When I was in my mid-20s, I started to question whether motherhood was for me or not. The idea of having kids just didn't feel like "me". It's not that I didn't like kids; I was just starting visualize a life that was different - one that didn't include children of my own. I loved to travel and adventure as much as possible, and I didn't see kids being a part of my dream life.
By the time I met Brian, my husband, I was heavily leaning towards not ever becoming a parent. He was on the same page, but was open to whatever direction our relationship evolved, whether that included kids or not. It took the pressure off because I felt like I didn't have to decide one way or another in order to be with him.
But as we grew more serious, it seemed like everyone wanted to know, when were we planning to have kids?
Most of the time it was not just "are we?" but "when are we?" Suddenly I was starting to question my decision. Is this what I really want? Everyone else thinks I'm supposed to be a mother.
I spent countless hours weighing all the pros and cons in my head. I obsessed over whether I was truly making the right decision or not. At times I could not stop thinking about it. I was so incredibly worried about making the wrong choice.
I never really had that instinctual desire to become a mother, and I never felt the proverbial "ticking clock". Having kids felt more like a box I was supposed to tick in order to live a so-called "complete" life.
The most challenging thing I faced was filtering out all the external noise. It seemed like I was constantly being confronted by friends and strangers alike about my reproductive choices, and it felt like everyone wanted to have an opinion about my decision.
Even when I was 99% decided, I still continued to question my decision out of fear. Here are some of the fears that went through my mind:
- I won't have anyone to take care of me or love me when I'm old
- I'll be missing out on some secret club that all the moms belong to
- My parents (and grandparents) are going to be disappointed in me
- What if I regret it when I'm 50, 60, 70, 80, years old or beyond?
Here are some of the things I heard from other women that I repeated to myself in my head:
- "There's nothing more satisfying in life that being a mother"
- "You'd be such a good mother, it would be such a shame if you weren't one"
- "You're young; you'll change your mind"
- And this doozy: "you'll never know a love as deep as the one you'll have for your kids"
I'll spare you my thoughts on how judgmental these statements felt at the time (don't get me started!), since that's not what this post is about. My goal in writing this post is to share how much I internalized other people's beliefs and opinions, and what I wish I had done differently.
The Skill I Wish I'd Developed Earlier in Life
I didn't let myself own my choice to not be a mother, because I didn't know how to truly tune into what I wanted. I spent so much time and energy searching outside myself for the answers. I let other people - friends, strangers, books, movies, news articles; anything, really - influence my thoughts and feelings on the subject.
The skill that I wish I had learned much sooner, is being able to listen and trust my own intuition.
We are conditioned by society, school, the media, etc. to make decisions using our analytical brains. There's very little focus on tuning into our own higher selves for answers. We're told to make lists of pros and cons, and seek answers outside of ourselves. We're taught that someone else - someone wiser, older, or more experienced has the right answer for us.
Our intuition is a topic that's rarely discussed, and is severely undervalued. I personally am still learning to listen to my intuition. But one thing I know for sure, is that you cannot learn to hear what it is saying without giving it space.
What do I mean by that? By tuning out the noise. By quieting our minds. By focusing on things that bring us joy and peace.
I've written about my meditation practice before. It's the one thing I do consistently every day to quiet my mind, even if it's just for a few moments. And don't get me wrong, it's not like my brain shuts off when I'm doing it. I still think during meditation, but I continually catch myself thinking thoughts, and redirect my mind to quiet again and again - even if I have to do it 100 times.
The magic of meditation happens when I'm going about my day. I've now trained myself to catch my mind when I start going down a rabbit hole of negativity or worrisome thoughts. And this cultivates a more peaceful state throughout my life.
Other things that help quiet my mind and create space include things like biking, walking in nature (without headphones!), making art for the fun of it, dancing for 5 minutes in my living room, or cooking one of my favorite meals. Basically any activity that brings me joy and helps me to be in the present, vs. in my head.
I wish I had known how to do these things eons ago. I wish I had learned to trust my gut long before I was faced with major life decisions like having children. If I had had the awareness to tune into my own authentic path sooner, and to have owned my truth, I wouldn't have wasted years of my life worrying about a decision that really didn't have any profound effect on anyone except for me and my husband. I wouldn't have consumed so much of my emotional and mental energy repeating the same cycles of thoughts in my head over and over again.
The one thing that I am thankful for though now, is that I can share what I've learned with you. I might "wish" I had done things differently, but I also don't regret my path either. I've learned some valuable lessons from my so-called mistakes, and now hopefully someone else can benefit from them too.
If you're facing a major life decision right now, learn to cultivate space and quiet in your own life. Stop looking outside yourself for the answers - you have all the answers you need inside of you right now. Learn to let go of the "shoulds" that outside sources impose on you. Do things that bring you joy, things that help you lose yourself and forget about time. Cultivate an awareness of the chatter in your mind, and learn to slow it down.
When you find quiet, the answers will appear.
Do you feel like you're in touch with your own intuition? How do you listen for it? How has it served you in life? Share your story!