Friday, December 31, 2010

Kinderlos

For most of my life, I dreamed of being a mom.  And for the past two years, the baby cravings have been  i n t e n s e.

But recently, something happened at work that changed my view.

I want to preface my tale with an excerpt from Jane Goodall's Through a Window:

"I have spent countless hours watching mother chimpanzees interacting with their infants.  But not until I had an infant of my own did I begin to understand the basic, powerful instinct of mother-love.  If someone accidentally did something to frighten [my son], or threaten his well-being in any way, I felt a surge of quite irrational anger.  How much more easily could I then understand the feelings of the chimpanzee mother who furiously waves her arm and barks in threat at an individual who approaches her infant too closely, or at a playmate who inadvertently hurts her child."

I get that moms are programmed by nature to be downright vicious when it comes to threats, real or imagined, against their kids.  I get that this is the natural order of things, that it helps ensure offspring survival.

So this incident at work began when some lady felt that I had threatened her child when I really didn't, and it involved a confrontation.  And immediately after this incident, I got a funny feeling, a dawning realization that pulsed through my scalp down into my knee-high boots.  My brain felt strange, like it was rewiring itself at that very moment.  And a potentially life-changing thought coagulated within my cerebral cortex:

If I ever become a parent, I'll have to deal with other moms.  

I don't want to deal with other moms.

And within a few hours, my intense baby cravings had completely vanished.

From then on, all kinds of weird thoughts have been swirling through my head.  Memories of stories from friends of other mom-zillas, and terrifying visions of being shunned and ostracized by mom-zillas in some future neighborhood, persecuted for my somewhat free-spirited ideas about parenting, or worse, other moms ganging up on me and gossiping and filing false police reports about me and my kids getting taken away.

I'm not just being dramatic!  I have serious reason to believe that such shunning could actually happen.  First, I've always been kind of a loner and have never been Miss Popularity, and have lots of experience being pecked at by Queen Bee types.  Second, when I was working as an au pair (nanny) in Germany, I was always getting in trouble with my host mom for what she saw as slights to her kids, such as feeding them supper at 7:30 instead of at 6, or giving one of them a comforter cover to sleep with instead of the actual comforter (don't look at me like that...I thought it was a light blanket, and it was a warm spring night, for heaven's sake).  Third, it's been nearly three years since my own sister, who was once very close to me, misinterpreted one of my actions toward her kids and forbid me from seeing them.  She then proceeded to call the dean of my college and falsely report that I was skipping classes.  Suffice it to say we are now estranged.

Over the course of my life, numerous friends and coworkers have enthused that I'd be a great mother.  I do have a lot of experience with kids, and the things that other people find obnoxious about them, I find amusing or endearing.  But it does seem I have trouble getting along with other moms, even though I generally get along with women otherwise. 

I thought I'd wait a few weeks to see if this fear of other moms would pass, to see if this was just a phase.  I had been planning so seriously and for so long on becoming a parent that I have a purple binder sitting on my shelf filled with very specific lists of steps and timelines I would have to do to reach my goal of having a child by age 35, things like building up my savings to x amount, getting decent health insurance, finding a sperm bank or adoption agency, a midwife and a pediatrician, and settling in an area with good schools.  If I were to remain childless, that whole binder would be useless!  It would throw my whole life plan upside down.  I'd have to reconsider everything and make an entirely new life plan.

So it's been six weeks since this work incident totally turned me off to wanting kids, and the feeling has not passed.  Instead my brain has come up with a million other reasons to avoid parenthood.  Some of them make me chuckle, and some of them make me want to curl up and die.

For example, I remembered that once kids are old enough to talk, they are old enough to lie.  And pretty much everything that comes out of a kid's mouth is a lie, despite strenuous admonitions to tell the truth, because kids want so desperately to please adults.  Which, biologically speaking, ensures their survival.  In fact, they lie so often and so well that the authors of Nurture Shock found through controlled experiments that no one, not even parents, not even professional interrogators, can reliably tell when kids are lying.  Scary, huh? 

I also remembered that it's really annoying to have to censor every little thing you say around kids.  Every utterance must be absolutely clean and inoffensive.  That means no swearing, no discussing important news events, economic crises, wars, crime, religion, environmental degradation, resource depletion, poverty, death, racism, sexism, sex, reproduction, or certain historical events, because it frightens them.  Even more annoying, you can't control what other people tell your kids, so little Susie could be scarred for life if Uncle Joe shows her his leg stump and tells her a 'Nam story at Christmas dinner. 

