Some of you might be aware of the fact that I live my life, overwhelmingly, through guilt.
I eat what I eat (or don’t eat what I don’t eat) because of the guilt I know will invariably come when I’ve made a poor eating decision.
I write thank you notes because it eats away at me if I don’t (which doesn’t explain why I still haven’t written my 500+ thank you notes for the wedding gifts we received over two years ago, but I digress).
I shower because I know I will feel guilty if everyone I see during the day has to suffer for my hygiene malfunctions.
I exercise (occasionally) because the guilt has niggled at me for so long that it can no longer be ignored.
I apologise for lashing out at people because I live in fear that they will suddenly die and my harsh words will be the last thing they remember, and I just can’t live with that kind of guilt.
I can only imagine what this guilt is going to do to my life as a mother. I have read post after mommy-blogging post of mothers whose child-rearing guilt is threatening to drown them at any given moment; who are so overwhelmingly riddled with insecurities about their deficiencies as mothers that they can hardly bear to wake up in the morning; who, more often than not, can’t even enjoy the good experiences they do have for fear that a meltdown moment is just around the corner, waiting to ruin everything.
These kinds of mothers make me feel so sad—sad for them, because I know, and they know, that it’s no way to live—and sad for myself, because I have a feeling that, given my relationship history with guilt, I will be a mother like that.
To be quite honest, I already am a mother like that. Of course, I don’t have children, so I am not a mother like that; I’m a pre-mother like that.
Over the past few months, I have been almost constantly harassed about having children, whether by ill-meaning semi-strangers, close friends and family, or just my own mental workings. It seems that, at least once a day, I find myself pondering motherhood and all that it entails.
No, this is not an announcement, unless that announcement is to say “Stop waiting for announcements because none of this has gotten me anywhere.”
The point of the story, inasmuch as what I’m getting at can actually be considered a point, is this:
I do not, as of yet, have any positive inclinations toward childbearing or child rearing whatsoever. And I live in fear that I will never reach the point in my life where I wake up and fall asleep to the thoughts of longing for a child; that I will never feel that burning, make-me-crazy-with-emotion desire to have a child or children of my own; that I will never actually want to have children, and therefore never will have children.
And that fear is not the fear that I will miss out on something amazing, because that would imply that I think children are amazing and motherhood is amazing, and if that were the case, I would hop on that bandwagon right now, or when Poor Kyle comes home from work (imagine his great surprise and delight, coming home from work to that). No…it’s the fear that there is a flaw in my genetic coding, the part that most women seem to have, the part we generally know (much to my distress, because I abhor the phrase) as being “Baby Hungry.” I’m not Baby Hungry—I’m Baby Fed. Fed, fat, and happy. I do like babies, other people’s babies, when I can hold and jostle and cuddle them and give them back after an hour; but I’m not “hungry” for babies of my own.
I live in fear that I don’t have that gene, or worse, that I don’t even have the potential to develop that gene, and I will eventually just be guilted into having children because my husband wants them or the world tells me it’s time, but that I will never feel that itch to have them for myself, AND THAT’S NO WAY TO LIVE A LIFE, EITHER.
See, I firmly, FIRMLY believe that children should be anticipated, desired, and loved even before conception. It seems to me one of the most basic human rights, to be born by people who want you to be alive, and I am committed to waiting to have children until I feel that for myself, because how could I live with my old friend Guilt if I did it any other way?
But then there’s this Other Guilt, one that whispers into my know-it-all ear, saying, “But someday you will want children, and your attitude now will come back to punish you later, and you’ll probably be barren by then (if you aren’t already), and you will be very sorry that you ever thought you didn’t want to have children, so chew on that, and live with it.”
And that’s no way to live, either.
Anyway, the point that I said I was going to get at but failed to actually reach is this:
How can I ever be a mother? I know for sure that now is not a good time for me to start that journey—I know for sure I want to graduate from college first, and that’s nearly two years away. But when the time finally does come that it starts to get ridiculous that I haven’t had children yet, how will I know if I am having them because I want to have them; or having them because I feel guilty about all the poor kids who are born to crazy crack-head moms, when I could be perfectly capable of raising a few fairly healthy children myself; or feeling guilty that Poor Kyle saddled himself with a wife whose screwed up maternal instincts are forever depriving him of the children he would love to raise, and living in fear that one day he’ll realise his terrible mistake, only it’ll be too late for him to divorce me and find someone who could better fulfill his fatherly potential, so instead he’ll build up and harbor boatloads of resentment toward me, AND THAT’S NO WAY TO LIVE, EITHER; and oh, the guilt.
How many lives am I ruining by not wanting to be a mother?
How many lives would I be ruining by choosing motherhood for the wrong reasons?
I know myself—I know me, and I know that if I have children before I really feel that motherly need to have children, I will probably end up in a straitjacket in an emergency room with bloodshot eyes and black charcoal paste crustifying in streaks down my chin, which, yes, would make for a really powerful blog post, but again with ALL THE WRONG REASONS.