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Writer Melissa Panarello tells us about her complex relationship with her mother and how this influences – both in a negative and in a positive way – her life choices.

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MELISSA: «My name is Melissa Panarello, I’m a writer and I’m 28 years old.
I don’t have a clear opinion about childfree women.
I only know that, as far as I am concerned, I don’t have this sort of issue if we want to call it “issue”.
I don’t see it as a problem, I believe that every woman should be able to decide for herself, every woman finds space for her own freedom, in a way that she deems adequate for herself and her body.
I never judged the women who choose not to have children, the women who don’t have children.
I may judge more those women who had children even if they weren’t fit for it.
I’m more judgemental in this case towards this type of motherhood rather than towards non-motherhood.
Talking from personal experience, I was raised by a mother who most likely didn’t want kids, she was very young, born and raised in Sicily where having children is almost an obligation.
As I said she was very young, she was 20 when she had me.
I was her first daughter and probably she didn’t want kids.
I asked myself many times: what if she had the chance to choose?
If she could have said she didn’t want children?
Perhaps she would’ve been a happier woman, and surely I wouldn’t be here today, but probably,
she would’ve been a happier woman, that’s for sure.
My mother was extremely childish.
In my opinion, she was unable to take on responsibility, therefore when it was time for my sister and I to grow up, she decided to somewhat hinder our growth, stop us from becoming women, since this highlighted her failure as a woman who was unable to evolve.
Surely this created some imbalances, as it is only fair to assume.
I followed my path, I took on my responsibilities first as a daughter and secondly as a woman.
It is very hard to stop being children when your mother doesn’t want kids, I don’t know how to express myself, it is a very complex and complicated concept.
Women who couldn’t have children were called “mules”, and those who chose not to have them, there wasn’t even a term, as it was so utterly unconceivable, that it was not included in the language.
Anyway, women who couldn’t have children were seen nevertheless as somewhat guilty, even if her issue wasn’t linked to her unwillingness but she had a medical problem.
Let alone if a woman didn’t want any kids.
Clearly, these women existed back then, I don’t know exactly how they managed to conceal their unwillingness to have kids, because as I said, it was a great fault.
Women have been considered for a long time bearers of life thus that was the only role, The idea of not wanting to do that was seen as rejecting your responsibility as a woman, rejecting your role.
My sister and I were born from imposition and this creates a great sense of guilt in any child born from a mother who didn’t want them.
Children born from a mother who didn’t want them, grow up feeling a great sense of guilt, as if they forced themselves into their mother’s life even if they didn’t intend to.
Whatever I do in my life, I will always feel guilty because I am forcing you to do something you don’t want to do.
In my case it has always been like that, even unconsciously I always felt a great sense guilt towards people and situations, I felt as if others didn’t want me and so I desperately had to win their affection, win my place in the world, because I was an unwanted child.
Even though my mother at times and in her own way, did try to love me, to love us but deep down she was always a woman who didn’t want children, so she couldn’t help but consider us guilty, consider us “wrong” like we had no place in her life and she made that clear, especially when we grew up.
There was also a female competition.
We turned into women so she found herself living with two women she had to compete with.
We were the enemy and this of course led to even more guilt.
Precisely because I was an unwanted child, I always wanted kids of my own.
since I was very young, since I was sixteen.
I always saw myself as a motherly figure and I believe I would be a good mother.
I don’t relate much with my mother’s negative example.
Or rather, I compare myself with it by detaching my actions from hers.
I will make some of the mistakes she made, that’s normal.
Clearly, we were raised with that type of upbringing and behaviour.
But I also believe in catharsis, in the death and resurrection of things, therefore I believe that the family I will build could be very different from mine, I want it to be different.
I’m very determined about that.
For three years, I tried to have a child with a person who wasn’t right for me.
Even though I was convinced it was the right person, my body decided that wasn’t the case.
I truly believe that our body decides for you when you are not able to do it.
It decides when it is right to do something, when everything seems blurred, when you feel a bit lost, your body tells you what to do.
In that case, it told me not to have kids with this person.
It shut itself down, my ovaries decided for me, at some point they stopped working and they started working again when we broke up.
The message came through loud and clear, and since then I’ve been paying more attention to the signals my body gives me, especially my reproductive system.
It’s always a wake-up call, it is very much connected to the heart.
Whenever something is wrong with our heart, it spills over to the reproductive system.
I’ve experienced that several times.
That was my most striking experience, and again, it reminds me of my mother’s experience.
My mother tried to conceive for three years, because she didn’t want children.
But then she was forced to get pregnant and that’s when her body started working.
Before that, when she still hadn’t made up her mind, because she didn’t know what she wanted,
her body did not respond to the request made, there was no response.
No, frankly, I have never compared the two things because I the difference is on the kind of responsibility.
For the things I create, the things I produce, I don’t feel a responsibility or rather only up to a point, then I let them go.
When I finish a novel and I give it to the editor, do book presentations, it is no longer mine.
I no longer feel responsible for that thing.
With children, I don’t think that happens.
I think the first thing a parent feels towards their child, and the child, in turn, is a sense of responsibility.
So I wouldn’t compare these two things, as far as I am concerned.
Above all, I don’t feel that kind of affection towards the things I write and the things I create: maybe I do at the beginning, I treat them like lovers just met, so I’m very passionate, I dedicate all my time to them, I give them all of me… but after a while, I get bored.
I need to move on to something else.
That’s not even remotely possible with a child, emotionally speaking.
I might get bored with my child if they are too stupid or too boring, that can happen too,
however, I wouldn’t compare the two things.
My relationship with my cats is a bit morbid, to say the least.
If we want to talk about the parent-child bond, they are a bit like my children but not that much, after all.
It’s a morbid relationship, especially with her. I have four cats, she is very attached to me, to the point that she stay far from me.
I don’t know why, but here again somehow it mirrors my relationship with my mother.
It’s as if with her living with me I have somehow transferred this kind of sick bond with my mother characterised by extreme hatred on one side, extreme wickedness, but of great cohesion, great attachment as well.
It was like the umbilical cord was still there.
It is like this with her, it’s as if I have transferred, cleansed that sick blood ties thanks to my cats.
But I don’t see them as children, I take care of them like I take care of any living thing, as I take care of a plant as well, but I don’t see them as my children.
Now and then I joke saying,
“Hello, I’m here, mom is back”, but I don’t feel like such.
In Sicily, the relationship is much more ancestral.
Mother and son, mother and daughter are… not only they have strong bonds, but a mother is a constant presence in your life.
Your mother never leaves you, she never abandons you, she never leaves you alone with yourself.
Although I see mothers who leave their kids to a friend to go shopping or leave you in your room without knocking all the time, in Sicily this is very rare.
Sure, there are some cases but in general, that doesn’t happen.
It is as if a mother should constantly occupy your personal space, as if she wishes to become someone or something through her child.
And that is, of course, very suffocating.
All taboos need to be challenged.
Unfortunately, this topic continues to be taboo, as well as the topic of bad mothers.
You cannot say that a woman cannot have children, nor that a woman is bad with her children.
This is not true, because reality is completely different from what we all think it is.
I am convinced that it is a fundamental topic to become more aware, for mothers and women in general.
So I agree, the topic needs to be discussed.
I also have several friends who have chosen not to have children and I have never judged them, I have never thought it strange or something to talk about.
It’s so obvious to me that everyone should be able to choose, that everyone should decide which role to play, I have never even asked myself the question.»

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