It’s funny, we didn’t plan this at all, but lately we’ve been talking a lot about motherhood on Atelier Doré. And non-motherhood. In other words, our choices as women, and the incredible pressures we have to face. It’s a topic that touches us all, and it’s fascinating. There’s so much to say, and so many things that go unsaid, so I think it’s great to be able to talk about it openly.
Caitlin, a woman who works with us and whom we all adore, has a really refreshing, touching message to share with us. I know you’re going to love reading it. Thank you, Caitlin, for sharing these beautiful words with us…
Caitlin Weiskopf, Business Development & Partnerships
I’m going to rip the bandaid off and get the hard part of this story over with — I’m 35 years old, and I don’t want to have children.
It’s not that I’m trying to save the world from overpopulation, or that I’m scared my child is going to grown up a victim of climate change. Or even that I’m nervous to try and find out that I can’t have kids… It’s just what I know and feel in my gut: I’m not meant to be a mother.
It’s taken me the most of my adulthood to get comfortable saying that outloud, even though it’s something I’ve known since my teens. Being open about this isn’t easy and a lot of people won’t understand it and some of you may even get angry at me… but I think it’s important that we talk about it.
They say that with maturity (using that word loosely here) comes a sense of self and acceptance of who you are, and as I get older, I agree. I’m finally in a place where I feel like I know the person looking back at me in the mirror. I’m self assured, driven, and loyal (to a fault). I’m passionate about life, ambitious in my career, and inspired by my peers. I’m a crappy liar, but a really great listener. I love cats (a lot). And more than anything I want to continue to grow, learn, and be the best version of myself.
But to be happy with who you are, I think you need to start with being honest with yourself and those around you. Even if it’s tough. Even if that dialogue includes being up front about doing something that society tells you is not the right way to live your life (keywords: your life!)
There’s an obvious expectation that having kids is just part of life’s blueprint, especially as a woman. You grow up with your version of a family, you get a job, you find a partner, you make big decisions together, you have children, and you do your best to survive (and maybe, just maybe, you’re happy doing it all).
While I’ve known for a while that this wasn’t exactly my path, I haven’t had to talk openly about it until recently, nor have I wanted to… because frankly, it’s scary. It’s uncomfortable. It’s polarizing. But now I’m being forced to because my marital status is changing and I’m engaged to my partner, Kristopher, of 6+ years, and apparently this opens the door for a lot of questions about “what’s next.”
On our third date at a Met’s game, Kristopher asked me during the 2nd inning if I wanted to have children. Without hesitation, I said, “No.” I didn’t have to think about it. And immediately, I could see his relief. It was like an unspoken pressure had been lifted for both of us, and for the first time I saw our future together.
But now we’re working on building that future, and with that comes questions, strong expectations, and lots of pressure. People (acquaintances, coworkers, my hair stylist, our families, the building super, etc) feel free to ask, “So, you guys planning on starting that family of yours during the honeymoon [insert wink here]?”
And thus begins an awkward conversation. I do my best to keep my reply pretty casual, “Eh, we’re not really planning on having a family.”
The next question is almost immediate, and very direct, “Why?”
This is the tougher question to answer, and most people aren’t happy with the real answer which is simply, “We just don’t want to.” Which, I’m guessing doesn’t sound worthy enough for such an important life question.
The conversation goes downhill from there. At best, I’ve heard, “Oh, cool.” At worst, I’ve gotten a slight foot shuffle with eyes diverted to the ground and “Well, that’s surprising.” Safe to say, we normally change topics at this point.
Beyond the awkwardness, the reactions I’ve received are what makes these conversations difficult. It’s put into perspective just how much pressure is put on us (women) to fulfill certain gender roles and it’s a big slap in the face when you realize you’re being judged because you’re not sticking to the norm. This is something I’m still learning to deal with and I’m not sure I’ll ever figure out how to.
I do my best to make people understand that in no way am I trying to devalue the importance of being a mother. I think being a mom is both the most important and hardest job you can have. Watching my close friends go from irresponsible 20-somethings to brilliant mothers (and career women) is something I’m endlessly impressed by. I honestly don’t know how they do it.
Oh, and on that note — yes, the path I’m taking is easier, but no, I’m not taking the “easy way out.” I’m just doing me.
Rarely do you hear of women being applauded for choosing to forge their own paths without children, or heaven forbid, a partner. We’re taught that we’re not leading a fulfilled life unless we have it all (sidenote: is anyone else sick of hearing the term “having it all”? I. Am. Over. It.). What I’ve come to realize is that it’s ok to not have it all. And it’s pretty damn liberating when you realize that your life is yours to define… with your own goals, your own ideas of success… your own idea of family.
So while this may seem like the “easier” choice, it’s not easy to stand up and say “I’m not having kids, and I’m happy about it.” It’s actually really, really hard. There’s a reason why I’ve kept quiet about this until the ring on my finger made me a target for a barrage of questions from near-strangers about our life plans.
Let’s have an open dialogue about this. About mothering, about not mothering, about being a woman, and what that means today. This topic has been off-limits for too long and it’s too important to ignore. It’s scary and intimidating to raise your hand and say you’re doing things different…It’s time we talked it out, together.
I’ll kick it off with this… I’m tired of feeling like I’m not good enough because I’m not realizing my potential as a woman by not becoming a mother. I’m sick of being judged for honestly answering questions about my plans for the future. I’m done being called selfish or irresponsible for going down a different path. I’m ready to build my future and my marriage — and I’m proud of it.
Now, your turn.