As a child, I remember coercing my younger brother into playing house.
I naturally assumed the role of the mother, while my brother became my son. I’d make him fake breakfast, drop him off at pretend school, and push him around in our little stroller—which was very clearly meant for a doll.
Since then, I knew this would someday be my life.
The summer before I started high school, my parents separated. I had a really hard time accepting this new reality, which is why instead of coming to terms with my new life, I focused all my effort into painting an idealistic version of my future family.
I’ve always known I’ve wanted kids. Looking back, I think this deep-seated desire to have children stemmed from my early days of imaginative motherhood with my brother—a longing that only grew stronger as I got older.
From a very young age, society subtly engrains in us the notion that parenthood—and specifically motherhood—is the default path. Women who deviate from this path are faced with resistance and are told they’ll eventually change their mind, or their “motherly instinct” will eventually kick in.
I don’t believe in such thing as “motherly instinct.”
While this language implies this ability is innate, no one is born to be a mother. Though women are taught to seek fulfillment by assuming the role of motherhood, not everyone is destined to do so.
I don’t plan on having kids anytime soon. The thought of having children—specifically a daughter—keeps me up at night. I fear that I’m not, and will never be, a strong, confident, and independent woman that a daughter needs her mother to be, and the way my mother is for me.
My mother embodies the strength and independence I aspire to attain. I deeply admire her, but our relationship is complicated. Growing up she saw me as an extension of my father and resented me for it.
She’d always tell me she loved me but didn’t like me. As a child, I never understood why, and could never imagine telling my own daughter I didn’t like her, especially when I think about how much those words hurt me.
I’m afraid I’ll hurt her the same way my mom hurt me.
Much like the image of my future family, I’ve painted an idealized version of myself. Society tells women they have to be thin, pretty, kind, and malleable to be loved. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m guilty of believing I too have to be all these things.
I wouldn’t describe myself as an insecure person but like most people, especially people my age, I have insecurities. There are some days where I feel comfortable in my skin, and other days where I don’t even know who I am or what I look like.
I spent most of my teenage years struggling with body image issues and questioning how I was perceived. I wanted to be someone people could love, more specifically, someone I could love.
While I’m beginning to accept myself for the person I am, I’d never be able to forgive myself if I injected these insecurities into my own daughter. I know first-hand how much insecurities can eat away at a person, and I wouldn’t wish them on my worst enemy, let alone an impressionable girl the universe tasked me with raising.
The world is cruel, and I know how hard and exhausting it is to navigate being a girl. I can’t imagine raising a daughter in a world that doesn’t respect or value her, especially if she views herself the same way I sometimes view myself.
I realize I need to be a better person, not only for myself, but for my future daughter. If I want her to be strong, confident, and independent then I too must be all these things. Before I even begin to think about bringing a child into this world, I need to re-evaluate my being.
After all, I’ll be the first woman she’ll ever know, and the first role model she’ll ever have, which is why it’s my responsibility to be all the things I want her to be.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but like I said, I’m only 20.
To become a better role model for my daughter, I have to deconstruct the flawed thinking I’ve subconsciously spent two-decades refining. I hope as time goes on, I’ll no longer be as insecure but even if I am, they’ll be my insecurities, not hers.
I won’t be able to protect her from this world, but I can help her navigate it. I can teach her what I wish I knew growing up. I can show her what it feels like to be valued, respected, and loved like I wish somebody taught me.
I wish I could say I’m no longer afraid to have a daughter, but I’d be lying. I’m still afraid, but for different reasons.
My initial instinct of fear has turned into determination. Raising a daughter would be a privilege and I’m determined to be the woman she’s proud to call Mom—the same way I proudly perceive my own mother.
Thankfully, I still have time to learn, change, and confront my fears to become the strong, confident, and independent women I know I am.
Yes, I’m still afraid to have a daughter. Having children in general is, and will always be, scary. But I’ve uncovered new motivation in the realization that I must be the woman that I want her to be.
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