This is a guest post by Mathetes entitled “The Road That Was Taken”. You can find his last post here.
The Daily Mail is the gift that keeps on giving. And usually the gifts are a witness to the outcomes of bad choices. Previously, we discussed how to live your worst life. Unfortunately, some people serve as stark examples. Enter Megan, and her story that is told in “It’s NOT my fault that I missed the chance to become a mother”.
The story is familiar: a gal lamenting that she has no man or children. But in a world where women have the ability to define and achieve any of their goals, where does this lament come from?
Playing with her nieces one day, Megan burst into tears because “I couldn’t bring myself to articulate the truth — that, at the age of 38, I realised I’d probably never watch my own child doing somersaults on a summer’s day.”
But how did this come about for someone with children as a goal?
“I wasn’t childless for medical reasons, or out of choice. The right man had just never come along.
As a writer living in London, with a fulfilling career and a great social life, I was a doting aunt to Harry, Jack, Emily and Freya.”
This sounds so strange. In a world where women are go-getters, here we have a lady who just sat around waiting for a man to mysteriously “come along”. I don’t believe the incongruence struck her – she has a career in which she is fulfilled, but she probably didn’t devote as much time to finding her man as she did to getting her career in order.
We come to the problem a little later on:
“I’d just assumed I’d address the subject of having children when I met the right partner with whom to confront it later in life. But I never did.”
Wintery often states that it’s important to have a plan for your life. This unfortunate lass didn’t have one, and the result is typical.
Or maybe she did have a plan. Because a plan is a restricted range of choices that is meant to lead you to a particular goal. So how did Megan’s choices influence her life? We read:
“I lived with a long-term boyfriend throughout my 20s, but we were young, and parenthood seemed a long way away. In my early 30s, I entered into a relationship that was so unstable, I knew we would never have children. He was a commitment-phobic poet, and while my friends urged me to finish the relationship and find one in which children might be an option, I didn’t long for a family enough to give him up. At 35, I finally accepted that we were never going to work out. Other relationships came and went, but none turned into something more permanent.”
So here was Megan’s plan:
- Step 1: Live with boyfriend throughout her 20’s
- Step 2: Enter an unstable relationship in her early 30’s, where she knew she’d never have children
- Step 3: After a few year break up with a man who was unsuitable material for a husband
So Megan’s goal was to find a mate and have kids. And her plan was constructed to achieve the exact opposite result.
Maybe after her mid-30’s Megan figured this out. With age comes wisdom, so they say. So what did Megan set about to do:
“I began to think more about having children when I was in my late 30s, but didn’t start sizing up potential fathers on first dates because I didn’t want to rush into having children with someone I wasn’t certain about. “
So let’s add another step.
- Step 4: Date men but don’t evaluate them for spousal quality
Though Megan made some bad choices, she does see what’s necessary for a child, and she should be commended for this:
“Nor did I want to become a single parent by choice. I’d seen how hard it was to bring up children even with a partner, thanks to my sisters, and I’d witnessed at first hand the struggles of a close friend who had unexpectedly become a single parent.
I just didn’t think I could tough it out by myself. I wanted to share parenting, and never dreamed of becoming ‘accidentally’ pregnant. I wasn’t going to trick anyone, or short-change myself.”
This is to be commended, and I mean this in all seriousness.
But getting back to her choices, Megan was warned:
“A friend who had been ambivalent about children until she was 39, and became a mother at 41, warned me that I would go through a grieving process if I didn’t become a mother. I laughed it off, but my friend was right.”
And here we read the unfortunate result when dreams and aspirations collide with the harsh wall of reality.
“… it dawned on me that I was fast approaching 40 — the age at which it seemed that if I hadn’t had my own child, I probably never would. My feelings of panic grew.”
“Feelings of resentment began to build inside me when, in the space of a year, five of my closest girlfriends told me they were pregnant. I felt happy for them, and increasingly sad for myself.“
“I tried to hide my feelings. I bought baby gifts and picked up newborns with a smile fixed on my face, even as my heart sank when I thought of the children I might never have.”
