May 2011

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Page 59 of 83

On Opting Out By Cheryl Breuer “You’ll change your mind.” I anticipate the words, and remind myself to be polite. It’s a baby shower, after all. She barely knows me, and has no idea I’ve heard it before, dozens of times in fact. “I don’t think so,” I say, before quickly searching for another subject to discuss, preferably on anything but motherhood—or more ac- curately, my choice to not be a mother. I was 25 the first time I seriously con- sidered motherhood. Until then, having children was only part of a vague romantic fantasy. I’ll meet the right person, then we’ll settle down, have babies and live hap- pily ever after. I imagined us all frolicking in a lush, green field like a scene from an Estée Lauder ad. At the time, I was married just under two years, and my husband and I were worlds away from happily ever after. Our marriage was in trouble, and for a few foolish weeks we thought perhaps a baby was the answer. I began to imagine what it would be like, not in a romantic fantasy way, but in a very honest, dirty-diapers-constant-worry- scary-responsibility way. After thinking about it—really, truly thinking about it—I knew, deep in my heart, that I didn’t want to have a baby. I knew I didn’t want to be a mother as assuredly as I knew I did want be a writer. I talked to my husband about what I was feeling, about our problems, and we agreed we had made a mistake—about a baby being our answer and about the mar- riage. Not without pain, we parted ways. That same year, I had my first taste of just what can accompany voluntary non- motherhood: misunderstandings and even backlash. Socializing with co-workers over drinks, the conversation turned to kids, as it often does. Someone asked when I was going to “hurry up and have one already.” The others looked at me and nodded. I told them motherhood wasn’t for me, I wasn’t planning on having children. From the looks on their faces, announcing I was leaving town to become a Peruvian marmot herder would have been easier for them to believe. They pummeled me with questions. “Why, don’t you like kids?” one asked. “Of course I do,” I stammered. “How selfish of you,” said another. “Who will take care of you when you’re old?” 58 (continued on p. 60) BRAVA Magazine May 2011 Two women on two different ends of the motherhood spectrum share their journeys to a common goal: living the life they dreamed of On Motherhood

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