I was recently told by two separate people–quite emphatically–that I would make a great mother. (I don’t know what kind of mushrooms they were consuming.) For the sake of argument, let’s say I possess skills conducive to child development. Why did they suggest mother? Why didn’t they tell me to leave my corporate job and become a school teacher? Isn’t that a far more efficient use of my talent? If I became a mom, I’d be mother to maximum two kids in this country, three, if I believe in the local public school system, and maybe eight if I’m Mormon, but if I were a teacher, I could touch possibly hundreds of children’s lives. And if I worked with one hundred kids, chances are that the top quintile will go on to do something amazing with their lives. If I have two kids, chances are none, maybe one, will go on to do something amazing with their lives. If my long-lasting gift is to cultivate the minds of the next generation, why does it need to take the form of motherhood?
Last weekend I volunteered at a community center to work with a bright group of kids ages five through nine (Surprise! I like kids. And the feelings of liking kids but not wanting them can co-exist.) While I played dodgeball and made cards decorated with pipecleaners with kids with the widest smiles, I received a message from a married-with-child friend who complained her son had made zero progress despite his umpteenth ski lesson. This whole ski business was nothing the poor kid ever wanted, and now his mother was annoyed she was throwing away money. While I know there are intangible positive outcomes from the process of learning, like character development, I couldn’t help but wonder how many other kids would be better skiiers by now, or what other classes her son could have taken–and actually enjoyed.
The mismatch of resources and a child’s response got me thinking about the why-mom-and-not-teacher question again. Why insist on having your own? Is it the sense of complete ownership? (I created this person, from start to finish, and everything this young person represents is a part of me?) Or, is it that irrational biological connection that is impossible for me to relate to? But then, there are those who adopt if it doesn’t work out biologically, so what is that need about?
Does it boil down to property? Create wealth, keep it in the bloodline kind of thing? Didn’t Grandpa Hilton cut off Paris from his inheritance? What about all these billionaires taking pledges to donate it all away during their lifetimes? I’m inclined to believe that the bright, successful people have arrived at a conclusion similar to my observation–that money is more efficiently used by a bigger pool of non-family members who are smarter and more effective than mediocre kin.
But this talk of efficiency may be besides the point. Having kids has nothing to do with statistics, logic, productivity, and everything to do with irrational emotions–and that’s something I continue to truly struggle with understanding, because I seem to completely lack that human instinct to leave an imprint, DNA or otherwise. Who knew, that I, child of capitalist systems with plenty of consumerist tendencies, related most to the ideaologies of an Orwellian socialist state where babies are given up and raised by the country?
Who knew, that Joseph Stalin occupied my uterus?