Friday, November 16, 2012

Babyphobia, Redux.

I cut all of this from my previous "I'm Going To Be An Aunt YAY" post because it really got away from my intention of that post, which was to congratulate my sister and spew exclamation points into Teh Interwebs.

In addition to the news of impending Aunthood, I recently had the interesting experience of wandering around the baby section of Target, clutching the trusty blue sheets of a baby shower registry, getting increasingly confused and overwhelmed and terrified of all the products and how do you even know what they are and it was incredibly scary... and I HAD A FREAKING LIST TO PICK FROM. Can you imagine how much whelm there would be to be underneath when you were the one trying to make the list? How are you supposed to know what to get? Despite the urge to go "off list" and buy something cute, I decided to buy something practical and that the mom-to-be actually wanted/needed, because suddenly, I was acutely aware of  how much it actually took - money-wise, STUFF-wise -  to procreate. That's to say nothing of the actual raising and instilling-knowledge-and-values part that is also scary. I had never realized before how daunting the whole endeavor was. To my credit, I didn't run screaming out of the store, so there's that, but... I was a bit surprised by how unsettling the experience was.

But this sudden prevalence of Babies really kind of threw me into a weird introspective spiral. Because here I am, faced with what is probably the biggest catalyst for (normal?) women to want kids, and... nothing. Nada. My ovaries kind of did an inquisitive head tilt and went back to drinking margaritas. Or whatever it is ovaries do.

I'm now being surrounded by baby stuff and I have no emotional connection to any of it, in terms of wanting any for myself. My biological clock is downright broke.

I've never experienced anything remotely close to "baby fever." Usually it leans towards OMG OMG GET IT AWAY because, well, BABIES ARE TERRIFYING, but I can appreciate that they are cute. They would be fun to dress up and they're entertaining as hell, but... they're kind of icky. They leak fluids from all of their orifices and they scream and you have to pretend to like things like kids' television programming and I don't even know what Yo Gabba Gabba is but it makes me want to run far away.

I've got more of an "auntal" instinct, I think. When I'm coaching softball, I get protective of my girls, especially when it comes to flickers of bad sportsmanship or mean comments from other teams and/or coaches... but it feels like more of a big sister protectiveness rather than a motherly sort. If that makes sense. I'm maternal in that I like to make sure my people are taken care of - coachees, friends, the BF, my cat - but it's not like my uterus is dancing a conga and screaming PICK ME PICK ME. Because I just can't get enthusiastic about decor with crayon-scrawled words and primary colors. I kind of hate the word "mommy" and I definitely hate the word "potty" and babies tend to create the same general sense of unease in my disposition that dogs do (they freak me out, OKAY?). Spending more than five minutes in a day care center would probably make me break out into hives. (Or, break out into SOMETHING - let's not forget that kids are harbingers of germs.) At least I've matured to the point where I'm not afraid to hold one anymore (my coworker/friend - cofriend - even has a picture of me holding her rather new newborn. It was a significant moment.) And, let's face it, I love me some tiny things. Baby shoes, baby outfits, baby Halloween costumes (OMG BABY HALLOWEEN COSTUMES), yes. Diapers and sleepless nights and popsicle crafts and "jam hands" and unidentifiable smeared substances... no thank you.

Even if kids were a thing I wanted, now would be a terrible time anyway. Financially, psychologically, emotionally. I have no desire to produce a human that is reliant upon me... I can barely get myself out of bed and to work on time. I like to dictate how I spend my time. I get resentful when it's decided for me. I'm not saying I do a great job at it on my own, but that's the point, right? To figure it out? And maybe it's selfish. I don't deny that a large part of not wanting kids stems from the fact that I don't want to give up my current lifestyle and habits. I like traveling and sleeping in and spending hours writing or reading and suddenly realize that I should have gone to bed forty-five minutes ago. I even like working late. These maybe aren't good reasons to not have kids, but they're still reasons, and they're valid enough reasons for me, and in the end, that's what matters. I get to say, not society. (Besides, I think the whole lack of financial resources and concerns over the toll on my already-troublesome mental health are "legitimate" reasons, yes? Not that I need to legitimize myself to anyone, but, y'know.) TALKING IN CIRCLES, anyway, my point is, I think it would be more selfish to have a kid that I couldn't take care of, simply because it was the prescribed thing to do or because I want to put it in hilarious costumes and take pictures.

[EDIT: OH MY GOD I basically wrote this exact same post like a year ago, and I just found it while trying to Google "jam hands" so I can link it, although now I'm confused because I thought it was a quote from Elliott on Scrubs but now Gilmore Girls keeps popping up in my results and I have NO IDEA and also, it's really weird when my own blog comes up when I'm searching for something. I may have just added "Jam Hands Elliott Scrubs" to my traffic hits. Heh.]

It would be a disaster and I really don't think I could afford the therapy bills that the kid would inevitably need. Nope. My uterus is closed for business. But I really look forward to the day when I walk in the front door of my sister's house and a crazy-haired mini-human comes running at me for auntie hugs. I'm more than capable of doling out affection and love for other people's kids, but it's not for me. I can appreciate it, but I don't want it. Not right now. Maybe not ever. It's not going to be on the table for several years, and who knows what I'll want then? Maybe I will change my mind. I won't rule it out. But right now, I'm firmly in a place of "I like other people's kids. In the sense that they belong to other people and I can do the fun stuff and then give them back."

