Sunday, May 11, 2008

Being "Childfree" on Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers and Happy Not-a-Mom Day, too! I am "childfree," "childless by choice," not a mother, a woman who decided not to have children. I sometimes feel surrounded by mothers and grandmothers, especially in May when it seems that almost every woman I know at my UU congregation is a mom. I spent a good chunk of this weekend at a training on non-violent communication with twelve moms and just one other non-mom. (No men came to the training.) Children and grandchildren were discussed at length, of course. Many women had plans to see their families for Mother's Day or had just come back from seeing them.

Somehow, when I was a child, I learned that having children would limit a woman's choices -- her chances of graduating from college, having a middle class lifestyle, and being able to do what she wanted would be greatly reduced by having children. (Yes, I grew up in the 1970's, becoming an adult in the early 1980's.) I witnessed high school girls dropping out because of pregnancy, their dreams for the future forgotten. That's how I saw it, anyway!

I was determined never to have children right up until age 28, when I began to think that perhaps having a child would not be so bad. Everyone had aways assured me that I would love my own kid, even if I "hated children." Funny how people are so sure of this!

In contemporary US society, not having children is more accepted than ever before. I find, though, that at church a woman in her 30s and 40s is assumed to be a mother. It's as if people assume that women in this age range would not be at church if it weren't that they need religious education for the kids. Hey, I'm here for me! Yes, my own faith development, my need for community, my hunger for justice, my wish to connect with the sacred bring me to a faith community.

It's all about me, I guess. Good thing I'm not a mother....


Justine Urbikas said...

It is very true that if you are under the age of 50 your purpose for being in one of our churches is for your child's spiritual development, not your own. It is not until you are 'over the hill' and your children are grown that it is ok for that spotlight to hit you for a bit- I mean, you have the time now, right?
Its very much a cultural shift in that now we are moving more to a place where women don't need children to be complete- their lives don't have to be validated by children, therefore they may have other reasons for doing things (ie. going to church) than for their kids.

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

What an insightful comment. Hey, you'll be even smarter when you become a Mom! Bwahahahahaha!

Seriously, I relish being able to explore and nurture my spiritual life now. I'm grateful for what I've learned and that my lifestyle is (for the most part) accepted.

S2 said...

When my husband and I were attending a church several years ago, we were always questioned about being childfree.

It's sad that so much of a woman's identity can be wrapped-up in whether or not she has produced other humans...


storyteller said...

I think it is one thing to say that women have children because it is engrained into their identity, I know that's one "reason". But some people just genuinely love kids. I know I do. I don't feel a need to be validated by them, that's a psychological codependent addiction that transcends children and can also get into the whole do I need a husband/family/friends/lover/etc to validate me..that transcends gendar's an issue of esteem.

Anyways. Hugs!


Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

Hi Storyteller,

Thanks for your response! It is wonderful when folks who love kids raise some or become teachers or interact with children daily. Really a beautiful thing and crucial to the well-being of all. People like you will never need to read I'm Okay, You're A Brat by Susan Jeffers.