Then that happened

I have little patience for those who preach that traveling helps discover who they are–those people just need to swap their airline ticket with a check for a shrink and figure out what they’re running away from. Travel is travel, exciting, challenging, eye opening, but not that profound.

Or so I thought. I was in East Asia. School was out and families were out in droves.  Kids awkwardly pedaled their bikes ahead of their moms walking with a swaddled sibling.  I was struck by how genuinely child-like the kids were, embodying curiosity and innocence. And the moms–they were relaxed and in tune with the children. They radiated kindness and warmth, and I had a thought–I could raise a child here.

It stirred. My long lost uterus, devoid of any pulse, let out a silent squeak, “I want a child.” I couldn’t believe it. Sentiments I thought I’d never have, making an appeal for the first time ever. Is this truly happening?! Inside my body?! MY uterus is stirring?!

It was faint, but it was a definite signal. Then it sank in. So all this time, all these years of struggling with why, the answer had been goddamn New York City– I had flashes of the expressions of the helicoptered kids, their expensive clothes and regimented schedules, the vapid eyes of the ones spilling out of their strollers with one hand in a ziploc bag full of Goldfish®. My body had taken all this in and shut down, deciding the rat race was no place for kids. The fucking Big Apple.

I was wide awake for the twelve hour flight home.

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Certified uncertainty

Spent the past few days hanging out with a very old and dear friend. She’s on maternity leave with number two and stranded at home and bored out of her mind. I didn’t bother with a hotel–just stayed with her and experienced this whole baby business up close, driving back and forth from daycare, watching her nurse every three hours, smelled for stinky diapers and played with the older one.

I was hoping I’d either be magically inspired or totally turned off. Neither happened. There was a part of me that found it very natural, and there was a part of me thinking how drastically different of a lifestyle it was. There was no hormonal gush in my uterus or maternal certainty that this was what I wanted.

“You’re really good with kids. You’ll be a great mom,” she observed.

The friend has a bunch of letters after her name having spent most of her adult life in higher education and specializes in child psychiatry.

I’m a board certified mom with no mommy yearnings.

 

Uterine Dogmas (Why Mom and Not Teacher)

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?