Is Mommyhood Over Rated?

Posted: August 29, 2011

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Is Motherhood just one part of the journey called life, or every woman’s ultimate goal? Can women who are not mothers be equally happy?

Before I get any brickbats or anything, let me tell you that I love R more than anything else in the world….this is just a thought in process. Sometime earlier this month, it was a friend’s birthday. I called to wished her and then enquired what her plans were for the evening.

Friend: Nothing rey…with a 1 year old baby, what to plan?

RM: True

F: Things really go for a toss na after a baby…

RM : Yes, that’s true. You can’t just go out when you want and do what you want after a baby…and no, I do love my child, but I do feel the need for some space at times.

F: And that too we are working moms, we do have ‘space’,  but imagine a stay at-home mom…would it be really difficult for them?

RM: I really don’t know…but I can totally understand your viewpoint about needing that space

F: It’s like a constant thing in my head RM…like I get worried all the time…or may be because I am a new mom

RM: yaa, but it’s like a responsibility right…you can’t take it lightly

F: Sigh! I sometimes wonder what if I didn’t have my daughter…I do love her, but then I think everyone just over rates motherhood, you know,  “get your child before it’s too late biologically” etc etc

RM: Now that’s a thought! Is mommyhood over rated?

And that is why this post, Is mommyhood over rated? Are people who are not parents, not happy? Do they really want kids or are they happy as they are? Is motherhood the ultimate goal for any woman?

I don’t know…I am not instinctively maternal, if you know what I mean. I can’t hold crying babies and make them stop…or give baths to the very chotu ones without the fear of them slipping from my hands. In fact even with R, I used to be terrified of holding her till her head stabilized. I don’t hold babies whose heads are not stable even now and people laugh at me asking what I did with R, but I don’t…I get too worried and worked up thinking what if and all that.

But I do know of some people who do all this and more…like my MIL or my bhabhi. They can make any child stop crying and hold even a one day old baby…anyways I digress…

If a woman doesn’t become a mother, is she missing out something? Is her life incomplete? I wonder if it’s true…I know most women undergo fasts and pray like crazy to become mothers, and in my friends’ circle most people I know are  mothers…and those who were not have adopted…

But is motherhood the ultimate goal for a woman? If you ask me personally, I think it’s just a part of the journey, like marriage. I have R, so obviously I can’t talk from a ‘non-mother’ point of view, but I don’t take it as an ultimate goal in life. I do think at times that motherhood is over rated, you know like how people tell you, “you will be 30 next year, have a kid” or “you are missing out on such fun by not being a mother”, or that “you will never understand what being maternal means until you have your own means total selflessness” etc etc etc.

I don’t deny all of it but what I am trying to say here is that I think women who don’t have children can be equally happy. They can always enjoy surrogate motherhood by having fun with their nieces and nephews or their friends’ children. I don’t know, that’s just a thought I have…

I started out this post with something and then it turned out to be something else! In a nutshell I have these questions:

1) Is motherhood the ultimate goal in a woman’s life? Or can it be just a part of the journey?

2) Are women who are non-mothers unhappy and feel they are lacking  something in life?

3) Am I wrong in even thinking such things now that I am a mother?

R’s Mom is a working mother in Mumbai trying to balance work, home and

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  1. R’s mom,
    Thanks for this post 🙂
    First, I am glad you are not complaining.
    Second, there is a possibility I will be receiving brickbats for this comment, but what the hell 😉
    Basically, I believe, happiness as a concept is how we respond to life. So, no matter what happens or does not happen to life, some of us choose to be eternally unhappy and some of us to be peaceful. So, when other people make comments on any of our “not being mothers” experience, it is just our response to such comments and expectations that will make us happy or unhappy. This is true for any kind of expectation that society has from women. Nothing special about motherhood.
    I am not a mother. But I have to admit, I have this imagined feeling that it should feel good to be a mother. But, as much as I understand what your friend says, I think, there are more women in our generation who complain about motherhood. I feel extremely bad, when they do it, in front of their own children. Dont kill me, for this comment. The only reason I say this, is because, whenever I hear women complain about the sacrifices they had to make, to be a mother, I feel blessed to have born to someone who has never felt that way about me, you know. You might say that, things are different these days and the pressures of the next generation is much higher that of the previous.
    Could be true. But then, we took the choice of bringing someone to this world, right? I am personally of the opinion, that we as a generation are a little less giving and far more selfish(most certainly includes me)
    I just think, in this scenario, motherhood should not be considered too sacred, that everyone jumps into it, without realizing the pressures of it and in the process, making the child feel unwanted.
    Otherwise, I have wonderful notions of motherhood or atleast the part of rearing a child and creating a family.In purely utilitarian terms, I think, at some point, some of us will get tired of the material possessions even that of success. While I think, being part of a family, does give meaning and stability to our lives. It is wonderful to have someone to love, right? Somehow, I also have this romantic notion, that we would experience the purest side of ourselves, when we bring up a child – that still has expectations of love returned. But we will get that love from someone, only if we love them from our hearts,right? Somehow, a child seems to be the best bet for that experiment 😉

