Sunday, 9 August 2009

Babies - those things you try so hard not to have until you're too old. As Alanis would say: "IRONYYY!"

Babies and myself often have weird relationships. No, no, not in that way, you hilarious person, I meant that we don't really get along as peers. Look at you, going straight to the Gary Glitter analogy. Aren't we especially controversial this morning? What I mean to say is that we don't necessarily get along. Small babies are wrinkly, like tiny, fat old men who've been left out in the sun for too long by a distracted nurse. Sundried pensioners. How adorable. When they get a bit older, they become like my niece is now, around six months old, chubby and just about able to laugh. I generally like people if they laugh when I'm trying to be funny, so me and this age group get along well. They might not understand some of my more oblique references to late nineties sitcoms, but most of my facial expressions go down a treat. Then after this magical age of constant inquisitiveness and hilarity, they learn that they don't have to sit still and gawp, and instantly start careering round the house like fleshy snowploughs, ripping and gouging and drooling. I'm not the most maternal of people (surely not, I hear you gasp), and when it comes to toddlers, If they're asking "why?" all the time but can't understand the answers, I get bored really quickly. Yeah sure, you can destroy the Jolly Pocket Postman in under 10 seconds, but can you flush the toilet? No. I feel they need to be brought down a peg or two. Especially those ones that cry all the time.

And so, I empathise with women in their twenties who have decided "ooh, babies? Not yet, no thanks!" and nervously laugh whenever the subject is raised during a third degree personality test disguised as polite conversation. So I should, I am closely resembling one of them. On my next birthday I'll be twenty two, in other words, I am a twenty-odd year-old female who, when asked about babies, feels about as relevant to the conversation as if I was being asked about liver microsurgery. I'm a kid, and as far as I can tell, I always will be. Plus, I want to do job things, and travel things, and all those other aspiring middle-class things people do when they leave uni all young and bright and barely-jaded. I decided a while ago that I didn't want children of my own, that I'd much rather be Auntie Katie who lets you play with ultra-violent computer games until an hour after your designated bedtime. Children born by me would be weird and antisocial. I think it'd be borderline child cruelty to have a kid grow up in a house ruled by me. They'd be bullied senseless at school, for one thing. Or worse, they'd re bell, and I'd have the shameful admission to make to my future psychiatrist that my child was cooler than I had ever been, was extremely popular, and I indeed was too awkward and shy to talk to it anymore. It's a real possibility.

The reason I'm pondering the ins and outs of child cultivation is all because of a two-page spread in today's Observer. Women are "sticking their heads in the sand" when it comes to fertility, according to (albeit generically-titled) "experts" on the subject. It would appear that women are expecting to be able to put off pregnancy until their thirties at least, putting their careers and social lives front of the needs of our struggling species. Oh, hang on, this paragraph was meant for a post-zombie apocalypse blog. My bad. Women are putting off having kids, because IVF and other forms of being-able-to-have-kids-really-old-like treatment are shown in such a positive light. As Professor Bill Ledger of Sheffield University said in the article: "They think, 'It won't happen to me, I'm 37, I go to the gym twice a week, I don't drink, I don't smoke, I'm fit – everything about me is young'. Well it is, except your ovaries." People are looking at the date, seeing that we now live in the flying-car futuristic world of tomorrow (of the eighties), and thinking that the impossible can happen. That because you can go to Barcelona for £9, you can also become pregnant aged 42. And then subsequently becoming heartbroken because having a baby wasn't as easy as you'd planned, and you should have probably tried about 5 years ago while you were building your dream home in the Quantocks. I know I sound mean and ruthless, but if people really wanted children, they'd have them first, instead of building up their life and then demanding a baby as the cherry on top of the sprinkling-covered whipped cream confection that is their life. *breathe*. Without the cherry, it all seems a bit like empty calories, doesn't it? I am definitely becoming cruel, fast. I apologise. I just hate the way that in today's society (cue 60 year old's opinion) children are portrayed in one of two ways - either unwanted feral carjackers with a penchant for violence and a love of nothing, or the perfect bundle of aww to put inside your happy box of life. Children, in my eyes, are projects. You get what you put in, and you need to have the time and patience to be able to raise them properly. To have them only when you feel you're completely ready, or worse, as an afterthought makes me feel a bit sorry for the way we treat our younglings. I know a lot of people who are excellent parents, who had the surprise of a kid sprung upon them at perhaps an inconvenient time. That's kids for you. They are messy and time-consuming, inconvenient, noisy and hard work. But that's the price you pay for having somebody to love who will always love you back. Like a pet, but one you can read to and watch Mulan with in fancy dress without the neighbours shunning you in the street. My sister became a parent ages seventeen years old. This wasn't her long-term plan - since the age of eight she wanted to be a Harrier Jump Jet pilot - but she's taken to it astoundingly well, and I can't imagine her without Imogen now. Maybe I'd never be good at being a mum, but for those women who are realising too late that they'd really like to give the old parenting thing a go - have they forgotten about adoption? Perhaps they could feed their needs and do something amazing for somebody else at the same time. Sortof like, a perfect charity swapmeet. But less crude, and with a lot more loving neediness. I am trying to be sincere, please don't laugh.


chestymorgan said...

"..Or worse, they'd rebell, and I'd have the shameful admission to make to my future psychiatrist that my child was cooler than I had ever been, was extremely popular..."

That would be my life then:D
At a meeting between nursery,school staff,Isla's paediatrician,myself&my parents;
when they said how delightful&adored by her peers she is my 70 year wag of a father leaned over to me &said...Bloody hell Lau,she doesnt sound like one of us;are you sure you brought the right kid home from the hospital?"

