19 January 2010
To spawn or not to spawn
Has never really been a question for me. I've never wanted children. Even as a little girl, when you might hear a child say that they want to be a mommy, I never did.
My mother remembers with outright glee a telephone call I made to her when I was about 14, whilst babysitting a colicky 18 month old; I couldn't get the kid to stop crying, and it had made me near-hysterical. "No teenage pregnancy for me, Mom," I shouted over the screeching. "I can't handle this!!"
(Nevermind that I was positively sure that sex basically equaled death, in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, or that my religion taught that sex outside of marriage equaled HELL...)
Not that I waited, but that's not the point here. I decided - definitively - sometime in my late teens that motherhood wasn't for me, and I wasn't interested. DH and I have been together for a loooong time, and there were a few family members (on the Catholic side of the fam, ffs) who pressured us to have kids even before we were married. I met him when I was 19; I could say then, with absolute certainty: "I'm too young to be a mother."
But as I've gotten older, more and more people - some outright strangers - apparently think it is OK to question my judgement and badger the living hell out of me about having a child. Let me say this:
Now before you tell me, "methinks the lady doth protest too much," please keep in mind that my frustration with this boils over and spills out once a year or once every few years, and today? Is that day.
The anger comes from one place; how the bloody living hell is it anyone else's business if I have a child or not? Simply, and truthfully, it isn't. But when you meet someone new, and they ask if you're married (DH and I do not wear wedding rings, so it isn't obvious from the get-go) the very next question is if you have children. When you answer in the negative, it isn't uncommon for the questioner to ask, "Why not?!?" as if it is positively shocking that you don't, because somehow it is your sacred duty to pop out a kid or two if you've bothered to get married.
Having a child is a major, life-altering decision, one that in my ever-so-humble, ought not be entered into lightly. In fact, I think people ought to think long and hard about ALL of the impacts a child will have on their lives. Financial, emotional, physical....those 3 are the merest tip of the iceberg. But getting pregnant is very easy, and I think it is rare that people think much about it; you grow up, go to school, go to college, get married, have children. Period; that's just how it is done.
I belong to a few Childfree or childless by choice groups (aka and hereafter CFBC) and something that those groups point out often is that most people don't really consider the fact that there IS a choice there; married does not need to equal with children.
BTW, this isn't about abortion or my usual reproductive rights spiel; or at least, not exactly. "Reproductive rights" to me means - in part - that a woman has the right to choose for herself if she will get pregnant or not, no matter what her religion or social norms expect.
I'm no longer a member of the Catholic Church, so what the Popes say no longer means much to me other than the fact that their writings usually piss me the hell off. But when I was Catholic, something Pope John Paul II wrote made me sad; by choosing to work outside the home and not have children, the Church thinks that I am "denying" my "essential femininity". Hogwash. To read this outrageous bullshit for yourself, click here and start reading at Chapter VI, part 17.
So society thinks I'm weird for not having kids. Christianity (and, I'm sure, all of the other major world religions also push for procreation; who will carry the Word and the Truth if there are not new Believers being created constantly?) thinks I ought to be having kids. What I think, apparently, is completely immaterial. No matter that I'd be the one going through pregnancy - which, btw, scares the living hell out of me - or that I'd be the one going through labor - also, quite terrifying, tyvm - and no matter at all that the primary caregiver of the new baby would be, again, me. Nope. What you want, little lady, is far less important than what the Church and society expect from you.
I like my independence. I like having time to myself. I like sleep. Kiss all of that good-bye the minute a baby enters the picture.
What's gotten in to me that has me so all-fired angry? A recent episode of Dr. Phil, where he questions a CFBC couple about the fact that they may come to regret not having kids, and that they ought to re-visit the issue every year to make sure that they're still "on the same page," as if the childfree don't know their own minds, and must second-guess themselves at every opportunity.
Allow me to repeat myself -
Isn't it a good thing that I already know - before ever being preggo for even a second - that motherhood is not the path for me? Isn't it a good thing that I'm quite cognizant of the fact that motherhood is something I'd be terrible at, and thus should not attempt? I'm OK with that fact; it doesn't pain me in the least to admit that I'm not motherhood material. In fact, I think that it is a fantastic thing that I'm cognizant of that fact before I even think of contemplating parenthood.
Once you have a child, you are then responsible for that child for the rest of your life. Let me say that again. For the rest of your life. To the end of your born days. It isn't like buying a home, or even getting married; once that child is born, there is NO going back. You can't decide to just up not be a parent one day.
Should anyone be entering into that lightly? I think not.
Oh, Lucy, you're thinking. You say nothing of the joys and the love and the wonderful things that children bring to your life. The pain of labor is fleeting; the joy lasts much longer. Perhaps. I don't deny that babies are adorable and smooshable and kissable, and that kids can be an absolute delight. On the contrary; toddlers, in particular, fascinate me. You can SEE them learning every day, watch their language development, see the little wheels turning as they pick up a new word or skill. That's great. But I can experience all of that without being a mother myself, and that's A-OK with me!