One of the great things about getting old and wrinkly is that nobody pesters me with this ridiculous query anymore. Or perhaps I have more of an “unfit mother” vibe now and people simply don’t want to encourage me? Who knows. I’m just happy the nonsense has stopped because I'd always feel defensive about people's judgment after not providing the expected enthusiasm about my procreation plans. Containing my feral response to something that was none of their business took a lot of effort, but that's only because I felt different, somehow wrong and worthy of judgment.
I knew at a very early age that I did not want to be a mom. When I was a kid I found life to be extremely confusing so I’d constantly ply my mother with questions about why she chose to have kids. "Why did you have me? Do you like having children? You do? Okay, but WHY did you have me?" She did her best to answer my questions but none of her responses made sense to me. This wild child could not comprehend any of it.
As the daughter of an Evangelical Christian pastor, I wasn’t exactly hanging out with loads of people who understood the decision to be child-free either. It appeared that being a wife and mother went hand in hand and this was the primary purpose of a woman's life. Gulp. Most people just assumed I'd have kids. When my friends would say, “Someday our children will do this and this together…” I’d just go along with their imagined futures knowing they wouldn't understand.
Shortly after we began dating I informed Pauly that I’d never had the desire to have kids and didn't expect that I ever would. It seemed only reasonable to be completely real with the person whom I adored about something as big as this. I matter-of-factly told Pauly that if having children was important, then I was not the girl for him. He shrugged and said, “Okay by me.” End of the discussion. He didn't need to talk about it any more. Then we totally made out on his super swanky waterbed. “That was easy,” I remember thinking in amazement as we smooched on the gentle waves.
I feel fortunate that I found a partner who was cool with me, yet how do you talk about this with people who just don't get it? "Deciding to not be a mother" seems like a silly way to word it. It was never actually a choice. And I've only recently accepted that there isn't anything wrong with my version of womanhood; this is just who I am and it's perfectly okay.
And then somehow about 11 years into our marriage an adorable little rugrat magically flowed into our lives. The parents of a child Pauly worked with at school asked us if we'd become respite care providers of kids with special needs. This involved a weekend of care once or twice a month and occasionally we’d even get a whole week when the parents had to leave town. We took care of two different kids in our home, one over a ten year period and another only for one year and I absolutely loved it! The relationships we still have with these sweet boys who are now about 23 years old are so stinkin’ precious to me.
Michael was our first kid and the one who stayed with us for the entire ten year period. This child is amazing. Michael has had cerebral palsy since birth. He can move his head and that’s about all of the movement he can control. I've never met a person who has a zest for life like Michael. He's so excited about being on planet earth that he gets up at the crack of dawn every day because he doesn’t want to miss a thing! Michael never fails to teach Pauly and I how we can choose a high vibe in any situation, no matter how challenging. I wish everyone could experience Michael's powerful presence.
When Michael went to live in a group home a few years ago, he no longer needed respite care but we still hang out at his place. And recently he's just begun to come to our house for regular visits and we love love love it. It's just like old times: we crank Will Smith's "Willennium" album and dance (Michael's got the baddest on beat, head-bop and sly smile) and we all talk about what we're up to. I totally get why people have kids now.
And yet being child-free has been absolutely perfect for us and I wouldn't have done it any other way. No regrets at all, even if we'd never had the chance to be respite care providers! We're not all here to do the same thing. We each get to create our own magic!
So if a snoopy person with poor eyesight asks me when I'm gonna have kids now, I can answer honestly without defensiveness and agitation about who I am as a gleefully barren female! Or I could just pull out my baby bank, make a goofy face, shake it and let the emptiness of the scant clinking and clanking do the talkin'. That would be fun too.