Why, hello, 3:00 a.m., I never thought we should be so well acquainted. I worked the past three nights & apparently my body is still stuck on night-shift mode which happens occasionally. Honestly, I’m not sure why most of the world so resents being awake at 3:00 a.m. It’s really a very nice time of night, though I suppose less so if you’re stuck in the dreaded 9-5 world.
Anyway, tonight I woke up just before 1:00 a.m. & haven’t been able to go back to sleep since then. Naturally my mind is whirling with questions about life because that’s basically what my brain does any time it’s awake, regardless of what time the clock reads. Tonight’s topic was inspired by a recent conversation at work in which a new coworker asked me if I had kids. My response of course was no & I’m not sure if/when I ever want them. This of course was met with the typical raised eyebrows & quizzical glances which it always inspires, particularly from other women. I’m used to the reaction but it still bothers me a bit. In the twenty-first century, is it really still so odd to imagine that a woman could have a uterus, yet have no real intention or desire to use it? I know, I know, everyone says I’ll change my mind someday. And I very well may. But supposing I don’t . . . Is there really something WRONG with me for not wanting to have children?
From a biological perspective, I suppose it IS a rather odd choice. After all you don’t see very many childless females in the animal kingdom. (I’m sure there are some obscure examples, but for the most part females in the animal kingdom, mammals anyway, are rarely childless.) The biological imperative is to procreate to ensure the propagation of the species. And yet I seem to have been born without a particular urge to do so. As a woman, the world views this with a certain amount of suspicion. Perhaps they are justified in doing so. But I must say it’s rather unpleasant to be on the receiving end of this suspicion sometimes.
Trust me, I don’t fear having children because I don’t want to give up partying & drinking at all hours of the night. I’ve never been one to participate in such “pleasures.” It’s giving up my freedom to write blog posts at 3:00 a.m. & work 40 hours a week without having to come home to anyone who needs to me to take care of them 24/7 that I don’t want to give up.
Regarding parenting challenges, it’s not the difficult conversations about death or sex or the essence of morality that scare me. To all of that, I say bring it on. I can’t wait to teach my children to be critical thinkers & skeptics like me! It’s the tedious processes of breastfeeding & toilet-training & other such endeavors that scare me senseless. Everyone says (& there is probably research to back this up) that the first few years of a child’s life are absolutely essential in bonding with the parent & forming a relationship that will last a lifetime. Well, since I don’t particularly like children under about age five, if I have any kids I worry they’ll be screwed for life . . . And I already value any children I may have far too highly to risk scarring them so badly . . . Why can’t kids pop out at age five or six, toilet-trained, eating solid food, & ready to take on the world? You may laugh, but I am serious!
Even on the days when I do feel more inclined to be a mom, I’m met with the veritable dilemma over how to balance children & career. I was raised in the generation of women who were told we could “have it all.” But many of us are finding that the world isn’t so utopian as all that. When I look at the world around me, I’m presented with plenty of evidence that trying to juggle raising a family (young children anyway) & a full-time job is about as easy & as fun as facing a lion, a tiger, a bear, a wolf, & a shark, all at the same time, without any sort of weapon at all. In other words, it’s hell.
Perhaps I’m exaggerating a bit, but I think there are legitimate reasons why many women leave behind even the best careers to be “stay-at-home” moms. First of all, maternity leave in America is a joke. And second of all childcare is expensive, even for the more well-to-do among us. Additionally there are the emotional rewards of raising your own children on a day-to-day basis . . . something that’s clearly impossible to quantify but also impossible to ignore. How many times do I see women facing the agony of leaving their new baby behind after just six precious weeks at home? It’s not easy to watch.
And yet I know I’m not the only woman who finds the prospect of staying at home all day feeding, bathing, & soothing a crying baby or entertaining a whining toddler far from appetizing. In fact, it sounds downright miserable to me. I know, I know, this probably makes me a horrible person, but I can’t be the only woman who doesn’t find babies & toddlers as ridiculously adorable as everyone else does. Trust me, there are days when I see my friends’ pictures of their children on Facebook & my heart melts & I dream of the day when I too will share that scared title of mother. But then reality sets in & I remember that most of the actual work of being a mom is far from glamorous. I don’t know how many blog posts I’ve read lately from women who say “No one told me parenting would be this hard!” I on the other hand can’t stop thinking about how hard it sounds & wondering if the rewards could possibly make all the stress worth it for me. Trust me, I sincerely believe that most people truly do find parenting rewarding. And I sincerely hope that someday I too will find the strength to believe the same will be true for me.
I often find myself wishing companies were more friendly to mothers (& fathers) of young children, & yet the logical part of me isn’t sure how practical that is. After all, if every employee had a plethora of children, there is no way companies could afford to provide insurance for all of them. (Of course not having our health insurance tied to our jobs would be a great start, but I don’t see that happening any time soon.) And as much as I wish maternity leave were FAR longer, I also realize that expecting a company to pay a woman (or even just hold her job) for three to six months or more while she is NOT actually working for them is perhaps a bit much to ask. Particularly if a woman has multiple children within a few years of each other. Not to mention her fellow employees have to take on the burden of fulfilling her roles without any additional pay or benefits. However, I also think it’s ludicrous to suggest that six weeks is enough time to fully recover, both physically & mentally, from having a baby, much less to actually get a firm grip on balancing the demands of said child. Basically I see both sides of the coin & neither of them is very pretty.
Trust me, I am glad I live in a day & age & a society in which I have the choice to have a career or be a mom or try to do both. Not having those choices would be a far greater torture. I don’t really know what I hope to accomplish by writing all of this because I know there are no solid answers to the questions I’m asking. If there are any good answers, they are certainly different for every woman. I just wonder if anyone else is thinking about all of these things. Very few of my college friends have kids so far, but at least half, if not three-quarters, of my high school graduating class are parents. And most people in my family were parents at or well before 25 (my current age). Did any of these people think about all of these things? If not, were they better off because of it? To all those who say I should just stop thinking about all of this so much, you might as well tell me to stop breathing. If I had been a man in Ancient Greece, I would have been a philosopher. For better or worse, it’s just who I am, the very essence of my being.
In the end I can’t imagine having children & sending them to daycare, at least not at a very young age. But I also can’t imagine staying at home with them all day & giving up my career. I suppose the answer lies somewhere in between, but gambling on trying to find the perfect balance is a risk I’m not sure I’m willing to take.
At least not yet.