Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

What Kind of Mother Would I Have Been? July 23, 2012

What kind of mother would I have been?

This thought crosses my mind once in a while, for example, this weekend as I was lugging another dead plant out to the alley to dump its desiccated remains into the compost bin.

What kind of mother would I have been if I can’t even keep a plant alive?

Or on Sunday when I decided to let my indoor cat out into the garden to chase a few butterflies, and then got chatting to my neighbor and forgot about her. (She was fine, as it turns out.)

Would my kids have been the ones standing alone outside the school while I was sitting down to dinner looking around the table, thinking What’s missing here?

I realize that plants and cats don’t take quite the same level of mothering as children, but would I have been an attentive mother?

Maybe I’d have been the opposite – an overindulgent, permissive mother, whose children would create undisciplined riots everywhere they went. I mean, I spoil my cat rotten and she has absolute power over me. Would my children have pushed me around, too?

I know this is just self-pity talking, but I wonder, was I just not meant to be a mother? Do I not have the right stuff?

Too bad we’ll never get to find out.

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15 Responses to “What Kind of Mother Would I Have Been?”

  1. Angela Says:

    Hello. First, I love the picture! We had a very similar one in the nursery, as it was themed with animals such as elephants, monkeys, lions, giraffes, etc. As I took a moment and sat in the rocker this weekend while boxing up all of the artifacts that would never be used in our home, or by us, the same question popped into my mind. As the tears ran down my face hubby popped back in from a trip to the car, as he was loading things to take to a shelter, and he asked what was wrong. I blurted out my thoughts and how troubling it was to me to never be able to answer whether or not I would be a good mother. It was in that moment I was grateful for my husband, as he went through a list of traits and qualities that he was sure would have made me a good mom. Mind you, I knew what he was intending to accomplish – comfort me – and to some extent he did, but I want to KNOW. As many here can relate, I know that will be a question unanswered for the remainder of my life, but something deep inside of me tells me that I would have been. On the flip side, sometimes I tell myself I would have been a crappy mom just to stop the tears and to desperately try to squelch the pain inside of me.

    Unfortunately, I have no words of wisdom to impart (as though any of us need any more of those), no affirmations to make that would diminish the hurt, or any solutions to offer up, but what I can do is let you know you are not alone. Many big hugs to you and all those in our tribe today.

  2. Maria Says:

    I have often thought of this myself. I know that kids loves me, they gravitate toward me, and I am a great aunt to my siblings’ children. However, I think that I can be that way because I am not with them 24/7. It’s easy to be on and at your best when you only have them for a day or a few hours. I often wonder if I would have the same level of patience, understanding and interest if I had to care for them 24/7. My big fear was that I would be like my mother who was very abusive to me as a child. After 5 years of TTC and a miscarriage and I stopped trying, I mentioned to a friend that it was probably for the best because of my family history, I probably wouldn’t have been a good mom. His response was, you would have been a fantastic mom, how could you say that about yourself?! I asked him why he thought so because he had children and he said, because you’re so even keel, everything is always ok with you. My husband has told me similar things but I hear what you are saying when it’s coming as comfort. Those words were good to hear from a male friend. Anyway, all of those traits that would have made me a good mom, also make me a good wife, a good friend, a good aunt, a good co-worker and employee, a good neighbor, a good pet owner. Our lives are not going to waste without children.

  3. j thorne Says:

    I often think about this as well. And, hard as I try, I have trouble with plants too 🙂 However, I think most of us probably do have “the right stuff” to be good mothers. I know this because as I look around, I see many women with children who DO NOT have the right stuff. Would I have been too over protective or not enough??? Maybe, but no different from a lot of women who are mothers. For some reason, we are just meant to do other things with our “right stuff”.

    • Mali Says:

      Well said. That’s exactly how I feel. There are so many mothers who do not have the right stuff. (Story in our newspaper today about a three year old found walking down the road late at night in a rural area (bearing in mind it is also the middle of winter here) looking for mummy. Mummy was out drinking).

  4. Heather Says:

    As each year passed me by during our TTC years I would keep telling myself that this waiting would make me an even better mother. I was watching everyone else in my life and seeing what worked and what didn’t work with different kids. Now that we are no longer TTC, I don’t know what to think about that. Now it just feels wasted. I have gone through phases where I have told myself that we are probably better not being given the opportunity to be parents when I am feeling impatient, selfish, or grumpy, but who doesn’t go through those things? If I would have had the opportunity, I think I would have been a good mother.

  5. Klara Says:

    dear Lisa,
    you would be a great mother. And so would be I.
    I resent the idea that destiny / God / however you call it / decided that I was just not meant to be a mother.
    My tubes got destroyed when I was young and stupid and went swimming in swimming pool full of bacteria. I was 17.000 kilometers away from home so I thought it was just part of adventure.

