If you’re a mom, Happy Mother’s Day!
If you’re not a mom, Happy Day for Giving Thanks for Your Mom (or Whoever Raised You)!
I’m so grateful to have my mom a short drive away, and I’m grateful for the love and support and encouragement she’s given me my whole life. I know I’m lucky — not everyone got that kind of love.
Moms like that rock!
Me, I’m childfree by choice.
Let me assure you, before you jump to conclusions, that childfree by choice doesn’t mean child-disliking. I absolutely adore kids (did you know I taught nursery school and was a nanny in my 20s?), but I’m “mom” only to a fluffy diva of a kitty, who keeps me sane when she’s not driving me crazy.
ChildFree by Choice Isn’t Always an Easy Choice
I love my life, and would not trade it, but getting to a peaceful resolution to the question of whether or not to have children was not an easy journey. A journey intimately tied to my journey toward a Big, Bold, Creative Life.
Some of my friends knew from early on that they didn’t want kids. Childfree by choice from birth. I envy them.
For me it was a painful struggle for a long time, and although I finally got to clarity and peace and closure with my ultimate decision a number of years ago, that doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes get wistful.
I also have friends who are childfree not by choice, for whom Mother’s Day must pack a mighty wallop. Even for those of us who are childfree by choice, though, Mother’s Day can tug at you…
Leaving a Legacy
Someone very intuitive recently asked me something about my children, and when I said I didn’t have any, she paused a moment, then nodded and said,
“Ah, yes, your work is your children.”
It was a very perceptive way to put it. In fact, I sometimes wonder if part of the reason I’m so passionate about making a difference is that my work is my way of leaving a legacy.
Would I be so driven to build Living A Creative Life if I had children?
Of course there’s no way of knowing, but I often wonder what my life would be like if I’d had kids.
Every Choice Spawns a Sister Life
I grew up assuming I’d be a mom
It was a given until I was in my 30s and newly divorced, because I love kids, and well, why wouldn’t I be a mom?
But life, as John Lennon put it, is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.
My life has turned out wildly different from the way I imagined it would be, in many more ways than ultimately being childfree by choice. It’s richer, deeper, definitely bigger, bolder and more creative than I even knew was possible.
I have an awesome life!
And yet I do sometimes think about the other life, the “sister life” that mine would be now, had I stepped through different doors and made different choices than I did. Had I landed at this age with a kid or two in tow (or maybe in college!), in addition to a fluffy diva kitty.
The Ghost Ship that Didn’t Carry Us
I recently read a wonderful book, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar, by Cheryl Strayed, a compilation of luscious, gut-wrenching, compassionate, and soul-baring letters from an online advice column. (Seriously, read it! I couldn’t put it down!)
One of the letters Strayed (as the anonymous Dear Sugar) wrote, was to a man in his early 40s, who was wrestling with the question of whether to have a child or not.
He asked many of the same questions I asked myself, as I wrestled with the “to kid or not to kid?” question for several years in my 30s.
Strayed refers to the “sister life” we didn’t choose as “the ghost ship that didn’t carry us.” It’s neither better, nor worse, just different.
Every choice you make in life means an infinite number of other choices that you didn’t make.
I choose to spend this moment writing a newsletter to you, which means I am not using this moment to paint, or check email, or walk by the San Francisco Bay with MB, or call my mom, or play my ukulele, or…
Had I chosen to be a mom, there is no question that I would have spent my time and energy very, very differently than I have over the past couple of decades.
None of these choices is inherently better than any other, but they are all different, and they are (with few exceptions) mutually exclusive. (Yes, I could call my mom while walking by the Bay with MB, for example, but it would make that walk a totally different experience.)
As Strayed puts it at the end of her gorgeous Dear Sugar letter,
“I’ll never know, and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.”
I’m saluting now.
PS – Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!