The Mommy Instinct

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The concept of having children is very complex. Some days, I think I want to be a mother. I want to have a family of my own. I get curious about what it must feel like to be a parent.

But then, the vast majority of the time, the idea of children of my own never crosses my mind. And sometimes, I am almost damn-near repulsed by the idea of having children of my own. I feel like I should be kind of ashamed of that response… after all, it’s in human nature to procreate and hey, aren’t women supposed to have some kind of inate instinct to want to be a mother?!

How come I don’t feel it?

It’s an issue I will likely always see as an unanswerable mystery. Like Popeye so eloquently put it, “I am what I am, and that’s all that I am.” At a certain point, it’s similar to asking why men have nipples or why the sky is blue.

I simply can’t relate to mothers very well. I know a lot of you reading this are mothers, but it’s the truth: a lot of what you talk about, the feelings you have, all seem totally alien to me. Kids often turn me OFF and I can’t wait to get away from them! I don’t get the whole “awww, how cute” thing because almost every “cute” baby grows up to be an adult person like all the rest of us. And people are people. We can be awesome, or we can suck. I can’t put our smallest versions on a pedestal. They are just small people. Like how puppies are small dogs.

I understand how we are naturally wired to be attracted to things with big eyes and small, underformed appendages. It was an evolutionary thing: babies had to be “cute” so we wouldn’t leave them in the shrubbery as we foraged for food. We tend to be attracted to baby animals, too, for the same “awwww” factor. But here’s my dirty, little secret: I don’t actually find babies –human or animal– to be exceptional. I prefer the older things, if I could have a choice. I like kids who can use the bathroom by themselves, and dogs that are housebroken. I don’t want to be super vigilant and careful all the time. I like things that can kinda take care of themselves.

Today at lunch, a mom and dad were sitting at the table next to me with their FOUR little kids. Four. All of them looked to be 5 years of age and under. The youngest was a tiny, screeching baby in a carrier. The other kids were moving around constantly and whining here and there. I felt so fortunate that I was not that woman. I couldn’t imagine being stuck with FOUR of those things, 24/7, and remaining calm and not wanting to just leave the kids in a mall foodcourt someplace. I mean, you can’t go anywhere with four little, little kids. It probably takes them a half an hour just to get out of the car with all the carseats and straps and carriers and stuff. I don’t get what drives a family to do that to themselves. Have one, and relax. Sheesh.

I noticed that when the kids were talking and/or screeching, several people in the restaurant turned to look in their direction. I started to pay attention to WHO was turning around, WHEN they turned and HOW LONG they kept looking. I noticed that an older woman, a Grandma type, was the most frequent looker. She would initially look when an loud noise erupted from the children, but she didn’t look away. Not at all. Instead, she was completely, head-on staring at the family. The look on her face seemed to be saying, “Oh, children are wonderful. I must look at these children because I have an instinct to nurture, to be interested in those little helpless things.” A couple of women sitting a few seats away from the old lady would glance over when the screeches occurred, and quickly look away and keep talking. They seemed tense. The men largely ignored it, except the loudest screeches. This one guy in a Roto Rooter uniform shirt sighed loudly, looked super annoyed and shook his head to himself.

As for me? I couldn’t bring myself to even look at the family. I was afraid one of them–a parent, or a kid, it didn’t matter– would see me looking and might want to talk. I was close enough for someone to say hello or even apologize for the screeching, and I didn’t want any of it. I just don’t like being around that. It makes me skin crawl a little, and I feel like I lose my appetite, which is no small matter for a pig like me! Nope, I’d rather look away or do whatever I can to not react to the loud noises the kids made. Ignore something and it eventually goes away, right? 😉

Two nights ago, a really uncomfortable thing happened. I went into a little local takeout restaurant I’d been meaning to try for awhile. It was run by a husband and wife, and the restaurant was named after a little boy, Sammy. I know this, because when I came in, a chubby kid in a shirt with the name “SAMMY” on the back hollered, “WELCOME TO SAMMY’S!!” at me. “I’M SAMMY!”

OK, kid. I got it. Cute. Now let me take a look at this menu here and–

SCREAMING

YELLING

LAUGHING and BANGING NOISES

There was another customer in there at the time, you see. A young mom–she looked younger than me, for sure– was in there with her three young kids. And this woman had no control of her children. It was obnoxious as hell. The kids were racing around the place, talking to Sammy and playing with some of the toys the restaurant had out on the floor (they apparently are big on the family-fun thing and encourage families with little children), and then running up to their Mom and yelling things like “I WANT A BROWNIE!” and “MOM! MOM! MOM!” at her. She would react in that annoying way… “OK, let’s go sit down. If you’re quiet you can get a brownie…”

One of the little boys scowls, looks at her and yells, “NO! I HATE YOU, MOMMY!” and hits her. Yes, he talked to her like that. And he hit her. And the mother just weakly grins, and goes, “Oh, that’s not nice.” ?!?!?!?!?

