I believe I will start a new series. It’s called Lies We Tell Women. I want to discuss the endless list of lies that unchecked patriarchy tells women—most of which exist purely to keep us in line. One of patriarchy’s main goals is to keep women in the home and out of the boardroom, where they compete with men. And perhaps the best way to achieve this goal is to convince women to become moms and to have as many children as possible.
So, the first lie I want to discuss is: “It will be different when it’s your own kids.”
I was certain I would rather not have children from the time I was very young. By the time I was married and in my mid-twenties, I was still certain. But it was around that time that people began asking me to defend my decision, and to then systematically knock down every argument I had against having kids. I had a pretty iron clad set of reasons:
I had never really liked children nor wanted to spend time around them.
I am very independent and don’t like people relying on me
I have personal space issues and don’t like being touched
I am very focused on my career and don’t want to give that up
No matter how convincing I was with these arguments, I was always met with the same echoing reply: It will be different when it’s your own kids.
They told me I’d love kids once I had my own. Not only would I love my own kids, but I’d find myself loving other kids, too, and wanting to be around them. I would realize that I didn’t mind my children being dependent on me, despite my independent nature. I would always love having my children by my side and would welcome all cuddles and kisses with open arms. And lastly, my feelings about my career would change once I got to experience the joys of motherhood. Just wait and see.
So, believing they were right, and fearful that I would have regrets, I decided to become a mom. In fact, I convinced myself that I desperately wanted kids. So great was the FOMO (fear of missing out) that was indoctrinated into me that I became obsessed with the idea of being a mom. Looking back, perhaps that was my way of dealing with the cognitive dissonance I was feeling.
It wasn’t long until I had my first child, and then my second immediately after. I loved my babies so much; I’d never felt love like that before in my life. I was so happy to be their mom, so overjoyed by the blessing they were to me.
That said, the changes everyone had promised never came.
I loved my own kids, but still would prefer to be places that were for adults only. I found myself often beset with the need to be away from my own kids, too.
I enjoyed taking care of my children, but also found myself resenting the extent to which they needed me.
Things that most moms love, like the closeness of breastfeeding, baby snuggles, and clingy toddlers, sometimes set my teeth on edge. I had overwhelming sensory issues that made me feel constantly touched-out.
And, despite what everyone told me, my career ambitions absolutely did not change. In fact, the realization that I would have to fight for every moment to focus on my career made me that much hungrier for it.
I have zero regrets. I wouldn’t change a thing. Motherhood has been a blessing that has stretched me in ways that have made me a better person, and my children are my life’s greatest gift. That said, if I had known what I know now—had I known that things wouldn’t change the way everyone promised they would—I might have made a different decision. I knew motherhood would be difficult. It is not an easy job for anyone. I just wasn’t prepared for it to be made so much harder by things I already knew about myselfbut that I was told would miraculously change once I had kids.
Let’s stop telling this lie to women. We must be honest—letting women know the truth of what comes with motherhood so they can make informed decisions about what is best for them. It benefits no one for women to become mothers only to be miserable and unhappy, trapped in a choice they were misled into making. Motherhood is a blessing, but it may not feel like one for every woman. It’s important that we are honest about that.
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.