I recently got together with some folks, including a single mother by choice (SMC) who is a full-time mom and her delightful 14 month old son. She was clearly relishing being his mom, and he was equally clearly adoring her. When we got to chatting a bit, she confided to me that she was feeling a little bit guilty about how much she was enjoying being a mother. After all, she said, didn’t the women of earlier generations go through a lot in order for women to have the right to be liberated from being “just mothers”? Was it okay for her to WANT to spend her time being a mom? And to enjoy it so much?
Having been one of those women whose consciousness was raised in the tumultuous sixties, I pondered her question for a moment, and then remembered — it was all about CHOICE. We believed that women should have the CHOICE to work and not to be a mom, or to work and be a mom — or to do whatever we wanted — and most importantly, we wanted to have the opportunity to achieve as much as any man.
Sure, some of the women in the movement felt we should reject motherhood and be more ambitious, that we should aim for loftier goals. But many of us also knew that there are infinite delights in being a mother, and we didn’t want to miss out on them. I was one of those women. I worried, as the years went by and I didn’t find someone I loved, that perhaps I would never be a mom. And then, when I became a mother, I remember thinking how fortunate I was to have that opportunity. I cherished every single minute of that experience, even the rough ones, especially during the early years of my son’s life when I almost couldn’t believe that I was really a mother.
I will never forget how close I came to being childless. But thanks in great part to women like Gloria Steinem and others in the women’s movement, I had the CHOICE to be a mother as a single woman, a choice that the generation of women before mine did not have. And for that, I will be eternally grateful to those women who made it possible for us to have choices about what we do with our lives, even if what we want to do is “just” be a mother.
Jane Mattes, LCSW
Founder and Director, SMC