On Not Becoming a Mother
June 2004: I graduate from Tuck on a Friday, marry on Saturday, and move out of Hanover on Sunday. A trio of fast-track commencements.
My banking career begins upon graduation; simultaneously, my husband finishes medical training at Harvard. After a few moves around the country, we returned to Texas, where we both had family. We were so career-focused. We discussed having children, but were honest with each other: it just wasn’t something either of us felt compelled to do. Looking from the outside, raising kids seems hard, and I thought (and still do) that becoming a mother isn’t something you should do unless you really want it. So we skipped parenthood.
Fast forward…by late 2016, for a variety of reasons, my marriage disintegrated. I finally acknowledged that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t stay married. This was my first big failure, and It was public, humiliating and messy. The divorce process lasted a full year; on September 19, 2017, the divorce decree was final.
Those 12 months count as the hardest year of my life: depression, weight loss, hopelessness…you name it, I experienced it. The chaos associated with rebuilding a life is akin to what a butterfly looks like as she forces her way out of a chrysalis: to someone who doesn’t understand what’s happening, it looks like total destruction, and the butterfly herself is battling exhaustion. During this time, I was deeply grateful for the decision not to have children. I didn’t fight for custody, battle over co-parenting decisions, and most importantly, I did not have the weight of helping a child navigate this experience. I could fall apart and be alone; not worried how the sight of a grieving mother might affect a young person.
Nearly six years later, I don’t regret my decision to not become a parent. I have children in my life, and I’m intentional about seeking out relationships with children of all ages. I think that if you don’t have children of your own, you do miss out on the special bond that adults and children can form, so you’ve got to find ways to fulfill that. Personally, I spend time with friends’ kids, my cousin’s kids, family friends’ children, my partner’s nieces and nephews. When you look for relationship with children, you’ll find it, so embrace it: go support at volleyball games, be a helpful hand at horse shows, and stay on the lookout for gifts for the favorite kids in your life. Be there for them when they need a safe (non-parent) adult to talk with; help with homework; buy the Scout cookies…just lean in, however that looks. I’m also lucky enough to have a wonderful partner now, and his son & daughter-in-law are about to bring a grandbaby into our life!
As part of my way back to myself after divorce, I reignited my love for animals. It was always there, but my fast-track life didn’t let me indulge this part of my soul. I was that kid who brought home stray animals; my blessed mother tolerated this…the homeless hamsters, sick cats, and flea-ridden mongrels that I nursed and rehomed. My love for animals hasn’t changed, but this time around, I built a life where I indulge it. Five years ago, I bought a little house in the country with a few acres, a barn and a pair of stalls. I have two horses at home, three miniature goats, four chickens, three cats and a dog. The joy that it gives me to share a life with and care for these critters is beyond words. It fulfills what I think is an innate instinct to nurture, and it has been an enormous part of coming home to myself. Every morning, every evening…these animals, their husbandry, are my constants. I can no longer imagine a life without them. Because of them, I live closer to nature, closer to the seasons, closer to the part of my humanity that I think we each have, but many of us cannot indulge: the part that co-creates with the natural world around you.
In addition to my own, my partner houses a small herd of cattle at his ranch about 25 miles away. Being on hand to care for this little band, watching them birth new life, feeding them, herding them, tending them…the simple, cyclical routines of agriculture…humans have been living in concert with domesticated ruminants for hundreds of years, and I cherish being part of this tradition.
All of it has taught me to live in accordance with nature’s pace and has healed parts of me I didn’t know were hurt. For the animals in my life, I am forever grateful. It’s difficult to describe how unbalanced my relationship with them is: they give me so much more than they demand in return.
So to date, I’ve never become a human Mom, and for me, this hasn’t been a disappointment. Everyone’s road is different, and you’ve got to respect what you genuinely need and want.