Saturday afternoon--I'm in my bedroom, at my re-claimed office desk. The sky is blue, the ground outside is decidedly green, and a beautiful breeze blows through my window. My indoor cat is snoring away on my bed, and I can see one of my outdoor kitties from the far window asleep on a patio chair, curled up in a ball that is white spotted with gray. It is a sleepy afternoon, with the hum of lawnmowers, and the singing of birds. I sit cross-legged in an old 18th century chair with a glass of claret, newly awake from a nap. On weekends, most of my chores and cleaning are done early--I'm usually finished with all domestic tasks by noon at the latest. Today, I have two more big tasks for the afternoon. I contemplate blowing off everything and just heading out to one of the local microbreweries for some exceptional beer and maybe food. But I am short on money and not in need of extra pounds, so the adult in me decides to stay put.
An early morning e-mail check always takes me to Yahoo's home page, that bastion of "normalcy", where a bevy of unrelated articles always rotate across the screen. Today, there was an article about racecar driver Danica Patrick. The question was whether or not she was planning to have a family with her husband. In typical Yahoo fashion, the headline said, "the answer might surprise you." Of course, her answer was no. She's married, but has a career and other interests, and doesn't feel a pull to motherhood. Surprise!
As is often the case with Yahoo articles, that "surprise" phrase managed to irk me. Maybe because I've been asked the same question a thousand times before--not so much since I've been divorced, but an awful lot when I was married. And it's an annoying question in this day and age. Instead, if she announced she wanted a family, the question ought to be, "are you sure that's what you want?"
I probably shouldn't blame Yahoo or anyone else. After all, motherhood is the central mythological female theme. The mystery of Woman is that she can manifest life. There is a Mother archetype--and a Terrible Mother archetype. There are hosts of goddesses that represent different aspects of women as mothers, and as family nurturers. Even Amma will always say that one should embrace their inner Motherhood--men included. (In that case, she is not being literal--she is saying to develop the associated qualities of compassion and nurturing).
The Virgin, Maiden, and Crone as archetypes of a woman's life cycle all center around the woman's ability to bear children. Joseph Campbell once said that girls become women when they experience menstruation, meaning that they are finally able to have children. And thus their myth begins.
But does it?
Biologically, the woman as potential mother is a fact. Our myths are as hardwired as other genetic features, and just as animals know when to engage in certain behavior to reproduce, the human female also changes when she finally "grows up" via drowning in a sea of aggressive hormones. A sea, by the way, she is told to stay out of when it happens to her in adolescence. But when she is an adult, it is expected of her.
But consider the following--there are men who love men, and women who love women. They are not driven to reproduce, not in the ordinary sense. They may choose to have families, but that's usually through adoption, artificial insemination, or surrogate motherhood with a third-party female. There are also women like myself, and apparently, Danica Patrick--we have no urge to have children. And that's not likely to change.
I don't like children. I'll say it plainly here, whether that's considered "right" or not. While I am happy for friends, family and acquaintances who have children and want them, in no way do I want to hold said baby, or babysit, or have anything to with them or their care. When I see a baby, I see an ugly, pruny thing that spits up, craps radioactive waste, and cannot be reasoned with when it starts screaming its head off. It is basically a giant producer of disgusting things, and it is excessively high maintenance. It will learn to manipulate its parents much earlier than anyone would imagine. I don't mind kids once they've become more sentient and can carry on a conversation. But I still don't want one.
I know I'm not alone in this. The saddest part is when I have female friends who get married and have families, and realize they feel the same way. I had a college friend who married early and had a baby with her husband at 23. She continually referred to the baby as "it"--as in, "I can hardly wait to get away from it."
To me, there is no joy in trading a life of freedom for life with a child. I like traveling, researching, making new friends, going on adventures. You can't do that with a child. Motherhood is a huge sacrifice, and as far as I'm concerned, you have to want it. When you don't, and you do it because you're "supposed" to, trouble ensues--for you, and for the child. I don't want to bear that kind of psychological responsibility for someone else's existence.
So, back to my original question--can woman be defined and identified by her biological abilities? Is this her archetypical "journey" and "hero cycle"? I don't believe it is. We've been handed that line of garbage since time immemorial, and it is one of those Collective Unconscious things that gives us complexes. While I have no urge or desire to have kids, there is always that subtle external influence--those voices that say, "What do you mean you don't want children?" The same ones that are puzzled when I say I've never been happier since I've been divorced. Things are "not supposed to happen" that way, and you become another abnormality, a social deviant.
But my point is that I don't think it's "deviant" at all--I think most women, given the chance, would skip on the whole marriage and motherhood thing. Some love it to death and are content with that life, so good for them. They will continue to propagate the species. But many never should have gone there, never really wanted to go there. In the end, they walk away from their married lives, and in a lot of cases, the children end up feeling abandoned, at fault, or unloved, even if those feelings are not consciously obvious. For instance--most friends of mine who are children of divorce are quite content with their parents' decision--until that parent decides to re-marry or pick up with someone else. The resentment that comes out, regardless of age, is an interesting phenomenon. The women who do stay often profess to being unhappy--there is a constant feeling of needing to escape, and constant guilt about feeling that way.
And--just to reiterate--I realize some people have made this choice and are very happy with it. And that's great--I'm glad it really does work out for some people, and that their kids are well-loved. But that will never be me, even if I decided to re-marry at some point.
So--this is why I say, ask "are you sure?" before embarking on motherhood. Don't ask me when I'm going to have kids. And don't assume wanting kids is normal female "thing". Above all--don't pressure women who want to build their own lives to embark on such a thing because it's "what women are supposed to do." It's not.