Times like today I am grateful I opted out of motherhood. I know that the first sentence sounds harsh and people may take it the wrong way. Let me get this disclaimer fully out of the way. In no way is this an attack or “shade” towards mothers. This is also not me pushing a childfree superiority complex on parents. This whole post is about my own personal journey with mental illness and the idea of being a mother.
I say that days like today I am grateful for opting out of motherhood, because days like today I would like to opt out of life. I barely made it out of bed, I’m struggling to eat, and making decisions is harder than usual. I chose not to be a mom because I would not want to subject a child/ children to me at these times. And honestly, this isn’t even my lowest. I toggle between struggling to make it through the day and being “okay” the majority of the time, but in those times where I have one foot in the grave I’m useless to just about everyone, including myself.
I often hear many mothers say that when they are having days like this they are able to dig deep and find the strength to push through for their children. These are the women I know personally. These are the women I admire and at times envy. The women I don’t know, I read about in the news. These are the women that abandon their children, neglect their children, or worse. I don’t fully believe that I would ever become like them, but I fear that moment when I reach within myself to pull out strength and find nothing. I fear a child seeing that I have nothing left for them and internalizing that. Feeling unloved because I can’t always embody that. Feeling like a burden, because I chose to bring them into a world I haven’t fully learned to navigate.
There is a certain child-hating contingent in the realm of child-free folks whose voices have drowned out people like myself. There are also those that believe parenthood is a fix-all for finding meaning in life who talk over people like me. Both of these polarized sides make expressing the decision to not have children frustrating and sometimes frightening. Because of the people who despise children, if you say you don’t want kids the automatic response is that you hate children. Then comes you having to explain your reasoning and the parenthood evangelists see this as an opening to say “Just have kids and you will see that your views will change.” You have to make them feel uncomfortable to get them to stop by either crying or, for some, lying about reproductive issues. I try my best to avoid these discussions, but they pop up when you least expect them to.
This also adds another layer of difficulty onto dating for a long-term relationship. You could be compatible in every way, but one person not wanting children can be a deal breaker. I’ve had moments where I wondered if compromising on having one child is something I can do, then the reality of my illness hits and I know it’s just not feasible. Because not only do I have a mental illness, I do also have reproductive issues that would make any pregnancy high risk and the probability of miscarrying is high. I’ve seen the anguish of women who have had miscarriages and I don’t know if I could pull through something like that.
I think a lot about what it would be like to have children. I often wish it was something that was practical for me to do. But for myself, like so many others, it just isn’t. It goes well beyond just being able to afford children or being willing to make sacrifices as a parent. It’s about knowing that I cannot guarantee an emotionally healthy and stable home. It also has to do with certain mental illnesses being hereditary. I wouldn’t wish my illness on my worst enemy, let alone my child. I’m sacrificing my desire for motherhood for the sake of not damaging a child that never asked to be here. This is still something I’m coming to terms with after making the decision years ago.