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Childcare, childhood, childfree

Yesterday some weird insane guy was hanging around in front of my office and heckling me, and I was talking about it with Z later, saying about feeling unsafe and scared and he’s suggested I carry my didgeridoo around for protection.

And then we talked some more about childhoods and ourselves as children, our early aspirations [even as a kidling he wrote a long thing about wanting to be an electric engineer – if that’s a sensical combination in English] while I wanted to be a celebrated ballerina [replying with disdain “Well you don’t seriously think I’ll be just ordinary” to any adults who questioned at the time how I knew I’d be famous], and a vet, and a locksmith. I was cunning and curious, and I devoured books and stories and that as long as I had something to occupy me I had no problems being still. On the other hand he was shy around adult strangers [while I largely viewed adults as fodder for my charm] but he was a little live wire, constantly strung full of energy and needing to be running around all the time because it calmed him down [while in my childhood you could only physically activate me with a cattle prod].


And among all this banter and chatter we talked about children, the children in our lives [his nephew and my contingent of Sure Start smallfolk], and I could feel the old mix of turmoil-anxiety-despair that the thought of hypothetical motherhood arouses in me. My attitude to children is hard to describe. I don’t dislike children [after all, I work with them] and provided they’re reasonably quiet I enjoy spending time with other people’s children [particularly the ones who like words and books] but the thought of having children of my own doesn’t fill me with glowing warmth so much as panic.
It summons thoughts of being chained, and thoughts of whom I could unload my biological progeny on.

Frequently I find children a strain. I think that’s the key. The experience of childcare is not uplifting for me. [I mean it’s ok to spend quality time with other people’s cute children when the primary responsibility of childcare is not on me, that’s play, but having to take care of children day to day, attend to their needs, answer their demands for attention- it makes me want to kill myself]. Because much as I like people, people [especially small people] are a huge drain on my energy and in order to cope I need to be away and alone for periods of time so I can re-charge. Because physical children stand in the way of my relationship to the children that matter most to me – abstract creative children. Visions, ideas. These are the ones which uplift me, which re-energise me, my primary source of value and meaning. I think I would be the sort of parent that would breathe a sigh of relief as soon as the child was out of my sight and my hair hopefully in the care of someone who actually loves spending time with that kidling.

I am pretty sure that I don’t want to have children, ever, if it was only up to me. And pretty sure that I would cave in to produce some to the pressures of a partner who really wanted children provided said partner was willing to take on the brunt of the childcare.
And that doesn’t strike me as the ideal attitude for parenthood.

I’ve always believed that children should be born to those people who not only want them but have the capacity [emotional and financial] to take care of them and I’m not sure that I will ever be that person.

I think a lot of it is down to a strong independence and temperament [handily reflected in a natal Moon-Uranus conjunction], where I was never going to be the type of person who dreams of reproducing and staying at home to take care of the children [truly, that feels like a prison sentence to me] I think the natal tendencies have been exacerbated by the damage of my childhood.

I didn’t have a very good relationship with my caregivers, with whom emotional relationships were never safe, much as they did contain huge amounts of love. Frustration, unhappiness, emotional abuse, invalidation - these were dealt out as freely, as frequently as hugs and kisses, and love wasn’t unconditional but dependent on a variety of factors and withheld as a sign of pathos or punishment. Rejection and abandonment. My grandmother’s emotional freezes in stark contrast to my mother’s episodes of hysteria and my father’s rages. My grandmother’s punishments, threats and manipulations. My father’s many absences and the big vanishing act he pulled when I was 8 and a half. And my own subsequent journey into strange lands and hostile territories whose language I did not speak and where I could truly rely only on myself for safe passage and protection.

I learned early on that the world was not safe and that love was not safe either. That those you loved could hurt you wit words and withdrawals and abandonment and dying. There were ways in which I was never permitted to be a child, because even when I was playing I was not truly carefree. The familial ice was very thin, and one wrong word or step or mood could bring the world tumbling down. Shatter it like glass. Dissolve it into threats and rages. And some days were filled with light and fun and someday were filled with jagged edges and you never knew, waking up, what kind of day it would be.

So children, even hypothetical ones, arouse many many dimensions of turmoil in me.
Because I don’t want to be a bad parent, and I am not sure I have the capacity to be a good one.
Because I feel this terrible anxiety and despair thinking of how dependent kids are. How much, how long, they will need me. And it makes me think No, don’t need me, please don’t need me because maybe I won’t be able to be there for you, maybe I will die or have to leave you and then the world will shatter for you as it did for me. Or maybe, even worse, I won’t ever be able to truly love you because I didn’t truly want you, because you trapped me and my body trapped me, because my unhappiness and anger will leak from me and you will inherit it, you will absorb it, you will drink it with my milk.

