Better Boundaries

Previously published on my Tumblr page, http://a-woman-apart.tumblr.com/

I’m feeling a lot more refreshed after returning from my long holiday weekend. I had a great time visiting with my brother, my brother’s wife and their little baby.

I did end up visiting my parents, but I chose to just stay a few hours instead of staying the night. I felt mixed feelings because my younger brothers seemed to be really disappointed that I was leaving so soon. That being said, I knew that I had to do what was right for me.

My dad didn’t really say anything that was overly bothersome. It’s just that every time I talk about having a good time with my nephew my dad will say, “See how much of a blessing children are” and make all sorts of not-so-subtle allusions to why I should have one- and not even just have one, but to actually give birth rather than even adopt or anything like that. I realize though that that’s a lot more about him and my mom wanting to have another grandchild than any sort of genuine concern about me ending up childless and alone.

My dad just said, “I’m just saying that if God decides to give you one, don’t say no” and I said, “Of course I wouldn’t say no” because it isn’t like I would ever have an abortion (but thank God for contraceptives).

Anyway, it wasn’t so much anything about what he said. In fact, I was very surprised and satisfied with how little his comments managed to get under my skin. I was pretty much able to say to myself, “This isn’t about me, this is about him” but I also chose not to stay overnight. I would’ve liked to spend more time with my mom and my siblings, but beforehand I told them that I might not stay the whole day and left myself the opening to be able to return to my older brother’s house.  I’m realizing that these are part of my boundaries and I just need to continue setting limits for myself, without avoiding visiting all together. Family will always be family. I still want to have access to my mom and my siblings so I don’t want to just alienate myself entirely.

On the topic of having kids, though; Children do not exist merely to serve their parents. My dad’s argument for me to have a baby was to point out that my own mother didn’t regret me standing there helping her (I was helping her remove the husks from corn) and “she had to make so many sacrifices”. Really though- that point worked against him. My mom is an amazingly brave and strong woman, and I really don’t know if I’d be able to make the same sacrifices that she did- and I told my dad that. My mom chimed in that a popular newscaster came out and said that if she could’ve told her younger self anyone she would’ve “decided to have a baby at 25” (guess how old I am right now?).

That being said, having a child is a huge responsibility. Also, there are no guarantees that they’ll love you in the end, or take care of you when you’re old, or share in your interests, and yet it is your obligation to take care of them. You have to love them without expecting the same in return. So who’s to say even if I had a child, that they would be “taking care of me when I’m old”. In fact, there’s also a possibility that my child would be born with a disability and they would never be able to take care of me- even if they wanted to. My dad is making an assumption that my child would be born healthy- and then if my child wasn’t born healthy you can rest assured that he would blame it on something that my partner and I did.

All of that aside, after hearing of the terrible atrocities happening to children in foster care- including the government seizing money that was rightfully left to them by deceased relatives- I feel more strongly than ever a desire to be an foster parent and at some point adopt a child. I don’t know how/when the opportunity will be presented to me- but as my dad pointed out, if God offers me a child, I’m not turning that kid away. The fact that my dad mocks my aversion to childbirth and prioritizes the needs of hypothetical biological children over kids that are living and breathing right now speaks greatly of how much he is caught up in the ancient mindset. He’s a part of that culture that embraces “God’s” admonition to “multiply and fill the earth” as well as “women should bear children and guide the house” and forgets the verses that say, “children should not lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children”.

I’m not going to say that it’s wrong to have a child simply because you want a child- but I’m definitely going to have to say that it’s not wrong to not have a child simply because you do not want to have a child. This idea that it’s a woman’s “duty” to sacrifice her body as a vessel by which the hypothetical future geniuses and leaders of the world are to come into the world, while undermining the women who decided not to do this but do decide to give themselves over to philanthropy and social justice is frankly absurd. In fact, it’s not even necessary to insist that a woman choose one over the other. You’re not “weak” for wanting to be a more traditional mother, and you aren’t “superior” if you decide not to be. Biological motherhood is not the only way to epitomize being a woman.

I’m not going to apologize for my views in any way. My dad is not the one who would be carrying a baby in the womb for 9 months, so in my opinion he has very little right to dictate what I should decide to do with my body. At this point I have absolutely no desire to be pregnant or give birth to a child, though yes, if something were to happen and I would end up being pregnant I would embrace the moment and go ahead with it. I don’t dislike children, and I love my nephew very much but I am keenly aware of the fact that if I were to be too worn out after taking care of him I have the option to send him back with his parents. Parents don’t have that option. I am very proud of my brother and his wife for doing such a great job with my nephew, and again, I don’t know if I could do the same myself, and I’m proud of myself for being able to very calmly express this to my dad.

It’s not about convincing anyone, it’s about knowing what I want to do and being confident in my own judgment.

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