I speak here to BabyNoBaby. BabyNoBaby is a brave and funny woman who blogs about the buffeting winds of choice and possibility. To assume the cloak of motherhood, or not? So many arguments for, so many reasons against. Today it is yes, tomorrow it is no. As the clock goes tick tick tick.
BabyNoBaby’s most recent post describes her fantasy life as a stay-at-home mom—a SAHM. She is bored in her work and at a loss for what to do with the rest of her life. Today, the appealing vision of spending whole days at home in her pajamas, puréeing organic baby food and baking, wins out. Today’s decision: Baby.
Well hey BNB, I get that. So been there. On mornings of complete life despair, baking in pajamas sounds like paradise. After all (I have thought), if I feel the urge to get out of my pj’s for a while, I can always trundle the kid over to Grandview Park and hang out around the sandpit with my new-moms posse, all similarly desperate for adult conversation and latte in a paper cup. On those mornings when I wake up thinking, oh god anything, anything but put on my pants and get on the bus and go back to that stupid job… Baby is alluring. And what is most seductive of all—or at least, it has been, to me—is the fantasy of not having to make any more decisions about what to do with my day or with the rest of my life. Baby needs feeding. There have been moments in my life—and in bald truth there still are—when I would trade everything for that certainty alone. For the freedom to not choose. For the relief from not-knowing, and from the endless and relentless pressure to decide. Versus that torment, having a child seems easy.
It really does seem easy. And in a way, it is: you just do it. Which brings us to the question that i’ve heard asked a lot lately in non-mom circles: Why does it take having a child, to realize how hard it is to have a child?
In this digital age you would think, it shouldn’t take stretch marks and daycare angst to get you to the epiphany that motherhood is a long hard slog. If you doubt, I refer you to another of my favourite blogsites: Scary Mommy.
Scary Mommy lays it all on the line. Without mercy—but often with astonishing wisdom, acceptance, and humor. Scary Mommy describes what it’s really like to have a kid in today’s baby-obsessed culture. Excessive Pregnancy Weight Gain Lingers; Moms Say “Duh” … The Horror that is Buying Hemorrhoid Cream … Dear Women who Hate Being Pregnant: You are not alone … Facing the Reality of my Child with Special Needs … No One Ever Told Me I’d Hate My Husband … 8 Ways Teenagers are More Terrifying than Threenagers … The Type of Parent I’d be if No One Else Were Watching. From the misery of desperate IVF through the complexities of grandparenthood, Scary Mommy speaks truth to rose-coloured maternity worship. I’m even willing to forgive this blog its the cheesy stock photography, because Scary Mommy is so balls-out about what motherhood is really like. The thorns, along with the roses.
However, it must be said that wrecked vaginas, playgroup drama, and sidelined careers notwithstanding, Scary Mommy isn’t telling you not to have kids. Not at all. In fact, I would guess that a scant few of the valiant mommybloggers who contribute to the site would say that in the end, it wasn’t worth it. There is no one single obstacle or fear, in and of itself, that should pursuade you to decide No Baby. For all its challenges, or maybe because of them, motherhood remains a worthwhile pursuit.
On the other hand, taken as a whole, Scary Mommy paints a pretty comprehensive picture of what your mental and physical life will look like if you decide to take the red pill (or more accurately, take no pill) and go Baby. You will recognize that motherhood is not a sideline; it is a full-time job. Full. Time. Know that every single day of your life will be primarily occupied by another human being, whose personality you did not choose, and who may never thank you for your trouble. Know that your children will define your life—anywhere from probably 99 per cent of your waking minutes on delivery day, down to maybe 5 or 10 per cent of your conscious time when you are old and they only call once in a while. The remainder of your time and energy will be all yours, to spend as you wish. For better or for worse. But surely, for ever.
So really, BabyNotBaby, as idyllic as days in pyjamas sound, how much are you willing to trade for your ability to shape your own future, and to discover what mysteries the big wild world has up its sleeve for you? Is your decision to go Baby a positive step forward, or is it a fallback plan—just capitulation to what looks like the norm at this particular moment? Are you choosing from motivation, or from exhaustion? Are you acting out of authentic desire, or out of fear? These are the questions that matter.
So my friend, I am sorry to say that I cannot advise you on whether to go Baby or No Baby. That choice is still yours to make, with all the anguish that indecision holds. There is no right choice and no wrong choice. All I can suggest from my perspective is, that you raise your eyes for a moment beyond your peers who have or don’t have kids, and take a look at the lives of women who are definitively childless—whether by situation or by choice. Know that your own possibilities are endless—as a mother, or not.
And hey BNB, if you do decide to go Baby in the end, I wish you all the best. Motherhood is a fascinating journey with many rewards and I’m sure you’ll be great at it. Just for gods sake, don’t say you weren’t warned.
<<Cartoon by New Yorker cartoonist Emily Flake, whose new book Mama Tried is the cartoon version of Scary Mommy – hilarious!>>