Thursday, February 18, 2010

On wanting to be a mother

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a mommy. I played with baby dolls, wrapping them in little blankets, rocking them, carrying them on my hip. I liked to hold babies and cuddle them to sleep.

Something changed when I hit puberty. Perhaps, at a time when my body felt so awkward and foreign, I could not imagine it nurturing another person. Or perhaps I felt disenchanted with motherhood, having reached an age where my mother, whom I love, no longer felt like the center of my universe. Perhaps for the first time I became truly aware of the responsibility children require, and that realization during my adolescence terrified me. Perhaps, as a budding teenager, I simply grew self-centered. For whatever reason, I decided that I was not going to have children, not ever.

I don't remember exactly when my pendulum began to swing back again, but I know that shortly after meeting Aaron, I decided that I did want children. Not only that, but I wanted to carry his children.

Some days it is all I can think about - the chance to take our love and sex through to its fullest act - conception. To feel our baby growing inside of me, to nourish a part of him with my body, to give birth and see our baby for the first time. To be someone's mother.

During college, I often wondered where I would be so many years after graduation, and one of my best friends said that she saw me barefoot and pregnant. This struck a nerve with some of the other girls who immediately chastised her, but she didn't mean it in a bad way - she simply understood me. I have never been very career-focused - I couldn't tell you, even now, what I want to do in terms of a career. But I can tell you what I want to be. I want to be a mother.

You can imagine how the words she chose were frowned upon in the largely liberal, feminist circle I was a part of. To be barefoot and pregnant was to have little education and no opportunity. Babies were something you did after your education, after you had traveled, after you felt satisfied in your career. Motherhood was not, generally, something you aspired toward - it was seen more as something that put your other aspirations on hold.

If women are supposed to live a complete life before having children, believing that once they become mothers they are throwing in the towel, what does that do to us, as well as our children? How many women who have waited are now finding it increasingly difficult to start a family?

Second-wave feminism did many wonderful things, but I believe that as a side effect of their celebration of the new career woman, women like my mother, who chose to be stay-at-home moms, were shut out. It was, and is still, implied that they don't work simply because they don't have a career outside of the home. Nothing could be further from the truth. I can't imagine a job more challenging than raising a child.

I have greater faith in the direction feminism is taking today - to support a woman's choice, whether or not she chooses a career outside of her home, and to also support men who wish to be stay-at-home dads. A direction that I hope will allow it to see me, a young, educated woman who wants to be a stay-at-home mom someday, as a feminist still, and to see my choice not as regressive, but as something to celebrate because it is mine.

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