On Being an Unfit Mother

The husband and I are rapidly approaching one year of marriage. I still can’t get over that we are married. Mainly because I think ‘old’ when I think marriage; old like grown-ups, not seniors. Because I have known him since high school, we are forever 17 in my mind. But no – I am going to be 28 in a few weeks.

Marriage + Approaching 30 = EVERYONE all up in your business about children.

I hate when people ask that question. I know they mean well. I know they assume that everyone is ready and dying to have children of their own. Sometimes, they even ask me in whispers, for fear that I will retort with, “I’m barren, but thank you for reminding me it’s time.” Because why else wouldn’t I have kids in this primo window of health? Never would they guess that I don’t want any.

Once I do tell them that, they give me that look. You know that look. It can only be read as one of three things: you are heartless for not wanting children, you’re too young to understand the need for children, or (my favorite) you are a waste of a woman.

Being the oldest of four, I have had my share of taking care of babies. While I recognize that when it’s your own it’s “different”, I’m not about to gamble with something I can’t return. Contrary to many beliefs, I have maternal instinct. If someone left a baby in a basket on my front porch, I would bawl and become den mother. If I see an abused child, my blood pressure will rise and I would stalk that family until I know the baby is safe. There’s a difference between having instinct and actively choosing not to be a mother. Additionally, I fully resent the connotation that I am too young to understand the miracle of babies. I know I’m an old soul and wiser than my peers – don’t condescend my choice by equating it to my age.

For my absolute favorite look, I have no retort for you. Many people think that the sole purpose of being a woman is to give birth and continue the human race – that is just our place in life. I can’t argue my gender’s ability to have children. I can’t argue that us women have breasts to feed. I can’t argue that I am hardwired to protect children. So I’m not going to try. But what about those that are infertile? What is their ‘purpose’? Are they deemed ‘broken’ since they are incapable of what they are made to do? Do people honestly think our sole purpose in life is to reproduce and die? If that’s the case, then what’s the point in living? I refuse to believe it. Actually, I can’t believe it. I don’t think everyone has the same purpose. I don’t think others should have a say in what you want to do. If someone is gifted to be a naturally exceptional surgeon and that person decides that they’d rather be a painter, do we have a right to force our needs on his talent?

Sometimes I want children. I want to see the end product of Chris and I. Combining our healthy lifestyle, thirst for knowledge and extensive travels will probably result in us creating a warrior. I know we would make great parents should we choose to do so. But I have other concerns.

Selfishness. I am definitely going to be up front and tell you that I am selfish. I care deeply for a lot of people, but I know they can make it on their own. When you have a child, you have someone that depends on you 100%. I’m not ready for that kind of responsibility. There are so many things I want to do, things I want to see, and  projects I want to accomplish. I don’t ever want to regret having a child – which was actually taught to me by other mothers. When I share what I do on weekends or where I’m going on vacation, I always hear a variation of “you’re lucky you don’t have kids”, which just translates to regret. Or worse – “when we retire and the children are out of the house, we will go to _____ too”. I still don’t know why people tie themselves to responsibility before they live their lives, instead of the other way around.

Money. I’m well aware that broke people have kids. I’m well aware that rich people have kids. I’m well aware that there is no correlation between wealth and well-adjusted kids. Being strictly Type A, I plan, have a contingency plan, and have a back-up to that contingency plan. Personally, I think it’s irresponsible to have children when you are drowning in debt. Just like I think it’s irresponsible to not save for your future. A lot of people don’t worry about this – well then good for you! But don’t judge me for choosing to spend my money on travels and a comfortable retirement while you made the life decision to spend it on your children.

Suburbia. Much to everyone’s surprise, this Indonesian did not grow up in a hut. I was born and raised in the capital city of Jakarta. At 7 years old, I came home from school and hired a cheap motorcycle driver (this is common there) to take me to my grandma’s house a few miles away. On the weekends, we would go up to the mountains where I played in rice fields and attempt to knock coconuts off trees so I can get a sip of its contents. I was raised around grime, exhaust fumes, dirt, fresh air, sewage, mountains, and the ocean. I have a very hard time adapting to suburbia. I am unable to find happiness in waking up and doing the same thing over again: eat, work, clean the house, and walk around the neighborhood. I miss city life. I miss mountains. I miss the ocean. I can’t afford the few American cities that can provide me with everything I want.

Introvert. Being a textbook introvert helped me go from ‘maybe’ to a confident ‘no’ in terms of having a child. I recharge my energy by being alone. Every time I interact with people in person, I am expending energy – in this sense, kids are EXPENSIVE. After work, I can no longer shut off, recharge, and recuperate. After I have spent all my energy at work, I have to create more out of thin air because my child needs attending. I don’t want to be the parent that sits them in front of the TV by themselves while I reload. There is no Off button with children.

Education. Out of everything else, this is my biggest concern. The public school system is ridiculous. In addition to my problem with the majority of teachers being glorified babysitters, I also have a problem with the kids that attend public school. Unless you are in the perfect wholesome neighborhood, which I don’t think exists anymore, you will get asshole children – sorry, but some kids are just assholes – that prey on the happy ones to bully or influence. Private school is just as bad. Not only would I have to pay, they will also learn entitlement and preferential treatment. Right now, my only option is to home school. If you are dedicated, I think a child can thrive being homeschooled – but I have yet to meet a parent that is so selfless, they would give up their hobbies, sense of self, and life to put in the required amount of time to make this happen.

I firmly believe that motherhood is a calling – and I’m sad that many do not recognize this. I have seen parents that are just parents because they think that’s where they are supposed to be at their age. I have seen parents that clearly do not want to be parents. I find it more amazing when people think things through and forgo a child than have one without consideration.

Sincerely, Tania