Friday, April 19, 2013

The Hypothetical (Normal) Child

A friend of mine from college sent out an email the other day.  She works full time, is considering going back to school, and she and her husband want a baby.  She wanted to know what we all thought—some of us who have older kids, having had them either in college or right afterwards, some who don’t have kids, some who are pregnant with no kids, and some of us in the trenches of poop and vomit and newly mobile babies who get sick all the time from daycare. 

The responses ranged from “YAYAYAYAYAY BAAAAAABIES!” to “OMG NO.”  One girl and I were silent on the whole email chain.  Her baby is only 4 months younger than Lis, and we are the only two who are lawyers, working full time at notoriously stressful jobs, like the original email sender, with young children.  The rest have older kids, or not yet born kids, or no kids. 

Obviously, our silence went noticed, and she eventually asked—what about you two? What do you think?  I held my breath, then put on my big girl panties, and waded in.

The actual living breathing child is always worth it, even when so you’re frustrated you want to cry and scream and throw things.  That child will always be worth it, and you will always love him or her.  The hypothetical child is another question.  The hypothetical child gives you none of the “benefits” (smiles, hugs, and snuggles), and all you can see is the struggle.  That struggle is very real, and even more so when the hypothetical child becomes the actual one.  Your schedule, your life will be disrupted in ways you can’t possibly imagine.  So, in my opinion, there’s never a good time to become a parent, because it’s always inconvenient.  It’s never worth it, until the hypothetical child is a real one.  Then all of a sudden, it is. 

Well, you can imagine how that went over.  Perhaps I should set aside my crazy career and bask in the glory of being a stay at home mom and be all things to all people, but especially all things to my daughter.  Perhaps I am selfish.  Perhaps I am a terrible person for even suggesting something like this.  Perhaps I am a terrible mother for not loving every minute of this.  Perhaps I am a disgrace to working mothers, since I obviously can't handle this grace and aplomb. Perhaps I should never utter a complaint about working and being a mom, because I am doing a disservice to feminism.

Perhaps I need another child, a sibling for Lis, to—I don’t know what the point of that suggestion was.  To make me more humble? Embrace motherhood? Give Lis a sibling? Make things easier because there is a playmate?  I’m really not sure.

Actually, the whole conversation after that didn’t bother me, because, whatever.  I’m not judging their choices—it’s great that they feel that way about being a parent.  That works for them and their family.  This is what works for me and mine.  SO, mommy wars, whatever.  It honestly didn’t bother me.

What bothers me is the suggestion of a second child.  Now that Lis is over one, I’ve been getting that suggestion quite a bit.  That bugs the hell out of me.  I’m not ready.  Vor’s not ready.  Maybe we never will be ready.  That, other people of the world, is none of your business. 

But, by way of a PSA, let me explain something to you, the public at large who may or may not be reading this.  If you say something to the effect of “When are you having another?” and you either get no response, a vague one, or a response indicating “never” or “not any time soon,” That is your stopping point.  By way of a further PSA, if you know the person well, and you know that the babyhood was hellish for some reason—bad pregnancy, horrific birth, surgery on an infant, never sleeping screaming colicky baby, NEVER say anything to the effect of “That wasn’t normal! It will be normal next time! It won’t happen again!”

Normal.  Normal.  Normal.  When you say stuff like that, that’s all that rings in my ears.  The echo of the ringing sounds something like this: Not normal. Abnormal.  You’re not normal.  She’s not normal.  Not right.  All wrong.  And then, for the final kicker: INVALID. 

Listen. I get it’s not too likely that will have another cranio kid.  I get that not all babies have such major sleep issues. Every parent out there of a “not normal” child or experience gets that too. But that is OUR NORMAL.  That is my life, and that is what is normal in my life.  You don’t get to invalidate my fears and my experience and my life with a wave of your hand and the use of the phrase “not normal.”  So when you tell me that I should have another kid, and not worry, because things will be normal this time, I kind of want to take your head and rub your nose in my experience until your face is absolutely steeped in the terror and exhaustion of the whole thing.  Normally (NORMALLY) I would not wish what I did on my worst ENEMY, but by saying that, you almost take yourself to a whole new level of worst enemy.   When you tell me I should have another kid, and not to worry, because things will be normal, you sound like an insensitive idiot who needs a good dose of reality and what is actually normal in the world.

When you tell me my life is not normal, you tell me it's invalid. It's not invalid. My experiences aren't invalid.  They make up a decent percent of the population, and it's normal for that percentage too. 

You don't get to tell me that that my life isn't normal--it's my life, and it's my normal, and I'm not ready for any more normal right now, hypothetical or otherwise.


CM said...

At first I thought all the "perhapses" were in your head... if they came from friends, I'm sorry.

I've never understood why people have such strong opinions about other people's reproductive plans. Assuring a parent who has been through major medical issues with their kid that it's not "normal" and everything will be just fine the next time... how thoughtless and naive do you have to be to suggest that? How can any parent assume that "normal" is to have perfectly healthy children when we've all experienced how things can change in the blink of an eye?

Butterflyfish said...

I liked the bit about the hypothetical child, and I thought it was a completely appropriate comment in the email thread you describe - do not understand how it got peoples panties in a twist.

As to the normal child & people asking about your reproductive plans:

People are assholes.

I had more I was going to add to that, but I might just have to stand on the point.

Also, you're awesome.

CP said...

Loved your response. Honest truth! I feel like a lot of people in the "parent" club will say anything to get other people to join in the club. Maybe so they can commiserate with someone? It is definitely hard but you are absolutey right, your actual child makes it all worth it!

That said, and acknowledging the hard parts, I still want another one. NOW. It's an irrational, uncontrollable urge. Maybe I need medication.

Grace said...

You wanting another is just as valid as me not wanting another! That SHOULD be the beauty of the whole thing.

LawMommy said...