I'm a Baby Hater

more than a mom

Today, I admitted something to my husband that I've never said out loud to anyone before. He freaked out. 

No...it wasn't that I'm a baby hater. He already knew that. And that knowledge should have prepared him for this new revelation--new to him, that is. But apparently, I hadn't done my due diligence in prep work.

So, let me prep you before I do the big reveal.

First, let me just remind you that I was raised in a fundamentalist religion--the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church. (Why they insist on their full name being used in media is beyond me--but since I'm planning on my bjlog going viral, I'm trying to comply!) I wasn't just a member. I was a devout member. I was raised to be obedient...and I took that job very seriously. That meant that despite my plan to become a women's rights advocate, go to law school, and stay out of all relationships until I was firmly entrenched in a career when I met Jim just a few months out of high school and he proposed, I said yes. 

Now, don't get me wrong...I fell madly in love and wanted to get married. But also, I didn't know I had any other choice. I was raised to believe that marriage and motherhood were the highest callings a woman could have...so who was I to turn him down in order to follow my measly dream of helping underprivileged and abused women? 

And so, at the age of 19, I got married (in the temple for time and all eternity) and we set out to create a life for ourselves. We didn't plan on starting a family right away. I had some medical issues that were supposed to make getting pregnant nearly impossible. We figured we would adopt at some point down the road. 

(Fun Fact: I had a love-hate relationship with my wedding dress. I had always wanted to wear my mother's dress, but when we pulled it out of her cedar chest after I got engaged, the lace had deteriorated and was going to be very costly to repair. I felt guilty having my mom spend so much money on the repair, knowing she couldn't really afford it as a single woman trying to raise--you guessed it-- 5 kids. So I found this $75 dress at JCPenney Outlet. It was an off-the-shoulder affair and I fell in love with it. But because I was being married in the temple, it had to be altered to be "modest". The man who modified it for me tried to convince me not to do it. He kept saying, "You'll ruin the dress." But didn't have much of a choice if I was going to wear my dress inside the temple on my wedding day. So he altered it...and I hated it. Oh well...)

Two weeks later, I was pregnant.

And ten years after that, I was a stay-at-home mom with five children, living the Mormon dream.

Kind of.

Truth be told, I was living a kind of personal hell. I was depressed and angry, trying to hold it all together for my family while dealing with the significant trauma of my past. About that time, one of my counselors (yes, I had many through the years) told me that I probably shouldn't have had five children. (A bit late for that, don't you think?) She was very observant.

But honestly, she was probably right. I loved my own children. But I had never been accused of loving kids, in general. In fact, my ward members (that's Mormon speak for congregation) knew me as "the baby hater."  I was never the woman who fawned over other people's children. I tolerated their presence and held them when asked. But other than my own, I had no desire to be involved in child-rearing. I even turned down Primary callings as a matter of principle. I figured the kids deserved a teacher who liked them--and that wasn't me. (I know...but I'm going to hell as an apostate, anyway, so saying no to callings back then is kind of a moot point now!)

Looking back, I realize that I was still a child when I had my children--both literally and figuratively. I was literally part of the teenage pregnancy statistics in the 80s, and I was emotionally stuck in the trauma of my childhood until well into my 40s, having never really progressed past the age of eight or nine. It wasn't a great combination. If I had it to do over again, I'd do a shit-ton of therapy before ever having sex...just to be safe. But that wasn't the path I took. Instead, I had five kids in ten years, all before the age of thirty. (And all while dealing with some major triggers connected to my childhood abuse.)

Now, for some of you, that might sound like a major accomplishment. But in Mormonville, it's just an average accomplishment. I was simply doing my duty to multiply and replenish the earth...and for some reason, I really liked my own babies and kept wanting more of them.

Also...it was what I was 'supposed' to do...and I was all about obedience. I figured that since God had blessed my body with the ability to get pregnant (even though I wasn't supposed to be able to), I should use that ability for good. 

