Those who’ve known me for years know that for most of my life I’d sworn off having children. You could say it was one of my greatest fears. I’m surely not the only woman who has had a changed of heart, and I don’t think we can simply chalk it up to our biological clocks. So what is it? What makes a woman (or man, for that matter) go from abhorring the idea of having children to actively yearning for them?
In my case, a lot of it had to do to with a widening of parental perspective. I’d never wanted to raise a child under the influence of American culture because of the obsession with consumerism, materialism, and career success, as well as issues I have with the traditional schooling system. Of course it’s possible to raise independent, conscious humans within these systems, but I never felt it was within my personal power to do so to the degree I would want.
I’m sure there are communities within the U.S. that are more conducive to an alternative (formally known as “traditional”) upbringing, but I don’t know where they are, and as it happens, fate landed me in Todos Santos, Mexico. Many of my friends here don’t have television or video games; their kids play barefoot outside; there are no shopping malls to lure one away from the simple life.
In the U.S. I felt that, culturally–speaking, the primary emphasis was on career and wealth, with families taking a lower priority. Of course this isn’t what anyone ever says, and it could be a false perception of mine; how the work:family balance plays out is not at all a black and white matter. Regardless, this was (and still is) my overall perception.
I’d also always had the sense that a woman who’d had children was often one who’d given up on her dreams. Motherhood never seemed to be portrayed as something to aspire to so much as a responsibility women are generally expected to take on. Those I knew who had always really longed to be mothers I regarded as kind of…odd. Although, a happy exception to the norm. For the rest,
Motherhood struck me as a burden that had its benefits. Similar to a credit card: You get a lot more out of it, but you owe a lot more for it.
I figured it was a wash in the end. I wasn’t going to drink the Kool-Aide. I was going to keep things simple. Debt-free.
And then I came to Mexico. Here the joy and pride of being a mother is self-evident. There is no higher calling. But that isn’t just something they write on Hallmark cards and put in TV ads: it’s apparent in the flow of life.
I stopped seeing motherhood as a burden
and began to see it as a blessing.
One doesn’t have to look far to see that The Mother is held in the highest regard in Mexico. In a country where 82% of the population is Catholic, what figure would you imagine to hold center stage? It ain’t Jesus; it’s the Virgin de Guadalupe. To the Catholics, Mother Mary. To the Aztecs, she’s Tonantzin Tlalli: the Earth Mother. Her figure is found in most homes and businesses, in every church, in nichos on countless streets and remote hillsides.
Alternatively, try insulting a Mexican’s mum. They’ll be happy to demonstrate for you just how sacred is the role of the mother.
And then there is the difference in parenting style between Mexico and the US. Let me sum it up for you this way: if I hear a child whining or throwing a tantrum on the streets of Mexico, 98% of the time that child is American (or perhaps Canadian or European). The 2% of Mexicans I’ve seen acting like little snots are invariably children of very young mothers.
Mexican culture is merely what opened me up to the possibility; what made me think having children could be a beautiful thing. But what pushed me into wanting a child? What made me decide that giving up the freedom I’d enjoyed for so many years—to travel, to work where I pleased and when I pleased, to not be responsible to anyone—was a sacrifice worth making?
I suppose I’d accumulated enough experiences to realize that the continuation of such was meaningless. I vividly recall being on the back of a Royal Enfield motorcycle in Kashmir, surrounded by some of the most breathtaking scenery of my life, and thinking: so what?
At some point, accumulating exotic experiences becomes no more worthwhile than accumulating material possessions.
The extraordinary was no longer doing it for me. I wanted to rediscover the ordinary world through fresh eyes.
I wanted to cultivate something—within myself and another—that would bring more love, more peace, more compassion to the world.
It began to seem as if, for me at least, having a child would be the best way to do that.
There was one other factor that gave me the courage to become a mother: I got a dog. By observing myself with my dog I saw that I had more than enough love to care for a human being.
That is my story. What is yours? What made you change from not wanting to wanting children? Or what makes you continue to not want children? Or perhaps you’re one of those “strange birds” whose greatest desire was always to have children.
Write your thoughts in the comments section below.