Why I Should Feel Good About Not Being a Mom
Mother’s Day is coming up this weekend. While people armed with flowers and cards will be facing long waits for brunch to celebrate motherhood, I’ll likely be pouring cat food in a bowl for my kitty and preparing for a sunny day on my bike. Seven months into my 40s, I’m getting used to midlife and I still feel the same optimism about the future as I did in my mid-twenties — with one exception: I know I won’t have children. I lost interest in procreating in my early thirties and have no desire to have a family now, but that fear of missing out on motherhood is a small pang I feel every so often — particularly on Mother’s Day. When I feel that sting, I have to remind myself of the six reasons I should feel good about not being a mom.
The Environment That the increasing population will destroy the environment isn’t just a fear, it’s inevitable. But, according to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, population controls will do little to save the earth. Some argue the problem isn’t just having babies, it’s having babies with bad consumer behavior. Living in a consumer culture, we’re expected to be over-consumers. Some moms are great at saying “no.” I’m not a super-consumer, but I’m not confident that I could teach someone how to live without when there’s so much pressure to have everything.
Insufferable Internet Expression Without children, I will never have the urge to start a smug mommy blog. I will never garner an eye roll for an internet squeal about how I saved my little peanut from drinking the bathwater he pooped in. I will never draw ire for uttering “musings” or dispensing the acronym SAHM. Instead, I will clog Facebook/Instagram/Twitter feeds with my own brand of annoying: pictures of food and links to my latest kitchen creation. I’m OK with that.
Breeding Bummer According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the first birth rate for women over 40 doubled between 1990 and 2012. Though modern science is able to trick Mother Nature into letting women have babies later in life, it doesn’t relieve them from the anxiety of trying and failing to conceive on their own. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, after the age of 40, a woman has about a 5% chance of getting pregnant naturally. While that number isn’t unbeatable with pharmaceutical manipulation, I’ve watched and listened to friends and relatives my age lament about each step they have to take before IVF is even suggested as an option — the multiple miscarriages, going to frequent doctors’ appointments, injecting themselves with hormones daily. Those are just the physical issues; the emotional impact tends to be much more exhausting. The trade-off is having a child and experiencing unconditional love. But, if I may be honest, I’m so happy I won’t have to put my body and my emotional well-being through that kind of stress.
Vile Vanity Losing weight at 40 is hard. Compounded with baby weight, I think returning to an acceptable weight after delivering an infant would be impossible. That’s not a great reason to not have children, but I’m as vain as most people and when I’m over my acceptable weight, I don’t feel awesome and I want to feel awesome all the time. I know what works for me to stay at my acceptable weight and that involves running marathons. Frankly, I don’t need to run another marathon.
Miniature Monsters I will not create monsters and monsters won’t go after my kids. I was a monster. I was bullied by monsters. Growing up was difficult enough without the immediacy of social media and all of the unvarnished hatred kids spew at each other at and outside of school, I can’t imagine what it’s like now. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2013 about 20% of high school students reported being bullied and 15% reported being cyber-bullied — and those are just the ones who reported it. Not only does it make going to school difficult, but bullying can have lasting effects. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Psychiatry, kids who were bullied are at an increased risk for anxiety and depression. While there are organizations like Nobullying.com and Stopbullying.org that are trying to end bullying, that’s not quite enough to give me peace of mind that it wouldn’t destroy the life of my child. I’m just not that optimistic.
Lingering Legacy Legacy is a lingering idea that I struggle with. When you have children, you have an instant legacy no matter how well you raise them. Without children, I have to make my own legacy. Sure, a job or career counts as accomplishment, but they don’t necessarily count toward leaving something tangible behind when I die. There are plenty of parents out there who have a legacy beyond their kids, but I can see it being easy to get lost in motherhood and forget that I can contribute something to society (though, I haven’t figure out what that is yet). Without kids, I have a sense of urgency to do something significant for posterity.
Being childless is not for everyone just like being a parent isn’t for everyone. According to the Pew Research Center, about one-in-five women never have children, so I’m not alone. Today, I’m happy I don’t have children. Tomorrow, I might not feel the same. And, while I know there are options to change my motherhood status, I’ll have my list to remind me why I shouldn’t.