I don’t know if you know this, but I’ve never been a fan of children.
Some of you may think you’re catching me in a fib – after all, I did babysit two kids for a quite a long time. And I liked them. Quite a bit. I liked those two. One time, their mother was asked by a friend to pass along the name of her sitter, and declined to do so. Not because she was selfish and wanted me to always be available to them, but because she knew I didn’t like kids. Only hers. Not someone else’s.
For the whole first year that Phil and I were together, it was generally understood that neither of us particularly wanted to have kids. We have a lot of toys and we don’t want to share them. We like to stay up playing video games and eat whatever’s in the fridge, leaning up against the counter. We like to take middle of the night trips to the gas station for sodas the size of our heads. We don’t really like noise or hubbub much at all.
However, we’re not so arrogant as to believe we know the future, and while we didn’t think we would have kids, it was always with the understanding that we’re relatively young (28 and 33) and that could change at any moment. That doesn’t make our choice not to have children any less real. Those “Oh, you’ll change your mind” people are some of the most arrogant and obnoxious people in existence, and I will never, ever be one of those.
The thing is, though – I did change my mind. Kind of. Not totally, but also definitely at the same time. I’m not sure how to put it. I still feel the same way, but I’ll be doing it anyway. It’s an inevitability, to me.
I remember the exact minute I changed my mind, I think. Phil and I were in the car last August, driving to his Aunt Laurie’s house in California, the day before the BlizzCon we weren’t attending. We’d been engaged for about a month and a half. We had picked up our tickets (that we sold) and were back on the highway. I turned to him and I said something along the lines of, “By the way, I think I’m going to need to have one kid, so, you know, fair warning if you want to bail out of this whole thing.”
(Spoiler alert: He didn’t.)
Anyway, while that may have seemed sudden and out of the blue, that’s nothing like things have become. Having agreed on the whole kid thing, we are waiting until post-wedding to start on the project, for reasons that are many and not even remotely up for debate or discussion with the Internet. That was all well and good, until maybe the last month or two.
The first thought I think every single morning is probably about babies, or baby related. I don’t smile at babies in public anymore. I scowl at them and say darkly to Phil, “Those people have a baby.” As if those people are specifically and totally responsible for the fact that I do not. The idea that we are waiting until post wedding to even begin is difficult. The fact that even if I got pregnant immediately, there would still be FORTY MORE WEEKS until I had a baby is agonizing. And that’s if everything went absolutely, completely and totally perfectly! That whole “even if I got pregnant immediately” thing? Yeah, I’m not so naive as to count on that in any way, shape or form. I think about the not-especially-likely scenario of Phil getting orders for a solo tour to Korea and being gone for a whole year, adding on even more time.
In short, Internet, I’ve caught baby disease. I can’t explain it better than that, and I am counting on those of you who have experienced it to understand. I would chalk it up to my own breed of insanity, but it is too entirely real to be made up, or limited to just me. Something this intense, something that absolutely cannot be reasoned away, something that takes up such an enormous amount of my mental power that my three times per day posting habit is dwindling specifically due to how hard it is to not post about it just can’t be an experience that I have uniquely experienced.
It comes back, though, to what I said above: “I did change my mind. Kind of. Not totally, but also definitely at the same time.”
There’s no real doubt in my mind that, if thrust into the situation, Phil and I would both be quite competent parents. I’m not saying you’d all agree with our methods, and I’m not saying we’d raise a kid just like you would, but I’m saying I’m reasonably certain that we could take a person from infancy to adulthood without any serious scars, physical or emotional.
But while I am suddenly overtaken by this ridiculous, unrequested and completely nonsensical baby greed, nothing that I stated above has changed. We still have a lot of toys we’re not totally keen on sharing. The idea of giving up middle of the night trips for head sodas isn’t totally appealing. I still don’t care for noise or hubbub. None of that has changed in my entire 28 years of life, and I can’t imagine it changing suddenly any time soon. My overwhelming want for a kid exists at the same time that none of the whole kid business actually sounds that good to me.
I don’t think I’m so unique. I think there are a lot of people out there just like us – some who have opted not to have kids, and some who have gone ahead and had a kid and are doing just fine with it. I don’t think that my dislike of children completely rules me out as a parent. It should have ruled me out as a babysitter, but it didn’t, because I will tell you something, Internet – those two kids are the one thing that made leaving Maryland difficult.
Catherine at Her Bad Mother had a post recently called “10 Things I Hate About Motherhood (And One That I love).” It was, in part, a reaction to a post on Jezebel about how the childless are kind of being scared away from having children. Mommy blogs have long (“long” being a relative term, but we are talking about Internet time here) been regarded as the first real public declaration by mothers that that shit is hard. And that sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it sucks a lot. Previously, it was kind of an unspoken secret, I guess – being childless, I never gave it too much thought. To those of us who have been blogging for a hundred years, it doesn’t seem like a big deal – there’s so much of… everything… on the Internet that mothers admitting that sometimes they don’t care for being a mother is hardly the most shocking thing we’ll see – in a single day, even.
