When I was in junior high school, I had one particular teacher who was rather liberal in her views (at least by Utah Valley standards). She mentioned one day that she and her new husband had decided they would never have children. I was shocked. She was being so selfish! Didn’t she know the Plan of Salvation? Isn’t it our duty to multiply and replenish the earth? I couldn’t comprehend why someone would make such a choice. I’d had enough cultural conditioning and Young Women’s lessons that I definitely had an idealized picture of being a mother above all else for my future.
Now I am in my late twenties, have been married nearly six years, and haven’t yet had children or the desire to have them.I always envisioned myself with children, and never thought I’d wait long after marriage to start having babies. A few weeks before my wedding, my father sat me down for an earnest talk. The unspoken message of the talk was that he and my mother had never done any family planning, and they ended up having seven children and limited options for their life. If they had the choice now, I’m sure they wouldn’t give any of us back, but I suspect my father in particular would like to have done things differently. The actual conversation included vague questions like “do you have a plan regarding children?” and subtle hints like “sometimes it’s good to wait a while and get to know each other first.” I can’t help but wonder if now he’s really wishing for grandchildren. At present, the years are passing, my biological clock is ticking, and I wonder if I will ever have the desire to have children. I think I want to have had them once I am older, but I don’t want to do it now. I realize that I am in a privileged position of having the choice (at least I think so, one never knows for sure until one tries). I don’t want to be insensitive to those for whom the desire is there and the choice is not. I like my life right now, but I can’t help but think there is something fundamentally wrong with me in my complete lack of desire to be a mother.
I was visiting some girlfriends recently, all of whom have children. They were discussing the fantasies they’d had about being mothers. Prior to giving birth, they’d each had idyllic pictures in their minds of themselves with their children. I don’t have fantasies— I have nightmares. I don’t picture myself as supermom with a happy cooing baby. All I can think about is lack of sleep, poop, vomit, snotty noses, no time for myself, feeling trapped.
Isn’t there supposed to be a natural instinct to want children? Don’t most women pick up a baby and long for one of their own? The drive and desire for many is so strong that they will go to great lengths; the fertility industry is booming. I chose a career that would give me flexibility and work with having children. I always imagined I would want to do it, so what has happened to me?
I wonder whether it would be wise to go ahead and try to have children because I think I should even though I don’t really want to. Would I be a grudging mother who is angry at her children for usurping her life? Or would I grow into the role and come to love it? What if I keep waiting until the day that I actually want to have children, and then it’s too late?
Are there other women out there who have struggled with the lack of desire to have children? What have been your experiences as you’ve planned your own families?