WRITTEN BY Seher Sikander
After a lifetime of deeply desiring my own children, in late 2015, I realized for the first time in my life that I felt disinclined to be a mother. The feeling remained, even grew, in the years that followed, and I simultaneously found myself adoring mothers as peers. I’m sure that much of what I admired in them stemmed from the character-building exercise that is motherhood.
Writing this down now is my first time realizing that my disinterest in motherhood and my interest in mothers as friends coincided. I can’t help but wonder if there is some universally-orchestrated correlation here. Am I being shown how rad mothers are and guilted into changing my mind about being one? Or am I being shown another way to love children and be in family— through community stewardship of our young ones, arm-in-arm with my bad ass mother pals?
Due to our conditioning and limited, rational minds, we often restrict the realm of what we believe to be possible—whether that’s logic-ing ourselves into a box or simply being out of awareness–that is, until a possibility we never expected is illustrated for us in real life. For me, all I needed was a glimpse of a different world.
An acquaintance named Mia Birdsong founded a think tank called Family Story that endeavors to give space, honor, and credence to varied family structures. When I posted on Facebook about questioning motherhood a few years ago, Mia quickly responded affirming my sentiment. She shared that there are no replacements for the different community roles that contribute to the raising of a child. She said, “There is nothing like being an aunt. I can’t do that for my child. Our communities need more aunties.”
Here I am now, giving this possibility some real consideration. Though I am still not clear on what kind of family structure I want for my home life, I do believe it is being revealed to me what kind of community I want to live in.
What is it to offer deep love, care, and consideration to a child as if they were your own, but they are not your own? Perhaps not even related to you by blood? Is that not a character-building exercise in service to unconditional universal love itself? What is it to consider myself a mother even without my very own child? To instead be a mother and steward to this earth, its villages, and all its beings through heart-centered service? And then to commune as a mother in collective wisdom and grace with other mothers of various stripes, affinities, and walks?
I believe there is something to uncover and behold about the innate existential motherhood of simply being a woman or a femme. We carry civilization—in our wombs, on our backs, from our hearts. It need not be so literal.
As I unfold this particular piece of my self-discovery, I find myself wanting to break down more and more constructs, within romance, friendship, family, work, my relationship to myself–even simply, yet profoundly, regularly re-calibrating which Seher shows up on the subway, on the street, at the cash register, or in a challenging moment with a stranger. The only roles we have to play are the ones we choose to engage in and give power to through our complicity. What I am realizing the more I divorce myself from outdated constructs and roles, is all that’s left on the other side is unconditional love.
Thank you so much, Seher!
Amazing. I am an awesome aunt and would not trade it in for the world. I chose not to have children. I find myself having to find ways to convince others why and letting them tell me that oh it’s a fad and oh I’ll grow out of. It. At almost 33 I know what I want. My logical abilities are as capable as anyone else’s. Yet again I feel that I get put into a category that mothers do not understand after having kids but I will say this. Being a mom isn’t just having a child its the love and it’s the u brining and experiences. As woman we have this ability that gives us the qualities at any light to love and take care and to have reason. My friends with kids ask me for advice something that is out the norm because I not only give a logic view but a loving view and when they come back it’s wow you should have kids. I fall into this identity crisis and it’s a bad feeling I’m seen beyond this. I just have yet be able to let go of why I have to prove my womanhood by having kids. That I’m not enough going through things I do not desire. They don’t believe I’m happy. What is happiness? It’s our own definition. Motherhood should be looked at in a different light as much as my situation. It’s a learning curve on all ends.
This deeply touched me. As a woman who struggled through infertility for many years, then explored the possibility of fostering traumatized children and/or adoption, and now coming to terms with the fact that motherhood in those forms are most likely not going to be my path. It’s a very challenging space to hold in this intensely motherhood centric culture. I find myself betwixt in between in most social situations: an unexpected outsider of sorts. I find it difficult to relate to women who wear their “I never wanted kids” banners and I often feel excluded on overt and subtle ways when I’m with women who have children “because you’re not a mother,” which I try my best to take in stride and not take too personally, but it’s hard. But some days I manage to feel gratitude and connect to that deeper place within myself that trusts life more than not. Anyway, thank you for this very thoughtful and nourishing perspective. I will carry it with me.
Thank you so much Jen! Your words and experience are so true. It is something I have learned again and again with friends who choose not to have kids. I hope you never have to question you identity and choices again. I often think about growing up and how there were many aunts and friends of my mother who did not have kids. While I am not sure their reasons, being around women who cared for me like a mother, but wasn’t a mother themselves showed me there are so many ways to build a family and a community and invite in one another’s experiences, no matter how different they may be.
Thank you Jennifer to reading and sharing your experience. It defiantly is a hard space to navigate in groups I am sure. And I know that it is emotionally challenging in its own.
I see I’m almost a year late in commenting but I wanted to share, that as a mother, words cannot express how thankful I am for the amazing aunties in my kids lives. They love them and show them what it’s like to be in ways that are different than me. This opens my kids up to knowing and accepting more in others and how to love others. I am blessed with the deep friendship of these women and my children are blessed as well. I hope that we can honor the gift they give of their love. Thank you to all the aunties that are building community and family!