“Panic flooded over me every time I read a celebrity talking about how their little Petula/Tommy/Isabella was the best thing that had ever happened to them.”
“More and more, I felt weighed down by all the judgments — some proffered, some unspoken — about single and childless women. From being too picky to be satisfied by a partner, to just too career-orientated and selfish, the judgments are endless. In my experience, they’re generally inaccurate, too.“
This is an object lesson in the internal psychic dissonance that takes place when one’s goals collide with their choices.
Perhaps enlightenment at this stage is the best that can be hoped for. Mature adults come to accept that the choices they’ve made have resulted in the position they are in. Thus, we are able reflect and see where we went wrong and how to grow from this. Perhaps Megan will take responsibility for her choices and her current situation.
“When I analysed the reasons why they and I were in this position, I came to one conclusion: bad luck, bad choices or bad timing. Not selfishness.”
Her choices she can control. But luck and timing? Perhaps, but not as likely, given her focus on career and relationships. And her choices? Doesn’t that imply that she is choosing?
And why blame luck or timing at all?
The reason for this is simple: it’s very hard to realize that you are responsible for your position. This isn’t a hard rule, but you usually got where you’re at because you followed your own path.
And she’s not alone. Other women share her plight:
“‘One of them is that more and more women are childless through circumstance. They are grieving for something few people acknowledge they have the right to grieve for, and many of them don’t even realise that’s what’s happening to them.
‘Some of them are losing some of the most powerful and productive years of their lives as they get stuck in their grief.’
I know what you’re thinking. Now, at last, maybe Megan realizes the way out. She can decide to make sure she dates in the right way. That she won’t waste time on things that take away from her goal. Even if she can’t have kids, she should still be able to find a mate and adopt. So there are possibilities for her.
The question is: where does she go from here?
And the answer is:
“I was determined not to lose some of the best years of my life in this way. I’d written eight books, had a life full of friends and family, and yet I felt like a failure. I had to do something.
So I did. I bought a plane ticket to Marrakesh in Morocco — a place I’d visited just once for a long weekend.”
“If I wasn’t going to have the rhythms and responsibilities of parenthood, I could make the most of my freedom.”
Megan is educated and has a successful career. She’s enjoying her freedom. But there’s still her life-long goal of having children. How do these diverging paths reconcile with each other?
And here we come to the end. The need to rationalize, and downplay what others have, so that one’s situation is more palatable.
“I’d spent months thinking that motherhood was the answer, but I now began to realise that it wasn’t an instant passport to growth. Just look at the one-track minds some mothers have about their children.”
“You have to be open to change, and that’s possible with or without being a mother. Each side of the coin loses and gains.”
“For all I’d envied about the lives of mothers I knew, they’d envied what I had — freedom, time and the ability to nurture other relationships in a way I never would if I was a parent.”
“More importantly, I realised I wasn’t childless. I had my sisters’ children, my godchildren and a gaggle of girlfriends who were all generous with theirs.”
“For now I am splitting my time between England and Morocco, enjoying the best of both worlds. I no longer feel weighed down in England, just happy to visit.
“And while our lives might be different to the ones we envisaged when we were young, they are just as complete.”
And so Megan’s rationalization takes us full circle. Megan actually is a mother. She is completely free. She can do what she wants with her life. Her friends with children envy her. She is more open than her friends, who have one-track minds. And she, of course, realizes that motherhood was never the answer. It wasn’t a passport to growth. Her life is complete.
As I walked the halls of my work a few months ago I found a notice on a door that showed someone in an uncomfortable situation. The caption said: Sometimes the purpose of someone’s life is to be a lesson to others.
Megan, of course, may never be able to grapple with the repercussions of the feminist lies she bought into. She followed them, despite consciously knowing her choices were not leading her to the life she wanted.
But we can observe and know how to act. Let her story be a lesson to you if you are contemplating her path. Find out what you want, and live with this in mind.