Katie,you are so fucking fantastically clever and insightful that were I your age instead of 9 years your senior I'd despise you out of envy.

I was 25 when I fell pregnant,on prescription morphine for a knackered back,in a shit relationship I was too scared&lazy to walk away from,(finances,stuff all that mess you get get into when you cohabit)depressed as fuck.
Suffice to say,she wasnt a planned pregnancy.

I dont believe in God,but I believe very definitely she was somehow meant to be here.

I bought a copy of Successful Single Parenting before I even told her father because I knew I'd be doing it alone and she has been the making of me.

I have always struggled to function
as an adult unless it's in the capacity of nurturing someone else and I feel my ultimate challenge with Isla is to teach her that she is worth the effort too.I fell deeply for a gorgeous young pup a little while ago and of his myriad delights the thing that awed me most was his ability to be an adult for himself.

Suspect I've rambled ere&I'm really sorry.In conclusion,kids not for everyone but in my opinion they rock.I've fought for 5 long hard years for my family of 2 girls but I entertain daydreams of oneday having a huge tribe of them;all robot dancing to Kraftwerk or twirling frocks in the rain:D BIIIIG LOVE TO YOU YOUNG LADY,SO GLAD YOUR BACK ON THE MURKY WORLD OF THE INTERWEB

Katie said...

If nothing else works Laura, I'm going to keep on writing for you. Thanks for making me feel like I'm not just throwing ideas out of my head and into the dark :)

chestymorgan said...

Do you know what the difference between your twenties and your thirties is Katie?you spent your twenties beating yourself up and needlessly loathing the idea of being seen to have self regard..and then you hit thirty and you realise you deserve&have most definitely earned a superiority complex.

I think us Twiggas deffo need a hook up in which I cane loads of ABSOLUT&Red Bull and repeatedly bark in your face..You're ace You're ace You're ace!..until you 20 something lovelies smile&concede
that I'm right:D xxxxxx

Katie said...

Sounds marvellous to me, book a ticket to Leeds and I'll be happy to put you up for the night :)

L said...

Reading this blog has just hit home with regards to my thoughts about procreating.

Up until last year I was adament that I was never going to have kids. Ever. In my mind, I'm still only 16 and far too immature to raise a child. Also, my fear of having an actual human being emerge from my vagina sort of put me off.

Some time in the last few months, I decided that actually, I'd be a pretty kick arse Mother and am coming round to the idea that maybe one day, I might be one. I think the realisation that having children won't actually be detrimental to any of my life's plans is what swayed me and to be honest, I really don't want to be an old Mum (maybe I have some sick aspirations of being a MILF).

I completely agree with your sentiments regarding having the time to raise children properly. Career driven parents who pop kids out then dump them on full time nannies are just as bad as the 15 year olds who have a sprog because they "wanted something to do".

Lorna (Bimbo_Butterkek)

ponderexplosion said...

Career late in life mums seem a lot smugger than younger mums, they think they're better mothers because they're older and have been to university and done a proper job. Thinking they'll know more than someone who's had a baby younger.

Maybe this isn't always the case or even the case most of the time but it's something I've felt a few times when meeting older mothers (especially my sister)

Sometimes I think that people who plan their life out don't want a baby because they want one but because it's what's supposed to happen. It's the next step in the line. Then children are pretty much seen and not heard, dummies in as soon as they make the slightest whimper. "Can't do this! Can't do that!" The children are expected to just play on their own whilst parents sit back and relax and talk about their happy little lives with a glass of wine. No getting down and acting silly, no that's too childish, we're serious adults who have spent a long time getting our life perfect.

Sorry if I've rambled and talked rubbish. I just sometimes see parents watching their children whilst I'm acting silly and joining in with Amélie and wonder why they bothered having children. I've also felt a lot of being looked down at by older parents because I'm young. Maybe I'm paranoid, but stuff to do with my family and family friends has triggered it.


Katie said...

I know what you guys mean - my mum used to run a playgroup, and before that worked in a nursery, and some of the kids in that place would get dropped off still in their pyjamas, not even fully awake, never mind with teeth brushed or breakfast down their chops. Busy or not, parents need to be parents first, career-driven people next. And that goes for dads too. I applaud you for raising Amelie with fun and games, not a lot of dads get involved (or they do just to play a game and then dissappear again), it's so sad to imagine a kid growing up with a "proper" family that they barely see. THis nursery I mentioned, my mum worked from 8am til 7pm most days. She had 2 kids and one on the way. She took precisely 3 days off for her cesarian section to have my sister Jane, and then back to work she went. (We were extremely poor - the separation drove her quite dangerously depressed. She'd have stayed home if she could.) Despite this, people still pestered her to open at half seven in the morning so they could go to work early.

Your children are not accessories! They shouldn't be used solely to make you feel proud when they graduate! Argh, it makes me so angry.

formulaic666 said...

I have a wierd perspective on parenthood, since I got my now girlfriend pregnant when I didn't know her, and spent the entire pregnancy scared shitless of how badly my life would change. Then she came and it all just fit into place really well.

After a year of being single parents (well, she was, I was the fella who turned up at the weekend) we realised that actually we really liked each other and decided to give it a shot. How Jeremy Kyle am I?!

The actual 'parenting' part of being a parent seems to me to come naturally just so long as you're willing to put the work in.

Which is all a way of saying that being a parent is nothing to do with how prepared you are, what plans you make, it's about how well you deal with the situation when it comes.

Bailey's Beads said...

If you're concerned about infertility just get your eggs frozen now.

I won't have children. I've got other plans with my life.

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