Another thing I thought of more carefully is the possibility of having special needs kid.  I have spent a large portion of my life eating MSG-, nitrite-, sulfite-, partially-hydrogenated oil-laden junk food and exposing myself to various forms of radiation, so it's very likely my kids would have six legs and no liver.  And I'm sure I'll be attacked for saying this, but I don't want a special needs kid.  I want a normal, healthy one.  Sure, people who do have special needs kids say the experience is a blessing in disguise, that it's taught them new levels of patience and compassion and whatnot, but man, when I'm out and about and see parents interacting with their special needs kids, it looks like a hefty slice of hell to me, like an almost unbearable amount of stress, and not something I would wish on anyone, adult or child.  Sure, you could adopt a healthy kid, but who's to say they won't develop some debilitating mental illness as they get older?  The ubiquitousness of mental illness in this world tells me that too would be quite likely.  Maybe I'm not putting it eloquently, but my point is that this world is too polluted with chemicals and illnesses to reasonably expect your kid to turn out alright.  That makes me not want to risk it.

Another thing I thought of is the sheer expense.  Both bearing a child and adopting one are crazy expensive, and I don't have the money to do either on my own.  I'm not a millionaire (and lack the predatory impulses necessary to become one), so I'd have to be a working mom.  That means my kid would have to be in day care full time, so not only would most of my paycheck go to daycare, but I'd only get to see my kid on nights and weekends!  I wouldn't be able to parent him or her properly, so...why even bother having one?  I ask the same question of ultra-rich parents who shuffle their kids between nannies and boarding schools.  Why even bother having kids at all if you're going to give them to other people to raise?

So why am I talking about raising a kid on my own, you ask?  Why wouldn't I have a partner to share the expense and the responsibilities?  Well, I don't know if you've noticed this general trend, but men of my generation don't want marriage and a family.  They may say they do when you first meet them, but when you press for a little more detail, they invariably flake out and admit, "I'm not ready to be a father.  I'm just a big kid myself.  I don't know anything about kids.  I've never changed a diaper in my life."  (If I had a nickel for every time I heard this excuse, I would indeed be a millionaire.)  And instead of learning how to change a diaper, they'd much rather waste their time playing computer games, collecting action figures, or smoking pot.  At least, the bums who are willing to date me, a homely redhead from the wrong side of the tracks.  Maybe if I were a Celine Dion-loving cheerleader, I'd have access to the alpha males who are interested in breeding.  But I'm not, so I don't.



Another thing I've noticed is that most men, and even some women, who are married with kids bitch about it constantly.  They complain of feeling trapped, stuck in one place, and suffocating under the pressure and stress of caring for children, especially multiple ones.  My good friend Jen put it very well when she said, "All I want is a life where I don't feel trapped."  Such an excellent point!  She's a smart one, that girl.

Plus, the world is overpopulated anyway, so someone has to bear the cross of remaining childless (and make up for what the Duggars have done).  It might as well be me...and the several other amazing women I know who can't find a decent guy to mate with.

Furthermore, this planet is a really shitty place to bring children to.  If someone had asked me in advance if I wanted to be born, if they had given me a preview of my upcoming life on Earth and said, "So, whaddya say?"  I would have said no, and probably asked them if they were nuts.  I mean, now that I'm here I'll accept it and deal with it and try to make the best of it, but man.  If you truly know human nature, if you know the forces of evolution that made us so competitive and cruel and barbaric, then why under the shining stars would you bring a child into this world?  I hate to get all Nietzsche on y'all, but life's little pleasures don't exactly compensate for the immensity of life's pain and suffering.  Giving birth to someone and putting them on this brutal planet, and thereby forcing them to undergo the standard litany of disappointments and stupid drama, that's just...not a very nice thing to do to another human being.  Many traditions teach that you should honor your parents just because they gave you life, as if life is this wonderful, joyous gift to celebrate.  I've always thought that concept backward and strange, especially since parents can intentionally or unintentionally do some really awful things to their kids.

Anyway, I don't know if this is a permanent mental change or just a phase that will pass in a few more weeks or months.  And I don't know if something else would have spurred this change in me had I not been involved in that incident at work.  But I hope this post doesn't depress you too much.  Here, let me give you another music video:

Now all those simple things are simply too complicated for my life
How'd I get so faithful to my freedom
A selfish kind of life
When all I ever wanted was a simple thing
A simple kind of life