The ‘I’m not a mother’ mother

Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi

Sunday Times - - Pulse -

When I fell preg­nant and got to the stage where I felt com­fort­able telling peo­ple, I was met with dis­be­lief. A col­league even said to me when he was no longer speech­less: “You don’t look at some peo­ple and ex­pect them to fall preg­nant.” I thought that meant he as­sumed me to be ei­ther asex­ual or sex­less.

About two years later I ca­su­ally men­tioned to an as­so­ciate that I had a child. She gasped and said: “You have a child? You don’t seem like a mother.”

It was then that I un­der­stood what my col­league meant. It’s not that he thought I didn’t have sex, it’s that I didn’t seem like “the mother­ing type”.

And to be fair, I never thought I would be­come a mother. I had zero in­ter­est in hav­ing chil­dren — and I was quite mil­i­tant about it.

It wasn’t about mak­ing any sort of grand fem­i­nist state­ment (that women don’t need to be moth­ers in or­der for them to mat­ter). Not that women who choose to be child-free do it as a state­ment to the world (that would be an in­ac­cu­rate, un­fair and quite frankly sex­ist gen­er­al­i­sa­tion).

It was a per­sonal de­ci­sion I made as a teen who had no in­ter­est in rais­ing any­thing other than a ham­ster. And be­sides, par­ent­ing seemed like hard work.

I also didn’t want to “mess up” a kid with my nu­mer­ous per­sonal prob­lems (now nearly 30 years old, those “prob­lems” don’t seem as ter­ri­ble to me as they did in high school).

It seemed, to me at least, that one couldn’t freely pur­sue one’s dreams and be able to flour­ish while hav­ing a fam­ily to con­sider. Kids were a prison that would even­tu­ally talk back to you and then fly away, never to call you again.

Nope, not for me, thanks.

But, as tends to hap­pen, my plans of in­fi­nite free­dom were in­ter­rupted when I fell deeply in love with some­one, got mar­ried and had a child with them.

I’ve watched many women dis­ap­pear into moth­er­hood, their in­di­vid­u­al­ity cast aside in favour of putting the iden­tity of “mother” above any­thing else.

I prom­ise I’m not at all judg­ing them for it (“Good for her, but not for me,” as Amy Poehler would say). But I fear be­ing the mom who talks only about her chil­dren and hangs out with other moms, be­cause then I’ll feel as though I would have com­pletely aban­doned my iden­tity and suc­cumbed to ab­so­lute moth­er­hood.

It’s prob­a­bly why I have so many sin­gle and child-free friends — to keep my­self in touch with a world where moth­er­hood isn’t the cen­tre of ev­ery­thing.

I’m a mother, yes, but there’s more to me than moth­er­hood. And be­sides, have you met me? I’m “too cool” to be a mom. I’m tat­tooed, I’m pierced, I curse a lot, I’m al­ways fight­ing with peo­ple on Twit­ter, I like bub­bly and I’m a ca­reer woman.

The above state­ment is silly be­cause, as I’m learn­ing, there’s more than one way to be a mother. I’m also un­learn­ing the frames of ref­er­ence for “the mother­ing type” I saw in my child­hood and my for­ma­tive years.

And be­sides, my plans to avoid per­form­ing moth­er­hood are be­ing thwarted — by the cute­ness and cheek­i­ness of my tod­dler. I’m be­gin­ning to talk more about her and I’m show­ing peo­ple her pic­tures even when they don’t ask me to.

Some­one save me be­fore it’s too late!

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