Yesterday, I had to stop myself from kicking an old lady in the shins.
Okay, fine, I couldn’t actually have reached her shins, but only because my kicks are severely hampered these days by my lack of ab muscles. The thing is, I normally like this lady very much; she is a lovely and generous person. But if she comments once more on how big I’ve gotten (including accompanying hand gestures miming a large stomach) I’m not sure I can handle it. I am well aware of my stomach’s horrible girth. After all, who’s the one who can’t turn over in bed at night without waking up and using a series of shifting positions involving elbows and pillows in order to make it successfully from one side to the other? I’ll give you a hint: IT’S NOT HER.
This irrational sort of anger that comes suddenly upon me these days is definitely a result of being so pregnant that I have to waddle everywhere, supporting my stomach at times with my hands, and get heartburn if I drink too much water after 8:30 at night. I had temporarily forgotten, but now clearly recall, being so pissy at the end of my first pregnancy that I actually flipped out over how stupid the movie Stepbrothers is and made my husband turn it off halfway through. It’s not so much that I don’t like stupid movies (who doesn’t adore the epic shampoo/conditioner battle at the beginning of Billy Madison?) as it is that I was so physically uncomfortable when we tried to watch Stepbrothers that I freaked out more and more with every lame joke.
“Honestly,” I told my husband at some point, “these people are so ridiculous! Who behaves like this? I just wish they’d ALL DIE.” Apparently, if a slasher version of Stepbrothers had existed, I’d have been all about it.
This time around, other than the aforementioned older lady, I’ve been able to better control my brief bouts of irrational rage. But I’ve found it stoked up over the past few weeks by the glut of articles floating around about how terrible parenthood is – though often, it seems the authors are talking mostly about motherhood since apparently dads have it made. Basically, these stories boil down to discussions of studies that claim that, should you have kids, you will be forever poor and miserable. Most of what I’ve read takes a condescending tone that suggests you’ve made an incredibly stupid decision in choosing to procreate while hinting – or outright stating – that you’re a jerk who is simultaneously unhappy about your choice and also trying to trick your childfree friends into making the same decision in a sort of cruel, misery-loves-company move.
Frankly, I am tired of reading this crap. It seems like common sense to me that you may be less happy in everyday moments when you have kids because so much of what you do, especially with young children, is tied up in the minutiae of childrearing. These activities are often less than fun and can be both strenuous and exhausting. But that’s not really the point. If all I wanted was to be happy in the moment, I could just develop a serious drug habit, right? I’ve heard that’s very effective for instant gratification, but clearly it would be a terrible idea. Likewise, I find it lame to cite studies of happiness as a reason to remain childless because you aren’t definitely going to be happier with or without a kid – not to mention, how successfully can you measure happiness to begin with? Some people cannot be happy no matter what, while others can turn the worst situation into something positive, lemons-to-lemonade style.
These articles make me feel like a bunch of adults have regressed to grade school and are screaming, “I know you are, but what am I?” across the playground at each other. It’s just a crowd of people trying to justify their own choices by making others feel bad about theirs, which is pointless and sad. Having a kid isn’t cheap, no, but to say, “Well, thank God for birth control!” doesn’t contribute anything to the conversation. What if you want to have kids despite the cost? How about some helpful ideas for doing that? Plus, when you get into conversations about kids and money, well gee, what a surprise that it’s easier to raise kids when you have the spare cash to hire help, to choose to stay home a la Ann Romney, or to buy the necessities of life for your whole family without worrying about your next paycheck. But that is really an argument for being financially solvent as an individual or a couple, not an argument that’s inherently for or against childbearing. I don’t want to read yet another tale of woe about how depressing it is to be a stay-at-home mom or to strive for work-life balance, about how terrible having a baby is because it ruins your relationship and steals all your sleep, or about how you’re going to lose yourself once you become a mother.
And what I want even less is another fight between the childfree and those with kids. Maybe it’s because I’m in a city, but my friends are pretty evenly split between the two. I never experienced a lot of pressure from anyone either way, nor have I exerted any pressure myself. I do understand that the childfree feel pressure from other quarters about their decision, but it’s hard for me to feel sympathy for them as a group when I keep reading articles in which they try to convince me that theirs is the better choice, or even that having children is selfish and bad for the planet, and their dog is better than a kid anyway. Because you know what? None of those things is necessarily true. And these days, it’s a lot more acceptable not to have kids than it ever was. No one’s life is automatically easier or better off in either case. So what’s with the quest for moral superiority or scientific validation?
I guess what I’m saying is, just own your choice, damn it! Telling me that mine is wrong is no better than me telling you yours is. Can’t we just agree to some marketing slogan like, “Kids! Have ’em if you want ’em!” and shut up about it? Then we can get back to being participants in our own lives on whatever path we’ve chosen without the time and energy wasted on judging and advising each other needlessly. And I can get back to hating random movies and not kicking people while awaiting Kid B’s arrival.