I sacrificed everything for my kids. I did my best to raise them without abuse in a loving home where all of their needs were met. My whole life was focused on them and their needs. I volunteered in their schools, threw their parties, drove them to their piano lessons, attended their swim meets, made their lunches (and wrote cute little notes on their napkins), made their beds, cleaned up their messes...you get the picture. I didn't hold a job outside of the home until my youngest turned 12. I was the ever-present parent figure doing my damnedest to give my kids all the things I never had.

Also, I was doing it from the perspective of a devout Mormon, so I was following the religious protocols, too. We prayed together, read from the scriptures daily, served our neighbors, and attended every church meeting that appeared on the calendar. There were a lot of those.

My kids are all grown now, and our memories don't always align. I remember giving up all of my hopes and dreams to become a mom. They tend to remember all of my failures. I remember doing my best to take care of them and fulfill their needs. They tend to remember all the things I didn't take care of. I remember loving them unconditionally. They tend to remember all the conditions of my love. I wasn't a perfect mother--far from it! Except that, I do believe I was doing my absolute best...so in some ways, I was perfect! (And also, I have this belief that we were all given the parents who were perfect for us--so there's that.)

Fast forward 35 years...and today, I'm an ex-Mormon apostate. It's hard for some people to understand this, but after leaving the church, a whole world opened up to me that I didn't even know existed. That sounds crazy, I know, but my upbringing was so strict and sheltered (in a sick and twisted sort of way), and I was so dedicated to living the perfect Mormon life, I literally didn't know about  A LOT of things that were available in the world around me. Walking away from the church and having my 'eyes opened,' so to speak, was a bit of a mind-f*ck. 

That brings me back to the conversation with my husband today. (If you stuck with me this far, you're a trooper!)

In a moment of extreme emotion, I told him that I wished I had never had children. (Cue the freaking out.) 

It's not true. I can't imagine my life without my kids...and my grandkids are the most adorable creatures on the planet...so there's that. But being the mother of adult children can feel even more thankless than being the mother of toddlers. The things they say and do feel a whole lot more hurtful--and when adults say hurtful things, it's a lot harder to dismiss than when three-year-olds tell you that you're the meanest mom around! 

The truth is, if I hadn't been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (that long name again) back in the day, I probably never would have had five children. I probably would have gone to college, went on to law school, and immersed myself in a career. There are a lot of things I probably would have done differently...but they weren't an option for me then. 

I know...they really were options. (I have to say that because I can hear my clients saying, "But Sandra, you told me I always have an option!") But the path that was laid out for me was very straight...very narrow...and very focused on family life. I really didn't think I had any other choice but to become a stay-at-home mom. And in fact, in the world of Mormonism, I was seen as lucky because my husband had a good enough job that I didn't have to pursue anything outside of the home.

Now, I love my family. I love my husband. I love my kids. (A LOT!!!!!) And I'm grateful for all the things I've learned through being a mother. But I think my life would have looked very different if I hadn't been a member of that church with the very long name.

So what's the point? There's probably not one. I mean, this is bjlog, after all. Normal blogs have points, but bjlogs are more like journal entries, so a point is not a necessity.

If there were a point, I suppose it's that I built my life on the values of a religion I no longer believe to be true, and as I look back over my life and see how much control the church and its teachings had on me, I'm curious what my life would have looked like without it. That's not to say I regret my life or the choices I made as a member of the Mormon church, but from where I stand now, things look very different.

If you were raised in a strict religion and have now left, do you ever feel this way? Do you think about how your life might be different? It's kind of a dangerous path to go down, and you probably don't want to mention your thoughts out loud to your spouse (unless you're prepared for a freak-out). But if you're willing to share, I'd love to hear what you have to say! 

For now, wish me luck with navigating my family relationships...because this post might cue a few more freakouts from my family. That's okay...I'm all about living out loud these days. Honest and authentic conversations are proving to be much more healing than the ones we were having while trying to be obedient! And also, I'm very lucky because my entire family walked away from religion together. So at least we have each other. 

And come to think of it, today, my children have become my best friends...so I'm grateful I had a lot of them. Because frankly, I can't imagine what the void in my life would look like without these amazing people who call me mom. 

Have a rainbow day!

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