  6. Rural Rabbit Says:

    I’ve been thinking about this often. We recently adopted two kittens. They drive me crazy. The mess, the noise, the fighting, I just really struggle to deal with it. All of it makes me wonder whether I was really cut out for kids. Then I feel guilty…

  7. S Says:

    I think of this too. My own mother was often harsh with me and said mean things when I really didn’t think she needed to.

    I baby sat a lot as a teenager. I used to babysit a family before school. I went over there at 7:30 and made sure the kids ate and were dressed properly for school. Since i was only a few years older we all walked to school together. One morning the little girl (probably about 10 years old to my 15) was crying and upset because of some silly (to me) report that she got a bad grade on. Instead of comforting her I was harsh and basically told her to suck it up. This really didn’t help the situation but I felt I had done what I could.

    The mother had forgotten something for work that day and returned to find a crying daughter. I watch (ashamed) as the mother hugged her daughter and said some nice things to her. The girl let out one last sob, dried her eyes and we all went to school. The mother never knew how cold I was to her daughter and probably the daughter didn’t really realize that it was “wrong” of me to treat her that way. Still, it stuck with me over the years.

    I found that I didn’t have compassion for children. Sure, maybe if someone was getting really bullied or upset about something major. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the rest of it. Bratty children made me mad. Pretty, rich children irritated me. I was never truly “mean” or physically hurt a child but I surely didn’t understand that it was natural for children to get upset about stupid things – because those things aren’t stupid to them.

    Another time that stands out to me was several years ago. My mother and I were helping at a church soup kitchen. We shared a ride with a handful of other mothers. These mothers chatted with joy of what was going on in their kids lives. They giggled over the silly ways their teenagers were acting. Acted excited about the sporting events they attended and college visits. In short they genuinely seemed to love, respect and enjoy their children. That was not something my parents shared with me. I know my parents loved me and over the years I’ve grown accustomed to my mothers “ways”. Still, I believe mom felt that disconnect between those other ladies and her. I finally realized what I missed as my mothers daughter.

    I know these stories make me see cold but I’m widely thought of as a super nice person. Over the years I’ve worked hard at being a more compassionate person to everyone. So I’m genuinely “nice”. Still, I wonder if I would resort to her methods of child-rearing. I’d love to think that I’d be better than she was but who really knows. Maybe God knows I can’t?

    • Mali Says:

      I don’t think that for a minute. I don’t think you’re being judged and not given a child any more than your mother (or any other mother) was judged to be fit to have a child. And I don’t think that just because as a teenager you didn’t know what to say to someone only a few years younger than you, or just because you don’t or didn’t like bratty children when you were younger, it means you wouldn’t have been a good mother. We all grow and change. The one thing I see in your story is how aware you are now of your past, and of how different you want things (including you) to be. I wish half all mothers were as self-aware and conscientious as you.

  8. CiCi Says:

    I’ve thought about this many times in the past as well. Over the years I’ve become more impatient it seems and when I hear children screaming in the store I think, oh I couldn’t handle that. But then other times I hold my godson and think, I could do this all day. You’re right, I guess we’ll never know and the what if’s will always be there but I presume that the questions will come and go and not linger long as the time passes. My heart will always be pulled on from time to time, and it will also smile when I see moments I’m glad not to have to endure.
    FYI, love the photo…makes me wanna adopt fur babies 🙂

  9. Dawn Says:

    Hi, love to see the hope and positivity here. Nearing my 8th anniversary and always wonder about this, thanks for sharing. Think about the women in the bible and the many others struggling with this, but I am sure if we turn to God, he can do everything. Have seen it with many people around me after 7 or even 10- 16 years. If it is good for us it will happen or we will still have a great life God willing…praying for everyone, may God bless you all.amen.

  10. IrisD Says:

    If nothing else, my kids would have gotten a hell of a lot of love.

  11. Lorna Says:

    The comments people have left are so interesting. I can relate to S’s post in that my mother was (and still is) quite a cold person emotionally and I seem to have inherited many of those genes, plus my mother was never really ‘into’ kids (much as she loved as in her own way) and I seem to have inherited that too.
    I often wonder what I would have been like as a mother and think that I would have been overall a good mum as I ‘ve worked through so much stuff, but still would’ve stumbled over things like thinking the world revolves around kids (when I don’t think it should) and that everything they do/say/think/create is endlessly fascinating (which I don’t think it is.) I do find kids between the ages of about 5 and 12 to be, how shall I say it, of less interest to me than younger kids and teenagers, and wonder how I would’ve coped with those years. Plus I CAN be cold emotionally and get tired very easily and just wouldn’t have been the kind of mum to wrap kids in cotton wool and ooh and ahh over every little hurt, scrape and scrap. That said, I have ‘learned’ to like kids, and I think that over the past few years as I have connected with my own self emotionally I have also started to look at children in a different and more positive way, and have even felt the stirrings of longing to have my own child, but sadly in my case it has come too late. Maybe for the best. Who knows. Sadly, I will never know.


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