One of my favorite shows of all-time is Futurama, the sarcastic, hysterical, genius vision of the future that Matt Groening gave birth to in 1999. The comedy never misses a beat, always has subtle jabs at the world around us, and deals with what it’s like to simply be human. In one of the episodes Amy, a rich-party-girl-Martian-scientist, finds out that her boyfriend, a spaceship captain’s assistant, is pregnant. He’s an alien and this is a cartoon, so obviously this is a little bit of a stretch, but the episode always stood out to me for one thing. It wasn’t the fact that her boyfriend Kif, a green gelatinous alien was carrying offspring (that actually wasn’t from Amy’s DNA, but that’s a whole other mess), it was the fact that Amy had to deal with the fact she was about to become a mother to a baby she didn’t want. Although she’s a brilliant scientist, she likes to party-hardy, and I can relate. By the episode’s end, she comes to terms with this new fate, embracing Kif and their parental future together.
At one point, she pulls up her futuristic digital calendar, filled with awesome and exciting activities and tells it to set itself to “Motherhood Mode”.
Immediately all the cool activities are wiped away and you see a single repeating line: Motherhood.
That’s how I feel about children and motherhood. Being a parent isn’t a goal for everyone, and it seems especially hard on women, considering we’re the ovens in which the little buns bake and grow, and then violently eject from. The older you get, the more active in the world you get, the more people feel inclined to give you their two unnecessary cents about being a parent. Getting asked one of those dreaded “Where’s your baby!?” questions is almost as bad as having to army crawl naked through a spider-infested swamp. It’s a predetermined fact that you have to deal with as a woman of child-bearing age, and it blows.
This is all a part of a story that no doubt you’ve heard before: woman attends social gathering, fellow humans inquire about spousal prospects, woman uneasily smiles and nods along, humans ask about vacant uterus, woman smiles even wider and takes the verbal assault like a champ. Also, there is wine, but definitely not enough to help ease the annoyance of “the question”. Truth be told, there’s more than one kind of “the question” and it varies from person to person, but for a single, childless woman like me, it’s always something along the lines of “Why don’t you have mini humans with you?”
First of all, hello there! I hope you’re having a great day. Now to address your question with a question of my own: why don’t you have your manners with you? Oh, wait… you’re insulted I asked such a question? Gee whiz, Batman. It’s almost as if I have the right to be insulted at your insinuation that I’m not living the fullest life because I don’t have children. Let me lay it down for you; I’m happy and you will respect that. I’m not asking you to respect my choice, I’m telling you that you will respect it, or deal with the aftermath of the disgusted look on my face from your intrusion into my life decisions. It is arrogant of you to assume that since I have a uterus I must want a child. That’s like me assuming that because you have a butthole, you must want an enema. I’d venture to guess that you likely do not want that. And while social norms have absolutely improved in regards to talking to a single, childless woman like an actual human being and not a baby factory, we still have a long road ahead of us.
I often wonder if a man has to deal with these kinds of questions. I’m sure there are a special set of masculine achievements that guys have to deal with, but I specifically wonder about child-related questions. At social events are they asked when they’re going to have children? And if so, how do men react to questions like that? From my perspective, I usually see men heralded as “wise” when they’re single and without a kid, as that gives them free range to sow their oats and be the horndogs that men are labelled to be. Go out there, man! Have a good time! Get in that chick’s panties! WOO! On the other hand, what happens to the guys who aren’t yet out of the closet? I can’t imagine what it’s like having to field questions about banging their seed into a woman, as the good Lord intended men to do. My condolences if you have to deal with this crap.
As a woman, I hate being asked about being “alone”. The measure of a person’s happiness is not directly related to them having offspring. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years, and this isn’t some false psychological game I play with myself to convince everyone that I’m “happy”. I have an adorable, furry, meowing roommate who shows me unconditional love every single day, no man in my life to interrupt my personal time (which I will wholeheartedly admit is both a positive and a negative), and a job that gives me breathing room to do the things I like. Why on Earth would I want to spoil that with children? I get to be selfish. I get to sleep in. I get to keep a clean apartment. I get to go where I want, when I want, for how long I want. Giving up that freedom is indeed a huge sacrifice, and I admire those of you who do that for children. But don’t expect me to be one of you, and don’t rain down a monsoon of shade and judgement when I tell you so.
