Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Toughest Job of All

The other day I was eating lunch at Potbelly's Sandwiches after a long morning of last-minute Christmas shopping (although to be honest, I was actually just starting my shopping that day). As I ate my sandwich, I looked around and realized that I was one of the only single people in the restaurant. I was surrounded by families with small children, and young couples with strollers.

There was a family with several children sitting at the table across from me. I didn't mean to eavesdrop on their conversation, but I couldn't help it; they were talking loudly enough for everyone to hear.

"Mom! Josh drank my soda!"

"That's because she spit in mine!"

"Paul! Are you going to think about someone besides yourself and help me with these kids?"

"Kelly, no, I said NO! Do NOT eat that! That was on the floor! Oh my...TAKE THAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH RIGHT NOW!"

"Haha, she's going to be poisoned!"

"You're getting it all over your shirt...oh, for heaven's sake, now you're getting it all over MY shirt!"

As I watched them, I didn't feel annoyed by the fact that they were distracting me from eating. I didn't feel relieved that I don't have children. Instead, for the first time, I thought about what it would be like to have children of my own.

I admire anyone who is a parent, because I think that being a parent has to be the toughest job in the world. You don't get paid; you never retire; you're on the clock 24/7. Being President or Oprah's assistant would probably tie for second as far as tough jobs go.

But on the other hand, I do like the idea of having a daughter or son (or maybe both) who shares my DNA and maybe even grows up to look a little like me (except my nose would look better on them). I'm not sure what kind of parent I would be though. All I know is that I would love them, protect them, and teach them everything I know.

To be honest, I never really wanted to have children before. When I was a teenager, I always thought I'd want to have a family when I got older. But in the meantime, I focused on my work. I wanted to be a professor and a writer more than I wanted to be a mother.

The only time I remotely considered having children was when I thought about being an egg donor; the problem with that was that there was always the possibility that in eighteen years a young man or woman would knock on my front door. He or she would keep twitching from all the caffeine he or she would always be drinking, and he or she would point a finger at me and shriek, "It's your fault I'm like this!"

But other than that I don't usually feel that urge to become a mother. I see babies being pushed in strollers, and occasionally one of them will smile up at me in that wonderful way that babies do; I always smile back. Maybe I'm thinking about this now because I'm pushing thirty and the clock is ticking. Maybe it's because I'm still single while so many other people my age already have families. Maybe it's because deep down, I feel guilty because there are other things I want to do instead.


  1. I was just talking to a friend today who is a year younger than me and her daughter is officially a teenager. It's crazy! And here I still am, waiting for my clock to start ticking.

  2. I'm 31. People keep telling me that someday my clock will start ticking and I'll want a baby. So far that's not happening.

    I have friends I graduated from high school with who have kids (3, 4, even 5 of them) and some of them are in JUNIOR HIGH. I just can't imagine.

  3. Hi FreeFlying,
    It's hard to imagine being a parent to a teenager, let alone a baby. Is there an effective way to prepare for it? I'm not sure.

    Hi NGS,
    Like you, several of my high school classmates have kids too. It feels like they're in a completely different place, and I'm not sure if I'll ever be where they are. I'm not sure if I want to be; it's hard to say.

  4. It’s funny how my 25-year-old gay male best friend really, really wants kids and 30-year-old single-girl me doesn’t. Kind of subverts all the rom-com stereotypes.

    I agree—being a parent is definitely one of the hardest jobs in the world. The second you give birth, it ceases to be about you. And I just don’t think I ever want to be in that place.

    What gets me the most is how society shames single women who don’t want children (and I personally think being in public near families, like you described, is the best birth control EVER). Then again, some of my mom friends think society is not friendly to mothers, so I guess it’s all about context.

    One of my favorite romantic comedy novels is Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, in large part because the hero and heroine, though they like kids, are very clear about not wanting their own. Which is something you don’t see very often in pop culture.

  5. Mm, babies. I want four. Now. No, not really now, I'm only 23... but definitely at least by the age of 35. Maybe. I don't know. I always say that and I do want it, but I also know that I'll know when I'm ready and obviously that's not now and I can't really be sure when it'll happen. I just know that I'll know it when I know it.

  6. Hi No Way Cupid,
    Normally I don't consider having my own children when I see families in public, but in this particular case I did consider it. I do like the idea of having my own family someday, but on the other hand it wouldn't be the worst thing if I didn't. But you're right in that single women are often pressured to get married and have children; many love stories have that type of ending.

    Hi gem,
    I feel the same way you do; I'll know it when I know it. Right now I just don't feel ready to be a mother, but I feel like I should be ready since so many people my age already are mothers.

  7. Chalk it up to the holiday season! But if you keep feeling this way next year then you'll have to absorb what it really means.

    Also, look at it this way, you don't have to buy your kids any toys!

    Have a wonderful Christmas! :)

  8. Hi notesfromnadir,
    Actually, instead of toys I plan to give my future kids little electronic organizers. That way, they can make to-do lists for each day, tee hee.