Let’s talk babies. You are lying if you don’t think they are a tiny bit creepy, especially newborns. Yes, even your own. And no, I don’t think their cone heads or umbilical cord belly buttons are cute. In fact, it weirds me out. A lot. I feel uncomfortable when you make me hold them and/or touch them, and most of the time I’m just trying not to look directly at them. (And on that note, no matter how close of friends we are, I don’t need a 3D picture of your uterus popping up on my Facebook feed. I’ve seen far too many uteri for someone who isn’t an OBGYN.)
Fast forward to when the baby is a toddler. Yes, at ages two to four, they become a little cuter. They still drool, poop, and throw-up on both animate and inanimate objects, but they are usually funny and thus good for a laugh, so I can deal. Plus they tire easily so if I throw a ball, they will keep running to fetch it and be asleep in no time so I can drink wine and watch Buffy re-runs.
Keep fast forwarding until the baby is ages five to eight. They are still funny, due to their mostly incomprehensible language skills, but now parents must prepare for the curse of elementary school teachers making kids think they are the next Picasso or David Beckham. Your child starts bringing home hideous drawings that you have to put up at on the fridge and pretend to other people that they are good. Or you have to spend Saturday mornings watching your kid try to kick a soccer ball only to have it go through her legs, ruining a perfectly good Saturday hangover. No, sweetie, that drawing is NOT pretty, in fact it is hideous, and I can’t believe I spent the money to buy you those colored pencils.
I think I was aware at a very young age how awful parents had it when they had to pretend the things their kids did were either good or enjoyable. In my third grade art class, our assignment was to make a clay sculpture of something we loved. I loved dogs, so instantly I knew what my sculpture would be. I also knew, however, that I couldn’t sculpt a likeness of a roly-poly if my life depended on it. So instead of trying, I resigned myself to my artistic ineptitude and dilly-dallied until the last five minutes, when I knew I had to create a sculpture or risk getting in trouble. Since I loved dogs, I made a clay heart, took my pencil, and stenciled “I Love Dogs” in the center. I got in trouble for blatantly ignoring the assignment and taking the “easy way out,” but at least it wasn’t ugly, and my mom has kept the sculpture to this day to remind her of her under-achieving, artistically challenged daughter.
Anyway, I digress. Fast forward to when kids are between the ages of eight and 18. Meaning that on top of being messy and awkward looking (you know it’s true, just look at your junior high photos), they now have the capacity to be smart asses and talk back to you, all the while taking up your time and money on stupid things like Color Guard or Karate.
Once the kids are all grown up with spouses and kids of their own, and the only saving grace for parents is that they get to play with grandkids for a few hours at a time and return them to their parental units when they start getting smelly, sticky, angry, sleepy, or annoying.
But in all seriousness, some people just aren’t meant to be parents. I sometimes think I am one of them. People close to me say “Oh you’ll change your mind!” or “What are you going to do if you don’t have kids?!” Or worse, “Why don’t you want kids??”
First, when did it become appropriate to ask someone why they don’t want to have children? As a friend correctly pointed out to me, one would never say to a parent “Oh my gosh, why on earth did you decide to have a kid??” So I have trouble understanding why it’s acceptable to ask me why I don’t want to have one.
Second, and maybe it’s just me, but I think the more appropriate question is “What aren’t you going do if you don’t have kids??” The answer is simple: Nothing. I am going to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do. I am going to leave the country on a two-week long vacation to Southeast Asia and not worry about where to leave my children. Just as parents see such value in experiencing life with children, I see value in experiencing life without them. There is a social stigma surrounding couples, and mainly the women in those couples, that decide not to have children. At the close of conversations with people regarding my lack of desire to procreate, I leave feeling as though I was defending myself against One Million Moms.
From my experience, parents with children often lose bonds with their childless friends and strengthen bonds with other parents, finding common ground over daycare, playdates, diapers, and babysitters. Childless women who have circles of friends that become mothers are sometimes ostracized from those circles, most likely just because that’s the natural order of things. It’s an interesting phenomenon that I’ve only recently encountered, but will most certainly encounter more often as so many of the women I grew up with start to have children.
At this point in my life, I do not believe having a child is the path for me. That’s not to say I won’t change my mind, or become even further convinced of my decision. But it’s a decision, a choice that I’ve made. We have made strides towards refraining from passing judgment on women who don’t want children, but a look at the latest GOP agenda shows the archaic notion of women as baby-making machines is rearing its ugly head again.