Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Choice to Raise Children

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   Years ago, in the early nineteen-eighties, I was in high school and in college with a group of dear friends. Of my friends in high school, many of them planned to go to colleges scattered around the US.  The friends I made in college also had very clearly defined dreams.  They planned to become physicians, psychologists, nurses, and college professors.  Of all of them, I was the only one for which having children was an important goal.  Maybe our middle and high schools did such a good job telling us that a woman could have a very fulfilling career that everyone focused on that.  Maybe all the talk of the Russians having nukes aimed at us, and our having the same aimed at them, made them think again about having children. Maybe, to people our age, motherhood and all that accompanied it just looked tedious.  Of both groups of women, I was the only one who really wanted my own family.  Following graduation, from college, and my licensure as a registered nurse,  I married, bought a small home and had our first two children.  Shortly after, one of my friends from high school also had two children.  But, after that they  had no more. My group of high school friends, and my brainy group from college may have married, but no one else had children.  I went on in my thirties to have a third and a fourth beloved child.  Perhaps my friends found that their careers were not easily compatible with the demands of parenthood. Perhaps I was fortunate in that I found the profession of Nursing to be more compatible with raising young children.
               From the time that I was a small child I had always wanted my very own children. The objective was not to control, but to guide them as they grew and to have pride in their achievements with the full understanding that they are not copies of me.  Children come through us, not from us, and at an early age, this was clear to me.  I have not been disappointed. Each one of my four biological children have been my life's greatest joys, and each of them have been quite different.  Our fifth child who came to us through adoption has also been a great joy. It is a different experience, especially since he came to us as a teen, but no less magical and certainly no less important.
              One of my closest friends felt so strongly about her choice not to have children that she wrote a wonderful book about it, entitled Cheerfully Childless: The Humor Book for those Who Hesitate to Procreate.   I love the book, and I think it's hysterical  You might wish to pick up a copy. It's a brief and enjoyable read.   In the many years since all of us made our decisions much in the world has changed. My friends went on to successful careers of one type or another. A few divorced and remarried, but did not change their minds about having children, either biologically or through adoption.  I have probably not enjoyed as successful a career as they, as a consequence of having and raised five children, but this was my choice and for me, the correct one.  My friends without children are happy for me, and I am happy for them. When we get together, they too relate that they believe they made the best decision for themselves.
             Many times, even today, we still hear the outdated idea that women are not fulfilled unless they have children. This may have been true of me, but it certainly wasn't true of my friends. They also learned that in terms of teaching or guiding the young as a professor, that there are many ways to parent in the world. I learned that it is not truly possible to have it all, but then I have had and enjoyed what I wanted most.
             Perhaps rather than women with children judging those who decided parenthood was not for them, or rather than women with very successful careers judging those who chose to set their careers aside for a time, in order to parent healthy children, we should support those decisions.  Wasn't the original intent of feminism simply to encourage and support women in whatever choice in this regard, they chose to make ?

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