The One About Having Children…

The other morning I was holding my cat like a baby while I cooked eggs. He is the softest, warmest bundle of love. I call him many names, usually Ernest, because that is his name. But I also call him “bear” and “little bear” and “bear, bear” and when referring to him around our other cat, I call him “bubbie,” for brother. Bear is my husband’s favorite term of endearment. I remember vividly the conversation early in our relationship when he asked if he could call me bear…

“Um. Bear? Really. Makes me feel kind of like a whale.”

bearBut with a little explanation, I came to understand that he used to call his favorite dog Jackson-bear and his mother, Mama-bear. The things he loved and cherished and found particularly cuddly became his bears.

So the eggs are frying, the morning light pouring in our kitchen window, I’m snuggling my precious kitty and I say to Andrew something like, “Maybe one day this will be a real human little bear.”

What I meant was, maybe one day we’ll be standing here in a kitchen in the morning, frying eggs and I’ll be holding a child rather than a cat.

But the sentence flopped awkwardly, uncomfortably out of my mouth like Pinocchio trying to walk. Even looking down at the cat and trying as hard as I could, I couldn’t actually imagine it being a child. And really, I didn’t want it to be.

I grew up thinking I would never marry, or at least not before 35, and knowing I didn’t want children.
No single, traumatic memory rises from the ashes of my childhood when I try to explain it. Mostly, I just liked dating and didn’t like kids. I think being an only child affected how I feel about children.

teletubbiesI was around kids at school and had friends who came over to play, but my parent’s life did not become a child’s life because they had one. I see a lot of parents who do this. Suddenly, they don’t watch any more sitcoms because fuzzy alien-shaped creatures dancing to the musical interlude of a horror movie have permanently inhabited the screen. All the cereals in the pantry now have Disney channel representatives and vacation actually means amusement park. The front yard looks like a tricycle convention. Or garage sale.

In college I had a professor who once, very eloquently, described his opinion of millennial child rearing. Allow me to paraphrase:

“I’m over at a friend’s house drinking a glass of wine, but when I ask for another the mom is all like, ‘Oh, we don’t want to drink too much in front of the kid’s’ and I’m wondering how many hours a week the kids must work to afford making household decisions such as this one. When I was a kid, and my dad came to a baseball game and I played like crap, when it was over he said, ‘You played like shit, get in the goddamn car.’ They didn’t give me a trophy because I showed up. But this mom wants me to see some scribble little Susy drew, pasted on the refrigerator and say it looks good. ‘Matt, look at the beautiful picture Susy drew.’ The picture looks like a pile of shit. I’m not going to pretend it doesn’t.”

kids artwork

His daughter is an only child too, and I feel sure she’s spent many years on a chaise lounge. Though I don’t take this opinion for my own, a piece of me similarly fears giving my life over to offspring. That overwhelming sense of responsibility… I mean, I don’t mind your kids. They are pretty funny, rolling around on the floor licking each other, licking the dog, singing the first verse of the “Star Spangled Banner” and lifting up their shirts. Makes me smile, joy like a little geyser in my heart… But then I want to go home, very far away from the screaming.


A few weeks ago, a friend asked me to help her babysit for newborn twins in our community. I chuckled to myself at first mention of this and felt sad that there would not be wine. But after some reflection, we all agreed this would be very good for me. After coddling two of the cutest babies this side the Mississippi, there was virtually no way I could leave without wanting six of my own.

Here’s what happened: I changed three mustard colored diapers and developed a painful ache in my lower back from attempting to bounce those cranky eight pounds to sleep.

OK yes, they were cute. Cute like kittens frolicking in a flower bed, cute that can’t be challenged or denied. They were perfectly snugly and had that sweet baby smell everyone talks about. I swooned a little when one fell asleep on my chest. But ultimately, I didn’t find any kindling to light the mama-fire. I had precisely the same inclination I experienced in the kitchen holding the cat.
A non-inclination.

Honestly, I’ve spent a lot of time asking myself WHERE IS IT? WHERE IS the thing that makes all these other people willingly procreate?

I’m young and we’re poor, so there’s little urgency in my concern. But I think about it. I wonder enough that I sometimes make wildly inappropriate comments about my feline becoming a fetus.

Don’t cry mom, I didn’t think I’d get married either and that happened at only 22.


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PS. I’m still coming to your daughter’s birthday party. Happily. Willingly. And I’m still bringing a silly gift that she will never remember and inevitably break.

How about this one? My seven year old cousin really liked the one she got for Christmas.

How about this? My seven year old cousin really liked the one she got for Christmas…



 


 


 

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6 comments

  1. I’m 22, still a newlywed, and still getting those questions – “When are you going to start a family?” I DID start a family. I married my husband and we became a family of two which is PLENTY thankyouverymuch. I don’t have that magical maternal desire yet either, and I think that’s okay. It just means that we have the emotional luxury of enjoying our families of two for a little longer than those who wait to find their true love once their biological alarm clock starts to ring. Enjoy it 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing such an honest reflection on having babies, Jane. I always thought I wanted to have kids. But now that I’m almost 30, I’m not entirely sure anymore. I’m impatient and have enough work taking care of myself already to imagine having another human being completely dependent on me. I do want a family with Nick though, I’m just not sure when I’ll feel ready to have one…

    • I completely feel you. I look at these people with kids and I’m like, how. do. you. do. it. But I think when it’s time, you just know. It will come or it won’t and both are good 🙂

  3. Well I can’t give you a good reason why I wanted to have kids. I just always thought I would and so I did. I have loved other people’s kids, but have always been very happy to give them back. When I had my own though, suddenly it all made a lot of sense. That’s not to say that my house is a happy one all the time where there is singing and butterflies and we are all sweet to each other all day long. But there is wine 🙂 And we do love each other. And we are kind to each other, which is a big deal.

    Having kids? Totally a personal decision and it’s not right for everyone. And if you don’t have kids, that doesn’t mean that your life will be less full or you will be less worthwhile. It will just be a different kind of life.

    • This is very encouraging! I do sometimes feel bad or worry that my life would be less full if we choose not to have children. Thanks you for saying that life can be full and worthwhile no matter what we choose. I know families with quiver fulls that are so beautiful in the ways they love and care for each other. I imagine your family is very much like those 🙂

  4. amysavage425@aol.com

    Cry? No, I think it is funny. Grandma always said she didn’t like anyone’s kids but her own. No fear here.

    Sent from my HTC smartphone on the Now Network from Sprint!

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