Thursday, October 27, 2005

Baby? Baby Not

Babymaking has become the topic de la semaine* among my blog buddies. I can honestly say that I do not want children. Not that I don’t like kids; quite the opposite. I think kids are fantastic, wonderful, adorable blessings. And I applaud any responsible, loving adults who undertake the daunting task of being parents. Although there are certainly some people who make an excellent case for forced sterilization (Tom, Britney, Courtney---I’m talking to you).

I have the (very) occasional maternal pang when I hold a baby or get a hug from a toddler. I have just the slightest bit of envy when I see a mother and child. But as others have noted, I am fully aware that raising a child is more than baby powder and butterfly kisses. It’s not all warm fuzzies. It’s stinky diapers and sleepless nights and temper tantrums and never knowing when you’ll next be able to wash your hair, never mind shaving your legs. It’s having to put a decent meal on the table three times a day and enduring endless viewings of a singing purple dinosaur and spending evenings schlepping to soccer practice and piano lessons or finishing the project that the teacher assigned two weeks ago but isn’t getting started until the night before it’s due.

And the simple truth is that I’m selfish. I don’t want to do those things. I have a hard enough time contemplating the compromises I’ll have to make should I ever get married. And any doubts about my ability to be selfless and patient have been put to rest by Rowen. The first few nights that I had her, she cried and thrashed all night. I was about ready for some nice men in white coats to take me to a quiet room with padded walls. I can’t even imagine the years of sleep deprivation that mothers go through. I get impatient and snap at her if I’m tired and she wants to play or if I’m late for work and she won’t go potty. I’m just lucky that she has limited English skills, a short memory, and a loving disposition. A cat would not put up with me. A child would be scarred for life.

I don’t want to spend 18 years or more making the tremendous sacrifices that my parents made for me. I don’t want to do it. Those brief warm fuzzies are powerless against my overwhelming selfishness. And maybe that makes me a bad person. But I think it would be even worse to deny the truth about myself and bring a child into the world in the hope that the child would fit into my life or that I would miraculously change. I do believe that God gives us the graces we need for whatever challenges we face. And should I ever become pregnant---intentionally or not---I hope and pray that I would love that child and do my best to raise him or her in a good, loving home.

But why put myself---and God---to the test? Why should I want to have a child? To satisfy my mother---who has been pining for grandchildren since I hit puberty? To meet some societal norm? To make myself more marriageable? I don’t feel any great void in my life because I don’t have kids. I don’t feel like I’m less of a woman or missing out on something. I worry a little about whether I’ll come to the end of my life and regret not having kids. But I also feel like if I do change my mind after it’s too late, I can become a foster parent, a Big Sister, a mentor . . . there are ways to have children in your life and to leave a legacy without giving birth---and without having to give up quiet nights at home, long showers, and sleep.
I don’t want children. Not because I’m a bad person (although I am) and not because I don’t like kids. I’m not in denial. I’m not “still too young to know” (which is possibly the most offensive rebuttal; I’m 29, I’m an adult, I know). I just don’t.

God bless those who do. And, hey, I’m always willing to babysit. For a couple of hours.

* Putting that B.A. in French to use. Finally. And probably incorrectly.


At 5:56 PM , Blogger Bearette24 said...

Sing it, sister! (I just wanted to say that).

I know exactly what you mean. With me, it's kind of like:

they're cute and I might be sad if I never had them
I really like sleep
and writing
and reading
and yoga
and having a life

If that makes me selfish, so be it!

At 6:52 AM , Blogger Liz said...

This is what I struggle with: if you think about it, having a child is done for purely selfish reasons. There are plenty of people having kids, so we don't need to worry about populating the world. We don't need kids to help run our farms anymore. We have kids because we want the experience, right? So in my opinion, if you don't want them or you're not sure, don't. That's the least selfish thing you can do! ;-)

At 8:30 AM , Blogger Frema said...

I have wild baby fever, and I don't think you are selfish AT ALL for feeling the way you do. Liz said in her previous comment what I have been trying to wrap my head around all week; there is no practical reason for people to want children. So why have them? Because you want them. The means and the end are the same. (I think I said that right.) Maybe I'M the selfish one here. Who's to say? And what's wrong with being selfish sometimes?

The only people I don't care for are those women who can't acknowledge the validity of another woman's desires. As in, mothers who can't understand those who want to remain childless, and single women who can't fathom why other women want to have ten of them. (I don't want ten, but you get the idea.) God made the world big enough to accommodate all the types of women there are. We should celebrate that.

At 9:55 AM , Blogger Liz said...

Well said, Frema. Live and let live, I say.

At 1:00 PM , Blogger Bearette24 said...

That said, I did see a cute toddler at lunch today. She had a red jacket and a pink shirt, and she kept clapping her hands and saying, WALK!

It's funny, my desire to have/not have a child fluctuates based on the kids I see (child screaming and whacking its mom, child smiling serenely and enjoying life).

At 1:10 PM , Blogger Lisa said...

Same here---I see a really cute kid for a few minutes and I think, "Maybe I should consider having one of my own." Then I have to listen to one wailing at top volume and I think, "Thank goodness I don't have one!"

At 9:23 AM , Blogger Liz said...

I spent last weekend with my two nephews and my niece (all under 6) and was glad at the end of the day that I could give them back. ;-)


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