Identity Problem

ImageWomen have an identity problem.  It is all tied into the expectation that our sole purpose in life is to become a mother.  There are so many other relationships we have as women, daughter, sister, wife, friend, lover, aunt, grandmother, but these are all cast aside for the role considered more important – motherhood.

 That becomes an even bigger problem when for whatever reason you don’t become a mother.  What is your place in society then?  Apparently 1 in 4 women will never have a child and yet there is a massive lack of acceptance that women are capable of doing or being anything other than a mother.

 Before I hear outraged responses, this is not intended to be anti-mother hood and all that it stands for, heaven knows women don’t need any more bricks thrown at them, but I don’t think motherhood should be the sum total of our life’s achievements.  We are all worthy of so much more than that.

 I don’t like the term childless.  It has a negative sad sound to it which makes it sound like your life is somehow less complete, less fulfilled and less meaningful, although that is what a lot of people think.

 I used to like the term child-free for the positive statement that it made that there is a life out there without children that can be wonderful.  But this term is generally used by people who have actively chosen not to have children and I have enough problems with people making that assumption without feeding it with the child-free handle.

 So as it turns out I have a bit of an identity problem.  How do I find a place for myself in a society that doesn’t know any other path for women than motherhood?

 I always wanted to be a mother, tried to be a mother, but I guess all the things that need to come together just at the right time simply didn’t.  I think in this day and age when there are so many fertility options available for women it is hard for people to understand why anyone could want a child but not have one.

 Well for one thing fertility treatment is not guaranteed of success.  Not everyone who has fertility treatment ends up with a baby. It is very costly both financially and emotionally and it does extreme things to your body.  Many couples have destroyed their relationship in their dogged determination to keep trying.

 As for me, I didn’t have any fertility treatment.  Why?  Well I guess I am an old fashioned girl who still had a romantic notion of how it was all supposed to happen and none of that involved a laboratory, test tubes and my feet in stirrups.  I simply was not prepared to do “whatever it took” and have it consume my life.

 I had already spent a few years on the monthly rollercoaster of thinking I might be pregnant, only to be disappointed time and again and I got to the point where I simply couldn’t do it anymore.  I needed to take control back and let it go.

Letting go has not been an easy thing at all.  I have watched as many friends have had families.  I have watched as my own family had children.  You never need to look very far to see pregnant women or families with children.  There have been many tears and many times where the empty feeling inside has been a tangible pain.  There have been many thoughtless comments and questions from people who have no idea of the pain that remains tucked away in a box in a dark corner that is only occasionally opened.

 I have pushed many friends away as a defensive mechanism and I try to keep my distance when people come into work with their new baby.  And no it is not because I hate children; it is merely a coping mechanism. 

 Turning forty felt a little bit like a line in the sand, it was almost a relief in a way to take away the possibility, the hope that maybe it could still happen.  It doesn’t stop me feeling wistful at times.  But life is too short to spend it dwelling on what might have been.  Life is for living and we only get one shot at it.  I am truly blessed to be an aunty and a great aunty many times over and this has been a source of real joy in my life.  I also am privileged to be married to a wonderful man who is also my best friend.  He makes me laugh at myself and at him too and I look forward to continuing on the adventure of life together.

 

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