One very cold morning in the West Village of New York City, I sat cross-legged, staring out of a large window with a fire escape blocking much of my view. I was mesmerized by the falling snow when something hit me for the very first time in my life: I would not have children. I was 34. Although I was never drawn deeply to the idea of having children, and not once thought that much about having them, I expected one day to have at least one child. It wasn’t so much that I lacked maternal instincts per se; I think it was some deep-seeded knowing that doesn’t necessarily present itself until one day time decides the fate of that knowledge. While I should have been struck by the abruptness of that idea swirling around inside my head, I didn’t blink. A tear didn’t shed. I was not overly amazed by the revelation resting boldly inside my mind. I just kept staring out at the beautiful snowflakes dancing to and fro against the chilled air before they landed onto the cold earth.
There were probably three men in my earlier life in which I might have entertained having children with. But now as I sit writing this I don’t recall having genuine love for those men that would lead me to marry them. Perhaps it was why on that cold morning in New York it snuck in: I will never have children. I cannot recall ever feeling differently about this: I would not raise children without a husband. Most likely because I didn’t grow up with my father always living in the same house in which I grew up, I knew innately I didn’t want that same thing to happen to my daughter or son. While my father didn’t abandon my older sister and me, when a child is raised primarily by only one parent there’s a psychological process–a feeling of being abandoned–that naturally sets in, however subtle. I didn’t want my child to experience that same fate. Unfortunately where I stand at the moment, I have far more regrets than I’d care to admit to. But not having a child has not been one of them. And nor have I felt something missing. By chance I may have felt a degree of lack, but it never went deep enough for me to recognize it as something missing in my life.
As is the case each Mother’s Day, I honor every female relative and friend who has had to raise a child. Over the course of my life, there might have been something deep down in my gut that nudged me every once in a while: you are not fit to raise a child. And I say this only because I understand fully the sacrifices that must be made in order to be a good parent. But more importantly what it takes to be a good mother. I am aware of the difficulty that comes with raising a child. I understand the worry, the compromises. And then there’s the growing up and growing away that a mother must live through, and what emotions she begins to feel when she recognizes for the first time that her child no longer needs to hold her hand. Sometimes there’s emptiness; sometimes a jubilant “Thank the Lord” feeling. But undoubtedly she is greatly transformed. I got it rather early on in the way some of my friends didn’t: having a child is a game-changer. It is the biggest, most important thing a woman will ever, ever do! No matter what career she embarks on; no matter how much suffering she undergoes in her own personal pain, struggle, sorrow, this–raising a child–is her biggest Moment in life.
Here’s to all the mothers of every age and color and religious affiliation: to the frightened mothers; the mothers who failed to forgive; the mothers who have shed quite a few tears; to the mothers that feel as if time has mysteriously slipped away while they were raising a child and/or children; the mothers who feel guilty; the mothers who tried as hard as they could but believed that they failed; the mothers who sacrificed so much and yet feel the sacrifice was in vain; to the women who endured agony and pain in order to birth a miracle, so that their daughters would have the opportunity to pay it forward. Here’s to you!