I am soon to turn 36, and haven't had children yet. I want to be a mother, but
should I put my career aspirations aside for changing nappies and sterilising
bottles? I can't help feeling that I will have wasted some of my potential. Did
I go through 8 years of university just to become a mum?
We live in a strange world today. People are choosing productivity over
reproduction. The ideal of building a career has superseded the ideal of
building a family. Making money has been elevated over making babies. Wealth
creation is considered a respected achievement, while procreation is considered
a sacrifice. How did making a living become more important than making life?
The last few decades have seen a shift in attitude towards work and career, with
both positive and negative results. The doors to financial success are open to
women today more than ever. That is a positive step. But a not-so-positive
development is that many men and women have come to identify with their
careers. These days, you are what you do. While once upon a time you could be a
person who practices law, today you are a lawyer. What once would have been
called a father who works to support a family, is now a businessman who chose to
have kids. The working mother has become a mothering worker.
Not that there is anything wrong with a man or a woman excelling in their
career. But when that career becomes who you are, when it overtakes your
persona, when a job becomes your life - that's unnatural. It is perfectly
natural to identify yourself as a husband or wife, a mother or father. After
all, our relationships - with our fellow beings, ourselves and our G-d - are
what make us human. But to identify with a career, to the point that we fear
that if we lost our position we would amount to nothing - that's not healthy.
Here's a healthier model: my identity is the fact that I live and can give life;
I am blessed and can give blessing. My job is what I do, but my life is who I
am. I have an occupation - my work - and a pre-occupation - living a life of
meaning. I was given the greatest gift of all, the gift of life, and I can pass
on that gift to others.
Having a child is not the only way to give life. The gift of life can come in
many forms: the happiness we bring to the lives of others; the souls we uplift
through words of kindness; the people we help through the goodness we do. But to
actually create a person - who themselves can be a doer and a recipient of good
- is the most powerful and literal way to give the gift of life.
Be proud of your desire to be a mother. You will always be able to go back to
your career later. But if you focus on your life's mission rather than your job,
you will see that it is far more rewarding to go into labour than to go into