As a child, often I would hope to fall sick so I had an excuse to stay home from school. Sometimes I dream of motherhood in a similar way: a reasonable excuse to stay home from life. Which is absurd.

Because I know that having children is the harder path.

But that doesn’t prevent my occasional fantasy of living by the sea with my babies, breastfeeding on the beach, flowing around in a zen-like state. But then I see my Pinterest covered in home decor and DIY craft projects and become equally bored and horrified.

So I picture myself as the working mother: buying a chic stroller online for the nanny to use, charging around New York City checking in between meetings, my ical challengingly and satisfyingly full (I am very important and capable) until I miss a first word or first step while I was busy exporting a PDF. The thing is, I am neither of those women now, so I don’t know why I morph into them in my motherhood fantasies. I am somewhere in between these worlds. And I assume I will stay that way when I have children.

So here I am. Caught between an illusion that pregnancy is the easy way out and knowing that in reality, it is the harder decision. My ambition is like a wolf in a net-a-porter outfit whispering that one succumbs to motherhood instead of choosing it, when my instinct is that motherhood is something you rise to. That being a mother is the bravest, most selfless act. Which is the very reason it is terrifying: a life long commitment to prioritize someone else’s life over your own. Motherhood makes marriage look really easy.

The whole topic is guilt inducing, if nothing else. I feel guilty for ignoring my body telling me it wants children, guilty because my mind and bank account tell me I’m not ready yet, guilty that I am not brave enough to put myself second, guilty that I have the luxury of creating a privileged problem. A lot of people talk about our fear of kids interrupting our careers. Sure, but our careers are merely a thing we feel we have to give up.

Maybe it is ourselves that we are afraid to surrender, as parenting is a daily giving up of the self.

Illustrated perfectly by Roanne Adams: “You never know how you’re going to feel until that baby comes out of you and you’re holding them in your arms. Your life changes immeasurably and your feelings change immeasurably. I had fears about how a baby would impact my life, but nothing prepared me for how hard it was going to be. It has been the most rewarding thing I’ve done, but has been exponentially harder than expected. Maybe that’s because I have a business I care so much about, but I think it’s mainly due to the fact that I wasn’t ready to be completely selfless.”

I think we are scared as much as we are selfish, given the constant heralding of what we lose through having children: our money, our bodies, our freedom. But what about what we gain? Matt Walsh has an interesting thought on our perception of freedom when it comes to parenting: “The greatest freedom we have as human beings is the freedom to change. I’m not talking about changing the scenery, I’m talking about changing ourselves. Having children is TRULY life changing; having free time is not.”

What kind of mother you will be depends on what you are willing to compromise. Which includes whether you want to have kids in the first place. Some of my closest friends do not want children—an equally brave decision that should be equally respected. But for those of us that do, it’s hard to know how to choose what balance you want, let alone create it. It’s now OK to admit that we can’t have it all. The acknowledgment is not my problem.

My problem is that just because I know I can’t have it all, I still want to have it all anyway.

Admitting that it is not possible does not make me strive for it any less. And this is why a small part of me insists on associating babies with giving up. Because while I will always work and be ambitious, I know there will be times when I will forsake my career (and more importantly, myself) for my child. Just not right now.

Amy Woodside