I am childless by choice. When I was younger I thought I wanted a big family, with lots of kids. Then I thought I only wanted one. I even took a few steps toward making it happen. But in the end, I eventually realized that I did not need a child born from my body to fulfill some societal construction of being a woman.
Which isn’t to say that I haven’t been a mother. In the years when my two nieces were young, I lived with my brother and his wife and I helped parent two amazing people. I showered all of my mothering on them, and they turned out to be beautiful young adults.
I’m not knocking those who chose to give birth. I think it’s a beautiful thing. I stand in awe of mothers everyday. I know my own mother is a super-hero in my eyes. Always has been. My parents split when I was 11, and my mother had primary custody.
Divorce is always ugly for the kids, even when the parents do their best to shield them from the acrimony. I was old enough to see it all, and while I thought I knew what was going on, I can see looking back that I didn’t understand it all.
But, life after the break up was tough. My mother did her best though, and she loved us fiercely. I learned a lot of life skills from her. I learned compassion and sacrifice from her.
I didn’t need to give birth to understand motherhood. I didn’t need an infant in my arms to know unconditional love. I chose to give my mothering to those in need, from my nieces, to the homeless, from pets to families struggling with poverty around the globe. These are my children, and I could never love them as I do without learning that love from my own mother.
So, happy Mother’s Day, to my mother, my sister-in-law, all of you who mother, whether your own child or others who need you. The choices we make define us. Choose love first.