Which is why Aunthood is perfect for me.

I read on a blog once about how there was something to be said for the aunts of the world. (In searching for that post, which I found, I got lost in a rabbit hole of posts about kids vs. not, and, um, I suspect we'll be revisiting this subject many times again.) It was from a wedding blog that I probably found via Pinterest, on the "other side" of the blog that talks about, y'know, the after - being married. I kind of love this blog. It's basically centered around the belief that every women should do what is best for them and their life and screw everyone else because it's not their life, it's yours. Which... I am really trying to get to a point in my own life where I want to do what I want to do because it's what is best for me, and screw everyone else. Which is another post for another day, but I just thought it was timely for me to find it again tonight.

ANYWAY.

In her post on Reclaiming Wife, the author, Meg, quotes a passage from Elizabeth Gilbert's book Committed, which I am going to requote here, which makes this post a giant clusterpile of attributions to other people, but... I think it's significant.
All too often, those of us who choose to remain childless are accused of being somehow unwomanly or unnatural or selfish, but history teaches us that there have always been women who went through life without having babies. ... The number of women throughout history who never became mothers is so high (so consistently high) that I now suspect that a certain degree of female childlessness is an evolutionary adaptation of the human race. ... Childless women have always run orphanages and schools and hospitals. They are midwives and nuns and providers of chartiy. They heal the sick and teach the arts and often they become indispensable on the battlefield of life. Literally, in some cases. (Florence Nightingale comes to mind.) ...
Such childless women - let's call them the "Auntie Brigade" - have never been very well honored by history, I'm afraid. They are called selfish, frigid, and pathetic. Here's one particularly nasty bit of conventional wisdom circulating out there about childless women that I need to dispel here, and that is this: that women who have no children may live liberated and happy and wealthy lives when they are young, but they will ultimately regret that choice when they reach old age, for they shall die alone and depressed and full of bitterness. Perhaps you've heard this old chestnut? Just to set the record straight: There is zero sociological evidence to back this up. ...
Even within my own community, I can see where I have been vital sometimes as a member of the Auntie Brigade. My job is not merely to spoil and indulge my nice and nephew (though I do take that assignment to heart) but also to be a roving auntie to the world - an ambassador auntie - who is on hand wherever help is needed, in anybody's family whatsoever. There are people I've been able to help, sometimes fully supporting them for years, because I am not obliged, as a mother would be obliged, to put all my energies and resources into the full-time rearing of a child. There are a whole bunch of Little League uniforms and orthodontist's bills and college educations that I will never have to pay for, thereby freeing up resources to spread more widely across the community. In this way, I, too, foster life. There are many, many ways to foster life. And believe me, every single one of them is essential.   
-Elizabeth Gilbert

So... the original post ended up somewhere else than it started, which I suppose is what happens when you leave it to wander the Internet for a few hours, but... my point is the same: the women who are "just" aunts are valid and important and OMG I GET TO BE ONE.

12 comments:

chimes said...

I hate babies. Small children on the other hand, are a different story. I think I'm going to have to adopt.

Stacey said...

Being an aunt is the greatest thing ever, and I know you'll succeed at spoiling that child rotten!

Ashley, The Accidental Olympian said...

Being an aunt IS amazing. And the fact you don't have baby fever isn't weird. If you did have real "GET A BABY IN ME NOW" fever I would be worried about you because HI, not the right time.

I was in the same place for, well ever, that is until I got a ring. Suddenly this whole family unit thing was real. Like WAY real, and all the walls I had up about NO BABY NOT NOW RUIN LIFE were suddenly gone and my mind wandered. It was a gradual thing. And now all of a sudden as the months tick off to getting married, the reality is after that one considers, family.

It's very very very very very very weird I tell ya.

And if you get there to the other side, awesomesauce. And if you just want to be the kick ass aunt, then even more awesomesauce. Basically, awesomesauce for everyone.

MSchlader said...

Are you saying my child is going to have crazy hair??

Steph A said...

Yeah, like Ashley said... Once you become half of a whole, your thoughts on the issue may change. My other half does NOT EVAR want babies, and i don't particularly want babies, so we've pretty much settled the issue.

I stuck a bit of that Elizabeth Gilbert quote in my post My Thoughts on Childlessness, and i damn near put the whole thing and also some quotes from that Reclaiming Wife article in it, too. Ha. :)

Terra said...

SAME! Babies are scary - Aunties all the way!!

Kelly L. said...

HIGH FIVES!

Kelly L. said...

That is exactly what I am saying.

Kelly L. said...

For some reason I thought I'd read that post before but I guess not. I left you a novel of a comment on it. ;)

Kelly L. said...

This was probably the most perfect response ever. Thank you for making me feel like I'm not crazy.

Kelly L. said...

I like well-behaved small children. Devil spawn, on the other hand... keep them away from me.

Kelly L. said...

I have high aspirations.