No, I am not a mother.

There have been a three times in my (three year) career as an operating room nurse that I have received comments relating to my capacity to be a mother.

The first time was about a year and a half ago, I was working in an orthopedic surgery room with a bunch of boys men, and I was holding my own and giving them all shit.  (As you do.  This is probably one of my favorite things about working in the OR, almost always a little fun).  The attending surgeon wasn’t present at this time, and I was directing care for this patient, giving instruction to the resident surgeon.  Totally unprovoked, the (male) nurse anesthetist asked if I had kids.  When I responded with a no, he said, “You’ll make a great mom one day.”

The second time, I was wiping a patient’s running nose as she was waking up from anesthesia.  The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.”

The third time, just recently, I was fashioning a makeshift brief (diaper) for an incontinent patient.  The (female) nurse anesthetist commented, “You must be a mom.”  (Now I’m beginning to wonder if this is a weird phenomenon among nurse anesthetists….)

My response to the “you must be a mom” comments is some variation of, “nope, I’m just a nurse.”  These comments come when I’m doing something slightly above and beyond my standard job description, when I’m doing something a little extra, but vital, to that particular patients’ care.

While I don’t personally take offense to such comments, it certainly provides an interesting commentary around being a 29 year old woman.  When I receive these comments, it is because I’ve provided more personal care for the patient, I’ve channeled a more nurturing energy to someone in need.  Such comments illustrate the assumption that a woman must be a mother in order to be a whole, competent woman.

Being a woman, being female, looks and feels differently for everyone who identifies that way.  Each of us expresses this differently.  In my mind, I am fierce, deep, and beautiful.  A self-sufficient explorer.  I try to connect more with my intuition and creativity.  Each day, I want to unfurl a little more, become a little more me.  And hell, each day that may be different.  I am strong — I show and express my emotions, I vocalize and verbalize and sometimes do so too loudly.  My voice — loud and strong — is one of my favorite features, and one that gets the most flak.  My nickname (by at least one person at work) is Pitbull (not the singer) and I’ve been told I can be “perceived as aggressive.”  But each day, I work; I work hard and try each day to be a better nurse, a better human.  I’m trying to be comfortable in my skin, enjoy a nice dress, moderately comfortable heels, and make up.  I want to connect with myself and with others.  I want to love and fight and roar.

I identify as a woman.  I identify as a nurse.  I do not identify as a mother.  Maybe one day I’ll be a mother.  But no, I mustn’t be a mother to be a damn good nurse.  One of the best nurses I know never intends to have children.  And I know that I’m providing better care than some nurses who are mothers.  Being a mother makes no determination on nursing care.  (In addition, what do such comments say about nurses who are male?  I know plenty of amazing ones, and they are not “mothers.”  Another story.)

Women are powerful and dynamic beyond their capacity to birth children, to mother.  Now, more than ever, women need to harness that power; women need to be strong and together.  There should be no division or judgement placed upon a woman because of her choices in life.  There need only be support, acceptance, fighting back, and healing.  So much healing.

Do you identify as a woman?  What are you thoughts on womanhood?  Have you ever felt judged by another person based on your sex, gender, womanhood, or mothering capabilities/abilities?  Let me know in the comments below.

exploringly yours,
Alaina x

Some portions of this post have been previously posted on my Instagram feed

Author: Alaina

writer + explorer

24 thoughts on “No, I am not a mother.”

  1. So agree. I don’t understand why mom= the only female version of compassion/patience/empathy. Or why these qualities have to be associated with women at all, surely they’re human characteristics 🙂 I don’t have kids either yet and I’m 34. xo

    1. Yes, it’s very strange isn’t it? I just don’t understand why people feel the need to even make that comment *sigh*. And yes, surely they are! Thus the amazing nurses who are male that I know. Xx

  2. I used to be a teacher before I became a mother but I can’t count the times when the mothers of my pupils told me what a good mom I would be.
    I am a daughter,a sister, a wife, a mother and so much more but first and foremost I am Woman!
    Excellent post!

    1. Thanks for reading and the kind words. It’s so interesting what a common experience this is. I’m sure most comments are well-meaning but we need to get beyond the idea of women as child-bearers (as, of course, not all women can bear children, nor desire to). Yes, we all wear so many hats, but woman first of all. Power to the Woman!

  3. I can relate to this and have felt judged based on my sex, womanhood, all of the above.

    I’ve found myself on numerous occasions being nudged and winked at while co-workers on maternity leave come back for an office visit to show us the new baby. As we all crowd around the stroller I hear, “Hey, Vanessa… how ’bout you?!” *wink* “When are you planning?!” and my response is, “Cats over kids” (lol…throws ’em for a loop even more). After they want my justification they nudge and say, “Hey, the ones who don’t want kids make the best parents”.

