Many people think that if you’ve had a particularly troubling childhood and can learn from it, it’ll allow you to be confident in your style of parenting and child-rearing. I don’t really feel this way. On the contrary, I am terrified of having children.
I like to think that I am always growing in self-awareness and because of this, I’m well-acquainted with the more colourful aspects of my personality: my bouts of anger and self-loathing which have, in the past, caused me to tug at my hair, slam doors and hurt myself; my black feelings of sadness which have debilitated me, left my laying in bed all day and staring through walls; and my sometimes negative outlook on life which can cause me to complain and feel disempowered. In greater or lesser amounts, these will always be part of me. So where does that leave me when I consider the type of mother I would be? The main feeling that plagues me when I consider motherhood is doubt. Doubt that I could really be what children need, doubt that I could provide stability and security and doubt that I could be the role model I never had growing up.
Both my parents have gone through lengthy periods of unemployment in my lifetime and from a relatively young age I was aware that we were in debt. I remember a money lending advert playing on the TV and my Dad watching intently, reaching for the phone to make an application but then he stopped; cursing himself. You had to be a homeowner to apply. Neither of my parents have owned houses in their lifetime, and neither of them ever will. Don’t get me wrong, having a home at all is a privilege and I thankfully never suffered homelessness as a child but I don’t know many people whose parents don’t own their home. We didn’t have a car for the most part, growing up. I was desperate to go to dance lessons but my parents couldn’t afford it. I hated a lot of the clothes I wore and felt unconfident at school. I don’t want my child to have to deal with any of this. I want my child to have someone to look up to. Someone with a decent job, someone happy, someone sensible – someone who keeps their promises. Someone who deals with their emotions in a healthy way and doesn’t take it out on their kids. Someone who doesn’t get drunk. I’d like to think that I could be this person but I don’t know for sure. My parents both had very sad and damaging childhoods and probably decided to have children with the belief that they could do things differently – and they did do things differently because my childhood was infinitely better than theirs. But I was still left feeling sad and damaged. Who’s to say I wouldn’t repeat their mistakes? I’m also worried about the biological reality of pregnancy and the possibility of pre-natal and post-natal depression. What if I don’t bond well with my child? How would I cope without the me-time that I depend on for mental wellbeing?
Something that also worries me is the reasons people have children. I’m 22 and many girls my age are very broody, gushing over newborns and cute animals. I feel exactly the same – I think babies are adorable. But I also know that finding babies adorable isn’t a valid reason for having one. Some people have children because they’re in love. Some people have children because they’re lonely. Some people have children because they think it’s what they ought to do. What’s more complicated is when the child is not planned because keeping it becomes more of a moral issue. It’s vital to me that I don’t choose to have children for selfish reasons. It’s vital that the bonds formed, although shared, are absolutely for their benefit and not mine.
“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.” – Kahlil Gibran, on children
Once as a teenager, I fled out of my father’s house in a rage, screaming: “No one asked you to have kids!” and slammed the door so hard that I broke the lock. Children don’t ask to be born and they should never feel a burden on the people that actively brought them into existence. If I ever choose to have children, it’ll be because I am in stable part of my life, with an established support system and because I have a desire to give the gift of existence to another being. I am ultimately so happy to be alive and think that this world is full of opportunity and beauty – how great it would be to give this gift to somebody else. But it’s important to be realistic. And what might be more probable is that the child is unplanned and I just decide to do my best. I just really don’t want to be resentful or unstable.
I’d like to have forgiven my father before I have children. Holding onto resentments and anger definitely prevents you from being as loving and well-rounded as you could be. It wasn’t that long ago that I realised I will be able to forgive him someday. The distance and perspective has brought me closer to that point. I am currently reading a book called The Places That Scare You by Pema Chödrön and near the end there is a chapter called forgiveness. I remember how I felt the first time I skimmed through the book two and a half years ago. I took a glimpse at that chapter and hardened. Forgiveness of my father felt inconceivable at that time – a destination so many years into the future that it exhausted me to even think about it. Now I know that it will happen and it brings me peace – and I think it’s because I can see his pain and vulnerability more clearly now. I’m still in a place of putting my own pain and vulnerability first because if I hadn’t been doing that, I never would’ve acknowledged and begun to heal from what happened to me in the first place; but I’m also starting to feel pity for my father. I used to feel overly empathic and responsible for his emotions but now I see him as someone lost and out of control and I no longer feel it is up to me to help him. It is not my job to help him find his way, I can not heal him from his trauma and mental illness. I can only heal myself then try to understand.
What do you think about child-rearing? Do you have children? Do you want children? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to learn from those more experienced than myself. Thanks so much for reading. I’ll be back with another blog post next week. 🙂
– SMUT. ❤ xxxx