I really enjoy being a Mommy! The fact that there is a person who has little bits of my husband and I, mixed and matched into a bundle of cuteness, is just eternally delightful. As she unveils more and more of her personality, I see some of her Daddy’s charming mannerisms and my endearing quirks. It constantly blows my mind that I have the opportunity to watch a human being develop, from conception to adulthood. It is surprising how many things we take for granted about our daily life that were once major challenges and significant milestones. Being a parent allows me to appreciate and celebrate these moments. But there is a hefty price, paid daily, to enjoy these precious moments. As parents we invest all of our resources into the life of this tiny human being. We use all the knowledge and experience we have to build our little ones up to be leaders who will make a difference in their time.
In my teen years, I wasn’t infatuated with mommyhood or the wonders of parenting. In fact I never had a fondness for babies or children. As a young adult I always kept a plan A, B, C and D for contraception, as did many of my friends. We had accepted society’s programming to prioritise academic and professional pursuits, and we preferred to channel our resources into maintaining comfortable lifestyles. Full-time jobs and part-time studies were cushioned by spa days, fine dining, all-inclusive resort vacations and frequent flyer miles. We knew this routine didn’t necessarily conflict with being a parent, but we also knew they weren’t the best worlds to combine. We never had to look very far for a steady stream of complaints and lectures about the disadvantages of parenthood, and how easy and uncomplicated our lives were. We received random warnings from elders who thought it best to postpone childbearing until one’s place in society had been established.
On the other side of things we dealt with nudges from parents wanting grandchildren, siblings wanting nieces and nephews, family friends and co-workers who warned that our spouses would have illegitimate children because we were depriving them. But rarely did any of these ‘nudgers’ take note that we, the childless, weren’t interested in what they were selling. These ‘well-wishers’ never considered the level of contentment we had, with all the things going on in our lives. They never genuinely inquired about our personal goals or paid attention to our priorities. We were made to feel that the sum total of our existence was how many children we produced.
Because we were choosing to postpone childbearing, the nagging was easy to shrug off. Not so for those who are suffering silently as blow after insensitive blow is dealt to their wounds of infertility and loss. There are couples who have agreed to build a life together, knowing they won’t be able to conceive, and they shouldn’t be forced to disclose their circumstance to anyone. And there are couples who have suffered silently through miscarriages or still-births. It doesn’t matter what angle you take it from, any conversation about childbearing is a discussion about a person’s reproductive health and sexual activity. And, though it might not be perceived as such — the reality is that it’s a blatant intrusion into a very private aspect of an individual’s life and a couple’s relationship. You just might be crossing the line if you bring up the topic of childbearing uninvited.
Although I completely adore all the wonderful ways my daughter has transformed my life, I haven’t forgotten that I was happy before she came into my life. I would never want to change being a mother, but I am still very conscious of the joys of childless living. My childless friends don’t have to share their time, money and attention. They are free to pursue any and all of their passions (school, career, hobbies, fitness, etc) without any reservations. They don’t have to share their spare time or surrender intimate moments to juvenile interruptions. They don’t have the lifelong responsibility and psychological bond of obligation to a child.
We should respect everyone as an individual — giving them the right to choose (or not choose) parenthood, and the privacy to discuss or conceal their choice or circumstance. As parents who hope to raise respectful and compassionate children, we need to model an acceptance of diversity; because the reality is that not everyone can, should or desires to have children. When you’ve fallen in love with your baby, it’s very easy to assume that every woman wants to or is able to have children. But motherhood shouldn’t lead one to harass or nudge. The most important thing we can do for our loved ones is support their interests and priorities — whether they include children or not.
Didan Ashanta is a natural living enthusiast who blogs at DidanAshanta.com. A native of Jamaica, she currently lives in Tokyo with her husband and 1-year-old daughter.