I am nearly 30 and my husband and I are both trying to establish our careers and buy a home that will accommodate the children we plan, in two to three years, to have. I come from a (very) tenuously middle-class household and want to guarantee my hypothetical children a college education and every tool for adult happiness and success. I plan to stay home with them during their early years, if I find it suitable and possible, and return to a family-friendly career, if this also proves suitable and possible. We are vigilant about birth control because before we conceive we must undergo testing to ensure that we do not pass on a severe genetic deformity that runs in my husband's family. We plan to have this done soon. I am a mite disturbed by the possibility that I, too, carry this gene, but my husband and I have always planned to adopt at least one child. I have an adopted sibling, and the idea of adoption always seemed very natural to me. Somehow, it also seems less wasteful.
The problem is that I have developed almost biblical feelings of jealousy and resentment toward people with children, particularly younger people with children. I realize that part of my problem is my background: I went to a high school plagued by teenage pregnancy (every year at least one girl in my homeroom was pregnant, and the principal had to announce that students were not permitted to bring their children to class). Also, my older sister was a teenage mother. While I love my nephew and am glad he was born, I can't help correlating my sister's dismal incompetence as a mother (she no longer has custody) with her decision to go ahead with the unplanned pregnancy. It isn't hard to pick an effective method of birth control (or two) and use it (or them) correctly and consistently. If you can't even be responsible for your own body, I think it portends badly for your abilities as a parent.
When I go to the grocery store I'm not troubled when I see a mother with one or two well-behaved children, but when I see a mother with a grubby or rambunctious brood a storm cloud appears over my head and it thunders, "It's not like shitting! It has to be planned!" When people self-righteously complain about the burden of raising their children I want to shout, "You chose to have children! Shut the fuck up!" I could barely stomach the editorial by David Brooks extolling the virtues of the young parents raising the "new red-diaper babies." I always thought that you should work toward creating a stable environment before having children, and I feel that young parents have selfishly skipped all the hurdles I'm going through to create what I hope will be a healthy, happy family.
Of course, I know that it's really none of my business whether other people choose to reproduce, and I'm sure that most parents are less cavalier about the decision than I usually assume them to be. How can I let go of this?
Thus Far Childless by Choice
Dear Thus Far Childless,
What I say may sound crazy. But a little craziness may be what you need.
You can let go of this by loving the world and everyone in it. That's the only way I can put it. We could chip away at your attitude. We could agree that you're no better than the people you are mentally criticizing. But that wouldn't fill your lungs with fresh air. I prefer to sing: Love the assholes you hate. Love the cocksuckers you judge. Love the idiots. Love your dismally incompetent sister. Love the numbskulls too lazy to roll on a condom. Love the zeroes who shouldn't be parents. Love Vice President Dick Cheney (love your enemies out of sheer perversity). Love all the babies in vitro and otherwise, love all the sperm donors jerking off in sterile rooms, love all the unwed parents in their blithe unconcern, love the children blooming on the roadside like wildflowers, love the one-eyed mistakes, the legless mistakes and the heartless mistakes because they too are perfect, it's only our vision that is flawed, love the woman in line before you at the grocery store with the unruly children and the woman behind you with no children and the atheist at the checkout counter and the Greek Orthodox bookkeeper in the manager's box and every other ethnic and religious designation too numerous to mention, love them all, love every category that serves to divide, love the atom and the chromosome of indivisible creation, love the falsehood for its beauty and the truth for its fragility, love all social classes and economic classes and love all the prisoners in all the prisons and all the soldiers in the sand and all the babies emerging into the cruel light of day every day and every night and love your own hatred and your own bile and your own contempt.
Love, love love. In place of contempt, bring love. In place of anger bring love. In place of judgment bring love. The uglier the baby, the stupider the baby, the ranker the baby, the fouler the baby, the more love. Extend your love to those with whom you disagree, those who do not come up to your standards, those who burn churches, those who burn bridges, those who burn with nothing but stupidity and those who burn with woman-hating righteousness, those who burn with passion and those who burn with dullness, those who burn with a dumb repudiation of everything you believe, those who burn with renunciation of everything they themselves believe, those who burn their valuables and everything they own, those who hoard their newspapers in piles to the ceiling, those who do "the wave," those who shit on street corners, those who piss in doorways, those who sleep on our steps, those who break into our houses and rob us, those who call us to sell us mortgages and trips to Reno, those who look down on us as we look down on them, those who see through us as we find them opaque, those who despise us even though we love them, those who would murder us if they could only get out of jail, those who follow us down dark roads hoping to do us harm. Love them all. Cast them into the sea and love the sea.
It's the only cure I know. It's not even a cure. It's just a little song I sing, blinded by my own cruel eyes. I sing, I pretend, I beat my drum, I dance, I wiggle, I run away, I fret, I breathe, I play, I sing. I sing this little song and try to fill my heart with love.
It helps. It's dumb, but it's the only cure I know.
- - - - - - - - - - - -
What? You want more?