Portrait of the artist as a barren spinster.
The other day, my phone buzzed. I received a photo of a toddler standing beside a toilet, giving the camera a thumbs up and a big grin. The accompanying text read, "Andrew just peed in the potty for the first time!" The message was from my buddy Daniel.
I texted back, genuinely excited for this little parent/child victory. Getting that text made me really happy -- for one, it means part of my friend's life is about to get easier; and two, babies are adorable and I love pictures of them and I love hearing stories about the things that they do and also I want one and SQUEE BABIES BABIES WIDDLE BABIES GAAAAH!
I'm 31. This shit is kicking in.
Not 12 hours after I got the photo of Andrew next to the potty, I got a Facebook message from my great teen luuuuuuuv, Paulie (we grew up in New Jersey, it happens), which read as follows: "The baby was born on Thursday and he is so fucking cool. Look at my page, there are like a million photos. Being a dad is awesome!!!"
And then he emailed me a bunch of photos, and excitedly told me how he and his wife had decided on the boy's name (they put their favorites in a hat and then pulled the winner out), and then he gave me details on weight and eye color and all those other important baby things. My brain immediately went, "BABYBABYBABY!"
I was as happy for Paulie as I'd been for Dan, although realizing that my high school boyfriend had reproduced definitely gave me more pause than my other pal's adventures in daddyhood. I mean, if the kid you loved when you were 16 is old enough to have a kid of his own, you must be getting up there in age, right?
But I also have a feeling not unlike the one I had back when Paulie and I were in high school and I failed my drivers test (twice) while everyone else passed theirs: I feel … left behind. Like I haven't kept up with my peer group, have failed to make the leap from Point A (immaturity) to Point B (maturity, as signified by the appearance of a baby).
Never mind that I don't have a husband or even a steady boyfriend; at this point, I'm pretty sure my parents would settle for my birthing an adorable bastard child, even if it meant I had to move home with them.
The other day, as we played with my cousin's awesome toddlers, my dad said, "You know, your mother and I got married when we were 21, and one of the things we said was that we'd really enjoy being young grandparents."
Then he pretended to look at his watch in consternation, and we all laughed. Hahahahahahahha. Haha. Ha. Guuuuh.
(Later we watched TV and saw a commercial for a class action lawsuit related to birth defects and antidepressants. "You'll go cold turkey if you get pregnant," my dad said. "I mean, having a suicidal mom probably wouldn't be good for a baby," I replied. Ahhh, casual family conversations!)
It's not that I haven't had the chance to have babies. I mean, I've had sex. I've even stupidly had unprotected sex, or oops-the-condom-broke sex, and in those instances I've used emergency contraception to prevent production in my baby factory. But being a single mom doesn't seem like the ideal situation, and I think I'd be foolish (not to mention disingenuous) to go out and purposely get knocked up by some rando without telling him my plan. And if I did tell him my plan and he was into it, that would mean he was creepy and I wouldn't want any of his DNA near or inside my person.
Now, this baby thing hasn't made me crazy. I get why it's a bad idea: I don't have the finances, I'm about to move across the country, I don't have a steady partner, etc. etc. etc. I know a baby is much more work than those ootsy-cutesy photos I received would indicate. Plus, I have triple Ds as it is; I'm not sure what insane pregnancy-induced size these bazongas would swell to, but it'd probably require me to drag them around with a handtruck.
Anyway, in a valiant effort to get this baby bug out of my system, I cracked open the English translation of "No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not To Have Children" by French saucebox Corinne Maier. Let's check out a few of her reasons and see if they stand up to the biological/social/familial pressures currently weighing on my soul.
1. "Labor is torture"
OK, I'm with Corinne here. But labor only lasts for a few hours to (gulp) a few days, right? I know there's the recovery period afterward, with staples and stitches and the such, and trust me when I say I find it enormously terrifying, but it's temporary. Whereas the love of a child is forever. Right? Right?
2. "You keep your friends"
Corinne says that many people with kids become boring folks who focus obsessively on and exclusively discuss their children. She's right on that one (remember, I said MANY, not ALL people with kids), but I can't fault parents for it. I mean, raising children is a 24-7 job. Even if you've got other interests and endeavors, they are undoubtedly secondary to your work as a mom or dad. When something consumes your life so completely, you're probably going to want to talk about it.
That said, I don't like the idea of morphing into a person who only ever discusses one thing. If I were super-rich, I think I could avoid this pitfall. The rich seem to be able to get out of many of the boring aspects of parenting. They can hire nannies, who can take care of the lil' chirrens while they, the rich grown-ups, can go to yoga class or their painting workshop or hanggliding club or whatever.
3. "Kids are the death knell of the couple."
Corinne's point here is that once a kid pops out, wieners and vaginas are out of commission (at least for fun humpin' purposes.) And I can see how it would be disappointing to finally get into a long-term, monogamous relationship that satisfied my emotional and physical needs only to put a (literally) screeching halt to the doin' it. Of course, if I were a single mother, this wouldn't be an issue -- but then, I doubt I'd have much time to go out and find some hot recreational booty to tide me over until I found Prince Charming.
4. "Motherhood is a trap for women."
Here's where Corinne really starts to freak me out: "The cult of the child weighs heavily upon women. The modern woman must be a mother, and employee, and a friend all at once. Preferably thin. And you have to admit, that's a lot to ask. On top of that, women do 80 percent of the housework. When school lets out, you mostly see women there; the same at parents' night, or at the pediatrician's when a kid has bronchitis or chickenpox."
And that just scratches the surface of all the shit moms have to contend with on a regular basis.
I can dismiss some of Corinne's other points, but when she writes about how busy a mother is, I have to admit that I don't actually want the responsibility of raising a child. I want the little baby feet in the little baby socks, and I want the snuggles and the hugs and the love, but that's maybe 20 percent of the job. The rest of the gig involves wiping butts, being on call just in case a child decides to put her finger in a light socket, and wrangling with teachers and coaches and other kids' parents, plus feeding and watering your offspring at regular intervals.
And I heard sometimes you have to TEACH them how to sleep through the night. TEACH THEM HOW TO SLEEP! No way am I up for all that. Right now I'm eating a dinner of hardboiled eggs while wearing old pajama bottoms and a ratty high school T-shirt. I haven't showered today and I'm barely financially solvent. Nothing about me screams, "YES! I WILL MAKE AN EXCELLENT MOTHER VERY SOON!"
I'm going to go take some birth control and talk myself down. While I do that, I'd like to hear if there's anybody else out there who feels this way too. I know we're not supposed to admit it, because we're supposed to be independent women who don't need no man and don't need no baby to make us complete, but I can't be the only one having baby cravings.