I am not a mother. Possibly because when I first started showing an interest in sex, my mother repeatedly said, “Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant! Then you’re stuck.” Her point was a good one. So many surprise pregnancies wind up in unhappy marriages. But more likely the reason for my not having children is simply because I’m selfish. I like being the number one in my life. That, or I never felt up to the task. I cringe when I see kids out in the world doing stupid stuff, like riding their skateboards down a steep street with a stop sign at the bottom, one they won’t possibly be able to stop at, or putting unknown things into their mouths, or talking to creepy adults they don’t know. I can’t imagine how any mother makes it through the day without multiple panic attacks. I would surely be so over-protective, hammering into my child the many dangers of the world, that I would raise a wimpy, nervous, nail-biting agoraphobic.
That said, people always tell me I would make a great mother. Or would have. Those days are far behind me now. (Thank God.) But I have plenty of kids in my life. I taught drama to kids for years, both in the schools and out. I’ve seen my neighbor’s kids grow up. And of course, thanks to my brave siblings, and my partner Dixie’s brave siblings, I have excellent nephews and nieces. Excellent great nephews and nieces too!
In college, I took a developmental psychology class where the professor shared with us the results of a survey where people gave their reasons for having children. I was amazed/appalled to learn that some people had children because they wanted to dress them cute clothing! Others said they wanted someone to love them! Ag! Is it any wonder the world is filled with so many heartbroken people?
For a brief while, when I’d just turned thirty-eight, when my childbearing possibility was coming to a close, I actually thought about having a baby. One of my best friends was pregnant, and she was so precious about it. Dixie very kindly said, “If you want a kid, we can do it.” But seeing my friend’s transformation, a woman who once did things like choreograph a dance with gowned women bearing broadswords, seeing her turn into a sleep-deprived woman obsessed with her infants poop was enough to put an end to my dalliance. Bearing children was not for me! Dixie and I have since come to the conclusion that having children would have torn us apart. Our child-rearing methods would be so different! I can see me throwing fits over her feeding my little darling fast food.
I got lucky when it came to mothers. Mine is a good one. This Mother’s Day, when I called her, she and her husband, Best Bob, had just made the eight-hour drive to Magee Marsh in Ohio where, along with masses of other birders, they planned to witness the warbler migration. When my dad left her with four children to raise—on her own—she could have easily thrown up her hands and said forget it. Or blown her brains out. She didn’t. She hung in with us, taught high school English to support us, and gave it her all. And she continues at eighty-four to be an inspiration, taking the train to inner city Philadelphia to see the opera, the symphony, a museum; traveling the world with Best Bob to look at birds and study world history. So yeah, I got lucky.
So here’s what I think. Some of us are meant to have children, and some of us are meant to help those who have children. It’s a big job. Mothers need help. So ha’s off to mothers. Without you, we’d be… well, we wouldn’t be.
I’m currently on a cross-country road trip in a ’91 Chevy Conversion van. If you’re interested, here’s my travel log. And don’t forget to live the love. It’s all we’ve got.
Oh yeah, and the photo? That’s my mom with little me and my brother.