Millennials have grown up in a world alert to spousal abuse, parental neglect and marriage breakdowns – daunting prospects for potential parents.
I am a millennial and I am afraid of being a mother. Specifically, of being a terrible, emotionally unavailable, stressed, traumatised, unsupported, weak, frightened mother and a terrible influence on my children.
I worry for myself that I will lose my financial and emotional autonomy and become dependent on my husband while also resentful of his career and my lack of one (in spite of specifically having chosen not to have a career years ago for various reasons).
I worry for my husband that I will become emotionally dependent and particularly isolated as we live in the suburbs and I do not drive. My friends are, on the whole, counties away and nowhere near this stage of their varied relationships.
I worry for our children that my childhood experiences, in retrospect, were…not good. I am scared that my mum’s lack of empathy, quick temper and resentment will also become present in me, that my dad’s solace in work will influence the way I relate to my husband’s relationship with our children. I am scared that my mum will be jealous of any involvement my husband’s family, our friends, or even my dad will have in our children’s upbringing, and so am really afraid I will not have enough of a support base from which to build upwards.
It mostly frightens me that although I want a family, and I am confident I will not only cope with, but enjoy, the childhood and teenage years, I don’t feel the urge to have a baby and I am terrified of childbirth. I don’t mind changing nappies and clearing up vomit. I do mind not being able to go out or talk to adults.
However, at 31, I am aware the clock is ticking. The fact remains that both my husband and I do want to have a family, and a family of our own, where we agree the values and boundaries we want our children to have. We both want this experience to be as joyful, loving and supporting as our marriage has been. We each think the other will be a good parent.
The more I consider how great this part of our lives will be, the more I think of conversations with exhausted, depressed and lonely mothers among my friends who have found the changes in their lives especially difficult and isolating. Women who have felt judged by their families, partners and strangers for the ways in which they are learning to navigate their new landscape. The more I feel the pull of painful experiences from my own childhood, unresolved conflicts with my parents that I do not know how to address or forgive.
Certainly, my feelings have been made more difficult to navigate in the year since our wedding as my sister’s husband and partner of 13 years was revealed to have been abusing her over the course of this time, my best friend also left her partner of 13 years for the same reason, and my parents separated yet again, but continue to live deeply intertwined and baffling lives. This has made me question my judgement, my ability to protect those I love and my ability to set adequate boundaries and stick to them.
My husband and I have a safe, loving, happy, respectful and trusting relationship, but I cannot rely on him to do all of the emotional heavy lifting and be the sole financial provider for our family as well. I know and expect that in future he will be resentful, tired, and unable to lift me out of any potential impending depression or loneliness. I understand that I need other supportive and reliable people around me, ideally going through the same experience, and I’m becoming increasingly aware I may not have that.
We are in the extremely privileged position of having a more than comfortable income, a house, money given from parents (presumably in expectation of children, and not without strings attached and a lot of emotional fallout) and the need for only one of us to be working. This makes our roles obvious, but it does mean that we really have no choice in the roles we will play within our family. My husband and I both struggle with that.
My friends are mostly desperate for babies, but financially unable to support that. I feel selfish holding back because of emotional instabilities and on the whole they think this means I am unprepared for the sacrifice of personal life required to build a family, or that my husband and I are having relationship problems.
I do not want our children to feel unloved, pressured or frightened. My life is chaotic but I want stability. The world is chaotic and I cannot ensure a future for our children.