When people call parenting the ‘hardest job in the world’ I often pick up a faint whiff of condescension. It seems like something people think they have to say, like ‘if women ruled the world there’d be no wars’ (there are plenty of hawkish female politicians) or ‘there’s no I in team’ (what’s wrong with individuality?).
It comes off as a bit of a platitude. A bit empty. A bit of a participation prize. But I think it’s 100% accurate.
What we’re talking about here is raising, feeding, sheltering, and loving a human being from infancy to adulthood. A human being who you’ll live with, presumably, for at least 18 years (and taking into consideration the housing market, likely much longer).
If a person were to take on any other job with an 18-year+ contract (and a very minor likelihood of making a profit), they would have to feel massively called to do it.
And I just don’t feel the call.
Let’s get my age out of the way: I’m 25. Young by any stretch, but certainly at this point an adult. I’m at a stage now where my mother had two babies (of an eventual four).
And when I look at an infant, whether in front of me or through my phone, I fall in love. My partner and I all but spend the day sending viral videos of babies and puppies to each other. The myth that non-maternal women straight up hate children is just that, an unsubstantiated myth.
I love children. And I’m not even certain I’d call myself non-maternal. When I manage to procure an infant I fall naturally into a rhythmic baby-bounce. You know the one – baby on hip, rocking gently. I cover them in kisses and look deeply into their eyes, pretending we have some deep spiritual connection. I even miss them when their parents take them away. I just don’t want one of my own.
Having lived with myself for 25 years I’ve learned that autonomy is the luxury I value above all others. And looking through my maternal lineage, I see the value in my heritage. At my great-grandmother’s funeral, a nurse described trying to help her button a blouse: “You’d get your hand slapped away,” she said, “and you’d be scowled at, or shouted down.” Mood I think now, recalling the anecdote.
I wonder: had the women in my family tree had more access to their own autonomy – if they had the freedom that I take for granted – would they have had so many children? Would they have popped out baby after baby if it wasn’t the done thing? I wonder too if any of my forebears were queer like me, but didn’t have the chance to live the experience like I do.
I deeply respect the people who choose to be parents – and the people who want to be parents but haven’t got there yet, or aren’t able to be parents. Despite what any shock jock says in an attempt to engineer controversy (and really, that is how comments of that sort should be taken) it is indeed the hardest job in the world.
It’s because of how much I respect parents that I don’t want to be one. Not yet, anyway. If I change my mind, so be it. But for now, I am grateful for the freedom I have to make this choice. Go on and make yours. And pay no mind to anyone who tries to invalidate it.Support Villainesse