Women typically fall in one of three camps when it comes to having kids: yes, absolutely not, and on the fence. And some can’t decide, so they make their way from camp to camp. Then, I’m hoping, there are those like me: no on the outside, yes in the heart, and on the fence in the brain because that yes-no battle can get intense. Hence why the question of whether I want to have kids froze my brain.
“No” Was a Front I Internalized
I grew up with a traditional Chinese grandmother whose Americanized Chinese husband passed away when I was 12. She always tried to teach her grandchildren the traditions of our heritage. That included arranged marriages, matchmakers, and marriage at an early age. Even though she became an American citizen, she still held onto the traditional ways, especially after my grandpa passed.
When I was 14, on the day my brother graduated middle school, she tried to marry me off. Not literally, but she started telling me about all the eligible bachelors in Chinatown. She started talking to me about marriage and motherhood. I panicked. I ran to my mom. My mom talked to her mom. But I was still terrified. I told my mom I didn’t want to have kids, and she passed the message along. I know I wasn’t the only granddaughter to go through this, but as one of two 100% Chinese granddaughters, it was important that I marry a nice Chinese boy and have kids.
My brain couldn’t handle the pressure. My very American upbringing wouldn’t hear of it.
But My Heart Knew the Truth
I remember walking back to my dorm when I was a freshman in college. The sun was setting and the sky was a lovely blue-purple. It was a warm spring evening, and I was enjoying it by myself. At the time, I was taking a child development class, so kids were on my mind.
I knew I had been quite vocal about not having kids, about being career oriented. As much as I loved having a stay at home mom, I knew that wasn’t what I wanted.
But my heart knew. My deepest wish was to be a wife and mother. I also wanted a career. I didn’t see why I couldn’t have it all. But I wouldn’t tell anyone that. It was my secret. I would only tell it when I met the right guy.
My First Step on the Journey to Motherhood
I met the right guy when I was about to start my senior year of college. He wanted kids. My brain froze. I wanted to say yes and no. Considering we’d only been together for a couple of months, I didn’t want to confuse him, so I told him I would have to think about it.
Think about it, I did. A lot. I had to unpack and analyze everything I wanted, everything I’d said, everything I’d believed. I had the strangest feeling my decision was going to change the course of my life. It was a big decision.
I didn’t want to have kids because I had said no too much. I was also afraid I would either be too strict or spoil them too much. Of course, I knew neither was likely, but the fear still hung over me. Could I be a good mother? That was the real question. Motherhood is a huge undertaking. Would I be ready to take up the title of mom?
But I also couldn’t help but picture little feet running around. I also couldn’t shake the image of a little dark haired, seven-year-old girl with curls and a burgundy velvet dress. There was also my secret wish to be a wife and mother.
We struck a deal, my heart and mouth, and my future husband and me. We would have kids as long as we were both equally involved.
“No” had never really been a real answer.