Motherhood Is Not For Every Woman

Do you believe that all women, deep down, yearn for motherhood? Well, you’re wrong.

When I set out to write a book about society’s assumption that all women, deep down, want to become mothers, I did not realize that my words would be a hot commodity. On my first attempt, I found not one, but two, top-notch agents willing to represent me. Why? Because I’m a mother of three, with three decades of motherhood experience, who believes emphatically that being a mom is not the ultimate experience for all women.

I am a mom willing to admit that motherhood is not “the toughest job” in the world. It’s a tough—and very long—journey, no doubt about it. But I don’t feel that what I’ve been doing for the past 30 years is tougher than a fireman who pulls on protective gear and ventures into a burning building. I don’t feel that what I do is tougher than a 19-year-old marine who drives a Humvee through a war-torn country thousands of miles from her home.

There are a lot of tough “callings.” Motherhood is one. And there are a whole lot more. I, for one, am thrilled that there are men and women who feel called to research a cure for cancer since breast cancer has taken three people close to me.

Women’s lives have evolved tremendously over the past few decades. Those who are old enough heard women’s voices in the 1960’s demanding their right to equal pay for equal work. Voices are still resounding in the halls of today’s workplaces due to very little headway over four decades.

As females emerged from their homes, obtained advanced education degrees, and entered career paths that were previously pursued only by men, they have continued to test other waters. Some are not sure they want motherhood. Some have always been sure they didn’t want it. Some get busy with their careers and find that the experience never happened for them; and they find that they’re at peace with it.

Whatever their circumstance, women live in a society that reminds non-moms that their lives are different from—even “less than”—the lives of their peers who are moms. Comments such as, “My life was meaningless until I became a mom,” is profoundly unfair to women who cannot have or do not want motherhood. One woman described how her co‑worker commented, “Oh honey, you just don’t know what tired is,” referring to her status as a non-mom. Do moms really believe that non-moms don’t know what tired is or that their lives are devoid of meaning?

Do we, as a society, believe that all women, deep down, yearn for motherhood? If you believe this, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. I’ve researched this topic with 200 women across the United States (and some international women): 60% of the childless women I interviewed described themselves as “voluntarily childless” (or more appropriately, “childfree”).

How about the question of whether all women are meant to be moms? Do we think that gender predisposes a woman to know how to mother well? Do all women possess “maternal instinct?”

To debunk the “fairy tale” vision that motherhood is the yellow brick road to happiness, let’s consider a few non-fairy tales. I heard one of the nicest women I know call her daughter a “bitch” during that phase when the mother/daughter relationship becomes a tempest. Another mom stands by, frustrated and hurt, as her child enters adolescence and changes from a kind, sensitive person into someone who regularly says hateful things. A past co‑worker remarked that work felt like “the spa” compared to two highly-active toddlers at home. I thought she was kidding, but the exhaustion on her face told me she was dead serious.

Do you think I’m a bad mom because I don’t believe motherhood is the right path for every woman? You could ask my kids, three of the people I love most in this world.  You could ask my teenage daughter, my inspiration for three years of research and writing, someone I plan to support, whether her life includes or excludes motherhood. While I don’t rate myself as “The Best Mom,” I do give myself an E+ for Effort. I’ve done as much for my kids as I could.

Motherhood is not for every woman. And we shouldn’t assume that it is. It is unjust to view females’ lives through the lens of motherhood. Instead, we should view females through a wide‑angle lens. When we speak about motherhood, let’s be realistic. No one can have it all. Some don’t want it all. And it doesn’t make them selfish, dysfunctional, or “less than.”

Aspiring first-time author, Holmes has experienced motherhood, divorce, single motherhood, re-marriage, stepfamily, low income, middle income. Her coming book is based on solid research, vast interviews, and personal experience. Her inspiration: her teenage daughter; and all females who struggle with assumptions others hold about their lives.

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