Recently I was complaining to my cousin Lei about my mother.
“I tell her I’m happy,” I said as we waited for our table to be called, “but she doesn’t believe me.” I had money in the bank, a dream career, and was in a sickeningly loving relationship with a guy she adored like a son. Yet every time we spoke, she asked with fear in her voice: “Is everything okay? Are you okay? Is Alex’s job okay? Are you guys okay?”
“She’s your mother,” Lei said. “She’ll always worry.” My cousin watched her 3-year old zoom past us, her husband close on her tail. “Before I became a mother, I didn’t understand that worry. Now I do.”
I sighed. There it was again, that exclusive club. Motherhood.
I want kids. I didn’t always. When I was married, the last thing I wanted was someone else to take care of on top of a sick mother-in-law and angry husband. When I finally wanted to have one, it was for the wrong reasons: to beat out his pregnant mistress. Luckily I never got knocked up and could leave my marriage unencumbered.
Now, a few years later with Alex, I’ve got baby fever bad. I melt over any and every adorable toddler, threaten to kidnap my friends’ children, and get verklempt imagining a little gal or dude jumping joyfully into our arms.
But whenever I hear a woman crow about the miracle of popping out a kid, I want to puke. I didn’t know what it meant to be female till I gave birth. After I had a child, I finally understood my purpose in life. You’ll understand when you become a mother.
There was an article recently about why so many parents are unhappy. A lot of people assume they’ll be happier after they have kids, while studies have shown that those with kids aren’t necessarily happier than those without, and in some cases are less happy. Basically, procreating won’t always make you unhappy but it won’t make you happier either.
Then why have kids? For women in my mother’s and grandmother’s generations, it was just expected. You got married and had some rugrats. No biggie. Nowadays, as young women, we’re often expected to wait. What about school, career, travel?
But then, before we know it, we’re over 30. “When are you going to give me some grandkids?” our parents ask. “So-and-so just had her second baby, what about you?” Our clocks start ticking, and our ovaries explode when we see the trailer for “Babies,” and babies are so cute and smell so good (usually), and hey, is this just biology tricking us into reproducing?
Now we’re past 35 (at least I am), and having a kid becomes ever more elusive, ever the bigger deal. Squeezing out a tyke must be the end-all, be-all of everything, and if it’s not, we feel the need to go around telling ourselves, and anyone who will listen, how damned happy we are, how amazing motherhood is, and how our vaginas are ripe with vagina-ness now that we’re moms. To say otherwise would be admitting defeat.
Back in the day, and still in some parts of the world today, people had kids because they needed help on the farm, or someone to take care of them in their old age. For those of us who aren’t landowners and don’t expect to burden our progeny with our rickety butts, perhaps we have to make up our own reasons. To feel like a real woman, to know unconditional love, to understand who we are.
Jacob’sMom75. Whenever I see an online moniker like that, I think, Who’s Jacob and why do I care you’re his mom? Who are you? Who were you before you had your kid? Bob’sWife1? And before that: Bob’sGirlfriend? What will you call yourself once Jacob grows up?
Or the martyr. “I was late today because of my kids.” “I have to leave early because of my kids.” “I can’t finish this project because of my kids.” Meanwhile, those of us without kids are left behind to pick up the slack, and to assure you it’s okay we’re picking up your lame slack because of your damned kids.
I know not all women are like this, and that women who are probably already were before they had kids.
Jacob’s mom is still trying to figure out who she is, and the martyr with the excuses would probably come up with some other excuses right quick, anything other than admitting she was wrong.
Who’s to say I won’t act the exact same way when, or if, I have a kid? Maybe I’ll be just as annoying, and worry as much as my mom does. But at least I’ll be aware of what I’m doing. Hopefully, I’ll remember I’m not the first nor will I be the last woman to birth a baby. I won’t make excuses for my mistakes, kid-related or not, but will acknowledge them, apologize, and move on. I’ll be more than Angela, Jr.’s mother, and I won’t expect her to make me happier than I’ve ever been. That’s a lot to ask of someone who doesn’t even exist yet.
Maybe that’s what it is. Having a kid won’t be about me or how the experience will make me feel. It’ll be about deciding to make a life, and being ready to do all that I can to give her the tools to become a well-adjusted person. It won’t be about what I’m getting out of it, whether it’s happiness, insight, or an identity. It’s up to me to figure those things out.