After an online debate about supporting artists through donations, a friend mentioned how hard it is to raise a kid by one’s self on $12 an hour. I thought first to reply by stating that I know very well what it is to be reared by a hard working single parent. I thought also to suggest that maybe instead of telling me, she should tell her kid.
Then it hit me: The reason I don’t have kids is because of MY mom. Now that sounds bad, but really it’s sweet. Keep reading.
My mom is like all moms a fallible human. She wasn’t a good cook, she didn’t always keep the best company, she made me rub her feet. But my mom is a dynamo. Some of my earliest memories are at Penn Valley Community College, studying with my mom (and both sisters) between classes in the dark brick lounge areas. When I was two she divorced her third husband, went back to school to become an elementary school teacher.
She worked, supported three daughters, and went to school. She occasionally lost her mind over some mess we three had created, and she made no secret of how much trouble it was to drive us everywhere. She was often STRESSED the eff out. My two older sisters did a lot to help raise me. They babysat, teased, tormented, and overall built the character older siblings are wont to build in their younger kin.
I remember how hard my mom studied. She would record her class notes into a tape recorder and listen to them to help memorize facts. When she had to be at work before I was up for breakfast she’d pour milk into a glass so I could make my own bowl of cereal when I got up (the gallon was too heavy for me to lift). The first Avon campaign she sold she had just recovered from foot surgery, so my sister and I helped to deliver the catalogs.
After finishing college and teaching for just one year she was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. That was hard for us all, but she remained brave. I was suddenly assigned a godmother (since my mom was not given much chance of surviving the cancer) and we got our first color TV (because my grandma moved in to help out). I was 9, my sisters were 18 and 21. They filled in while mom was in the hospital. After two surgeries and chemotherapy and months in the hospital my mom beat the cancer. I am very lucky for that, and grateful.
I have a great family, but we are not close in a Hallmark sort of way. We are all stubbornly independent people. When my mom would portion the milk into a smaller container that I could handle myself she was helping me be independent.
I know my mother would LOVE to have grandchildren. She would be a really great “Bita”. But more than having what SHE wants I know that she wants what is best for her children. She raised us to make the best decisions for ourselves.
I would really love to have children. I found my “Long term plan” from when I was 21 recently. I had created an approximate timeline with goals like “start a business”, “earn $40,000/year” and “adopt a child” assigned to specific times. I even got a job as a nanny to get more real life experience since I never had younger siblings.
But part of my formula and my decision included knowing how hard my mom had worked. I wanted to be a mother only if I could make a solid plan and have less stress than she had had to endure. She had been a dynamo of a mom, all the while working and going to school. I think all that hard work contributed to her getting sick. I learned from her. I took that experience, made it part of my plan and made a different decision.
I’m guessing that each parent hopes her child will learn from her experience. I know that is what my mom wants. Please don’t read this as a criticism of people who have decided to have kids. Please read it as a compliment to a hard working mom. In a strange way I feel like I honor my mother by NOT having kids. I hope that in the absence of grandchildren, she is happy to have a child who listened to what she said, appreciated what she did, and offers her many animals grandkids she is welcome to spoil with gifts and love.