Media Courtesy of Property of Sandi Kadle
One of the very best things about this job is the brilliance that I am surrounded by every single day. We have compiled a writing and editing team so formidable that the creativity generated is a force to be reckoned with. We work well together, we play well off of each other. We bring out the best in each other with debates and passionate, in-depth conversations about the topics that matter most to us. Sometimes, that force bears fruit; ideas germinate and resonate, and eventually end up as dueling op-eds from myself and one of our stupendous Content Editors, Shannon Beaty
Last week, we were lamenting and chattering back and forth about the general (read: dismal) state of the world and Shannon said something along the lines of: "Honestly, this is why I don't want to have kids. I hate the idea of bringing children into this world." This got us on a completely new subject.
See, I do have kids. Two of them, actually. I've been a mom for nearly five years now; and, while it is the most spectacular thing I've ever done, I COMPLETELY understood where Shannon was coming from.
Not having kids was not something I had ever considered. Even when I was convinced I didn't want to get married, I still knew that somehow I'd have babies. When my husband and I started dating almost exactly ten years ago, we began talking about the future pretty early on. As corny as it sounds, we both knew this was it for us. Whether we got married or not was still up in the air (he was for it, I was against the institution as a whole), but we were on the same page regarding kids.
And when I got pregnant five years later (out of wedlock, mind you), the predominant feeling was that of excitement from us and our families. After the initial adrenaline of finding out that I was literally growing a human within my body wore off, I found myself spiraling into existential crises. I had recently been laid off from my job (this was in 2009 so the bubble had freshly burst and I was a victim of downsizing just like so many others), and I had what seemed like an endless amount of time to freak the fuck out about what bringing a child into the world implied.
Some of the thoughts that raced through my mind during my 41 weeks of pregnancy:
- How could I be so arrogant to actually create a new life when there are SO many abandoned children already alive that need good homes?!
- How could I bring a sweet, innocent baby into the terrible, messed up, dangerous, unsavory world?
- OH MY GOD WE'RE HAVING A GIRL. A GIRL!!!! I'M SO EXCITED. HER NAME WILL BE SOPHIA MAYE!!!
- OH. MY. GOD. WE'RE HAVING A GIRL! A GIRL! FUCK! NOT ONLY IS IT A BABY, IT'S A GIRL BABY! WE HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ALL THE PENISES. AND THE INEQUALITY. AND THE PEDOPHILES. AND THE MISOGYNY. NOOOOOOOOOO.
- How am I going to raise a teenage girl and not kill her? I know what a pain in the ass I was as a teenager; and she's bound to be worse, right? Isn't that what they say? Your kids will be you as teenagers only tenfold?
- Where is she going to go to school? How will the workforce be when she's ready to enter it? Surely the economy will have bounced back by then, right? I mean, that's a good 25 years or so from now; of COURSE it will have corrected itself by then.
- Please let her be healthy, please let her be healthy, please let her be healthy, please let her be healthy, please let her be healthy, please let her be healthy.
- I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this, I can do this.
- I HAVE to do this. No going back now!
- If she ever comes home crying because some asshole kid was mean to her, I don't know how I will restrain myself from kicking said asshole kid's ass.
- But, wait. What if SHE is the bully? God, that would be even worse. I'll kick HER ass then.
- I should probably start some sort of savings account for her. I'm sure as hell not going to pay for her college, but I don't want her to spend the rest of her life in debt like me either.
- I'm glad I don't live in New York City; otherwise I'd have to have her enrolled in preschool already and she's not even born!
- Are we going to be terrible parents? Is she going to spend her adulthood griping to a shrink about how her mom and dad completely screwed her up beyond repair? Is she going to love me? Is she going to hate and resent me like so many other young girls? I don't think I could survive that.
(You get the gist, yeah?)
I completely get where women who don't want kids for these reasons are coming from. The world is scary. Being a mom/parent is unspeakably scary. Having a kid in this scary world is almost unimaginable sometimes.
But then I gave birth to sweet Sophia Maye. The doctors cleaned her up and did all of the stuff they do when babies are first born and looking nasty and placed her in my arms. I felt a cosmic shift. I looked at her, and, instead of dreading all of the obstacles we would inevitably face as a family, I felt hope. Hope for the future. Hope for HER future. And I don't mean that I looked at her and imagined her fulfilling all of the dreams that I haven't gotten around to fulfilling myself. I looked at her and realized that what I had just done was contribute to the future.
I realized that I had just given birth to a clean slate. Literally, anything was possible at this point. I didn't worry if we'd be good parents anymore. I looked at my husband looking at our baby and the utter adoration, love, and protectiveness I saw in his eyes convinced me beyond anything else. We could definitely handle this.
And when I looked in the eyes of the brand new life cradled in my arms, I saw my own wonder reflected there. We were getting to know each other, and the absolute and unconditional love was reciprocal. I made a silent benediction right then and there that there is nothing that I wouldn't do to protect this sweet, precious life. The ultimate vow of motherhood.
Additionally, I realized that, with the right guidance, support, and love, she could change the world someday. She could be the hope of the future. Maybe she'll invent some life-altering cancer antibody. Perhaps she would finally invent that flying car. Maybe she'd be the next Jane Goodall. Maybe she'd finally shatter that glass ceiling into a million pieces and take her place in the oval office. The possibilities were, and still are, endless.
And that's why I encourage any woman who yearns to be a mother not to let the state of the world stop them. First of all, it's something that no one should be denied if it's what they want. (Please know that I am not a baby-pusher and will never ever judge somebody for not wanting children. In fact, I will applaud your choice to stick to your guns to not take on something so enormous as creating a life when you're not 100% sure you want to). Second of all, the world has always been a scary place, albeit in different ways. The thing is, we can help to make it a better one. By raising good children and showing them love, discipline and acceptance, we can create an entire new generation comprised of smart, capable, hard-working, tolerant individuals. It just takes work.
And we, as parents, must ensure that we are raising good kids. What does that mean? Well, for us, it means that our girls will most certainly hear the word no. They will learn to be independent in mind, body and spirit. They will learn that the world is a terrible, beautiful, scary, unfair place that deserves respect. They will learn that every single living thing on this planet, be it people, animal or plant, deserves consideration, love, respect. They will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they will be loved unconditionally no matter the circumstances; even if we don't always see eye-to-eye. They will be taught tolerance and acceptance; even for those who don't personify those values themselves.
For all those women out there grappling back and forth on whether to have babies: your choices and your fears are valid. But if you yearn to feel tiny feet giving you gentle (and sometimes downright aggressive) nudges from within; if you look at a baby and feel a tug on your uterus; if you sniff a baby's head and smell that sweet smell that only comes from a baby's skin; if you long to create the ultimate manifestation of love with the man or woman that you love: DO IT! Don't let the world deny you any more happiness than it already has. And when you freak out during your pregnancy? Just send me a tweet
. We'll get through it together.
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