My husband recently subscribed my email address to receive the New York Times arts headlines everyday. His purpose in doing this was to give me something to talk about other than babies. So far, I have yet to open any of them. It’s not that I’m not interested in the arts, or even that I don’t want to know about them. It’s just, well, a matter of timing.
I was never one of those little girls who pushed a doll carriage around and spent her whole life dreaming of becoming a mommy. I didn’t think much about it one way or the other, really. But now I am a mommy — big time. I have three kids under the age of five. Two under two! And not only have babies taken over my time and my house, they seem to have taken over my mind as well. But that’s ok with me, and I’ll tell you why.
This is just that time in my life. I have kids. Period. That doesn’t mean I don’t think about other things or enjoy a little time away, but for the most part, kids are what I do. And I refuse to apologize for that. We don’t ask people who are very passionate about other jobs to apologize or offer sheepish explanations for their zeal. We understand when people are interested in nothing but television or sports, but heaven forbid a woman act as though she is genuinely interested in the business of raising her children. “How pathetic!” we say. “How sad. She has a degree and everything…”
What we are really saying, then, is that any idiot can mother children. That there just isn’t that much to it. Well, I beg to differ, and so does a whole new generation of mothers. We are educated, we are intelligent, and we refuse to just turn off our brains when it comes to matters of child rearing. Because all evidence to the contrary aside, raising children is not a business for stupid people.
The days when women automatically stayed home with their children may be gone forever, but the days when a career woman wouldn’t dream of quitting to stay home are quickly fading as well. Many of us enter motherhood to find a reality that we never suspected—one in which we want to stay home with our kids. Other women who always thought of themselves as the stay-at-home type now find that they feel they are happier, better mothers if they continue to work. And as always, the sad reality exists that for most of us, the choice is made by financial necessity rather than our hearts.
The point is, women have more choices now than ever before, and that wealth of options demands careful, informed consideration. When we make decisions about returning to work or staying at home, breastfeeding or bottle feeding, public or private or even home schooling, we understand that these decisions affect not only the immediate dynamics of our family lives, but the dynamics of our entire society. The hand that rocks the cradle does indeed rule the world, and it’s high time our society faced up to that fact. When are we going to stop this nonsense of insisting that everyone who gets married must have children, but while we have them we must not enjoy the experience at all? Only when they leave home and we become “empty nesters” are we allowed to look back in teary-eyed nostalgia at “when our babies were little.”
This is what we as a society just don’t get. Some people should not and need not have children. Those of us who choose to have them should be allowed to devote ourselves to raising them without apologies, without having to explain why we have chosen not to return to work or not to stay home, not to parent the way our parents did or our neighbors do. We know that we are going to be wrong in someone’s eyes no matter what we do and I, for one, am tired of worrying about it. It is the beginning of a new year and I think I will resolve to mother my children joyfully, with complete abandon, and with pride. Care to join me?