Comments

( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
tubewalker
May. 26th, 2005 02:06 pm (UTC)
Oh man, I was building up to a heavy post but this has put the balm on me. You are spot on, as ever, and so beautifully put. I had deep misgivings about having kids right up until this happened, which put the kibosh on it forever, but your post still breaks my heart. You are wonderful x
actually_not
May. 26th, 2005 02:16 pm (UTC)
i have the same ambivalence about children. on the one hand i relate to them very well on a short term playing/learning basis but on the other, like you i find them such a strain after a while and i can't imagine not being able to go off and hide and rest and sleep somewhere alone...to recharge.

so part of me thinks i'd be a good mum...up to the point where i wanted to throw them out the window just to shut them up...not so good!

also i fear i am now too selfish and set in my ways...i don't feel my life is lacking for want of a child. i'm happy with my partner and my friends and the life that we lead. i enjoy spending short burst of time with other peoples' kids but that's enough.

strangely i was speaking to BQ about this recently...she has decided that she definitely does want a baby very soon and her reasons were that it will make her and her gf a 'proper family' and that she is 'ready for the responsibility of raising a child'....neither of which sounded like particularly great reasons for binding a small and vulnerable human being to yourself...
67threnody
May. 26th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC)
No kids for me. I'd rather regret not having them, than regret having them.

I'm great with kids and grew up thinking I wanted several of my own, but as I got older and had the chance to pursue my own interests, I realized that kids would make my life so much more difficult.

That, and since I was raised by my mom (my dad being a piece of crap, and anyone in my mom's family being entirely hostile to me), I can't even contemplate the idea of raising kids with a partner. I can only think of whether *I* would have enough energy to deal with them, whether *my* finances would enable me to support them, and so forth. I think in terms of worst-case scenario. I would not be able to raise kids on my own.

I live in the town that has the smallest percentage of children of any major urban area in the U.S. There's no pressure on me to have kids or to follow society's life script.

If I want to do something for kids, I can always volunteer to help the ones who are already here, the ones in trouble who could most benefit from having a stable, trusted adult in their lives. I don't need to crap out a kid of my own.
dubaiyan
May. 27th, 2005 02:13 pm (UTC)
"I'd rather regret not having them, than regret having them."
That's very well put :D
hollowfulofhat
May. 26th, 2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
Oh, how I wish there could be less stigma attached to being child-free by choice. I totally agree with you about the ideal of children being born only to people who really want them, are prepared for the responsibility, and can support them properly.

I couldn't have hoped for a happier childhood or a more stable, loving family. Yet I have always known that I don't want kids. I have no idea how to communicate with children, find them intensely irritating, and have always preferred the company of adults (even when I was little). I'm too selfish to make the necessary sacrifices to be a parent, although it has been pointed out to me that it's just as selfish to want kids – after all, children don't ask to be born.

It makes me so sad to see how my (female) friends' lives change when they have children, how their horizons become so much more limited. But then I suppose I need to realize that, even though it wouldn't be the right choice for me, it may well be the right choice for them and I should be glad that it's not just 16-year-olds who are bringing up the next generation.

When I get too down about it, I do find that this generally helps. ;-)

Oh, and I could say this after each one of your posts (and should say it more often): to think that you are writing all of these marvellously thought-provoking things in your second language is truly amazing. x
verlaine
May. 26th, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
I'm going to have enough children for all of you! One day...
nanji
May. 26th, 2005 09:42 pm (UTC)
Bam Bam Breakfast to be renamed "The Nanji show"...
Well first off it takes all sorts to make an interesting world. Curiously, female writers of the past are reknowned for not having children, the most popular theory being that they felt so fulfilled by their creative outlet in writing that they didn't require another one. We are both really young and have a lot to do before having worry about children or no children. So I wouldn't beat yourself up about it. I would just go with the flow and see what comes up. As for being 'capable' of doing a good job, of course you're bloody capable - SUPREMELY capable. You're creative, deeply caring, compassionate, patient and a natural teacher. You are also aware of your potential pitfalls, which I believe is more than half the battle. Nothing is worse than a person or a parent who doesn't question themself.

The song that was playing in my ears as I read your post (listening to Kiss100 on internet) was going "I got so much love to give"... Coincidence?
Speaking of Kiss - the DJ read my e-mail on the breakfast show this morning - and spent 2 minutes getting the other DJs to guess where I was writing from. (I was all over London at 9 o'clock this morning, a good slot I reckon. I was even referred to as a 'lady' by another listener who responded in agreement with my letter - a rare privilege on Kiss! lol)

Seriously, I think it's far too early to worry about motherhood. You've got so much more to do. I need you for starts. I've got plans for you, you're very high up on my talent list.

love,
n*
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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