At my reunion, I made a few mild comments to a couple of other childless women about “the mommy’s table” and occasionally feeling awkward about being single and childless, but they didn’t bite. They either don’t care, still hope to have a family, haven’t processed or analyzed their feelings yet, or don’t feel safe opening up about them. Hard to say. Interestingly the one woman who enthusiastically responded was a friend of mine with kids, who still feels incredibly uncomfortable during those “mommy’s table” moments.
A friend I used to discuss all these issues with in depth disappeared into a relationship a year or so ago and has recently resurfaced. Occasionally we’ll mention these subjects again, but I’ve realized that I don’t feel the same need to rehash them. Writing and responding to comments, reading other blogs and books, and listening to podcasts have gotten me to the other side of my grief and confusion. It’s like I just went through a huge break-up, talked myself to death about it (although in this case, read and wrote myself to death), and don’t feel the need to go back to the beginning and relay the whole break-up to a new person.
Also, there are bloggers out there whose work on these topics just keeps getting better and better and more sophisticated and that moves me forward and away from simplistic dialogues. My hunch is that most people who read this blog also read Gateway Women, but there’s another great post on there today:
Those of us who had tough childhoods and/or unhappy mothers may have thought “I don’t want that” and, unaware that we had the choice to be a different kind of mother, may have used careers, poor relationship choices and contraception as a way of avoiding the unprocessed disappointments and traumas of our youth. It takes turning 40 for many women to realise that they need to know where they stand on the whole ‘baby issue’. And what often comes up then is a fear of regret. Well, I’ll go further than that – an absolute terror of regret. A fear of a life which is going to consist of just ‘more of this’. More of the same. More of being ‘us’.
We long to belong, and we see that motherhood is a lifetime belonging sentence – it’s a decision that you can’t turn back from, and there’s a strange existential comfort in that. Once you’re a mother, you’re locked into your decision – which, if you’ve spent a long time vacillating about it, feels like a reassuringly restrictive freedom. Freedom from the eternal ‘what ifs’. Freedom from the freedom to wonder about it. Freedom from the fear of regret. Freedom from your inner dialogue. Ultimately freedom from yourself and from the human condition.