Blogs have served as an incredible tool for mothers who previously thought they were alone in their feelings – I can only imagine how it must feel, when everyone around you seems to adore every aspect of being a mother, never loses her temper, does everything perfectly and doesn’t even hate it a little, and that doesn’t match your own experience at all. Blogs have provided a connection and an outlet and support for mothers who have been brave enough to speak up about how sometimes it just flat out blows.
Like Catherine’s post, though, as much as any mother can rattle off a list of frustrations, aggravations, various forms of infant-inflicted torture and tales of days when it is just plain hard, it always comes down to the same thing – the fact in the end, you have your child or children balances it all out. On one side of the scale, you have 800 different varieties of suck, but it is completely and totally outweighed by the kid you ended up with.
As a parent, if someone was to ask you, “Should I have a kid?,” it is probably easy to look down at your own kid and say, “Oh, definitely, without a doubt.” Your personal scales are totally tipped in favor of your personal child.
But what if you removed your personal child, the one that you obviously love very much despite how much of your stuff they break or how bad they may smell at times, completely from the equation?
More and more, starting with blogs and moving on to other online sites, magazines and media, mothers are becoming comfortable with being open about how very difficult being a parent is. A curtain is being pulled back – one that was previously completely opaque to those of us without children. Those already behind the curtain are happy to stay there – your children are there, after all, and you’ve carried them for nine months or adopted them or blended them into your family or found them in the cabbage patch, or however you got them, and you know them and you love them. You couldn’t come back on to my side of the curtain, because you would have to leave the child you know and love back there, and that is incomprehensible.
In the past, if I chose to have a kid, I would have walked blindly through the curtain and had to deal with what I found back there. Of course, my love of my own child would keep me from even considering walking back onto the baby-free side of the curtain, even if I was surprised and taken aback and shocked and frustrated with what I found back there.
But this curtain is being pulled back, and I can see back there now. I can see the good things and the bad, and I can see that it’s not all sunshine and roses like some may have believed in the past. I can also see that even those people working to pull back that curtain and shine light on the fact that not everyone enjoys being a mother all the time wouldn’t chose to come back, because their kids are back there with them.
But my kid isn’t back there. My kid doesn’t exist. Behind that curtain are the sucky aspects of motherhood PLUS your children. While your kid or kids makes it more than worthwhile for you to be on that side of the curtain, there’s nothing over there for me. For me, there are the sucky aspects of motherhood and no kid. A hypothetical kid, yes, but you can’t love the idea of a kid in a way that makes it perfectly obvious that all the sucky aspects of motherhood would be outweighed.
I appreciate that those of you who have children would never change a thing. You stepped behind the curtain and while it’s not easy or always happy or always what you pictured, you wouldn’t come back out because of what you got out of the deal. You have to deal with all of those sucky aspects in order to have the kid. It’s a trade off, and one that, for most normal people, is completely working out for the better.
However, I don’t have a kid yet. I don’t have to step behind that curtain. When I was younger, I imagined if I had a kid, I would be its mother and I didn’t think much beyond that. The world of blogging and mothers becoming more comfortable with voicing all aspects of their experiences, even the unpleasant ones, has totally changed things.
As someone who has not spent their whole life dreaming of having a child, you can understand that all of this information is difficult to process, especially in light of the GREAT HORMONE TAKEOVER OF 2010. Way back, you know, six or eight months ago, the fact that motherhood is so hard and often unrewarding would have just confirmed my choice to not do the whole motherhood thing. Now, while I mentally feel the same, parts of me have made it VERY, VERY CLEAR that it will be VERY, VERY DIFFICULT to live my life without Hypothetical Child.
But difficult, as, you know, difficult as it sounds, does not mean impossible.
If you were to think about being on the mother side of the motherhood curtain, but think of it minus your particular child, the one that makes it so unquestionably easy to be on that side of the curtain, what would you say to me? Someone who is peeking behind that curtain but has no kid back there? No counterbalance to the sucky parts, except in idea form? What if you were me, very dramatically torn between two potential life paths, right now, in the middle of the whole whirlwind of curtain-pulling-backing?
In no way am I asking for you to issue a judgment on whether I personally should or shouldn’t have a kid. And I realize it would be very easy to toss off a comment along the lines of, “Oh, it’s so worth it.” We’re going to have kids or not have kids based on more than just the advice of the Internet, and I understand that your children make what you went through/go through to keep them from being all out heathens is totally worth it.
I’m asking what you would say to someone like me, who spends large parts of every single day watching a whole bunch of women she respects greatly forming a community and bonding and supporting each other through the extreme difficulties and, often, unpleasantness of motherhood. Someone who doesn’t have a kid, and doesn’t have to have one. I don’t even specifically know what I’m asking, to be honest. I’m not asking to be swayed one way or the other. I’m asking to know. I want to just know, without all of the platitudes and the “so worth its” and the trite baloney. I’ve read mommy blogs! I don’t buy that shit any more!
Just tell me what you would say, as a parent, to someone like me.