Maternal Ambivalence

Ann Friedman speaks for a lot of women:

Many women are certain they want kids someday. A smaller number are positive they don’t. But there’s another group that isn’t the subject of many hand-wringing studies or best-selling books: the ambivalent. The ones who vacillate between “I don’t feel compelled to have children” and “What if I regret not having had children?” …

“A lot of women on the fence feel like they should be feeling a deep longing to raise a child, and the truth is they don’t,” says Laura Carroll, author of The Baby Matrix. There’s really no evidence, she says, that women have a biological urge to procreate. Humans are the only animal that can choose whether or not to spawn. When you joke that your ovaries are jumping, it’s really your brain thinking, I’d like to be a mother someday. You’re emotionally — not biologically — processing all those cute baby photos on Instagram.

It would certainly be easier if there were a definitive biological drive pushing all women to become mothers. For most of us, it’s far more complicated than that. “Looking back, I never wanted kids,” says Jill Uchiyama, a 46-year-old filmmaker and teacher. “I think there was a moment when I did, because I was married and because I was so in love with my husband. That was the closest I got to really wanting it to happen. But it wasn’t strong enough to make it happen.”