the cut on tuesdays

Advice for a Mom Who Never Wanted Kids

Photo-Illustration: by Stevie Remsberg; Photo Getty

The Cut on Tuesdays

A weekly podcast from the Cut and Gimlet Media, with host Molly Fischer.

Dr. Alexandra Sacks is a reproductive psychiatrist: in her practice, she helps women as they navigate new motherhood. Having a baby brings to the surface all the other issues that might normally spur a person to go to therapy — stuff with your parents, or your partner, or your career. It all feels more urgent when you add a baby to the equation.

Alexandra’s got a new podcast where you get to listen in on the kind of conversations that she has in her practice — it’s called Motherhood Sessions. And on this week’s episode of The Cut on Tuesdays, we wanted to share Alexandra’s conversation with one of those women. We’ll call her Anne.

Alexandra: She told herself that she never wanted to have kids. She told her husband that as well. But he wanted kids. She told me that she wanted to believe him and her parents. People who were saying you’ll like it just just wait and see. But she’s coming in she has a 2-year old and she says I don’t like it. It never happened.

Molly: It being …

Alexandra: The wanting to be a mom.

It almost seems taboo to put it so bluntly: I have a kid, but I still don’t want to be a mom. And like Anne told Alexandra, it’s the kind of thing that everyone swears will never happen. Whatever doubts you have beforehand, they’re supposed to disappear once you’ve finally got a baby in your arms … even if you’re touching another person’s poop every day and never sleep. But what if the doubts don’t go away?

Anne: I think my story, in terms of motherhood, is just that I never really wanted to be a mother. I never cared for kids; I never wanted children. Now that I have a kid, I do know now that I think would’ve been perfectly fine without having a child, but I fell into the pressure of everyone telling me that I should, or that I’m going to change my mind, and that life’s so much better with kids. You know, so I think I convinced myself to think the way I’m thinking is wrong.

That’s where Anne had found herself. Here she is, in conversation with Dr. Alexandra Sacks.

Anne: Any sort of life with kids, when I think back on growing up, looked difficult to me. I didn’t see any real excitement and joy to be a parent. I had a good childhood. I grew up happy and loved. So to be a kid, it was great. But for me, to see the role of a parent was very overwhelming — it felt very sacrificial, and like suffering.

Alexandra: Thinking about your mom?

Anne: Yeah, I think about my mom, and my aunts.

Alexandra: In what way did you see them suffering?

Anne: I saw that they were prioritizing everyone else besides them. So they’re the ones waking up in the morning, and cleaning the house, and cooking, and spending the money that they have on their children, for their husbands, people around them, and not really taking care of themselves. That’s why I was so uninterested in being a parent. And I’m one of those people who were open about never wanting kids — telling people that I found babies annoying. That was me; I was that person.

Alexandra: Tell me about some conversations, where you said to someone, “I don’t want to have kids.” What’d they say; how’d the conversation go?

Anne: When I talked to other people who do have kids, or older generations, they’d go out of their way to tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about, and that I’m going to change my mind. That just got me more angry — it made me want to just not have kids even more. And I think one of the things that really has affected me was the fact that I did have a kid, and everyone around me is just like, “Well, I told you you’d change your mind.” I think that upset me the most — I still believe wholeheartedly that I didn’t want children. It’s just a matter of — life just happened, and I ended up getting pregnant, and loving my child was easy, it was fine. I think it was a mix of like hormones and loving the child and, like, utter obligation to feel like I had to be a parent and take care of her. It’s just hard to tell people that.

To hear Alexandra’s advice for Anne, click above, and subscribe wherever you listen. (And to hear her conversations with other moms, check out Motherhood Sessions wherever you get your podcasts.)

Advice for a Mom Who Never Wanted Kids