“Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” (Elizabeth Gilbert, from Eat Pray Love.)

In Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) realizes that she does not want to have children, and this is part of what leads to her divorce. Today, more and more women are having children later, or deciding they don’t want to have children at all. But it still seems the first question asked of married couples once they’ve said their vows is, “When are you going to have a baby?” This can lead women (and their partners) who are either delaying having children, or opting out of childrearing altogether, to suffer feelings of defensiveness and inadequacy. And the other side of the story is that parents (like me: I’m a relatively young mother of two and the fact that I’m raising toddlers is more often than not greeted with surprise by the people who meet me) are often asked incredulously how much of their lives and themselves they’ve had to give up to raise children, and whether it’s worth it. (It is! But it is also all-consuming.)

Do you have children? Do you sometimes feel exhausted, and like taking a soul-exploring trip a la Gilbert is a dream you wish you’d realized before you had your babies? How do you deal with these feelings? And if you don’t have children, and don’t plan to, why or why not have you made this decision? Do you see someone like Gilbert as an inspiration?

Marissa Stapley is a freelance writer, editor, and author who lives in Toronto. Her first novel, Saving the World (in Sensible Shoes) will be released by Key Porter Books in Spring 2011.

64 Responses to Motherhood

  1. Jeannine says:

    I have one child. It seems simple enough, but trust me, it can be over-whelming at times! When I feel exhausted, I take a break for me (alone): I journal, go for a walk, or read.

  2. Andrea says:

    The thing I love about Elizabeth’s character is that she is her own person and she follows her own rules. I have always wanted to take a soul searching trip on MY OWN but never had the opportunity. Having my daughter has been life changing in the best way possible but I admire that Elizabeth was strong enough to step outside the box of pleasing others and discovering her needs through spirituality, travel, love, and food!

  3. Joeanna says:

    I am a single mother of three, 7, 9 & 10. I am in constant chaos. It feels so overwhelming most of the time but then the moment, that one simple moment happens, and every overworked, tired, and unappreciated thought melts away and my heart is so full of love. I know that these children – who are “gonna drive me to drink” – they are my greatest achievement.

  4. Elizabeth F. says:

    Children are so fulfiling and every woman should contemplate their older years with little or no family before they dismiss the idea. I have travelled a lot and while it is very interesting, for the most part you do not run into Javier Bardem unless you look like Julia Roberts! Most people in most countries are just living ordinary lives just trying to get by, just like we do in Canada. Books and movies like this tend to over-romanticize the journey, skipping over such things as the dirt, poverty, disease, lack of a decent bathroom, language difficulties, etc. that journeying can entail. It cannot replace family.

  5. Linda says:

    I’m a mother of four – a ten year old and five year old TRIPLETS! Believe me…everything is in fast forward but I feel so blessed to have these children in my life. Every day is an adventure and I can’t wait to get home from work at the end of the day for warm hugs and kisses!

  6. Jacki says:

    I have a 17 year old child. He came to us through international adoption after years of heartbreaking fertility treatments failed. I adore him and wonder every day at the miracle that brought him into my life. On the realistic side, a teen age boy is enough to render anyone sterile! He and I have always had a very close relationship and I remember thinking that “we will never go through that mood swing crap” HA!!! Teen boys have more mood swings than menopausal women!! But he is beautiful and amazing and I wouldn’t trade a minute of having him in my life. Now if we are going to have a conversation about husbands…

  7. Lise Ringuet says:

    My son is now 18 but I remember with great pleasure how I have been Blessed to have him. His father left when he was 2 but was present in his life nevertheless. The good relationship between us helped a lot, I guess.

    I was 35 when Kevin was born and his arrival was not planned. But I had a crush on him since I learned I was pregnant.

    I’m very happy to be a mother.

  8. Lin Brown says:

    I think mothers are the heroes of the world. While the male-run (usually) governments seem bent on war, most women work so hard to keep children safe — theirs or their own. The most important job there is.

  9. Lindy says:

    I am the mother of one child and feel blessed every day to have such a beautiful son.

  10. Grimmie says:

    I don’t have any children but love my nieces and nephews.

