Maryanne Pope’s Story: I struggled for decades over whether or not motherhood was a path I wished to travel

Maryanne Pope

Maryanne Pope

I’m not a mother in the traditional sense; I am not raising a child. Nor have I. But I would say that I am a mother-at-large. I struggled for decades over whether or not motherhood was a path I wished to travel. I was widowed suddenly at the age of 32. My husband was a police officer who died in the line of duty in 2000. He was investigating a break and enter complaint at a warehouse and was searching the mezzanine level when he stepped through an unmarked false ceiling (there was no safety railing to warn him of the danger) and fell nine feet into the lunchroom below. He died of brain injuries. I was devastated.

We had been together for 12 years as a couple and married for 4. At the time of his death, I was on the fence about the motherhood decision; he had decided he did not want to have a family. So the years following his death were spent grieving, writing, working with his memorial fund and doing some serious soul-searching about whether or not I wanted to raise a child – either on my own or with a new partner. In my mid-40’s, I finally arrived at a place where I could honestly answer NO to the “To be or not to be…a mom?” question.

I am now 46 and although I am not a mother in the traditional sense, I certainly feel very mother-like because I care deeply about a variety of social causes (such as workplace safety) as well the state of our planet, the many species inhabiting it — including the Homo Sapien variety — and the significant issues we collectively face. Plus I take my role as a dog-owner seriously and have cared deeply for my two dogs. They have since passed on and I now have another dog in my life to care for. I also have dozens of wonderful children in my life – friends’ kids and nieces and nephews. I cherish my role as an Auntie and thoroughly enjoy spending time with children. But I am very thankful that I don’t have any of my own for that is not where I wish to focus the majority of my time, effort, love and money.

I am realizing that “mothering” isn’t just something mothers do. Nor is it exclusive to women. Mothering, in its truest sense, is an expression of the feminine qualities of nurturing, caring, concern, teaching, compassion and patience. And mothering not only matters, it is quite possibly what the world needs most right now, in terms of a different way of addressing the many issues we face – be that at an individual, relationship, family, community, societal, cultural, environmental or global level. Although my circumstances certainly contributed to my choice to not raise a child; I am very thankful I took the path I did, for I absolutely love my life.

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and the Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive Maryanne’s weekly blog, please sign up here. To receive the Mothering Matters weekly e-mail blogs, here is the link for details & to subscribe.

Would you like to share your story? Send it to: [email protected]

First published on February 9, 2015


  1. Hi Maryanne,
    Thanks for sharing your story. It is fascinating how we have all ended up without children, yet our stories are so different in many ways. It is this multitude of experiences that this part of the website aims to capture. To have no children when everything around us is about being a parent, can be overwhelming for many and so stories like yours will hopefully give people in similar circumstances the inspiration and empowerment they need to move forward with their lives. The stigma attached to being childless is still great, however the more positive stories are shared on the subject, the more likely we are to see it decrease and by sharing your story, you have helped do just that.

  2. Thanks for your feedback, Nina! In a way I feel like I have kind of led two lives when it comes to being childless: 1) married with no kids and 2) widowed with no kids. And I must say that the external & internal pressure on me to have children when I was married was pretty intense. But when I became widowed, that pressure stopped immediately. In a way, that is obvious because I no longer had a mate to have a child WITH. But over the years, as soon as people heard that I was widowed at 32 and found out that I hadn’t had kids with my husband, there was usually no further discussion about the matter. In other words, thankfully, I haven’t felt like a bit of an odd duck because I didn’t have kids. Being a young widow put me in a totally different category in other people’s eyes. The pressure to have a child pretty much only came from ME after the death of my husband.

    I am so honoured to have met you (even if it is only on-line) and am so proud of you for giving women the opportunity to discuss this incredibly important issue. Thank you! Maryanne

    • Hi Maryanne, the honour is mine too! This is the magic that the Internet can be. You meet like minded people that you probably never would have met otherwise, but again, as they say, there are no coincidences. Somehow, our path was meant to cross. Your story touched me deeply and I am glad that others can read about it and be inspired. The work that you do through your website and the memorial fund is wonderful. As they say, be the change that you want to see in the world and you are doing just that. Well done!

  3. Thank you 🙂

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