(Originally written March 15, 2007 on my old blog).
Here is a letter that I wrote to Josey Vogels in response to a column she wrote about the “child-free” movement, consisting of people who make the choice not to have children (for a variety of reasons, most of them having nothing to do with disliking children).
Thanks for your column on those who choose to be child-free. I’m a mom myself but I didn’t think I would be when I was in my early 20s. I have no problem with people who choose not to have kids; I *do* think it isn’t for everyone. Sometimes I’m not sure being a mom is for me, in the objective sense (I’ll get back to that in a moment).
But I always get a bit of a chill when I hear people on either side comment on one choice or the other being “noble” or “difficult” or “an accomplishment.” For me, motherhood wasn’t an accomplishment. It’s one of the things I do. I guess I see my child as a person that I happen to have this specific relationship with. Becoming a mom wasn’t something that I specifically wanted to do, but I wasn’t adverse to it either. I never particularly liked children, and I’m still not nuts about other people’s kids. I don’t like being surrounded by kids – except small groups on occasion. I became a mom because I felt that this particular person (my son) needed to be in the world, with me – maybe it’s a latent belief in reincarnation or something like that – but I kind of intuitively knew that there was someone due to be in my life. When I look at my son, I feel it in
my whole body that he was meant to be with me. Although I’m not a “kid person”, I’m overwhelmed with love for my child. When I was nursing him (until the age of about 2 or so), I had amazing feelings of giving and maintaining a life. And I think that I brought an amazing person into this world, one who will do some fabulous things. Already, everyone (almost) that he comes into contact with feels something magical – I’m not just saying that because he’s my son, but people repeatedly tell me that there is something very special and magical about him, some sort of spark that *touches* people in a very deep way.
All this being said, I don’t doubt that some people would go nuts with a child. So I truly feel that parenting is *not* for everyone. In some cases, there is definitely a lack of competence. Unfortunetely, some of those individuals who shouldn’t have kids do have them because of social pressure and that is disastrous for the children. In other cases, people who are perfectly capable of it just don’t want to and that’s fine too. I’m glad some people choose not to reproduce actually. Many of my friends in their 30s and 40s have no children and they have no aversion to hanging out with me and my son.
Last thing I want to say, regarding people’s desire to have children: as I mentioned above, being a mom is *one* of the things I do. It’s not a central part of my identity. Sometimes, when asked to talk about myself, I even forget to mention it. It’s not that I don’t love my son (as you can no doubt tell from the above). It’s just that I don’t see it as an “achievement” or anything special – millions of people have done it over the long span of time that Homo sapiens have been in existence and under much more difficult circumstances than I. And as I mentioned, my love for my child has less to do with my status as a mom than him as a person. It’s about him, not about me being a mom. That just happens to be my status in relation to him. What I *do* claim as my achievements and factors of identity are my statuses as anthropologist, teacher, volunteer in various groups, activist, drag king, etc.