  11. Lisa Harper says:

    I am one of those who had chosen NOT to have children. I knew this since I was a teenager and always dreaded getting phone calls to babysit the neighbors children. I did not have the mothering instinct. I knew then this was not the life for me…even though people said I would change my mind later in life. As I am about to turn 35 soon, and I have been married for almost 9 years, this still has not changed. When I read “Eat, Pray, Love”, that quote by Elizabeth Gilbert jumped off the pages at me about having children, and was happy to know that there were others out there that thought like this as I often felt alone in my choice. I cherish my time with my husband…I enjoy my nights of sleeping, sleeping in when I can…not having to take care or worry or be concerned about little ones…it was not the path my life was to take. It isn’t that I don’t like children…I adore my nieces and nephews…but I also adore my time, and I am happy and full with visits from the little ones but also am happy when the peace and quiet comes back for me when they leave. Hats off to the mother’s of the world…I believe it is the hardest job in the world. I would rather drink in what the rest of life and the world has to offer me….I think that is why I connected with this book so much…and now eagerly anticpate the movie coming out!

    • Melanie says:

      The thing I enjoyed about the book is the concept of choice. What is right or desired for one person, may not be what the next person wants. Not everyone enjoys travelling, while not everyone is meant to have children. To each their own. We shouldn’t judge the choices of others, but celebrate them.
      Too many people do things because they think that they should, and not because they actually want to.

  12. Liz Russell says:

    My kids were 5 and 9 when my 42 year old husband passed away from cancer 10 year ago . I was completely devasted and overwhelmed over losing my soul mate and being thrown into the position of being a single full time working parent, with a demanding career and absolutely no available support from any extended family. Some how I managed, my experiences made me emotionally stronger and I am proud to say I have raised 2 bright , articulate, emotionally strong , highly motivated and successful daughters. The 3 of us have such a close relationship – we have fun together and they love to openly share their inner most thoughts and feelings with me . Life has certainly not been easy, but I can’t imagine my life without them. I have learned so much from them and they mean the world to me.

    • Maureen says:

      That’s very strong and very Deep, That sounds like the three of us, although I didn’t loose a husband by cancer, I lost him before we could be married 9 yrs ago (meaning he made other choices that clearly didn’t last) I continued to be the strong and best mother I had planned to be if we were married..

  13. Sheri says:

    I think motherhood is huge deal. Im only 19, and i cant even imagine having a child right now. I know for sure that i want to eventually have children but i want to make sure that i have my life in order before im ready to have a baby.
    I grew up without having a mother around, because she passed away when i was 5, so even though im not ready to have a baby now, im still so scared im going to do a horrible job when the time actually comes. I’m lucky though that my dad did a wonderful job playing both roles, and its because of him i know ill survive motherhood having learn’t from the best. 😀

  14. Linda says:

    I have two wonderful children, a son who is 14 and a daughter who is 12. My life would be so dull with out them. They complete me. 🙂

  15. LA in Vancouver says:

    Luckily I married a man that was 15 years older than me … when I was 39. He was afraid that I may switch my mind and want children after deciding to not have them. I can truthfully say that being childfree has been the best decision of our lives. We truly are living happily ever after 7 years into the marriage. We have so many children in our lives from nieces and nephews to friends and extended family that I’m happy to help out when needed – but glad that when I wake up in the morning it’s just my husband and me!

  16. Maria says:

    You learn a lot from having children…Respect for people, hard work, how to eat cold food, how to take power naps when you can, how to be a chauffeur, how to organize schedules and most of all lots and lots of patience. I have to admit it isn’t always easy, but in life you have to take the good with the bad. It’s all part of growing. I respect people choosing not to have children , but at the same time I also respect people that do have children. Myself, I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but going back would have done a few things differently.

    • I agree wholeheartedly! Having kids is one of the best decisions i have made in my life. My two sons are 14 and 18 and every day i thank god for such wonderful and good hearted kids. I have been working since the day they were born – and without the help of my husband – ( i travel a lot for work ) there is no way they would have turned out as fabulous as they have become. Not to say there aren’t the rough patches – but i think my being away at times has made them strong independent young men and we are very proud of them.

  17. Lindsay says:

    I’m very very excited to see this film. I love Julia Roberts and I love the premise of this movie.

