as much as I love her son I’m not one to want to spend a lot of time with him. I’m not even willing to babysit unless it’s just her making a quick run to the store. It’s those that don’t know me, those that think women are just meant to have kids, those are the ones that are so concern over my own personal choice. If you want children then have them, but those that don’t should be allowed to enjoy their life the way they choose.

Having a child should never be an obligation. It shouldn’t be something you do just because you’re a woman, and women have babies. Have a child because you want to take care of them and love them and because they matter to you. I can see how happy my sister is with her son, and how she’s happy to adjust her life to take care of him any way she can. It brings her joy. For me, though, it would’ve ultimately made me unhappy, and I don’t believe I could be a good mother in that case. Knowing such, it would be insanity for me to choose to have a child just because someone thinks there’s some hidden maternal instinct in me. There isn’t. And that’s okay, because there doesn’t need to be for me to have a full and happy life.

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