“I don’t know what it means to have a mother, let alone BE a mother.”

Lina, 57, Canada

I was sitting in the waiting room of the cancer agency, awaiting the first of many chemotherapy treatments for the bilateral breast cancer I’d just been diagnosed with. I was 33 years old, and the only information I had about my birth mother was that she had died of this disease at the tender age of 27… I was three years old and already the 8th child she’d given birth to.

When the next phase of treatment involved a decision about whether or not to have a hysterectomy, I was asked by one of my oncologists if I wanted children. I had always enjoyed having the option, but figured if I wasn’t certain now, then I may as well go ahead and put my survival (touch wood) chances before the prospect of having children.

That was 24 years ago, and while there have been some ups and downs about that decision (I’ll never know what it feels like to breastfeed a child for example), I’m relieved that I made that choice. This is because I don’t know what it means to have a mother, let alone BE a mother.

My childhood consisted of several foster homes populated by various disturbed and abusive women that were supposed to fill the mothering role that I longed for, and to be honest, will always long for. I instinctively knew that I didn’t have the extended family to provide emotional and logistical support, and I figured I probably also didn’t have the internal resources needed to be a good mother. Also, I never felt mature or selfless enough to be a parent. I wanted the chance to explore, learn and have fun, build my career, be my husband’s number-one priority, be silly and irresponsible, travel to cool places, etc.

I know there are some people who seem to have it all, or do it all but I knew I wasn’t one of those people. I personally don’t think we CAN have it all. There’s a term in economics called opportunity cost. The opportunity costs of having children are too many. I think for many women, being a mother involves too many sacrifices and compromises and the costs of having children are far greater than the rewards.

And it can be such a thankless job. I’m not a martyr and am not interested in slaving away for years at a thankless job that doesn’t pay and isn’t respected by society. Thank goodness I knew myself well enough to know this wasn’t the path for me. I acknowledge that I missed out on this opportunity, we can’t have it all. I would just rather be true to myself and live more authentically. Thank you for doing this Zoe, it’s an incredible opportunity to connect!