When I was in my twenties, I used to say: “If kids are worse than cats, I don’t want any!” At the time I had two cats who were generally well-behaved except for my senior male who possessed the inclination to pee on any plastic bags or articles of clothing left on the floor. He eventually moved on to peeing on my bed.
The parallels of having kids and having cats is not lost on me, especially now that I have experienced both.
While my daughter never got into the habit of peeing on plastic bags, many a mattress cover cycled through the bedroom in the early days of potty training. The thing about kids and cats is that they both need to be fed, sheltered and generally cared for. But to say that having kids is worse than cats…I’d say “no” and my twenty year old self would laugh at me.
The Experience of Being a Parent
I know women who have no intentions of ever producing offspring and undertaking the life-long role of “mother”. To be honest, I was one of them. I always pictured myself as a career person – finishing university, doing something significant, making dollars. Even though I was married, children were never an option for me.
Or so I thought.
Until I left my marriage, moved home and eventually ended up with the last person I should have ever procreated with. But I did and I ended up with the single most important thing in my life – my daughter.
You see, the experience of being a parent is that everything changes. I mean, EVERYTHING. You no longer exist for yourself because you have this tiny human who absolutely 100% needs you to fulfill all their needs. And the feeling you get is not one of power. It’s one of importance.
Layers of selfishness you never knew you had disappear. A love unlike one you’ve ever known cracks even the most open of hearts wider still. New and deeper meanings of the words patience, resilience, sacrifice and perspective confound your earlier understandings, and the meaning of life smacks you upside the head and brings you humbly, reverently and eventually, gratefully to your knees.
Are We Hard-Wired to Parent?
Like I mentioned above, I know women who do not want children. You probably know them too. And for those of us who have children, even if we didn’t plan on it, we tend to look at these women dead-eyed saying, “Whaaaaaaaa? How could you not want children! They are the best thing that could ever happen to your life!”
(And we say this as our little one is simultaneously throwing up on our shoulder with poop exploding out the back of their diaper.)
And if you don’t actually say it, you probably think it. Because we know – we KNOW – the joys that come with children. We know the feeling of unconditional love and we know the deep, inner satisfaction that comes from taking care of and protecting our little ones.
So are we hard-wired to become parents? Obviously not all of us are.
Human beings in general are intrinsically wired to go into “parent mode” around babies and small children as a part of an instinct to protect them. However, this harkens back to the early days of evolution and the biological need to procreate and protect the future of the species. Nowadays, our brains are more sophisticatedly wired to weigh the want of children against other important life values such as minimalism, solitude and even career choices.
Ina video featured on her YouTube channel, “Why I don’t want kids,” lifestyle blogger Jenny Mustard explains:
“I concentrate on the things I find important and pleasurable – such as my job, traveling, cooking, and reading. Prioritizing what to spend my energy on, instead of making lifestyle choices based on what I ‘should’ do according to the norms of our society.”
Looking back, I think my reasoning behind not wanting children was an effort to stick up the middle finger to what was expected of me. I’m sure it really had nothing to do with cats.
In the end, my pregnancy was the exact opposite of what was expected of me at that time. I can be honest and say that, for a while, it was a disappointment. However, I think in a way, loving her more than anything in the world defies all expectations I had of myself.
And, for the record, kids and cats are the worst. 😛