It’s all about the children.
No it isn’t. Before I had a son—for over 39 years of my life—my childless
friends and I scoffed at this sentiment. Sheesh, we complained, I guess we’re second-class citizens. Never mind that we were working day in and day out to keep this little world running so that the precious Leaders of Tomorrow would inherit. Typical parental self-absorption, we scoffed. And now I’m the proud mom of a beautiful, sweet, brilliant 19-month-old bundle of perfection? I still scoff at it.
In truth, I feel like both people—a proud and happy mom, no doubt, but I was childless for a little less than half my life (hopefully) and those feelings don’t go away overnight. At least for me they didn’t. I still wish babies and small children wouldn’t go to non-kid-friendly restaurants, movies, and other places grown-ups go for a little quiet and space to mingle with peers. Yeah, my husband and I cart our own tot off to places other than Chuck-e-Cheese or Lake Anza, but in those instances we know were on borrowed time, behaviorally speaking, and we head straight for the door if junior starts acting up. The whole world is not, nor should it be, kid-friendly.
You don’t know what love is until you have a child.
Yes you do. I don’t believe parental love is somehow better or more real than other kinds of love, it’s just different. It’s wrapped around an utterly pure subject, spiked with intense protectiveness and a(n un)healthy dose of self-love. Er, that’s why parents are nutty for their own baby’s hilarious antics (yawn) and brilliant utterances (y’huh?), not their neighbor’s—the mini-me factor.
Parental love makes parents close in on their household in many cases, eschewing community involvement. My husband and I have to work hard to stay part of the world around us—it’s so easy to settle into the family couch on evenings and weekends, and just steep in your own familial juices. Parenthood breeds cliquish tribalism and a totally unBuddhist obsessive attachment. I’m sorry but the love I have for my mother, father, husband, siblings, and friends is just as important to me, and a little less suffocating, truth be told. Yes, I would dive into boiling oil for my son if necessary—and, honestly, isn’t that a bit de trop?
You can’t be fulfilled unless you experience parenthood.
Yes you can. Having a child is fun, fascinating, delightful, educational, growth-inducing, self-revelatory, entertaining, sweet, and heart-meltingly delicious, but it is not the sole path to fulfillment. Other things in my life have fulfilled me in a different and equally rich way, such as creative projects, losing weight, communing with nature, great books, long-lasting friendships, helping an aging parent move, helping a friend overcome depression. Do those things seem trivial compared with child-rearing? Maybe they are—to you. Fulfillment is personal, dude.
No, I would not trade momhood now for all the chocolate in Belgium, but nor would I retroactively trade my 39 years of childlessness for a bazillion dollars and that still vacant co-host gig on The View. I just think our childless brothers and sisters deserve a little respect, if you please, and hold the pity. There is life without offspring, and it’s damn good.
Sonja Fitz is a Berkeley resident. She
doesn’t mind and even enjoys reading The Tale of Peter Rabbit 12 times in a row, but she also enjoys a quiet double espresso in trendy-snooty adult-friendly cafés.