For a few years now, I’ve wondered if my biological clock has any sort of battery in it. I’ve written on this subject before on another site, about how I don’t see myself wanting children and how people just need to let it go. The minute I hear that a friend or family member is expecting, I shuffle between “congratulations” and “shit… here we go again.” Baby showers are an awkward hellscape for me to maneuver, with wanting to show support for friends and family who are expecting, but also wanting to avoid being asked those goddamn questions that everyone wants to ask. You throw a bunch of estrogen (and a bit of testosterone) into a room, pile on the excitement of having a child and then throw little ole me in there and it’s a couple hours of trying to keep my sanity and composure. I’m happy that you’re happy, but I cannot for the life of me be as excited as you are. I don’t think baby clothes are cute. No those “widdle shoes” aren’t adorable, they’re a money sink because I’ll bet they only wear them once for the initial “OUR BABY IS HERE” photoshoot. Diaper cakes are just flat-out weird; you’ve built a structure that will soon host excrement from a tiny human who has no control over their body. Also, don’t call it a cake, you can’t eat it and it’s mean to tease the girl who has 3 chins and an undying love of sweets that there will be cake at your gathering. Not cool.
Months down the road, your child arrives and everyone swarms the hospital and your home to say hi to the new citizen of Earth. Do NOT get offended if I shy away from holding your child. I’m there to support you and your family. I’m honest-to-goodness happy that you’re happy, as life is short and spending lengths of it in a miserable state is not really living. I, however, have no desire to hold your brand new baby, as I am a klutz and shit happens. I don’t want to be the reason your child was literally dropped on their head. Nor will holding them will not turn on my biological clock, so don’t try to make that sort of magic happen. If anything, it will further rust that thing out… so actually… maybe I should be holding your baby. Just kidding, I’m going to sit here in the corner and watch everyone fawn while I maintain enough eye contact to be courteous and friendly, but at enough of a distance that I’m left alone. This is not a drill, people, and this isn’t my first time navigating these baby-crazed waters.
Fast forward in time a bit, where you’re starting to get that itch to get back out into the world and interact with adults whose asses you don’t have to clean every few hours. I don’t want to babysit while you go out and do your thing. I’m here as your friend, not your temporary child guardian while you go out and live a little. I want to live a little with you, because I’d sure bet that it’s been a while since we’ve done anything wild and crazy. Those days are mostly gone for you, but not for me.
Oh, but Shannon! Listen to us! Children are the centerpieces of our lives! We weren’t our best selves before, and… you… don’t… know… what… you’re… missing.
Besides the dreaded “we need to talk” that you hear a few times in your life, nothing comes closer to sending me into a rage spiral than hearing “you don’t know what you’re missing”. Stop assuming! I’m not missing a thing, contrary to what you think. Remember when you spoke with me last week about how your child dumped out flour all over the kitchen floor and then proceeded to add honey to the mix and it took you 3 fucking hours to finally clean it all up, only to find out that they had taken an entire box of Crayolas to your bedroom walls? Adorable, right!? When you tell me that I’m missing out, a lot of the time I honestly have to keep from laughing. I’m not missing out on a thing, besides constant pressure, responsibility and unyielding annoyance. I have tried for years to come up with a nice way to tell you this, but there really is no gentle way to say it: fuck right off. You’re not being helpful or even remotely respectful. The only thing I’m missing at that point is respect for you.
I realize that being politically correct is no longer considered a good thing, but is now used as a weapon and is a sign of someone who is too anal about the world. However, maybe think before you speak, and consider that maybe what YOU think is socially normal and expected isn’t what the person you’re speaking to wants in their life. Now excuse me as I go dive head-first into a bottle of wine and dance around in my panties to profanity-laden, sexually suggestive jams all by my lonesome. You’re invited to my little party, because you’re my friend and I love and miss you, but leave your kid at home. Thanks.