  2. In an earlier post I had written that-
    ‘while it is generally agreed that all mothers are good no mother is good enough’.

    motherhood is just that. I have been at the receiving end too and felt lousy at times angry on other occasions. Overrated or not, motherhood has been a pleasant experience for me despite the hiccups. It gave me a sense of purpose and responsibility. The report card is not out yet but I believe that I may not top the list but hang around in the middle order.

    Having said this I do not mean that those that do not have biological children are not capable of possessing maternal instincts.

    And what your friend feel is just a sense of fatigue. she will forget this once her child grows up.

  3. Well, I’m not a mother yet..And I believe it might be fatigue that makes ur friend to complain..Do not get me wrong..I’m not judging here. I ve heard many of my friends complain abt sleepless nights, frequent visits to hospitals , early nights, etc..But is not change inevitable?

    But, I’m a person who has had 3 miscarriages..I am happily married…i am in a position where i can have a great career..yet, here i am wishing i could have a baby..i am also not with “natural maternal instincts”..Still..And I dont think motherhood is overrated..When people are blessed with a child without any hardships, they might think so..

  4. I’m not a mother yet – so obviously I cannot say anything out of my own personal experience. But I do believe that motherhood should be a part of a woman’s life and not her ultimate goal as such – after all although motherhood is challenging, there is so much beyond being a mother too.

    Whether women without children are happy or unhappy depends on what their priorities were in the first place na? If someone was planning to have a child, then they would be unhappy if they don’t have one. On the other hand, there are many childfree by choice couples who feel that their life is complete without a child. So it depends on what every person wants out of their life.

    Regarding your third question – nah! I don’t think there is anything wrong in viewing a situation from different perspectives. Life isn’t always black & white so sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge the grey too!

  5. Pingback: Is Mommyhood Over Rated? | R's Mom

  6. I had my only child (now 15) 8 years after my marriage. I was happy with my work and didn’t want the responsibility of a child. But reached a point where I thought I must decide for or against having a child for years to come. The decision to not have a child forever was a very tough one. I was also totally tired of the family and friends untiringly asking ‘any good news’ in social meets or insinuating that as a couple, we could be having sexual problems.
    When did have a child, I was clear about having a child and welcomed him. I enjoyed feeding him, playing with him and crying with him. It was a full-time occupation for many years. So exhausting that I didn’t dare have a second one even though I came close to having another one over and over.
    I’ve had no regrets about having a child and may have had if I hadn’t had one. And yet, I’ve realised the huge responsibility it is to bring up another life and be around for him for years to come. It’s a decision a woman must make by choice.

    I wouldn’t say that motherhood should be the ultimate goal for a woman. It’s certainly a big learning process and helps a woman mature more than any assignment or involvement does.
    Yes, unfortunately, I’ve come across married women without children who feel they’re incomplete without having a biological child. Personally, I believe that just rearing a child is enough to bring maternal feelings, care and maturity that mothers epitomise.
    Of course you aren’t wrong. Even while we’re mothers, we’re individuals and have a right to re-evaluate our decisions and actions.

  7. @Preethi: Its not about complaining…trust me, being a mother is not an easy task..and I am not even talking about sacrifices and stuff..and I know of mothers who complain about being mothers (self included) its not about not loving your child, its about sometimes you just get tired about everything and frustrated that you cant make things better for the baby or yourself 🙂

    I totally agree when you say that dont complain in front of your thats something that should never be done 🙂

    Loving your child with your heart and soul..totally agree on that as well..

    My point of the post only was that ‘why are people who dont want to be mothers or who are not mothers made to feel inadquate?’ isnt that wrong?

    To each his/her own right?

    and thanks for your comment, because you did give me a different perspective 🙂

    @ HHG: I loved that line you wrote, while it is generally agreed that all mothers are good no mother is good enough’

    Its like my mom always says ‘There can never be a bad mother’ 🙂

    Oh I can totally agree to those that do not have biological children are not capable of possessing maternal instincts. – My Bhabhi being a standing example..I havent met someone who is not a mother, but so maternal as her…but my problem is when your womanhood is defined by being a mother..that kinda confuses me…you are a woman an individual…you being a mother is definitely secondary..which is why I asked the Q whether its overrated

    @Jaya: hugs to you and I feel horrid about the 3 miscarriages you had…I pray for you..True..I have been blessed with a child without any hardships..and this post was not to show anyone who is not a mother or who is trying hard to be a mother in bad light…

    my point was that if people choice not to be mothers, why does the society react so negatively towards them…

    @Anne: There is so much beyond being a mother – exactly…what I wanted to say.and you did it in a line!