    I hate to agree with the above quote, but I think there is some truth to it. Having children is a major decision that is not to be taken lightly. I do not have kids, but I hope to in the next few years. My philosophy is: experience life as much as you can without kids and then experience life as much as you can with kids. They really are unique/rewarding experiences.

  18. Mel says:

    I don’t have children yet and I am not married even though a lot of my friends and women my age have both. I do feel the pressure to get married and have children in order to fit in and follow the accepted life stages at the “right” time. I feel that if you choose to be different or to take your time, society sees you as different and therefore that there might be something wrong with you or that you’re not loving. I think that most people would rather fit in and do what is expected of them and not even consider their individual personality and desires. we only live once, isn’t it a waste of a life to live for others and to please? I admire Elizabeth Gilbert for being corageous and an example to women and even men all over the world.

  19. M says:

    I think that both of couple have a child are very happy family and completed the life.

  20. Michelle Mahovlich says:

    My famous saying to people is that I was the perfect mother and then I had a kid. Reading an inspiring story is an invigorating event for me. My reality is daily based on working two jobs(7 day’s a week), being a single parent and an only child to a senior parent with many chronic issues. Reading wonderful stories like this lets me live the life I want through someones talented words. Although my life is chaotic at times, I don’t think I would change much. I love my Child, My mother and my overwhelming jobs. I believe that without them I would be lost. I used to wonder, what is the reason for our existance, but I truly believe now that when I am gone, I will be truly satisfied with my life knowing that I made a difference in someone elses.

  21. sherry says:

    I am proud too be the mother of a now grown up son of 26 ..Some people decide too have children just too say they have them BUT I chose too have my son because I wanted too love him , nourish and comfort him .He has given me such great pleasure in life so how could anyone sceond guess being a MOM ,

  22. MH says:

    I always admire her courage and determination and most of all her optmism.
    I loved both of her books and I’m very excited about the movie, specially because Julia Roberts is on it.

  23. Dimples says:

    I don’t have any kids yet, but im still in my mid 20’s so I have time. I have 3 nephews and 1 niece. I was really involved in taking care of them when they were younger, so I have an idea of what it will be like. I know it can be tiring at times but very rewarding at other moments.

  24. Viv says:

    Being in relationships and commiting to family lifestyle choices is like eating a hotdog without knowing for certain whether or not you want ketchup, mustard, relish or just plain. Often, we listen to what people say they want as opposed to really working out the choices for ourselves.

  25. Seema says:

    Having children is definitely exhausting but also the best thing to have happened to me. My daughter smiles and any troubles that I have disappear. Of course…when she screams those same troubles seem to multily ten-fold!

  26. nazik says:

    I am expecting a baby due in january. My single friends think i am making a big mistake as having a baby means assasination of social life. They think I wont be cool enough to hang out with them or party or do any of that stuff i used to do. The truth is that they are right. It isnt because I cant do all that stuff its just that i l chose not to. I l have a child to take care of and even though i loved doing all that fun stuff I think that time has passed. I am at a different stage of life and I love the fact that this new chapeter of life is starting for me. I think this is a gigantic blessing of God and i cant wait for my baby to come in this world.

    • Ashley says:

      Stay strong in your will:) Out of my group of friends I am the first to have a child, and of that group I was the “wild” one you could say. Having this baby you will learn very quickly who your friends are and who are really just “using” you as a “party crutch”. I missed my social life at first, being the out going person that I am. But over the last almost ten months I have met some increadiable people that I may have never thought that I would had clicked with and my husband and I have learned that we have sucessfull made a new chapter in our lives that we would never look back. Sleepless nights and sweet kisses are all worth saying fairwell to the “old” you and embrase adn love the new you cause it will be 100x better!!! Congrats and enjoy.

  27. Judy says:

    It is most difficult to have and raise babies as you get older but most rewarding.

  28. Monica Rasmussen says:

    Motherhood is a blessing. It takes up your whole life though, so make sure you’re prepared for that. I love my Son very much. I wouldn’t give him up for anything. I wouldn’t change the fact I have him either. But I do wish I’d lived a little before I had him. 🙂

  29. Tracey Docken says:

    To me one of the best things about motherhood was how naturally it came to me,… And believe me this only haqppened because i had sooooo much support from my family & friends,… i under estimated how much the experience of all the women around me enabled me to get through the good & the bad of raising kids,…Id like to thank everyone for their knowledge,..