    And while I don’t take offense to these types of comments, it does get tiring having to repeat “no, I’m not interested in having kids” followed by a “because” – because almost always, people are SHOCKED by my response, and feel the need to inquire further as to why I wouldn’t want to “fulfill my life purpose”. And for me personally, having children is not an idea that ever appealed to me or grown up dreaming about. I’ll be 30 this year and honestly, could not see kids in the picture even for another 5 years out. Maybe never. And that’s totally ok. Women are not required to be mothers – and some of the most compassionate, caring people aren’t mothers at all. Women can pursue whatever dreams they have – on their own time – in their own way – and shouldn’t need to provide clarification or justification on their decisions.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story. Your work place experience is even more intense than mine! And then for people to ask for your reasoning! The thing is, I’m not entirely sure people understand how offensive/over the line these questions can be. At least my experience is somewhat non-prying.

      I feel you on not really being able to envision kids within the next 5 years. Who knows, right? And yes that’s totally fine is a woman chooses not to have kids! It’s time society broadens their definition of “woman.” Kids or not, woman are magick.

      I love your answer “cats not kids” –totally stealing that! I definitely brag about Gary all the time at work hahaha

  4. Seriously, their audacity is incredible. And you’re absolutely right – it’s completely offensive AND none of their business. I don’t go prying into their personal shit so I expect the same decency in return.

    Haha steal away! Aww Gary! I do the same at work, so they should get the crazy cat lady hint sometime or another!

    And yes, because it’s clearly not obvious, we should wear t-shirts or something “never question a woman’s magick”. I’d rock it.

  5. Thanks for sharing your experience Alaina! I agree that there is much more to being a woman than being a mother, being a mother is just one of the many things that women can do, if they so choose, and definitely not the maker or breaker of what it means to be a woman. You don’t see people telling men that they’ll be great dads that often. I find the double standard on women very upsetting.

    I always get the comments: “oh you are such a mom” at work, in a good way… I guess. I don’t take offense because I think, well I am a mom, so maybe that’s why I seem motherly. Before being a mother I don’t remember anyone referring to me as motherly thankfully. I also can’t say that I lived for being a mom, or that being a mom is my only life purpose, I want to teach my daughters that moms still have a life beyond their children and husband. We have the right to be and do anything we want.

    Sometimes for me it seems that my culture is also very restrictive. In the Latino culture the mom is mom to husband and children! And I am certainly not a mom to my hubby, and I hate when anyone assumes that I have more responsibilities at home or with my children than he does, because we both shared our chromosomes in making them, therefore we are equally responsible and capable of caring for them.

    Just the other day one of my coworkers was bragging about how she could take care of her kids by herself and didn’t need her husband with whom she’s still married, but I guess he was just too busy at work. While I think that it;s great if she can do that and feels fine doing that, I told her I believe that dad’s should help around the house and with the kids just as much as moms, she looked at me like I was an alien…maybe I am!

    Interesting topic that we could go on and on about, because there is a lot to being a woman 🙂

    1. You’re so right about the double standard; I am not sure I’ve ever heard a similar comment said to a man. Just another double standard…..

      The “oh you’re such a mom” comments are strange in the same way… Couldn’t a different word be used? I’m sure! You’re so caring, helpful, empathetic….. I’m sure the commenter does not even realize how the comment comes off (same with the original comments that prompted this post). It’s simply reductionist, because, you’re right, women can be so many different things and it’s important for young girls to know it!

      Yes, I’m sure culture definitely plays in to the roles we fall in to! It’s awesome for you to share duties, that alone will teach your children so much.

      You’re not an alien :), I totally think duties should be split — but again, I also think that’s something a couple can determine themselves, ya know? The question that I have is the spirit in which your co-worker was “bragging,” that doesn’t sounds too pleasant.

      Yes… there definitely is a lot to unpack with this topic….

  6. I’m a mom but I hardly relate to the title. And I never knew if I would have children
    ..Or child…But I did. It’s one part of me but not even close to the full picture. Interestingly, people always have the opposite reaction with me…”oh, you have a kid, really!?” Lolol I apparently am not giving off the warm, nurturing vibes, but it shows you the stereotype goes both ways I guess.

  7. Thank you for sharing this, Alaina. Your patients are blessed to have such a caring, empathetic, nurse. My dh was recently in the ER and the above adjectives equally apply to the male nurse we had there. He was wonderful.

  8. Lovely, thoughtful post! I relate a lot to Julia’s experience. I never dreamed of becoming a mother – motherhood sort of happened to me. To be honest, it also moored me in an important way. Now I have three kids, and yet, while I am a great mother to my children and adore them above all else, I have a distinctly unmotherly personality. That archetype – the hearth keeper, the Empress, etc. – never appealed to me, and still doesn’t really fit who I am. In fact, as a kid, I was quite unlike the societal norm for femininity: I hated dresses and makeup, bought b-ball shoes from the boys’ department, and preferred to spend my time romping around the forest, building forts and tracking animals. I guess I’m still like that 😉 I never felt judged as a woman per se, but I did struggle for a time with being judged as a young mother (I was in college when I had my first). I felt like society expected me to stay small, to cease the pursuit of personal achievements, to be some sort of statistic. Well, it wasn’t just a feeling – I actually had people express sorrow for my pregnancy, and one stranger even came up to me with a horrified expression, asking how old I was when she saw my belly. I told her I was 20, and she was suddenly relieved (she said that she thought I was 16). WTF, y’all. Anyway, I heartily rejected all of that. I knew who I was.

