“Is it because of your issues with your Mom?”
It was the response that I received from my friends when I first shared my decision and choice to not have children. They found it difficult to accept or to even understand.
Not surprisingly so, since there’s a general understanding amongst Filipinos that parenting, or a woman becoming a mother, is a given. It isn’t and cannot be a choice. A woman, unless she’s a nun, can never be complete or feel fulfilled unless she gets pregnant and gives birth.
But it is my belief that it doesn’t make someone less of a man or a woman when they choose not to have any children of their own. There are numerous ways of becoming a parent other than fathering or mothering a child in the traditional way, other than bearing a child in the womb, or giving birth to one. One needs only to be creative, and to define for one’s self what mothering, fathering, or parenting encompasses and represents for them.
But, I know, not many think this way.
And I totally understand why the majority think and believe that they’re less fulfilled when they don’t have children of their own. We’ve been programmed to think that. We’ve been brainwashed to believe only that.
Parenting is a career in itself. It is such a HUGE, HUGE responsibility. And I don’t believe it’s for everyone.
In Gina’s Professions for Peace, her post “Precious Resource” talks about how to become an effective parent. She emphasizes the need to “make an effort to learn how to excel at child care.” To research.
I so appreciate the efforts that parents like Gina have taken to painstakingly fulfill such a demanding role and enormous responsibility.
But if I may add to what Gina shared, I believe that an individual also needs to do research before becoming a parent. Even before deciding to be one. To research to help them decide if they in fact want to become a parent or not. A truthful inventory of the self is an important step in determining if one is even fit to parent a child.
My decision to not be a parent wasn’t because my biological clock was ticking. It wasn’t because it was not biologically possible for me to be a mother. And it’s not because I don’t like children. I do. I can’t imagine the world without them.
My process of deciding not to become a mother in the traditional sense, surely may have started from my childhood wounding and trauma. It may have stemmed from my mother issues.
But my mother issues weren’t the only reason. And my decision process simply didn’t end there.
What was unconscious became conscious
My choice may have begun unconsciously.
In my 20s and 30s, I was married to my career. Marriage and family had no place in my life. Work was what gave meaning to my life. My career was my life.
Until my healing journey started when I was 36. It led to an honest and truthful self-inquiry and self-examination, which eventually and ultimately birthed, pun intended ;-), my decision to not become a parent. What was an unconscious choice to not become a mother in the traditional form was cemented. The deal was sealed.
I’m not suggesting that when someone has experienced severe wounding in their childhood, or hasn’t quite worked through their adult issues, that rather than pass on the wounding to their would-be children, it’s best for them to not become a parent. Or that they’re not fit to become a parent at all.
No. Far from it.
To wait to be free of one’s childhood wounding before becoming or deciding to become a parent, isn’t ever going to happen. After all, we are all a work-in-progress.
What I’m suggesting is to decide and to choose to become a parent, or not, thoroughly and consciously.
The perennial womanizer that is my father
I can’t recall how or when I first learned about my Dad’s womanizing ways.
What I clearly remember is, growing up, all I heard was my Mom constantly complaining about my Dad being a perennial womanizer. She wouldn’t mince any words. She made it quite clear how hurt she was over my Dad’s transgressions. She painted a really despicable picture of my Dad as a husband. Of course she was doing it all unconsciously. But one can only imagine how that shaped my view towards men and relationships.
Yet in the same breath, she’d almost always emphasize and end her grievances with, “Pero, ama niyo pa rin siya (But he’s still your father).” Meaning, no matter how much she was pained by my father’s infidelity, we are still to accord our Dad the respect that he rightfully deserves as our father.
Well, I can’t agree more. His misgivings towards my mother were as her husband, not as our parent. And I can only commend my mother for not forgetting that and for reiterating that. For attempting to differentiate.
But the concept can be very confusing to a child. A little girl simply doesn’t have the capacity and the ability, not the wisdom or the gift of discernment, to differentiate between her Dad’s shortcomings as a husband, vis-a-vis as a father. As a seven-year-old, (or probably even younger), I was being asked for something that was so much beyond my years and what I had the competency for.
I’m not sharing this to hold my parents, especially my mother, in a bad light.
I simply want to point out that, sadly, there are many parents, just like mine, who do not truly know what being a parent means. What an enormous responsibility rests on their shoulders.
Parenting advice from a non-expert
I am the last person to give any parenting tips or advice. My thoughts on the subject though stem largely from having grown up in a dysfunctional family. From having been raised by parents who weren’t exactly the role models to emulate.
Having been a product of an unhappy marriage taught me what parents must NOT do to their children.
Having been raised in an abusive environment taught me what future parents CAN do instead, to break the pattern and to avoid the abusive and unloving treatment that children like myself, had to go through.
I learned that, parent or not, it is inevitable for one’s own childhood wound to surface. Allowing the wound to come up and bringing it to one’s awareness is in fact the only way it can be properly addressed and effectively healed.
And when someone does choose to become a parent, it is imperative that they are conscious when they are behaving unconsciously.
To be aware that they may be projecting their own issues to their children, or passing on an unhealthy behavioral family pattern.
To catch themselves when it may be their own wounded inner child that’s reprimanding their children, or correcting their child’s misbehavior.
To pay attention and to listen intently, to make sure that it’s truly the voice of their inner Wise Counsel that’s disciplining and guiding their children.
And to be clear, to be very clear and very certain, what their reasons are for becoming parents, other than it’s what’s expected of them by society.
Or it is the only choice that’s available to them.
Because it isn’t.
It just simply isn’t.
Parenting or not parenting — that is the question, and it is a choice.
May we choose wisely, and may we choose consciously.
When we choose to not become a parent, may we do so consciously.
When we do choose to become a parent, may we also do so consciously.
And those of us who do choose to become parents, may we be conscious parents, and may we be conscious at parenting, and may we be conscious at becoming conscious parents.
That way, not only will we be raising loving and kind-hearted children, we will be raising and empowering them to become loving and kind-hearted parents themselves.
And what emerges then is a new, healthy behavioral family pattern.
A pattern that’s not supposed to be broken, but to be treasured and passed on, to which no heirloom comes close.
# # #