I’m walking out of the 4:30 mass on Mother’s Day weekend. I’ve been told by many I look way younger than 33 years old, so as I creep towards the exit with all the stealthiness of a cat I’m startled by the smiling woman with shoulder-length dark hair and a bright cheery smile who is holding out a carnation to me. It’s yellow, and I reach forward to accept it before she holds it just out of my reach, “are you a Mother?” She asks and the question seems innocent enough that I indulge her, “I’m a proud Dog Mom, Godmother of two and an Aunt of four.”
She holds the carnation to her chest, smiles, and says “Oh I’m sorry, I mistook you for a Mother.” It was just a flower randomly plucked from the bunches of others but suddenly I felt oddly labeled. I wasn’t entitled to the carnation because I wasn’t this woman’s definition of a mother.
What is a mother? Some would define the act of giving birth to a child and raising it to be a productive and decent human being in today’s society as the definition of a mother. Some would define a mother as one who nurtures, gives of herself without expecting anything in return, and loves unconditionally. While I can honestly say I am not the first if being a mother requires you to give birth and raise a decent human being I have not done that. I have, however, nurtured adults and children through the years.
I have provided a safe place for people who are lost to feel like they could speak candidly, and honestly. I try to be a champion to those who struggle with mental health even while I struggle myself and I always try to pull others out of their dark places in the recesses of their mind. As an aunt, I have kissed boo-boos and provided advice to my Littles on how to handle the trials and tribulations of life that they don’t feel comfortable speaking to their parents about. I have read bedtime stories and never had to chase out monsters from under the bed because my littles knew monsters aren’t welcome at Aunt Britt’s house. I am not one for self-promotion or even bragging when it comes to myself.
I do these things because I love the people in my life. I am protective of them to a fault. If I love you, whether you are my family or my friend I will love you through your flaws, your triumphs, and even your losses. I will lift you, even at the sacrifice of lifting myself. It’s who I am; it’s why I’m like a beacon of light to lost souls. I’m drawn naturally to people that need healing; people who are in need. I love to love with all my heart. These are all qualities I would describe as Motherly and yet I’m not biologically anyone’s mother.
The fact that I was denied a carnation because I did not fit some random stranger at church’s ideal of what a mother needs to be should not have bothered me and yet, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. The woman who is a self-professed ‘proud dog mom’, Aunt, and considered the responsible ‘mother hen’ of her friend group is not a mom after all. Novel concept. While I hold no grudges towards the woman who deemed me not worthy to receive a flower, I couldn’t help but think how many women have lost babies, struggled with getting pregnant, or even recently found out that they couldn’t conceive at all. How much of a slap in the face would it have been to me if I’d recently miscarried?
Luckily, I am none of these things. I am simply a woman who decided in her late teens to not procreate. I have written about the stigma regarding women who choose not to have children many times on this blog. For every blogger who proclaims themselves Childfree, there are twenty Mommy Bloggers. There is a myth that women who opt out of motherhood are lonely creatures to be pitied. That they either hate children or will change their minds about having them. The most persistent myth regarding my child-free lifestyle is the idea that I am naturally selfish.
I am far from lonely; I have a husband and we have friends, hobbies, and traveling we like to do. I certainly don’t want to be pitied for my choice of not having a baby as I do not feel like I’m missing out on anything truly remarkable. I love my friends’ children as well as my nieces and nephews. I’ve even grown fond of strangers’ children who became like my own when I taught preschool for 9 1/2 years. To assume I hate children I find very asinine and insulting but even more asinine and insulting is the idea that I’m incomplete and will change my mind about my choice to fulfill some “ultimate womanly destiny”.
As someone who’s volunteered a lot of time towards their parish, friends, and family I’ve been described as everything from wildly passionate, deeply compassionate, and incredibly selfless.
The point of this post is incredibly short, sweet, and simple: women without children are not less than. They are dog mothers, lovers, friends, and children themselves. They are godmothers, aunts, mentors, and sisters. They have a great deal of love, time, and concern for things that matter most to them and that is the farthest thing from selfishness. We need to normalize not asking women if and when they will be mothers. Sometimes a friend who provides unlimited advice, unconditional love, and support to another friend who was disowned by their blood family simply for their sexual orientation is motherly without being an actual mother. Motherly behavior can be found especially in women who are not traditional mothers. It’s time to stop defining motherhood in the traditional sense of the word.
My decision wasn’t one I entered into lightly. It was one that I meditated on, prayed on, and sought out guidance for by means of literature and even the Facebook page: I Regret Having Children. Personalities such as Jennifer Aniston, Chelsea Handler and Megan Mullally made me feel more secure in my choice and of course the support of my own Mother validated my feelings and stance. Ultimately, regardless of what extrinsic influences shaped and validated my choice it was the intrinsic instinct that I was living my life authentically by not having children for me that truly cemented it. This idea that women need to procreate with their spouses to prove that they truly love them is dated and nauseating. Also, Uranus is chillin’ in my 5th house which basically has it written in the stars that I wasn’t meant to be a traditional Mother. Shoutout to Astro-Library for that juicy piece of information.
To close, today is bittersweet. One of my friends, a cousin by marriage of sorts, will begin the harsh reality of saying goodbye to his mother. Today he will be faced with people, friends, and family who will express condolences for his loss; as if mere words could take the place of the irreplaceable figurehead he lost. I live over nine hours away from the place I was born and raised, I also go back to work tomorrow after a rather long weekend I spent with my parents so I cannot be present for the pomp and circumstances regarding his grief yet I made him aware that I am here for him. I know despite my feeble words of comfort nothing will heal the devastating hole inside of his heart and yet life goes on. At this moment I am oddly relieved I won’t have a child to know intimately the pain of losing me as their Mother. At this moment I know I made the right choice, never to be someone’s Mother. To the woman who didn’t think I was worth a carnation; keep it. I’d rather just pray for you instead.