    1. Olivia, thank you so much for sharing your story!

      I just can’t understand the gall of some people to make such comments to you! That you knew who you were so strongly then helped you to boldly make that transition to mother, I’m sure.

      I love hearing your tales of being a young girl, I can relate. Those archetypes don’t necessarily appeal to me either.

  9. Sheesh… if a nurse is caring and patient-centric, she’s a mom? I thought that caring, resourcefulness and kindness were qualities of a good nurse. People are weird. You go girl- be your great self as a nurse!

    1. Thank you for reading, and for your encouragement! I felt/feel the same way too; it’s just an interesting tone that we set for women in society these days. Discussing and dissecting will help us to get beyond such rigid roles, I hope.

  10. What an interesting post. 🙂 In Sweden the word for registered nurse ends with “…ska” which is feminine, and this is what we call both male and female nurses. Which often feels a bit “wrong” on the tongue, when talking about a male nurse. It seems so deeply rooted that nurses = women! Or at least very feminine men. And I find it so strange! As if men cannot be caring, nurturing, helpful? Today working in a hospital, or as a social worker, should no longer be considered something people do to be “nice and helpful”, it needs to be taken seriously as a career also!

    Anyway… About the mom thing. Well, I turn 30 in a couple of months and have no kids. 😛 I’ve always had thoughts about NOT wanting children, at all, ever. BUT… I did feel a slight shift around two years ago or so. And started to feel “Maaaaybe I will want ONE child in the future. Maybe.”. And I get so many weird comments about this! People saying “If you don’t long 100% for a child you should probably not have one!” and “If you don’t feel everything about small kids is fun you shouldn’t have one and you’re not mature enough!” (Oh really? So not loving diapers = unfit mother?) or “If you just want one you’re being sefish, they need siblings to turn out normal as adults!” (Talk about judgemental, I know lots of NORMAL adults who are without siblings). I just end up feeling one thing: People need to shut up and mind their own business. No kids, 10 kids, hey it’s my uterus and my life, end of story…
    (Pssst how many days of paid maternity leave would you get?)

    1. Sorry! I never responded to this! I’ve been thinking about it a lot though because of what you brought up with the Swedish language, fascinating isn’t it? It’s the same in the German language, and when I was in school to be a nurse I asked a native speaker about it. The German word for nurse is “Krankenschwester,” which directly translates to sick sister. Obviously a bit awkward to call a male nurse a “sister.” Now, I’m not sure how many male nurses actually exist in Germany though there must be some, at least. The native speaker I asked said that there is a movement toward using a more generic term “Krankenpfleger” which is the term for “male” nurse, but also more like a generic “caregiver.” Anyway, yes that is super interesting.

      Yes….people have so many opinions don’t they? It’s a bit absurd that people think they can dictate what others do with their life. I’m so with you on that. I know I want two kids in my future, but like- how? When? It’s definitely not in my “five-year plan” as it now stands mostly because getting married and all that just isn’t a high priority to me. I’d rather plan a trip than a wedding. Though I guess I could get married without a stupid wedding, ha!

      Umm maternity leave in the US is a joke. You’re lucky to even get it. But I think it’s only like 6 weeks or something absurdly low. I do know that if/when I have kids, I want to take time off work. I totally respect that people can work and raise kids, but I don’t want to do that. I’d do something on the side like tarot or writing or whatever so I wouldn’t be completely unproductive, but if I decide to have a family, I want my primary focus to be that. That’s another weird topic that many people seem to have an opinion on…..

      1. Yes, the term that is a bit older for nurse is also “sick sister” lol! Here there are actually a lot of male nurses (and female doctors yay!), but for now I’ve understood it’s alright to call them the regular nurse name, so alright them. I guess it’s a good sign they don’t freak out and feel accused of being “feminine” because of it. 🙂

        See, I had heard it was that bad in the US but wanted to think it was an urban myth… :-/ No wonder mothers feel they have to quit their job! I would too! We get 480 paid work days off (well, 80% of the salary but still), which seems quite luxurious now lol Come live here! Hehe.

      2. Damn….. I’ve said it for a while now, but maybe I should really move to Sweden ;). That’s over a year! I cant believe it. Keep it up, Sweden! Did you see the photo of your PM circulating the internet surrounding by her female cabinet members? Trolling trump. Gotta love it.

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