Thoughts on motherhood

A study of relativity

Motherhood. It’s a scary proposition. And one that most people, even acquaintances, bring up in the normal course of a conversation. Especially when they find out you’ve been married 8 long years and still have no children to show for it. Then the questions fly fast and thick: Why not? Do you know what a big mistake you’re making? What’s the purpose of your life? What will you do when you grow old? Who are you earning all this money for?

Well, me, actually.

But I was supposed to want to have a baby. I was thirty-one years old. – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

Don’t get me wrong — I like children — as long as they are not mine, and I can play with them for a short while before handing them over to their parents. But as I write this, I start to reflect, did I always think this way? The answer’s no.

I remember playing house as a little girl, remember asking mom to keep my favorite clothes safely for my baby. As I grew older, I started looking back at those times and laughing at myself. “There’s a long time still before I go down that road,” I used to think to myself. I thought I’d feel the maternal instincts start kicking in by the time I approached my 30s, once I’d settled down, lived life, and was ready to take on the responsibility of an innocent child. But as the years passed, and as I approached the Big 30, I realized that nothing of the sort was happening! Instead of “settling down” and wanting children, I became convinced that motherhood wasn’t for me — at least not yet.

…I did not want to be pregnant. I kept waiting to want to have a baby, but it didn’t happen. And I know what it feels like to want something, believe me. I well know what desire feels like. But it wasn’t there. Moreover, I couldn’t stop thinking about what my sister had said to me once, as she was breast-feeding her firstborn: “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

The reasons to not have children are many — and at the individual level, they are all relevant — my reasons aren’t any better or worse than yours, they’re just uniquely mine. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting children: I’m absolutely petrified of the entire 9-month process, the labor pains, the birth, the post-natal depression; the thought of the responsibility freaks me out; I need my space…just the thought of having a small baby and then a growing child and adolescent around me all the time makes me feel suffocated; it’s a huge economic responsibility (or should I say liability?); and it totally crimps your freedom. That’s what I think, anyway.

I have had a lot of friends and family tell me that I’m making a mistake, that I’ll regret my decision later in life, that I’m being selfish. I’ve answered them in a lot of different ways, but this excerpt from Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love sums up my thoughts really well:

I still can’t say whether I will ever want children…I can only say how I feel now — grateful to be on my own. I also know that I won’t go forth and have children just in case I might regret missing it later in life; I don’t think this is a strong enough motivation to bring more babies onto the earth. Thought I suppose people do reproduce sometimes for that reason — for insurance against later regret. I think people have children for all manner of reasons — sometimes out of a pure desire to create an heir, sometimes without thinking about it in any particular way. Not all the reasons to have children are the same, and not all of them are necessarily unselfish. Not all the reasons not to have children are the same, either, though. Nor are all those reasons necessarily selfish.

I may live to regret my decision, then again, I may not.

I love children, but what if I don’t have any? What kind of person does that make me? – Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’d say it makes me a stronger person that those who give in to the pressure to have children, even if they secretly may not want any. It’s just easier to follow the mould and do what’s “expected” of you than to take a stand on a sensitive issue like this one and stick to your guns.

What gives me courage, though, is what my father-in-law said when we told him we were thinking of not having children. “That’s a very good decision, if you can stick to it. Most people end up bowing down to family pressure. If you can stand up to it, and stay firm with your decision, it will be one of the best decisions you have taken. Just remember to have a purpose for your life. For most people, it’s children. If you can rise above that, you’ll need another purpose, so give that some thought.”

Abbuji, I miss you.

Posted in Opinion pieces, Stories and tagged , .


  1. I think it’s a wonderful thing to know you that you don’t want to have kids and go with what feels best for you and your life! And it’s much better for the children too, to only come into the world when they’re really wanted and not had just because it’s the thing to do. It drives me crazy when I see other friends and family members get pressure to have kids, when they don’t want to have them.

    I do want to have children someday, but I still don’t like the pressure and questions I get about it!

  2. thank you for this post!
    I found you through CED.
    Except for the part about 8 yrs of marriage, this post speaks for what I feel, word for word. Thank you for letting me know I am not alone in how I feel (and in society’s trying to make me feel there is something wrong with me for feeling that way).
    Some day I may regret not having kids but I’d far rather that than have a child and regret doing so! That would be bad for everyone involved.

    I congratulate you on honouring your intuition and going with what feels right to you in spite of outside messages 🙂

    p.s. I love the Pepo Picasa album! ridiculously cute >^..^<

  3. What wonderful advice from your FIL.

    I am one of those moms who secretly didn’t want to be a mom, who was always terrified, and was eventually talked into it…but once I had my daughter I was somehow the happiest woman in the world…

    I wouldn’t advice anyone else for/against having babies, but sometimes it’s good to just close your eyes and jump into it. It worked for me…

    • Hi Nishita,
      Motherhood is a very personal choice, and not one that I would ever take lightly. It’s hard to not give in to the pressure, though I am happy that motherhood made you the happiest woman in the world! 🙂 (dropped by your blog recently and saw your kiddo’s pix – she’s really cute!) Thanks for the advice! 🙂

  4. This is such an interesting post to read, I think I do want to have children in the future. But most of what’s been going on in my head is the question; why have I suddenly decided that I want to have kids in the past year. Before that I thought it was something I would consider in the future, then in January it just hit me hard the desire to have kids was really strong.

    I can’t work out why that is though, is it because I realised that I’m getting towards 30 – I don’t want to be an older Mum, is it because my friends are doing it, is it biological/hormonal, is it because I’m ready, because I’m in a relationship where I feel comfortable. I’m sure that I want to have kids but I want to work out the reasons why in my head – I want to do it for the right reasons. That’s why your post really meant a lot to me to read.

    Hope you are having a lovely day,

    • I believe that the right time to have a child is when you really, desperately and truly want to have one. Not the ticking of a biological clock or because your friends are having babies or even because you’re in a meaningful relationship. So as you sit down to analyze your reasons for suddenly deciding that you want a baby, ask yourself: “Am I really and truly ready to have a baby and to take on all the responsibilities and deal with all the changes it entails?” Only if you’re truly ready should you go ahead with that decision. It’s just my 2 cents, and I hope it helps you 🙂

  5. I can relate 100%, and I wrote a very similar post last Mother’s Day, right down to the Eat, Pray, Love quotes!

    I just turned 39, and I’m pretty sure the mother thing just isn’t in the cards for me. I wasn’t always this way. When I was much younger, I couldn’t wait to have kids. Somehow it changed the moment I got married (and then divorced 13 years later).

    • I hear you! When I was a kid, I remember keeping my favorite dolls and clothes aside and telling my mom these were for my kids! Along the way, though, I realized that I really wasn’t mommy material.

  6. Jinny, thank you so much for hitting publish on this one! I knew from age 8 or 9 that I didn’t want to have children, in part because pregnancy scared me, and that I wouldn’t want a child to experience some of the anxiety I had in my life, but also I never had the desire. I went through a time in my 30’s where I thought I was supposed to want to have children, as the window of time got smaller in which to have them. Ultimately, I realized I like my life, and to choose not to have children is no more selfish than to choose them.

    • I’m so glad that I decided to publish this post. I thought it might draw a lot of flack; instead, I’ve met so many women who think like me. There is so much pressure on us to have children, but I’m holding out cause I have no desire for them (I’m in my early 30s) and don’t want to bring a child into the world in the hope that my views will change once I see my child.

  7. Pingback: In defense of a child free life | Modern Gypsy

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