She said she thinks it’s terrible I don’t want to have children. Like being childless is the Plague or natural disaster. Maybe to her and to many others it is just that. It’s certainly not seen as natural not to want to do the one thing a woman’s body was built for.
I asked her why it was terrible? To which she said several things: My partner and I are too creative, intelligent, and beautiful to not bring creative, intelligent, beautiful children into the world. She didn’t want me to miss out. That being a mom was the best thing she ever did.
I told her I’ve never felt the desire or ache for a child. That I want to do so many things in life, and I’m not sure if being a mother will allow my dreams to flourish. I said I was so lucky she stayed at home with me when I was growing up. I know if I have a child I’ll want to stay home with it, like she did, but then how will I work and travel the way I want? I am the type of person who gives 100% to everything I do, and I know I can’t give myself fully to both a child and work. Out of the two, I feel the desire, the ache, for the latter. When I think of my life, I think of getting a PhD and owning a business; I don’t imagine a child.
My mother said it’s terrible, but she understands. She said if she had to do it over again, she couldn’t. For the first time there’s something human about this conversation; it’s living and breathing, no longer a clipped communication, a weather report of the upcoming natural disaster named Childless Christina.
Even with this confession, my mother believes it will be a catastrophe if I don’t have a child. She is not the first to share this opinion, or confusion with my rejection of motherhood. She is not the first to say “I’ll change my mind,” and hope that I will. Other women have said “I’m young, I’ll change my mind,” or I”’ll regret not having them.” Don’t I want a mini me? Don’t I want someone to look up to me and take care of me when I’m old? Friends, family, colleagues have said these things; always women, never men. Maybe men think it’s an unspeakable conversation like menstruation. Or maybe they simply don’t think it’s worth discussing. Because women having children is a given, a role we were born for, right?
Until my current partner, no man ever asked me if I wanted to have children. It was always a one-way conversation. My former lovers assumed I was a Susie Homemaker like my mother. They assumed I would have as many children as they wanted when they wanted and that I would stay home to raise their children. These men never entertained the natural disaster of Childless Christina. They didn’t prepare with bottles of water, canned food, blankets, and battery-operated lanterns. They went through their days chattering about the children they would have, about the children I would give them, as though my tornado wasn’t starting to swirl behind them, waiting to swallow them whole.
What I have wanted to ask these former lovers, friends, and family members is this: who does it hurt if I don’t have children? Because it’s not any of them. These former lovers have found women who have or will give them all the children they desire. And the friends and family who are so concerned with my empty womb have their own children or will in the future. Whether or not my partner and I have children only affects us. Right now having children would be a disaster of huge proportions for my partner and I. It would derail our lives, our dreams, our ambitions.
So I ask, who is the bigger disaster? The man who dictates a life to a woman full of children and her personal sacrifice, unaware of the chains he’s wrapping around her neck? Or the mother who insists her daughter is making a terrible mistake if she follows a different path, one that doesn’t involve motherhood? Or, lastly, is the biggest disaster the young woman, a daughter and former lover, who imagines a life beyond labels like ‘mother,’ ‘childless,’ and ‘natural disaster,’ who unapologetically reserves the right to make decisions about her life and her body regardless of whether they fit the status quo?
Christina Rosso is a writer, educator, and dog mom living in South Philadelphia. She has a MFA in Creative Writing and Master’s in English from Arcadia University. Currently, she is an adjunct English professor at La Salle University and Penn State Abington. Her work has been featured in Supposed Crimes, Twisted Sister Lit Mag, Across the Margin, and Zeroflash. Find her on Twitter @Rosso_Christina.