    @Jyoti: the decision was yours right…my problem comes in when people start judging you if you are not a mother after a certain age…its wrong na…

  8. Most people I know -both men and women- want to have children at some point in their lives of their own free will. But for women, it is a social and a familial responsibility. Not a mother, not a woman. Period.
    Another angle is that of wannabe grandparents. Parents actually “demand” grandchildren, especially from their sons and DILs. It is seen as their right and their due in life. “You are busy with your lives, give us grandchildren to play with/show off to our friends!!” How absurd is that? I’m not judging ALL parents of married children, just pointing to a social mindset.
    The very fact that you are answerable to someone else about your choice of when to have children is a sorry state of things.
    In a nutshell, the fact that the choice of motherhood is controlled by family/society makes it an overrated function of womanhood although being a mother is a wonderful experience in itself.

  9. I agree with Reema a 100%!! As for your questions:

    1. No. It can just be a part of the journey though it doesn’t even have to be a part. My brother and SIL have decided not to have any kids and while that makes me sad because my daughters are the only kids on my side of the family and won’t know what growing up with first cousins is like, I respect their decision. The thought never entered my mind to try and “convince” them.

    2. Aren’t there women who ARE mothers and still unhappy? I think the unhappiness is not related to their status as mothers or non-mothers, it has more to do with other things in their lives and what they feel/do about it.

    3. Absolutely not! We have brains – the best use of those brains is to question everything we see around us. I figured out long ago that if it weren’t for the ingrained expectation and my social conditioning, if I were an independent thinking being that I am now, I might have decided not to have kids. Does not mean that I regret having kids or that I don’t love them. It is just an analysis, if you will, of how things would have panned out if I had been a different person in different circumstances.

  10. Happiness is a very subjective thing. To each his/her own choice of defining happiness.

    I remember how a neighbor of mine used to crib after having a baby (they are messy, need to be cleaned/bathed). She was sure she did not want another one.

    Personally for me, my education, my achievements
    at school,college and work practically defined me for years. But what motherhood has given me in life is completely and absolutely unmatched.

    Saying that, I must add that one has to be in the right frame of mind and prepared to be a mother. If you are
    not ready, wait for the right time.

    Surely it is part of the journey and a rather beautiful part, if I may say so 🙂

  11. 1) Is motherhood the ultimate goal in a woman’s life? Or can it be just a part of the journey?

    No, it can be a part of the journey if she makes a choice, but for heaven’s sake her nirvana isn’t associated with mommyhood.! NO.!

    2) Are women who are non-mothers unhappy and feel they are lacking something in life?

    No, they have options like in-vitro and adoption.! They aren’t losers, for God’s sake, please.!

    3) Am I wrong in even thinking such things now that I am a mother?

    No you’re not.!

  12. Though it is true that Happiness is a very subjective thing and a person can be happy no matter what..This is not very easy to put to practice. I had been a very happy person and not too worked up about anything. But trust me the people around you make things very difficult for you if you do not have a child. I have my son now after 15 years of my marriage . So I have fully experienced the emotional and social hardships of a childless women. I am a professional and I had a great career . But beyond a point nothing seemed important. Having seen both sides of the coin, I feel bringing up a child , though very difficult, is nothing when compared to the pressures to be dealt with otherwise.

  13. Everything should be experienced and enjoyed in life. I believe in it. But motherhood is an ongoing experience, which isnt like say bungee jumping to be jumped and be over with. It never really ends, does it? Even when we say we need space and go to work or some recreation, the kids never really leave the mindspace.
    One day I was in a crowded mall with my toddler. Just of the blue, I thought if she gets lost in this crowd, she has know way to get back to the place which she practically rules. She is haughty, stubborn and demanding but she is also vulnerable and innocent. That just puts my place in her life in persepective for me. She is my responsibility in life forever. It never will be taken off even when she has her own kids. Its something I have to accept.
    I just keep taking mini breaks from her, to refresh and get back up on the rollercoaster ride with her 😀
    But having said all this , She is just one part of my life,albeit an important one. I have other things going on too. I have others in my life too. I have to do things to achieve the meaning of my life too.( Which I am still finding out) !

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