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

Photo: Anastassiya Bezhekeneva / Shutterstock
woman holding baby looking out window

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, and confidence that parenthood was vital to adult life.

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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.

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Fatherhood enraptured Frank. Nothing threw him — not colic, reflux, 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 of them. And once, Frank answered my frustrated tears with, "Maybe I shouldn't have pushed you into having kids."

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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.

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Lisa Romeo's essays have appeared in the New York Times, O-The Oprah Magazine, and in literary journals and essay collections. Visit her website, and her blog about her writing life, and follow Lisa on Twitter.

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