Sorry Childless By Choice, But Motherhood Made Me A Better Person
Forget the “Mommy Wars”, there’s a whole new battle being waged by women everywhere. It’s not concerned with how you raise your children. The new debate is whether we should have them at all. The Today Show and the New York Post have profiled women who choose not to have to children and the struggles they go through defending those choices. The “Childless By Choice” movement is growing, and its battling unfair stereotypes of anger, selfishness and social ineptitude. Personally, I agree with the growing number of people who have made the decision not to have children. I don’t think that parenthood brings about a magical transformation that lets you know more, feel more or experience more than anyone else. Or at least, it doesn’t always. Unfortunately, my personal story flies directly in the face of their argument, because motherhood really did make me a better person.
I had my daughter at a young age. I was 21, with an irresponsible jerk of a boyfriend when I got pregnant. I was bouncing around at jobs that I didn’t enjoy and knew I wouldn’t stay with long. I drank too much, too often and generally acted like an immature idiot. Let’s just say, I was going through a rough phase.
Then, all of a sudden, I was pregnant. I had a little girl growing inside of me. I was going to be responsible for another human being. And in that moment, the switch flipped. With every passing week, I stopped being a 20-something, entitled young adult and I became a mother. With the help and support of my family, I got my life in order and my feet on the right track. I found a job that demanded hard work but would provide me with good experience, solid benefits and ample opportunity for growth. I started budgets and savings accounts and navigated a path to financial stability. More than anything, I had a purpose and direction. Honestly, getting pregnant helped me mature and grow in a way that nothing ever had before.
Motherhood made me a better person. But typing that out makes me feel like I’m betraying all of those amazing people who are fighting to prove that they don’t need to be parents to be great people. I agree with them! They don’t. But I did.
Personal stories can never be used to stereotype large groups of people. Obviously, not everyone has huge, sobering moments of clarity when they find out they’re pregnant. And lots of people weren’t such jerks in their early 20s that they needed fate to smack them upside the head. Most people plan their pregnancies, and probably wouldn’t have to change their lives around too much when their bundle of joy arrives. I know that there are a million other examples to counteract my life’s 180-degree shift. In the back of my head, I realize that something other than a child could have snapped me into a more responsible mindset. But motherhood is what did it for me.
There’s a smug, condescending staple of motherhood that gets thrown around with some frequency. It’s the ubiquitous phrase, “You’ll understand when you have kids.” Mothers tend to use it to try to end an argument that they aren’t winning. When you can’t effectively defend your position, throw out that the other person simply can’t understand what you do. Instead of debating, pretend to be above the entire situation. I can’t stand that phrase. And admitting that motherhood opened my eyes to things I didn’t see before feels like tossing, “You’ll understand when you have kids,” into the childless movement’s face.
I don’t believe that everyone needs to have children to be a complete person, but I know that I did. I don’t think that having kids makes you more aware or knowledgeable, but it taught me a lot. I promise to never tell anyone my story as if it should inspire them to throw away their birth control and hop on the baby-bandwagon. I won’t awkwardly inquire about when you’re going to settle down and start a family. In as many ways as I can think of, I want to promote the concept that motherhood does not make someone becomes better or smarter. But I can’t deny that it had that effect on me.