bohemian,  decisions,  family,  gender,  women

Happy Childfree Day to Me

…today, May 8, 2011, is Mother’s Day in the United States. It’s a day when people take time to show their appreciation to their moms. Some don’t even particularly like their moms, but they buy the cards and the flowers anyway. Last night, on Mother’s Day eve, the card and flower sections at Wal-mart were jammed with people who had waited until the last minute to decide whether or not they wanted to get something for their mother.

Lucky for me, no human being has to spend any time wondering if I deserve their thanks on Mother’s Day. I never had any children. By choice. Not by accident.

I’ve read many blog posts and Facebook notes about Mother’s Day. Not a few have acknowledged those women who do not have children. However, none has really hit the mark for me or a whole host of my non-mom friends. We don’t get teary-eyed when we see other women with their babies. We don’t feel any great desire to “mother” anyone. We don’t regret our lack of children. We don’t feel lonely. We don’t wish circumstances had been different. We aren’t still waiting for the right guy or the right time. We haven’t spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments and finally resigned ourselves to being childless and unfulfilled.

We simply do not want children.

Believe it or not, that is an extraordinarily difficult decision to make in the very mommy-centric United States. I know that the opinion towards a woman who chooses not to have children ranges from suspicion to scorn to pity. I know this because those opinions have all been made known to me by some well-meaning but misguided acquaintances. A short list of some of the accusations/comments:

1. You must be gay.
2. Why do you hate children?
3. You’ll regret it when you get old and there is no one to take care of you.
4. You are selfish.
5. You’re denying God’s purpose for your life.
6. You must have had a terrible childhood.
7. Your mother must have been cold and distant.
8. You are psychologically imbalanced. You need counseling.
9. Aren’t you lonely?

My answers:

1. I’m straight.
2. I like children and children like me.
3. Please visit a few nursing homes and discover the hundreds of elderly women (and men) whose children never visit them.
4. It is impossible to be selfish unless my actions are causing someone else’s needs to go unmet.
5. I think I’m in good company with Katharine Hepburn, Louisa May Alcott, Beatrix Potter, Helen Keller, Amelia Earhart, Mother Theresa, Betty White, Jane Addams, Emily Bronte, and Anna Jarvis—yes, the woman who campaigned for Mother’s Day was never a mother.
6. I had a happy childhood.
7. My mother is the best mom ever.
8. I think you are imbalanced for worrying about other people’s choices. Please ask your counselor why you are so worried about whether or not I have children.
9. No.

As I was out and about this Mother’s Day I was wished “Happy Mother’s Day” several times. At lunch I told my long-time companion that the waitress must have thought he was my son. At two local shops I wondered if invisible children were following me around. I guess in middle-age I look like I could be a mom. But I’m not. And I’m glad.

On Mother’s Day this year and all the years to come, remember: Not all women are mothers. Not all women want to be mothers.

Perhaps we ought to save our “Happy Mother’s Day” wishes for our own mothers and not foist it upon every woman who crosses our paths. One, it’s kind of rude to make assumptions about other people’s lives. And two, it’s just plain weird to wish “Happy Mother’s Day” to women who aren’t your mother. Okay, maybe that’s just me. But, seriously, save the greeting for women with whom you have an intimate, motherly relationship and who you know for a fact feel motherly towards you. Otherwise, Mother’s Day is just another manufactured, greeting-card-company-enriching holiday.

Wait, I think that brings me right back to the beginning and all those folks buying Mother’s Day cards and flowers at the last minute…