I may stay single permanently, and for me, that means giving up motherhood. Some might debate this–I have friends who have done artificial insemination, or adopted or fostered children. I do not think this is a path down which I shall go, personally. So for me, one of my occasional difficult emotional battles around singleness is when I wrestle with the idea of never being a mother.
Not only do I give up the idea of physically popping out (ew gross, I hate that term) a child of my own body, but I have to give up on my perceptions of what a role of motherhood means to me. When my younger brother and sister and I played together as kids, they went out on adventures from the playhouse. I stayed inside, tidying up and cooking “dinner” for their triumphant return. I hung curtains. I drew pictures for the walls. I set the table.
Motherhood and homemaking, to me, always seemed to be ideal roles in life. To do it well, you had to enjoy being creative–my mom, for example, sewed, cooked, read, and did all kinds of projects for fun, some for budgetary considerations, and mostly for the sheer joy of creating beauty around us. She shopped and thrifted and planned and reupholstered things, arranged simple and affordable meals to look lovely, used the nice plates for birthday cake, and worked side by side with my dad on Saturdays to clean up the yard. As a pretty sensitive kid with a soft spot for beauty and a love for making things, I saw the potential in the role, and from early on, looked forward to that life.
It’s been a long and difficult process to give up the idea that in missing out on falling in love, I’ve also somehow missed out on my dream ‘career,’ in a way. But it’s deeper than that, too. I remember thinking about the millennium when I was about 9 years old. I calculated my age–I’d be twenty years old. Of course that seemed like a VAST age, old and wise, and far removed from impending teenagerhood. I wondered what life would be like. I’d probably be married, I thought, and have one, maybe two kids by then. (haha, kids, amiright?) I thought maybe it would be fun to have a baby in the year 2000–a true millennial. In reality, the year 2000 was my second year at university, and I had to laugh at myself as Y2K came and went, and I was just as close to marriage and babies, apparently, as I had been at 8 years old.
Singleness means giving up Grandmotherhood. I mean, it means giving up grandmotherhood for me, obviously. But it also means giving up seeing my parents as Grandparents. It was a tense, long time of wondering for my parents, if they would ever be grandparents. My mom endured plenty of ‘Gratefulness Brags’ from her friends about their many grandchildren. Thank goodness I now have nieces from my sister and brother-in-law. At least one of the four of us kids has given my parents the chance to enjoy being grandparents, and I love watching my mom and my little niece Lucy develop their sweet relationship–I love seeing my dad laugh at her antics and proudly take pictures holding her sweet tiny sister, and hearing him tell me how he held me the same way, stretched along his forearm with my preemie head in his hand.
I love every rich moment with my family, and I don’t regret a single one, nor would I trade them. They are special in a different way for me. I’ve been able to be there within hours of both my nieces being born. I’ve been able to bring gifts and shower attention on my sister. I’ve been able to spend time with my siblings and parents in different ways than if I had family obligations of my own.
All the same though–I feel a little bit on the outside of things. I watch my sister and our mom talk about parenting, discipline, stages of growth, medical needs. I watch them develop something new and different in the way they treat each other with respect and kindness, the way my sister reaches out to my mom for help and advice and time, and the way my mom lights up when she sees her grandbabies, and when she watches her daughter be a mother. It’s beautiful, and I still do think of that relationship with longing.
Odds are I may never know what it’s like to be a mother. And people may say you can’t miss what you never had, but that’s a lie. I miss, sometimes, what I would have been, what would have changed in me through the deeps and darks and dreams of motherhood.