  30. Lisa Marshall says:

    I was always uncertain if I ever wanted to have children. I know the immense responsibility and committment required when deciding to have children. Motherhood is a blessing but a full time job. I married in November of last year and one thing that my husband and I discussed and agreed to was having children but just not right away. I do have a step-son which in many ways gives me a small preview of what is involved in childrearing and so far I am enjoying the time and relationship I have with my (what I like to call) “bonus” child.

  31. antoinette d says:

    i do not have any children but i have my nephew from the time to 21 and my cousin little one to,and it is the same even if i did not give birth to them they are still mine and i still have to the the same thing a mother do when she give even if i did not say i want to have kids, i gave the same commitment.

  32. Nadene says:

    I don’t have any children but I really do believe it is one of the hardest jobs in the world! My hat goes off to all mothers out there because I can only imagine how difficult it must be at times. When the day comes that I am a mother I can only hope to be as good a mother as mine was to me.

  33. Lee says:

    My husband abnd I were married 12 years ago and at the time we were bothi our mid-thirties. We have both endured three rather severe recessions and late starts in our working careers. Needless to say when we first married having children was a financial impossibility. Next came relocation for more promising employment and me returning to school. Happily today we are quite finncially sound but along the way the option of having children has appeared to have evaportated. It is ironic that at a time when I would have the most to offer to a child, (life experience, knowledge,maturity,stability) my ovaries are starting to pack it in.

  34. lori says:

    My mother was lucky enough to have the best of both worlds – she was a broadcast journalist and a foreign service officer’s wife. She saw the world, experienced extraordinary things and came home after a day at the office to two daughters. She taught us to live your dreams at a time when women were in the kitchen with no way out. She taught me that travel, art, fine food and culture are not lost forever if you decide to embrace motherhood. There were sacrifices, but to this day I remain grateful for her gusto and love of life. I only hope I have been able to pass on that passion to my own three children.

  35. Natalie says:

    I know we hear this statement a lot but here it goes: The decision to have children should not be taken lightly. The only problem is, you don’t usually realize this until you actually have a baby and your life has been changed forever!!

    Being a parentt is the hardest job one can ever ask for. It is very rewarding, no doubt, and the single best thing I have ever decided to do, but sometimes I don’t think it is possible to be both parent (mommy) AND wife at the same time. One of the players usually suffers and that is usually the other parent (husband or wife). I think women take on way too much.We are a very unselfish gender for the most part and we have to allow ourselves to induldge every now and again, without guilt. The world will not crash around us if we decide to put ourselves first every once and a while.

    Also, women must not judge other women who do not want to have children. I actually envy these women because they are making a decision that they are so sure of, a decision that is not the traditional norm and they don’t care!! We should be cheering these women on because only a few decades ago, women were expected to stay home, not work, have babies, look pretty and be quiet. Imagine the gains we have made!

  36. Beatrice says:

    You can lead a full life without children and it’s so great that we come far enough to realize that….

  37. Milly says:

    I have two beautiful children (8 and 3.5) and find balance in my life between them and taking the time to do the things I love and which make me happy. You must make the time to enjoy yourself to enjoy your children. It’s a happy balance and a must for every women regardless of whether you have children or not. Life doesn’t end when you have them, it is what you make of it and I enjoy every moment.

    I am very excited to see this movie as I know it will be very empowering for me to continue on my soul-searching journey.

  38. Julie says:

    Although I love my little nephews, I’m glad my husband and I decided not to have children. We are free to do as we please when we want and have quality time together.

    We know many divorced couples whose children suffer because of being in the middle.

    Too many unstable or emotionally immature people have children resulting in lost and unhappy adults later on.

