What if You Don't Know if You Want to Be a Mother?
This might seem like a controversial topic from someone who finds her joy in helping to create families. However it’s a common question that comes up when I am talking to clients.
I sometimes think of my role as multi-faceted. It involves being a health educator, counsellor and even pastor-of-sorts. The treatment room is a safe space where things can be said openly and in confidence. Sometimes that’s where admissions are made. It’s my job to hold the space, to be respectful and not to judge.
For me, motherhood has always been something I have aspired to, and never doubted as a path for the (hopefully near) future. I am surrounded by strong role models of mothers- in the form of my own mum, my treasured aunties, and a number of friends who I have witnessed transform through their experiences. Sometimes however, I have a conversation where a client will tell me that they don’t want to have a family.
Despite society progressing in many ways, it’s still a taboo for a woman to decide that she doesn’t want to become a mother. There’s often a sense of guilt attached to admitting that you might not want to be a mum. It’s a topic that other people can feel it’s their right to question- implying there’s a level of selfishness about the choice. Various arguments include; “aren’t you letting down your partner and his right to be a dad?”, or”what is your purpose in the world if you aren’t going to have a family?” They might talk in hushed tones assuming that fertility issues are at play.
We live in times of more and more choice. There are an average of 3 different careers within one’s working life. Travel, leisure pursuits, personal development, charity work and social lives can offer a vibrant lifestyle, that can feel at odds with the ‘monotony’ of family. Compared with our grandmothers’ generation, there are so many more options. It’s little surprise that all this choice can lead to overwhelm.
I feel deeply grateful to be amongst a number of communities where women are able to be mothers and also have work that gives them a purpose. As a result I don’t consider it an either/or decision. Unfortunately however, many careers don’t offer the flexibility that’s needed to be a mother, so it can be difficult to balance different needs. There can be a sense of sacrifice about the things in life that are perceived to be given up to be a mother- sleep, body image, sex appeal, career progress, freedom etc.
If you’re dead cert that you don’t want to be a mum, I honour your decision. It makes more sense to consciously decide not to have children, than to have them and resent them or wish you had a different life. However if you’re sitting on the fence and don’t know which way to go, how do you decide whether or not you want to be a mother?
A few things to consider;
1- Treat your body as if you might want to conceive one day. This means practice self-love in the form of caring for your health and wellbeing. Consider an alternative to the contraceptive pill so that you can understand your hormonal cycle. Nurture yourself so that you maintain your energy, rather than let yourself burn out. Practice stillness. Keep space for creative pursuits that bring you joy. Reduce unnecessary stress. Optimal fertility is a sign of good health, so aim for good health as it’s vital in any case.
2- Get an AMH test. This is a simple blood test to assess ovarian reserve. Data can sometimes help to make decisions. Timing is relevant, If there’s a chance that you might want to be a mother someday, I urge you to take the simple test so you can consider your fertility status. This can prevent having to make urgent choices down the line. Contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like me to arrange one for you.
3-Sit down in a quiet space with a journal. Use the following prompts below.
Let the pen flow. Don’t edit yourself. Let your words be true.
When I think about mothering I….
What sounds positive about being a mum is…
What feels negative about becoming a mum is….
Give yourself space to listen to your heart and gut, as it’s not just a head decision.
4- Gather examples of women who have enjoyed motherhood and also embraced a life that fits the values that you hold dear. They may be nomadic, or have built businesses whilst working from home, or have children within a wider community. We are no longer in the 1950s, baking cookies for our kids whilst dusting in aprons and waiting for our Brylcreemed husbands to return from work. Choose your life.
In my experience, many of my friends who have chosen not to have children are natural nurturers- it’s just that their care is channelled in a different way. There are also a number of roles where we need - aunties, godmothers etc. Whatever your choice, to be a mother or not, I want you to know that you matter, and you make a difference.
This is a sensitive topic, and I welcome your comments in the manner of open, non-judgemental discussion.