Upside down.

10 June 2017


Is my life truly meaningless and void of purpose if I don’t ever have children?  Because I haven’t had them, does that mean I’m incomplete, missing out on what is surely to be the most magical experience that will encapsulate all my hopes and dreams and longings forever?  It might seem as though my life is pretty awesome already, but clearly nothing will ever come close to the ecstasy and fulfillment I could feel with a child in my arms, and until that happens, well, I’m really just biding my time and taking up space until this real, true, divine purpose for those of us blessed with two x chromosomes has been achieved.

These phrases and questions probably seem like one of two things to you – either they are completely ridiculous, or you believe they are, to some extent or another, basically true.  I hear a lot of these types of things regularly.  Not always put in such a blunt manner, but it seems especially recently I’ve been around people who seem to adamantly believe I won’t ever be fulfilled, or my life is a waste, unless I’ve reared children.   I’ve written previously here and here about the fact that I’m single and totally okay with it, but it seems it’s time to address this child topic.

I don’t want children. 

Now, did I say I will never have children? Nope. Have I ever said that? Nope.  I’m not interested in putting God in a box.  Might I have children some day? Yep.  Absolutely I might and I’m totally open to that possibility. When will I know when it’s right? When I want them.  When I believe with all my being it’s the next right thing, not just for now but for the rest of my days on earth, to raise children. When that happens, bring it on.  But it isn’t now.

And when the topic comes up at the dinner table and I answer the question I was asked, that’s when the condescending, patronizing, and downright obnoxious comes out of a lot of people’s mouths. 

Oh, you’ll want them.  You’ll regret it someday.  Your work will never be as important as your children.  You don’t realize now what you are missing out on.  They’ll turn your life upside down. Five years from now you’ll be holding your own bundle of joy and wondering how you lived without them.

Sure, that’s a possibility.  Again, maybe someday I will want them, or regret not having them.  But I think it would be far worse to regret having them. Maybe I’m called to this nomadic life, of adventure and of travel and meetings with first ladies and prime ministers. I couldn’t have gotten on the plane to Guinea with three days’ notice if I had a family.  And it’s not actually the words that bother me, it’s the attitude, the condescending, patronizing way in which they are spoken over me, as if I don’t really know what’s really important.  As if I won’t really experience life to the full without being called mama, as if I am somehow incomplete in this life I lead.  

Side note: would anyone ever say that to a man? That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. Anyway.

I would much rather live a life without children than ever, ever look my child in the eyes and feel regret at having them.  I want to know I was born to be a mother.  One of the big problems of the world today? There are far too many people out there who have no business being parents.  They had children because they were supposed to or because they wanted someone to love them or to try to hold on to a wayward spouse or any one of a million wrong reasons to have a child.  The one reason to have a child? You were born to do this, you have been called and created to raise up this person to be an upstanding citizen of the earth.  And there are millions and billions of amazing parents out there living out that calling on their lives.  You’re amazing, it’s an amazing calling, well done.  But it’s not mine. Not now.

And really, let’s be real.  I want to say sometimes to these type of people, who clearly feel they know much more about the realities of life than I do, that I could go get knocked up if you think I would experience this nirvana you seem to think childrearing is.  I could find someone to marry me, too, if that’s what the world is waiting for.  I could probably be married and pregnant in a matter of weeks – is that really what you want for me? Not at all. I think what people want is really what I want as well, and that is the best God has for me; but they can’t possibly open themselves up to the possibility of imagining God’s best might not include children.

I know there’s an argument that the reason women exist is to have children, to multiply and fill the earth.  I get it, though I completely disagree.  But let me suggest that the earth is already full.  The earth can barely sustain the people we have in it.  But that’s another discussion for another day, a rabbit trail I’m not going to continue down right now.  For now, let’s just maybe consider God’s best for me may not include a spouse or children, and I’m okay with that.  But the rest of the world seems not to be.   

~~~

Privilege

There’s been a lot of talk around the world in the last few years especially about privilege.  White privilege, American privilege, male privilege, upper class privilege, etc.  It’s the idea that one group of people is better off than another.  Some people say it doesn’t exist.  They’re either blind or closed-minded or both, and it seems most of those people are actually the most privileged of them all. 

It’s from a privileged place that I have a choice, and I know it.  I can choose not to have children.  In many, many countries across the globe, this would be a death sentence, to be alone as a woman with no one to care for me later in life.  And it grieves me that so many don’t have the choices and options and opportunities I have.  So they marry for necessity and have babies for security and sometimes there is love and respect but sometimes there isn’t, and there isn’t anything they can do about it.  It breaks my heart and makes me want to rail against the injustice of it all.  I had this conversation just the other day with the guys I’m working with. They asked why I don’t have children. I don’t mind the question, especially from these guys; they work in a place where your very survival is dependent on having children.

But for some reason beyond all human comprehension, I wasn’t born there. I was born in middle class educated America, where my value is not determined by my progeny, although it seems in some eyes it still is.  Where I can work and own land and vote and save for my future and decide where I want to live, things millions of women can’t do.  I recognize it and don’t take that privilege lightly, I’ve been gifted a tremendous amount of favor and desperately want to steward it well.   It’s one of the reasons I do what I do, living this life that is not about me but is about us, this collective race called humanity that is terribly unjust and needs people willing to stand up and speak up against the injustice of it.

~~~

It takes a village.

A few years ago I was thinking about this whole mothering thing, wondering if there was something broken in me that made me weird and different, asking God to speak to whatever that was. And it was stunning. 

What first came to my mind were the faces of some of the amazing women who have helped shape me into the person I am today.  My mom is awesome but it truly takes a village; one person cannot raise a child. I think about all the incredible other women who played that role at one time or another in my life; Shirley, Debbie, Cynthia, Kathy, Yvonne, Ruth, Kelly, Kim, Leslie, and many, many others ahead of me in this journey who have offered guidance, wisdom, truth, correction, safety, compassion, and the zillion other virtues who have shaped and guided me to the present.  I still need them and am eternally grateful for being a part of my story.

Then what came to mind were the beautiful faces of some of the young women I’ve had the privilege and honor of mentoring through one season or another.  Incredible girls and women I’ve offered guidance, wisdom, truth, correction, safety, compassion, and the zillion other virtues that shape and guide them into their future.  Some for a short season, some for a longer season, but all of them also a part of my story.  The children of my heart.  It takes a village, it takes incredible women pouring into incredible women, regardless of their genetic makeup and story and struggle. 

One author I love always says there is no such thing as other people’s children.  And I choose to live my life in agreement with that statement. 

~~~

Upside down.

Often after telling me in condescending tones that someday I will want children, they will also say something like they’ll turn your life upside down.  And yes, I know this to be true, and believe it wholeheartedly.  And what I’d like to say (and occasionally do) is EXACTLY, why on earth would I want to do that? Because my life is awesome, thanks.  And I’m not eighteen years old making brash statements about a life I can’t imagine. I’m thirty-six and have done pretty well for myself, (no) thanks for your concern.  In the same way God doesn’t call all of us to be married, or to work overseas, or to be mechanics or bankers or teachers or doctors, he doesn’t call all of us to have children, either.


So finally, a public service announcement and I will get off my soapbox: I know you mean well.  I know you just can’t imagine life without children and want me to be as happy as you are.  And I mean well too, when I say, I can imagine life without children and right now it is much more appealing to me than a life with. And that doesn’t diminish my value as a woman, as a sister and aunt and friend and member of the human race, striving to leave this earth a bit better for those who follow in my footsteps and stand on my shoulders and reach greater heights than I could ask or imagine. 

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