  39. Lynne Trachtenberg says:

    When I married nearly 40 years ago, I thought that’s what you do after finishing a University degree. One has a baby and works part time outside of the home to make ends meet while carrying on full tme inside the home. Women who have chosen to not have children may still like children and enjoy borrowing one every once in a while know their limitations.
    Pre-children, I worked briefly in Day Care before proper standards were legislateds. With that experience I vowed to personally raise my future children – not leave them on the care of others.
    Mental health days did not exist. I never anticipated the exhaustion. My sister referred to me as a married single mother!
    I remember celebrating the day my youngest waived goodbye at school while I headed straight for the part time job I had been offered. At 3:30 I picked them up and return home to continue my mummy job.
    I survived and live to tell the tale.
    I wish I had had the opportunity to travel in our child free days, but I wanted a baby more.
    Now, I have travelled to exotic places (Europe, Asia) wherever my daughter is teaching or studying. Perhaps I have matured to the point where I am not afraid to be alone in a strange city. My self discovery is taking place not only in far places but in my home town. I have discovered the food in Little Italy and can meditate in a nearby Monastery much closer than India.
    Women used to be programmed into what they were told they wanted. Now we have the skills and available support to change direction.

  40. LESLEY says:

    I have four children and started raising them at a very young age knowing nothing about raising a child. Most of the time I was also a single parent. Well I made it and now still not old can do the things that I could never do before.

  41. Nikki Weaver says:

    i’ve just had a baby and i feel that my life of travelling will be all the more fabulous with baby in tow. we go to less places, but we’ve vowed to ensure our new life, sees new life around the world. sure, motherhood is exhausting, but only the good things in life make you work hard!

  42. Marie Bastas says:

    I am the proud Mother of 2 children. For me it was as though I didn’t know who I was until I had my children, Once I became a Mom that is when my soul searching began. To be the person I wanted them to look up to and to be proud of. They gave me strength and courage through lifes many ups and downs and even though being a single Mother can be difficult I am blessed to have support from many family and friends which makes me taking a moment everyday to mediate even more important. I don’t believe you necessarily have to go anywhere in particular though a little vacation ehre and there is a great way to refresh your outlook on life.

  43. Meaghan Andersen says:

    I don’t have any children, but I am looking forward to maybe having some in the future. Motherhood seems stressful, but when you look back on your children and their lives it seems all worth it.

  44. marlyn says:

    Do you have children? Do you sometimes feel exhausted, and like taking a soul-exploring trip a la Gilbert is a dream you wish you’d realized before you had your babies? How do you deal with these feelings? And if you don’t have children, and don’t plan to, why or why not have you made this decision? Do you see someone like Gilbert as an inspiration?

  45. marlyn says:

    I have 5 children ages 15,13,4,2 and 2months and it gets pretty hectic at times. Theres been many times where i feel like i just need a break to do what i want to do and visit the countries that i wish i could have done before having children.Elizabeth Gilbert doesn’t necessarily have to be an inspiration only for women chosing not to have children but even the women who have chosen to have children, she inspires me to do what i want to do for myself to keep myself in a state of self happiness and not solely focusing on just doing things for my children. For the past 15 years i stopped doing things for myself and only for my children, i want to give my children all that i could possibly give them! they are the most imporant little people in my life!

  46. Suzanne says:

    Few mothers or fathers get to choose to have children. Most like myself must prepare best they can when they find out they’re expecting. I knew nothing about childrearing and read voraciously and put myself into responsible child rearing mold. They are now all beautiful people 2 daughters, and 2 sons and happily married. I loved reading childrens stories to them, playing crafts, taking them for adventures on the cheap, (I was stay at home mom for 25 years) and nursed them all (so intimate, I loved it), made all their baby food, used cloth diapers, sewed little boys outfits and little frilly girls. It taught me so much and now my home is where they are. As I said when our forth child married this year, raising my kids was a long 9 innings, but glad my cohort in this adventure was my husband.

  47. ann says:

    what i admire about elizabeth’s character is that she took the less traveled road. She did not allow norms or society to dictate what she can and can’t do. She took the leap and she seem happier. With regards to having children, it is a decision. It is no longer a ‘do it because you’re a woman’ idea.

  48. Valerie Gibson says:

    Being a good parent is exhausting.

  49. Tracey Marsh says:

    I can relate to Elizabeth Gilbert but in a different way. I had my children very early and now in my early forties I am experiencing empty nest syndrome to the extreme. It took a major health scare for me to have my “Ah ha” moment and now I am setting my sites on traveling to different places and embracing different cultures. I started out with Australia to get my feet wet and am off to South Korea in the fall. Be careful though, it can be very addicting!

