Imported from MySpace Blog
"You’ll understand once you have kids."
This is a phrase I’ve been hearing a lot lately. That, or "Oh, you’ll have children/change your mind/grow up/insert-hackneyed-cliche-here someday," or, "Having kids really changes your life. You become so much less selfish!" or "Having children is such a process of maturation ... your kids will force you to grow up."
I have nothing against kids. In fact, I like kids. Most kids, even. I know that may come as a surprise to some. Of course, my offspring will be miniature, well-behaved, self-contained units of genius, but that’s beside the point. My point is that normal people, having bred, somehow come out the other end of procreation as more arrogant, preachier versions of themselves. To the uninitiated, they can seem like parent pod-people. Suddenly it becomes okay to begin pressing those around them to follow suit, and using phrases like, "... when you’re ready," as if a person without children is somehow not completely done, like raw cookie dough or unbaked bread -- useless and not contributing to the greater good, but with the potential to do so.
A typical statement in this vein:
"Well, when you’re ready, (i.e., when you’re done being selfish/self-absorbed/self-serving/hedonistic/oblivious to the real pleasures of life) I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful parent."
I don’t dislike parents, nor am I saying that "parenting" isn’t hard. Of course it is. It’s demanding and brave and terrifying and heroic and life-changing and so much more, I’m sure. I really wouldn’t know, but from casual observation, I see that it’s a simultaneously challenging and deeply satisfying job with many pitfalls and rewards. I’m just opposed to the holier-than-thou attitude I’ve seen so many parents of this and other generations adopt.
I see how parenting can be seen as an unselfish act. One gives up a great deal of independence, privacy, choice and personal identity to become a parent. The sacrifices are endless. However, most people who become parents choose to do so. Individual choices, by their nature, are selfish acts. So no matter how selfless an act parenting may seem to be, every single parent who wasn’t raped or forced to have a child somehow entered into the contract willingly, and for essentially selfish reasons. And that doesn’t make that choice a bad one. Far from it. The point I’m trying to make is that ALL choices, whether seemingly selfish or monumentally self-sacrificial, are at their core selfish choices. Therefore, a childless person is no more or less selfish than a person with children. The mere presence or lack of children cannot alone determine the worth of an individual.
Another beef I’ve got with (some) breeders is their ability to be manipulated by fear so easily. The word "family" is abused by politicians to no end, and parroted in the media so much that it seems to have lost its original meaning. "Family," nowadays, means "children." The MT has a "Family" section every Saturday, which is primarily, nay, exclusively, populated by child-centric stories and art. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. However, using the word "family" when we mean "children" leaves entire groups out of our concept of family -- parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, cousins, close friends and even community members. Politicians constantly abuse the word "family" when they’re trying to pull one over on the populace, saying things like, "making America safe for families," or "keeping America’s families safe from terrorism." What about everyone else? Don’t they count? Shouldn’t they be safe, too?
Many parents are also gifted with an inflated sense of self-worth, bestowed upon them by themselves, those who fawn over them, and, specifically, the media. One can find many news articles peppered with quotes from hand-wringing soccer moms, identified only as "Jane Doe, a 45-year-old mother from Central Point," as if being a mother gave her some elevated level of expertise or compassion. What does this mother do for a living? Has she ever been charged with felonious assault? Does she manufacture methamphetamine in her spare time? Is she a good driver? Does she favor the color blue? We don’t know. We don’t know anything about her other than the fact that she, at one point in her life, decided to have a child and was lucky (or perhaps unlucky) enough to be properly up to the challenge as far as fertility and physical health was concerned.
Parents themselves often engage in such self-congratulatory lead-ins as, "Well, since I am a mother/father/parent..." as if "parent" were a sufficient stand-in for some other noun that conveyed truly specialized expertise, like "engineer," "rocket scientist," or "astronaut." Unless you have an advanced degree in child development or psychiatry, I stop listening to any and all advice that follows "since I am a parent," statements.
Most parents I know personally are the sort of people who I think should breed, and often, simply because of their superior genetics. But still, each comment made to me with the slightest whiff of "when you’re ready..."ness smacks of superiority and kind of hurts my feelings. So lay off, huh?
Currently reading :
Class: A Guide Through the American Status System
By Paul Fussell
Release date: 01 October, 1992