I Didn't Want To Be A Mom, But I Had Kids Anyway


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Family

A proverb says: It's wise to want what one already has ... and, I do.

Other women had it. Even my husband had it — the desire to spawn.

Yup. It's true: My husband wanted kids more than I did. Wanted them in the way it seemed other (normal?) women did, with a longing, a yearning, a confidence that parenthood was vital to adult life.

Me? I figured we'd have a pretty good life either with children ... or without.

Then, I experienced three years of infertility, which made getting pregnant its own goal. I wanted pregnancy to work, which of course isn't the same as wanting motherhood.

Still, a husband's heart's desire is something strong. So, eventually, we had a baby.

Fatherhood enraptured Frank. Nothing threw him — not colic, reflux and regurgitation, or even the heart murmur scare.

For me, though, something was very wrong, and 18 months of severe postpartum depression confirmed it—motherhood was for other people.

As I recovered, however, a curious thing happened: I found that I was good at this mothering business. I had another baby and, the more I experimented, the more I liked the fit.

Still, while my kids now delight me in endless ways, motherhood fairly often sucks. Many days, I hate it. I hate knowing that mistakes I make now may mar two terrific people for decades. I hate homework hassles. I hate parts of puberty, and I hate the price of everything.

But my previous meltdowns—about missed career opportunities and that age-old saw of unbalanced, gender-based expectations—now feel entitled. Husband, if you wanted these children more than I, why am I doing more than you? I never said those words, but I was thinking them. And once, Frank answered my frustrated tears with, "Maybe I shouldn't have pushed you into having kids."

And yes, when one boy is vomiting at 2 a.m., another needs multiple rides to retrieve forgotten textbooks and I must reschedule client meetings because of another half day, I agree. Wasn't this parenting gig your idea?

But Frank didn't force me. I leaped, knowing the landing might be bumpy.

I love my sons, now 16 and 12, with an intense ferocity I hardly understand. I arranged my work life (with noticeable financial consequence) so that I'm around before they are gone—to college, larger lives, maybe spouses who want to have their babies.

When I was pregnant, I thought my logical—if ambivalent—attitude an advantage: I would be a mother who lives not for her children, but with them. Now, no matter how much I sometimes want my mothering duties to disappear, I wish I could keep these kids in my sights and arms forever.

I used to worry that this wouldn't be enough for me. But a proverb says it's wise to want what one already has, and I do.

Lisa Romeo lives in New Jersey with her husband and two sons. She works as a freelance writer and editor, and teaches writing online and in the Rutgers University Writing Program Extension. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, O-The Oprah Magazine, online and in literary journals and essay collections. She is at work on a memoir. Lisa has written for YourTango before, about marrying her opposite. You're invited to visit her website, and her blog about the writing life, and to follow Lisa on Twitter.

 

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