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The struggle to make a similar “wise and meaningful decision” is also at the centre of Sheila Heti’s new novel, , in which an unnamed narrator consults a psychic and tarot cards.
“Whether I want kids,” she says, is “the greatest secret I keep from myself.”After several years of this uncertainty, an event forced my hand: my husband left me several months before I turned thirty-one.
Mostly, I imagined motherhood as a 1950s sitcom: bedtime stories, an abundance of firsts, holidays straight out of Hallmark.
At the time of these reveries, I was in my late twenties, newly married.
As the default structure for women’s lives, the motherhood imperative is a stand-in for order, an assurance that every woman is exactly who, and what, she is supposed to be.
We live in an intense pro-maternity culture, one marked by everything from reality shows like Teen Mom OG to Kylie Jenner’s record-shattering February 2018 Instagram reveal of her newborn daughter, Stormi, which sits at 17.5 million likes (and counting).
I found purpose in my work and couldn’t imagine rearranging my days to include breastfeeding and diaper changes. If anything, motherhood was a requirement—a stage women completed after marriage, a check mark on the way to an accomplished life. I worried that disclosing the main reason for my veer toward “no”—that I wanted to continue investing time in —would make me seem cold, even sociopathic.I knew it was possible to be a mother while maintaining a career, but I had little desire to take on the challenge. I worried about disappointing those around me, including my then husband, parents, and grandparents. Even if they supported my choice, I worried about what I would do after I made it.How would I fill the next fifty—potentially empty—years of my life? I would often catch myself entertaining other people’s fantasies of what it would mean for me to have children and, briefly, intensely wanting those fantasies too. I’d be in the shower, or about to fall asleep, and I would question who was right: them or me?Much of society still can’t account for women like me.We are often forgotten at the fringes, even as we grow in number.