Stop Setting Alarms on My Biological Clock
If I'm ever going to fulfill my dream of becoming a mother, I'm going to need some better role models.
July 23, 2007 issue - I am at a party chatting with a woman I know slightly. As her young son squirms out of her embrace, she slips her hand under my shirt. She's not getting fresh with me. She's touching my tummy with her cold hand and asking me, in a concerned voice, "Why aren't you pregnant yet?" I smile, break free from her touch, and head to the food table to fill said empty belly with her brat's birthday cake.
I love children and definitely plan on having them. Maternal instinct is oozing out of my pores: I've infantilized my dogs; I've gotten down on my hands and knees at the park with babies I barely know. My marriage is wonderful and solid, and we are both blessed with good health. I've been a nanny, a teacher, a youth-group leader. I've taken childhood-development courses solely for the purpose of someday raising happy, balanced children. I have always looked forward to becoming a mother.
So why don't I have kids or even the inkling right now? It's because of you. Yes, you: the fanatical mothers of the world. It may seem like ages ago now, but you weren't always like this. You, too, were sneering at the obnoxious parents who brought their infants to fancy, adult, nighttime restaurants or R-rated movies and let them carry on, ruining things for other patrons. You've been terrible advertising for the club that you so desperately need others to join.
If you want me to join your ranks—and you've made it clear with your cold, clammy hands on my stomach that recruiting my uterus is of paramount importance to you—I need to set some ground rules.
First, please stop asking me when I'm going to get pregnant.
For all you know, I cannot have kids. For all I know, I cannot have kids, as I have not yet tried. But imagine how painful this line of interrogation would be if I had submitted to all kinds of procedures, only to come up empty-wombed. It would be emotionally devastating. Yet ever since the day after my wedding two years ago, I have fielded this question from the eye doctor, the dental assistant, my yoga teacher, the bagger at the grocery store. All of them feel entitled to ask. Don't. It's none of your business.
Next, don't completely abandon your own life and passions. You're setting a bad example for aspiring mothers-to-be like me.
I recently expressed my happiness over an achievement I had at work to a mother-friend of mine. She said, dripping with condescension, "Well, you don't know happiness until you've had a baby."
That's very possible, but don't rain on my parade, as I've never said to you, "Remind me, when you went to that expensive college you majored in diaper-rash prevention, right?"
I happen to love my job. It fulfills me in ways no other person—even a child—could. I learned through my own mother's example that the best lesson you can teach your kids is to pursue their passions. It's not selfish to have your own life. In fact, it's selfish not to.
Now let's talk a bit about manners, as in please teach your children some. The world has rules, and kids should learn them. And being well mannered does not infringe on their individuality and freedom.
I crouched to meet the eye line of an acquaintance's 4-year-old to greet her, and in response, she punched me in the face so hard my mouth bled. What was more baffling was the mother's reaction: nothing to the child, but to me she said very sternly: "You really shouldn't talk down to kids."
I also shouldn't be punched in the face by kids whose parents don't know how to set basic boundaries. Experiences like this don't exactly encourage me to hurry up and get pregnant.
Finally, don't make your kid an extension of your own narcissism.
No one could possibly love your kids as much as you do, so stop inflicting them on others. Don't bring your kid to adult parties when you're not sure if it's kid-friendly. If they didn't invite your kid, they don't want your kid there. If you don't want to get a babysitter, stay home.
My husband thinks some people, particularly mothers, behave in these ways because it helps them validate their own choices. But he doesn't truly understand how infuriating it is, and that's because nobody badgers men with questions about procreation.
Becoming a parent was your decision, and I am thrilled for you. All I'm asking is that you let me make that choice in my own time.
And keep your hands off my belly.