Seems like as soon as Thing 2 could talk, she has said that when she grows up she wants to be a mommy. Not truck driver. Not doctor. Not female body builder. Mommy. I must tell you (and no one who knows us personally will disagree with me) that I am her absolute favorite person on the planet. I am followed closely by Thing 1 and everyone else is on the B List. On the other hand, Thing 1 has never said she wants to be a mommy. Well, maybe once, but it was like a distant 25th to dancer and scientist/fashion designer. I’ve always thought Thing 2’s desire to be a mommy was cute, but I never gave it much thought since she is only 6-years-old and her interests and life goals will morph several hundred times before she reaches adulthood.
Recently, the girls and I were having a conversation about how a woman’s body naturally goes through different seasons: preparing to reproduce, reproduction years and the end of reproduction. I was explaining that as a woman in my late 40’s, I am at the end of my reproductive years – hence, no little brother. Thing 2 looked up at me and said “But, when we grow up we’re going to have babies because that’s what it means to be a woman, right? That’s what girls do, right momma?” Suddenly, it wasn’t so cute to me anymore.
Obviously, I like kids. I mean, when we married we already had 3 kids between us yet, we had just had to keep going. Three was for quitters. However, I do recognize that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for raising children. In fact, I didn’t even realize how much I would enjoy being a mother until I became one. It doesn’t work that way for everyone. I looked at my baby girl and said “No, sweetie. You can be a woman without ever having children and that’s okay.”
She looked a little surprised. Her sister spoke up an said “Auntie,” referring to my sister, “doesn’t have any kids and she’s a woman.”
“True,” I responded “Auntie, is childless by choice, but there are a lot of women who physically can’t have children. They are still women.”
“Why can’t they have kids?”
“For any number of reasons all too complicated to explain. Regardless of the reason, whether you have children or not does not define you as a person or a woman.”
I felt guilty. Like the life that I have chosen to lead has somehow made my daughters believe that this is the only life to choose. While I am very happy with the choices that I have made and the life that I live, I know that it isn’t for everyone – including them. Their lives are only beginning and open to so many exciting possibilities I want them to know that no matter what choices they make about their careers or relationships or decisions to have children or not to have children, I’m there to support them. And I certainly want them to know that being a woman means so much more than giving birth.
So, I pulled them close and told them that while being a mother is “a very important job that requires a lot of hard work, it is not what makes you a woman. Women are a lot of things. We are: smart, and strong, and creative, and ambitious, and nurturing, and insightful, and caring and clever, and fast, and agile, and a lot more. We are: writers, and lawyers, and police officers, and soldiers, and doctors, and teachers, and dancers, and engineers, and, again a lot more. Sometimes we are mommies and something else; and other times we are mommies and nothing else; and sometimes we aren’t mommies at all. Any combination is fine and that will be your decision when you are older.”
“Yes, much older,” echoed Thing 1.
Thing 2 was looking kind of dazed, so I asked her if she understood what I had said. She assured me that she did, saying “Yes, being a grown up woman is more than just being a mommy.”
I smiled, “Exactly!”
“And, I get to pick what kind of woman I want to be.”
“You got, sister!”