"I know you would be a good parent because whatever you do, if it matters, you put everything you've got into it."
We were discussing his and his wife's decision to wait until they were in their forties to have children and my trepidation over have/have not. Bob has known me for about twelve years, and being my teacher, mentor, and colleague, he knows what kind of student and worker I am. So, he's right. If I ever had children, I couldn't be a lazy shitbag about it because it is far too important.
I have subtle and not-so-subtle pressure from friends and relatives that I should just do it. I'm thirty-four, and L is thirty-two. L is perfect mother material. Having lived with his sister for the first two years of his niece's life, he certainly has more baby experience than I do. In fact, only the second or third time I came to their house, my now brother-in-law smacked me on the back and said, "He's already baby-trained."
So, what's holding me back?
It certainly isn't L. He said he'd like to it was what I wanted. The last time we talked about it, he said that he could take or leave having children, that they were something we might consider a nuisance to raise while we're young (I still consider myself young, damnit) but appreciate when we're old. Like money, almost.
Maybe more than you might think, as some people see their children as a sort of insurance policy. From a strict mathematical game theory standpoint, that is a bad gamble because you can't control someone else's decisions, no matter how much guilt you pour on them.
The closest I ever came to giving in was not when any of my friends had children but when L and I saw Idiocracy. I looked at him and said, "We're intelligent. Maybe it's our duty to Mankind to have babies." I thought about it, a lot, even made pro/con lists to help sway me toward one or the other end of the yes/no scale. A variety of reasons have pushed me from the halfway point to closer to choosing No.
1) I'm still in school and therefore, can't afford childcare and probably not health insurance on top of providing for the baby. My family would offer to help, but I would refuse because it's not for them to help pay for my choice. I would quit school and try to get a full-time job. What's so wrong with that? Well, I might begin to resent the baby that I had to quit school in order to support him/her. I might not, but knowing there is a possibility that I could is enough. What kind of asshole would I be if I resented my child for what I might see as him/her ruining my dreams and goals? I know people who do resent their children, and I won't be like that.
Still, I should finish my degree by spring of 2012 (if the world doesn't end first), so for argument's sake, let's say #1 can be discounted.
2) L and I have been together for about 5 years and have been married for half that time. We aren't ooey-gooey newlyweds. We're just ooey-gooey, although we try to tone it back in public. So part of me is afraid that, if we have a child, he will love it more than me. To that my mother said, "Oh my God! You're turning into your father." Maybe so, but you must understand something...and I say with with deepest sincerity and without rose-colored glasses...what L and I have is a very, very rare form of life-altering love. I use the term dorkmates. I'm telling you people that I did not understand the meaning of love until I met him, and that sounds so cheesy and cliched, but it's true. I have never uttered one serious ill word about him as a mate, and I never will because he is my mate in every sense of the word. Period. So, feeling that, and knowing how jealously I guard his love for me, I don't want to share it. I know this about myself, and so I don't have children.
Segueing from #2, I am selfish.
3) I like my time. I like spending my time and my money on me. I like that when I have spare time, I can write (novels or blog posts) or read or play computer games. I know there are plenty of people who, once their children get older, go back to doing things they did before they had children, but the fun of it is gone because they are worn out from having kids. It has been years since I've seen a woman with children in their teens who didn't look like she'd had all the life wrung from her. My office mate is the perfect example. She told me that all three of her children were the results of broken condoms. All she does is run her kids around and gripe about her husband. I do not want to be like that. I don't want to be tired and bitter. I don't want L to ever say, "Honey, our daughter is a bitch," and be right.
Which brings me to #4.
4) What do I do if despite all my efforts, all my love, and all my nurturing, my child is a bitch or an asshole or a shitbag or a serial killer? Can you see how I don't want the fate of some other life in my hands? You may say that after a certain point, the child is his own responsibility, but I don't know. My maternal instincts are terrible. In general, I don't like children. Sure I love my nieces and nephews, but that's because I know them. But my gut reaction to hearing a baby cry is to get away from it. When I hear children screeching, I want to tell them to shut the fuck up. I don't, of course, but that is how I feel.
Now, after all that, why should I balk at my GYN's suggestion that I get my tubes tied? Because somewhere deep down, part of me wants to be a mother? This is one of those situations where I wish I could know the future.
Finally, I salute those of you who have children and do a damn fine job of raising them: teaching them to take responsibility for their actions and their futures and to be respectful of others. It makes my life easier when they end up in one of my classes.