You know what my Mom would have done if I had acted that way in public? We would have left a vapor trail behind us for how fast my Mom would take me outside, and threateningly lean over me and say “You do not talk like that to me, or anyone! That is bad! We’re leaving now.” And we would really leave. It was not an empty threat.

So anyway, this family was annoying the snot out of me. I could barely make conversation with the woman behind the counter to place my order over all the screaming. As I waited for my order to be up, one of the little brats, a girl, walks over to where I’m standing near the counter.

“What school do your kids go to?” she asks me. I’m surprised, but say, “Oh, I don’t have any kids.” I grin a little and look away.

The girl yells, “WHY NOT?!” So rude!!

I just stared back at her, blankly. I was pretty sure I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, which was “Because I couldn’t risk having an awful, ugly child like you!” so I didn’t say anything. I looked over to the mother for any kind of escape.

The mom goes, “Oh, to the little ones, everyone should be a Mommy!” and she laughs.

I felt so odd. I was kind of insulted, and disgusted by her patronizing tone, and also like that woman, and Society As a Whole, was looking at me and expecting me to be a Mommy. And when Society finds out I am not a Mommy, they don’t know what to do with me.

I was so glad to get the hell out of there when my order was up. I verbally berated that young mom in the privacy of my car and wished for her kids to get chicken pox or something. Yeah, it might sound evil to wish ill upon a precious child, but I don’t really care. I was thinking it. I was not amused, or charmed by their little personalities… FUCK that noise. I want them to just go scream in Walmart, where they belong, and leave the rest of us alone.

So, in conclusion, I don’t see myself being a Mommy anytime soon. Even when I have my moments where I think of adoption, wistfully… the truth is I will never really go through with that. Because a much larger portion of my heart and brain says NO WAY to the kid thing. It’s just not part of my vision for the rest of my life… it’s just how I turned out, I guess.

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5 responses »

  1. There was a very long period of time where I had no interest in having children (basically, the entire first 30 years of my life). It wasn’t until I met R that I could actually conceive of conceiving. I used to tell my Mom that I didn’t want kids because people were assholes. Her response was “If only the assholes keep having kids, it’ll never get better”. So Bella is my attempt at a better future. To raise a child who is loving, caring and accepting; respectful and empathetic. I don’t think everyone should have kids and don’t blame anyone who doesn’t want to. Being a mother is both the most rewarding and the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. There’s no down time and it’s exhausting. But I didn’t know how much love I had in my heart until Bella came into my life and now I never want to be without her (well, except for brief sanity breaks).

  2. Well said, M. I do wonder if I’d feel differently if I met someone I could actually feel the need to have children with… up until now, anyway, that’s never happened. I can’t really recognize that feeling yet. Maybe I never will…? I don’t know for sure. It would be nice, because, like you, I don’t want this world to be just a massive mess of assholes! I like to think I could help raise someone who can be good for the world.

    All it takes is for me to watch Idiocracy to think, again: “This movie is so true. The smarter people aren’t having kids; just the morons. I fit in with the smarter people (for the most part! LOL) and so I really *should* have a kid, so the gene pool doesn’t turn ALL stupid in the future. I feel guilty and selfish that I have not have a child yet and might have missed my fertility window.”

  3. Man, fuck society for making people feel and behave like that. Apparently there’s something wrong with you (especially if you’re a woman) if you’re not gung-ho about children. When I was a kid, I wanted more than anything to be an adult … probably so I wouldn’t have to deal with other kids. People I know mostly have well-behaved, interesting, smart kids, so I don’t much mind spending time with them.

    But I have less than zero interest in babies. That special crying newborns do is like nails on a chalkboard to me. And the idea of being pregnant grosses me the fuck out. Like, every time I think I might be able to get through it, I learn some new detail that makes it sound a little bit worse.

    I think my husband mostly wants to have kids so the world doesn’t turn into Idiocracy. And we would certainly have smart, well-behaved kids. But then you still have to deal with all the OTHER little assholes. THeir friends and schoolmates and just … ugh.

  4. Well, THIS post hits home. Obviously, this has been the topic of many lunchtime conversations between us already, but I can tell you definitively that — in my case, at least — meeting someone who’d be a great dad, and who I love with all my heart, hasn’t changed my perspective on baby-making.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that my gut reaction to finding out friends/relatives are pregnant is probably the “voice” I should listen to: The blood in my veins turns to ice water. It hasn’t once been a reaction of jealousy or envy. I think that’s pretty telling.

    I bet you’ll learn a lot about yourself when Trish finds out she’s pregnant someday. (No pressure, Trish! Heh.)

  5. I love this blog entry. I knew that I wanted to have kids- then I had one and while I am glad that I have my daughter- one is enough. Just like people don’t respect the fact that there are people in the world that don’t want to have kids they also don’t like you to have just one- you have to have at least 2 to be in the normal family club.
    I really do not agree that everyone should be a mommy. It is a really personal decision and other people need to butt out.

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