Many couples are questioning the wisdom of raising children at this time in our history.
Some feel pressure, and some aren’t ready. A reader just sent me this:
“Beth: This irritates me. Do some woman exaggerate their love of children so they’ll seem more perfect? Everyone says women are supposed to love kids and if they love kids, they are better people and better at being a woman. My friend swoons over kids so much that it nauseates me. I think it’s part show or she is trying to make me feel bad because I don’t want any. I know she likes kids and wants them. But I bet she likes to show off her love for kids at parties so people see what a great mother she’ll be. Like she is advertising. Or am I being cynical?”
Signed, Tired of it!
I was told at 19 I couldn’t have kids. Either God has a tremendous sense of humor, or had other ideas. I’ve had a hand in raising a lot of kids. First batch were stepkids ages 8, 11, & 15. Then came a passel of part time kids – OPK (other people’s kids) in trouble. Their parents dropped them off at Auntie Beth’s house to straighten them out. I would have them live with me, talk with them, teach them, help them understand discipline and self-respect, then send them back to their parents.
I got a full time family when I married again. These were 4 year old twins, a 6 year old, and a 9 year old. It wasn’t easy, but it was a wonderful “growth experience” as my mom says.
My youngest just gave birth to her second baby girl ( I’m so in love with those little girls… so do you think I’m overdoing it?) At any rate, we’re talking decades of parenting here.
So – in answer to your question – yes, some women have a higher oxytocin level when it comes to kids. Oxytocin (not oxycontin) is a naturally occurring neuropeptide that the brain emits in various doses so that mothers will take care of their young. These women really, truly, DO love kids. The good feelings you have when you’re with your girlfriends or your sweetheart come from oxytocin, and both men and women get a surge of this during sex. Oxytocin plus endorphins are partly where the “afterglow” comes from.
My unscientific guess is there are women who don’t fit this prototype: those who kill their young, neglect them, leave them in a dumpster, or just act bizarre with kids – walking around with a baby like it’s a sack of potatoes under an arm. These women probably don’t have as much oxytocin or their neuropeptide receptors aren’t working. Sometimes the receptors just haven’t kicked in yet, which might be what’s happening with you.
I was resigned to not having kids. Not a problem, I come from a large family, and felt we
had contributed to the overpopulation of the planet. I didn’t give it another thought. Didn’t have any yearnings that I was aware of. And got the same discrimination other childless women talk about. I know who I am, so I really didn’t take it to heart. Any judgment by others is just a reflection of their own issues. When one finger points out, three point back at us.
Then, at 30, I got a taste of what was to come.
Then, at 30, I got a taste of what was to come. My brother and his wife visited me with their 2-year old. I volunteered to watch the boy while they spent a much-needed weekend alone. In the middle of the night my nephew fell out of bed. He was down the hall in a room with the door closed. I was up and standing next to him BEFORE I was consciously awake. My protective mommy hormones had kicked in. I sat on the bed, pulled him into my arms, and cuddled him till he stopped crying. It came naturally. No thought to it at all.
Then the weirdest thing happened. I started noticing little kids. I would talk with them on the airplane, in waiting rooms, in stores. Something in my brain had shifted. Not long after, I fell in love. He had kids. I didn’t mind at all. Previously I had rejected any men who had kids. NO WAY! Now, it was OK with me. I didn’t seek it out, but when it showed up, I accepted the situation along with him.
Kids are hard. And they are the best thing you’ll ever do. But they aren’t for everyone, and I agree that a lot more people shouldn‘t have them if they already know they don’t want them. It takes guts to admit you aren’t parenting material. It takes courage to give a child away to people who are parenting material.
I would leave your friend be. Ask yourself why it bugs you so much. Why does this bring out so much cynicism? The answer lies inside you … Her actions are no judgment about your choices. She probably gets a good hit from being around little ones. Or she’s showing off… who cares? If I were at a party with a bunch of cynical people, or saw kids being ignored, I might go and play with the kids… They are the most honest people you’ll ever meet. if they don’t like you, what you are wearing, what you just said, how you say one thing and do another — they’ll let you know. It’s quite humbling.
“People” don’t think anything. There is no such entity as “people.” We’re individuals – each with our own identity and thoughts. Many of us are guilty of putting our own prejudices and fears into little bubbles above other people’s heads. In the old days, when someone asked me why I didn’t have kids, I would smile sweetly and say, “I can’t!” then walk away before they could lay any of their issues on me. It doesn’t matter if “I can’t” because I have a medical issue, I’m on birth control, or I think I might try and return them to the hospital after a week. The answer, if that’s my reality, is “I can’t!”
Take a deep breath. Ignore her the next time she does this. She may be really shy and can’t talk with grownups, she may want kids badly and her clock is ticking, she may feel she can’t compete with all the grownup chatter. She may be a psycho. Who knows? Who cares? Really. Sit back and ask yourself, “What’s in it for me to be this upset about this particular situation?” It’s a great growth opportunity for you!
PS: Readers – what advice do YOU have for “Tired?”
© 2015 Beth Terry, CSP • All Rights Reserved