  50. Ashley says:

    I have a beautiful baby boy. I would never trade the world for him. However I wish I had traveled the world more. I feel that in life a child is the most beautiful peice that complements your heart and soul. Something that has completed that part of my heart and family. I know that you can not compair the life of another human being to the sights of the sun rise on top of a volcano at 4am. The sweet smell of baby breath to the salty smell of the ocean. The taste of international foods that make you weak in the knees at just the sight is nothing in compairson to a childs first smile or step. All sweet and sour aside I would recommend that the travel and freedom that comes with it, one should experiance first. When it comes to children and travel…save the best for last.

  51. NIcole says:

    I am 32 now and plan to have children soon. The problem is I want to go back to school for 2 years and then a year or two to establish myself in a new career – and then …. will it be too late for the little ones? I don’t want to miss my chance for kids, but I also want to be fulfilled in my career.

  52. Laura says:

    I have kids and they are a blessing most of the time. 🙂 I decided to put my life “on hold” till they are adults. My decision so therefore I’m ok with it. But I agree…..people should decide whether they want kids or not since you can’t return them. And they takes loads of love, energy, time, commitment, etc.

  53. Snezhina Larkin says:

    I am 28 years old, I have 22 moths old son, being a mother is a blessing..I can still achieve my goals and dreams while being a mother, time goes by we get older, but we are having kids that grow and makes us happy, we have to find time for everything..for our kids, husbands, relatives, friends, careers and most important for ourselves…Life is too short to choose having kids or career….think…you can do both!!!!

  54. marilyn says:

    Even though my children have put me through a lot, I would do it all over again.

  55. Olivia says:

    Being a mother is an all round experience. It brings so much joy, that you cannot contain your enthusiasm, it brings so much anxiety, that you just want to jump out of your skin, it brings so much turmoil, that you just want to get in your car and drive non stop (without the kids), and then it brings you a grandchild, that reminds you of all the joy that experienced in the beginning.

  56. Maxine Christen says:

    Motherhood is like being in fantasy land – you never know where the next roller coaster will be, or where the next ice cream store will turn up . They – meaning the children just keep you in suspense. Albeit I would never forgo this life as a MOTHER. As it turns out my children and I have survived and we are all relatively normal and now live in our own homes,keeping in contact regularly.I still consider each a superb gift.

  57. Maureen Hylton says:

    I don’t know how I did it but I certainly did. My daughter is now 17 my son is 10, who says single mothers can not bring up a child we did everything together there has been no place too far, too cold or too expensive for me to take my kids we plan ahead and we do it. Church has been first and foremost, quite frankly if it wasn’t for church trips in and out of Canada our lives would be pretty boring. I would say my kids are a blessing all the time because when they go wrong it’s always an opportunity to correct them and tell them how it could have been done better, i remember that growing up my Aunt always say if you tell a child don’t do that you must be prepared to tell them what to do instead, children learn from experience and examples. It took a lot of patience but if there is an afterlife there are a lot of experience to take with me . Right now I’m proud when teachers start off by saying “Your son or your daughter is a well disciplined child you must be good mother and they go on to say how do you do it. Fortunately for me that is the impression i get everywhere I go especially for my son he will never start a meal without saying thank you mom. I teach them all about society, I show them examples of what life could have been if I was not who I am……I teach them to Respect, Love & obey give up a seat on the bus for an elderly, learn to accept people for who they are, understand other people ailments, their life can be our life in one minute, how accidents change peoples life in a split second so they can become that person in a wheelchair tomorrow. and the list go on and on. To sum it up mothering has been a blessing and I have had challenges up and down the road but hey! I would not trade it for nothing this is what has given me the strength to encourage others which I pretty much do everyday. I always turn the table and invite them to walk in others shoes. You all are invited….. To all the new mothers WELCOME……..

  58. Marilyn says:

    I am not sure yet whether I want to have children. It seems like an enormous time commitment, and less freedom to travel and do all the things I want to do!

  59. Marlene V. says:

    I have three children (11,13,17). Now that they are older my husband and I have been able to leave them with family. Just the two of us can explore and experience new places. For the first time we have gone to Scotland and France — we loved it!!! As much as I love the kids and going on vacation with them it’s nice to get away and take a break without them:)

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