When I was growing up, I adored my mother. My mother could do no wrong in my eyes. She worked at a hospital for 30 years; most of that time she was a receptionist and telephone switchboard operator who worked the graveyard shift. I was a born night owl, and I would ring her all night long just to chat to her.
One day, she told me about how she hadn't always been a receptionist and switchboard operator. Before I was born, she was a nurse's aid. "What happened? Didn't you like it?" I asked her.
"I loved it... I had always wanted to be a nurse."
"Why didn't you become a nurse then?" I asked with genuine childlike inquisitiveness.
"Oh, well, I had kids instead."
I spent many years feeling guilty that I was responsible for my mother's unfulfilled dream of becoming a nurse. Unfortunately, as the years wore on... I discovered something about my mother: she was full of shit!
You see.... my mother was 29 when my eldest sibling was born, the same age I was when I had my first child. I managed to fulfill an awful lot of my lifetime goals and dreams before then, too.
I'm not unsympathetic to the fact that there are two entire generations that came and went in between my mother's birth and my birth. Her opportunities and expectations of her from society were quite different to what my opportunities and societal expectations were. But it's still bullshit... having kids did not stop her from becoming a nurse. Lack of ambition did. Being subservient to her husband did. Having her first child at the age of 29.... did not.
So why am I writing about this now? Social-fucking-media... the bane of my life. Because the mentality that children inhibit life dreams is still alive, well and often being cited by my own generation as a reason not to breed.
This notion is utter bullshit, and I'm a living testament to it. Sure, sometimes I make less progress than I would like in a given time frame or find that it is a bit more tedious than pre-Mummyhood, but it hasn't stopped me ticking off the life goals (and inventing new ones) on a consistent basis. Not to mention that raising a child is - in itself - an adventure that you will learn from and grow as a human being.
It's understandable why the mentality persists though.... I'm far from the only child who grew up believing that my existence ruined the fulfilled lives of my parents. It has been recycled again and again, except now it is the reason people give for not having kids rather than the reason for unfilled dreams.
Here are two requests that I would like people to consider:
1) Parents... don't blame your children for your own shortcomings. Either admit to yourself that you valued having children over the dreams you "gave up," or start working toward those goals that would make you more happy. There is no shame in either. If you truly DID have to walk away from a big opportunity (and I mean an actual, at-your-doorstep opportunity, not a pipe dream) that would have fulfilled you because of your family, don't ever tell your children anything to make them think that your unhappiness is their fault. They will feel guilty for it.... right up until they resent you.
2) Childless people... stop being smug, because you made different choices in life. Your concept that life ends at childbirth is only true for people who wouldn't have done much with their lives anyway, with very few exceptions. It is COMPLETELY possible to continue having adventures and living life to its fullest with children in tow. Just admit it: I don't want to have kids. It's not that hard... I said it myself for a very, very long time (quite adamantly I might add). There is nothing wrong with that. No one should bring a life into this world unless they are prepared to be completely committed to that life.
We make our own realities.
TyLean Polley is an avant-garde recording artist. You can get a free download of her music at TyLeanPolley.com