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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

To breed or not to breed

I was just talking to a friend this past weekend about the whole having kids thing. She doesn't like kids, she doesn't want kids, so she isn't having kids. Funny thing though? I don't like kids either.

Seriously, I really really don't. Being in places with a high concentration of Other People's Children makes me twitch uncontrollably (Monkey Joe's is my own personal hell). There are many days sitting in the peds clinic, listening to children scream, I wonder why the nurses aren't drugging the little ankle-biters. Even babies don't impress me, and they're usually the cutest and least offensive of the mini-humans. I've never gone googly-eyed over someone else's baby (although I will politely ooh and ahh over the cuteness of others' offspring). Unlike many women, the mere mention of babies doesn't make my ovaries twinge (usually it has the opposite effect). And honestly, if I'd married someone who was like, yeah, I just don't want kids, I would have shrugged and gone on with life blissfully unaware of the miseries of growing a human (as one is currently trying to claw its way out of my uterus and exit through my throat). But I wasn't adverse to the idea of having kids either, in the proper circumstances. So, when I married Mr. Ticking Biological Clock, I gave my vow to "accept children willingly from God." Meaning, eventually I'd stop taking The Pill and try to get knocked up.

And I did. And I had one. And she's awesome. And we're having another one, who I'm sure will be awesome too. I genuinely do like my friends' kids, and I (usually) like my nieces and nephew. But I still just don't like "kids." I could never *really* work with kids. I mean, I guess technically I do now. I sit in a pediatrics clinic 20 hours a week. In my own practice, I'm GAL for kids and have to, like, talk to them and stuff. But I couldn't spend 8+ hours of direct contact with them in a classroom setting. I couldn't be a pediatrician or pediatrics nurse and deal with them directly all day. And from the experience of having done it just part-time, I know I could not be a stay-at-home parent; I just don't have the patience or the creativity or the energy it takes to do it and kudos to those of you who are, and for those of you who are educators (in fact, I have a brother-in-law who's been both). I'm simply too much of a curmudgeon. I think it's important to know your limitations in life, know at what you excel and what you don't, and make no apology for it. I still spend plenty of time with my kid (underemployment is good for something, I guess), and it's quality time that we both enjoy.

Anyway, parenting isn't for everybody. Other than the obvious of the scores of people I see everyday that never should have been allowed to breed... It's okay to say, look, I like my life the way it is and having children will get in the way of that. And it will. Even the parents who don't do a complete 180 and lose their own identities to become "MOM" or "DAD," still experience lifestyle changes to become a parent. You lose sleep, you lose free time. You definitely experience a loss of money. You start watching Dora the Explorer in the evenings instead of The Daily Show. You go through the drive-thru at McDonald's and get your usual Happy Meal, but you ask for the girls' toy that's some Barbie bullshit because the kid will like it more, when you'd really much prefer the boys' toy. (Although on the rare occasions that I pick up a Happy Meal for Cora too, I'll ask for one girls' toy and one boys' toy. Yay for mini light sabers!) So, yeah, lifestyle changes, big and small.

I think it's absolutely possible to be a parent when you don't like kids, or not be a parent at all even though you love kids, and be perfectly happy with either choice. I love being a parent, I'm glad I did it, and while there are many many things I would be willing to undo if I had a time machine, having kids isn't one of them. It was a good decision for us, and hopefully being a parent is something that ultimately I will have been very good at. I won't know until they're all grown up whether I did it right or failed at it in an epic way. So far, I think I'm doing pretty good. The kid is healthy, happy and well-mannered (usually). I look to other parents as examples of what to do... and what not to do (particularly my own). I want to set a good example for my daughters and hope they grow up to be happy, socially-conscious, contributing members of society. I don't want to live vicariously through them, but I want them to have opportunities that I did not. I want to share with them the things I enjoy, and maybe pick up some new things along the way (well, other than Dora the Explorer). But ultimately, I'm still my own person, just like the people who choose not to have children. Someday my children will be grown up, out of my house, and I'll be the same as those people who never nested. (The difference being I'll have people out there who are obligated by familial duty to come visit me in the old folks' home if they want to stay in the will. Heh.)

Although I might be changing my tune when some demanding creature starts waking me up at all hours of the night screaming again. At least on the rare occasion when Cora wakes up in the middle of the night, (two nights ago it was "a bug in my bed!"), she'll just curl up with me and go back to sleep, which is nice. Well, after chattering about the bug for about 10 minutes first, of course. Fun with kids.

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