The ‘I’m not a mother’ mother
Pearl Boshomane Tsotetsi
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!