I was the baby to older parents; my mom was 38 and my dad 42 when I was born. My siblings were 20, 19, and 17 years older than me. Even though I always knew I was loved, I realized that my parents’ age affected how they parented me, compared to other families. My friends’ parents actively engaged in their lives in a different way, had more energy, and were less strict and old fashioned than mine. I made up my mind that when I grew up, I did not want to be an “old” mom!
When I was young I dreamt about being a mother someday. I have always loved little kids. As a child I helped my mom teach toddler/preschool Sunday school, and held babies in the nursery. At age 12, I began to babysit neighbor children, and then as a nanny with multiple other families until I went to college. I’m still close to some of those kids to this day.
Despite the early years of loving children and dreaming of becoming a mother, parenthood wasn’t always my goal. Education, career, and my social life were becoming higher and higher on the priority list. I also did not want to have children outside of marriage, so I knew the men I dated had to affect this decision. My first serious relationship was in college. We were engaged, and planned to have a family together; however, the timing was not right for me at that point in my life, and we broke it off.
When I started my career as a mental health therapist for children and adolescents in crisis and their families, I saw people at their absolute worst. The first ten years of my career jaded my view of things somewhat. Working with emotionally and behaviorally unstable teens affected my frame of reference, and there was a part of me that worried my children could end up like the kids I was trying to help.
By the time I reached ages 32/33 I began to think that motherhood might not be in my future after all. And, if I’m really honest with myself, I admit that my doubts about being a mom probably started even earlier. At that time I didn’t see marriage in my immediate future, and I was worried that I was getting too old. Also, somewhere between the ages of 32 and 37, a selfishness of sorts started to creep in. I had been living and vacationing, responsible only for myself for the longest time, and before I knew it, my mindset and dreams for the future had changed. Independence became more important to me than motherhood.
I finally met Todd, the man who is now my husband, when I was 37 and he was 39. By that time I had come to feel like my age was prohibitive to motherhood. Every year I turned older, I felt more inclined to not have children. Really, it all came down to the math; I was 37, almost 38, when I met him. I wanted to have at least one year to enjoy married life, so at 39 would get pregnant (if all went well). But even if I conceived right away, that’s nine months, so I would have been 40 when he/she was born. Assuming 18 years at the minimum of raising a child, then I would be 58 by the time they graduated from high school, or 22 years if they went to college. So then I’d be 62 by the time they were independent! In reality, I’d like to be living cheaply in some third world country on my retirement money, sipping piña coladas on the beach when I am 62!
Fortunately for me, Todd had also decided that he didn’t want to be a parent, so we were on the same page moving forward in our relationship. I’m not even sure how we could have changed our life to accommodate children. I am SO particular about who watches our dogs; I cannot even imagine having to find childcare for a human kid! I would probably have had to quit working until they were at least school-aged. Now that Todd and I also own our own business, not having children gives me one less thing to worry about when planning everything.
In my 20’s, my southern family didn’t understand why I wasn’t settling down and having babies like everyone was “supposed to.” But, eventually my parents gave up, and stopped asking, even when I met and married Todd. By then I had been quite vocal about the fact that my window had closed for children. As for my friends, my “chosen family” as I call them, they have all respected my decision and understand that its part of what makes me uniquely me.
Over the years I have still had brief moments where I felt a tugging desire to grow a baby inside me, to have that ultimate connection with a little person, and wondered about someone that is part me and part Todd, but the feelings usually pass just as quickly as they come. Even back in my late 20’s when my friends started having children, I remember being so happy for them, but I never really felt like I was missing out. Most days I actually felt grateful for not having children each time a friend added another child to their brood. While my girlfriends were having children, I was having Mexico vacation adventures! I feel a little jump of joy inside that I don’t have to make that choice of not being able to travel freely because of kids.
When I visit friends with children, I’m like an adopted aunt, so I get to have all the fun and none of the hard. I can love on their babies and play on the floor with their older kids, but then I get to go back to my peaceful home or hotel room! I know that it’s different when you are actually a parent, but I also know there is a little piece of each mom and dad that wishes they didn’t have to worry about planning for the kids when they contemplate every choice in their life. In fact, some of my closest girlfriends have admitted to me that they love their kids unconditionally, and “would never change the choices they have made, BUT…!”
In spite of all my choices that led me to not be a mother, I think that the most important traits for women who mother are in us all instinctively. They are God given! Some have more, some have less, but we all have them on some level. Clearly, I have the nurturing instinct as well since my chosen profession is one of caregiving and nurturing. And whether I was ever meant to be a mom or not, my life path has definitely taken me to a place where I get to use those qualities regardless. Being a therapist could be described with the same words I would use to describe a mother…nurturing, caregiving, and guiding. Many of the kids I have worked with unfortunately do not have a good mother figure in their life, so I am grateful to be able to fulfill that role on a professional level.
I also often feel like a mom to my employees. They are all adults, but they bring their hardships and heartaches to me, and I guide them in their roles. I have even heard them say that I have my ‘mom hat’ on when I’ve had to discipline them.
Lastly, my dogs, which I call my ‘fur babies’ are absolutely my children! I love them, nurture them, feed them, dress them up, etc. Todd and I even refer to ourselves as “mommy” and “daddy!” (Ridiculous, I know!) But they are definitely surrogates for any mommy energy that I have.
Crystal lives in Anchorage, Alaska with her husband Todd and their spoiled rotten Shih Tzu’s, Raven and Freya. They split their time between Alaska and their second home in Scottsdale, Arizona. She is a licensed professional counselor who works with adolescents and their families. She and Todd own and operate several businesses in Alaska and Arizona, but steal away as often as possible to travel the world. Their first choice is always someplace warm, preferably with a beach. Yes, their “furbabies” often travel with them!