I was out in the beautiful Salado hill country this weekend, at a womens' retreat. During our first session, the retreat leaders led a series of ice breaker games starting with a simple one. We were to go around the room stating our name and telling the group one thing about ourselves.
The fact that 99% of the women followed the "My name is" part with how many children and/or grandchildren they had didn't surprise me. It shocked me. It brought to the surface how ingrained in women it is that we are identified by bearing children. It amazed me that almost all of these unique ladies, many of whom were highly accomplished in other areas chose to define themselves by stating that they had created at least one living being. And most of the mothers also added "I'm married to ____".
We are a society very attuned to marriage and producing children. Of the few women present who weren't mothers, we all said something like "My name is Kay and I don't have a husband or kids but I do have _____". As if we were compensating for the shortcoming of being single and childless. Finally, I saw it plainly. I had some validation of my theory that a woman who doesn't further the species expends a lot of energy proving she is still useful.
Let me restate one thing: Every woman, including myself, who weren't mothers mentioned not having kids. Half of us childless ones mentioned mothering cats or dogs. By the time we made it all the way around the room to me, I felt almost embarrassed at having neither a partner nor children as proof of my success. It was as if, without actually voicing it themselves, the wives/mothers were more extraordinary than the three or four of us who weren't wives and mothers.
Is it any wonder that many women my age who haven't yet conceived a child spend so much free time analyzing their emotions, wondering and worrying over whether or not they'll be passing up something incredible if they choose not to become a mother? My friends have all been subjected to endless conversations where I talk, talk, talk about motherhood. Five or ten years down the road, I'll probably be on the listening end of their own gabfest on the pro's and con's of starting a family.
Until then, let me redirect my thinking a bit and revisit the ice breaker. "My name is Kay and I have an amazing group of friends who love me just the way I am."