The most surprising thing to me about people’s reactions to my non-child-bearing state is that people are concerned that I will have no one to carry on my legacy. In other words, it appears that my story ends.
For those who don’t know my stepmom story, I chose not to have biological children. I’ve shared this story in print and with countless women through the years. As I have characterized it, it did not require a great deal of thought on my part. Childbearing just never felt natural to me. I have heard from the man who believed that you are not a real woman unless you birth children. (He worked as a motivational speaker. No joke!) I have heard from the women who thank me for sharing my story. (I’ve got your back, gals!) I am thankful for both because it allows me to own my story and be honest about my lifestyle choice wherever the chips may fall.
Before you make accusations towards my husband, you should know that he was open to having more children. I remember one particular conversation where he said very simply, “No we won’t be able to run off on great adventures if we have a two-year-old but it’s worth it.” I appreciated his honesty. He had given up some great adventures so he could raise three two-year olds and a great job he did.
I came into my stepchildren’s lives when they were teens/pre-teens and merely honed some of their rough edges, or as my stepdaughter, Kate would say, “helped her be a girl.” (In other words, I bought her tights when she didn’t know what they were called.) But I merely acted as a helpmate, the finishing school, if you will. I’ve been part of their lives for over eleven years now and am damn proud of the family that we’ve created together. It’s not perfect. But it is a good solid foundation; a hug when you need it, a soft place to land, people to love and care about.
The most surprising thing to me about people’s reactions to my non-child-bearing state is that people are concerned that I will have no one to carry on my legacy. In other words, it appears that my story ends. My stories of my own childhood, my days of want and fear, the grandparents I didn’t know….it’s all for naught because no one is aching to hear my story. My stepchildren care about their own history, that of their mom and dad and blood relatives who contributed to their DNA. Not mine. How could I possibly consider leaving this world with nothing to prove that I was here?
Often, people choose to have children not because they love children and want to give life to a future and a hope for the peace of God, but to create a legacy. A legacy with a name that will be carried on, with a nose that looks like theirs or toenails that are slightly ajar on their left foot just like their moms. However, your DNA is not your only legacy. The end of your surname does not constitute the end of your history.
My childless-by-choice scenario includes the perspective of my ten-year-old niece, a blessing to me from the minute I saw her take her first breath. She is a talker, like her dad and steers clear of judgment, like her mom. I see their legacy in her. I also see mine. Yes, I see a few similar facial features and a booty that is obviously a tribute to my own. Her love for writing and music began at an early age, just as mine did. (A little of my gene pool crept in apparently.)
Perhaps what makes me happiest about my relationship with my niece is how she needs to know my stories. I recall an outing just last year to celebrate her report card. My mom and I were talking as my niece was bouncing around my bedroom, hopping onto and off of the bed, and just generally entertaining herself as most kids do when adults carry on adult conversations about minutiae for far too long. Then she hopped onto the bed one last time and asked us to tell her stories.
“What kind of stories?” I asked.
“Bad ones,” she replied. “The stuff you did when you were little.”
And there it was. My chance to tell my story.
My legacy will live on. My stepchildren will be able to share their own stories of family vacations, sporting events and their overexposure to baked ziti, all of which I contributed to. My niece will know all of the ways I thwarted the church checker at my Christian college. (A long but funny tale.) All of these stories will make known that I existed. I tried, I failed, I loved and I learned, all while having fun along the way. That’s my history. It’s for all to share, with or without my DNA.