March 02, 2007

"Good" Parent?

I have often been told I would make a good parent. Most of the people who have told me so knew I was childfree. Maybe it’s because I enjoy older kids. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned a few things mentoring teens. Maybe it’s because I care about what happens to kids, and can appreciate the challenges they face.

Yesterday, I was the speaker at a women’s writing group talking about my childfree research project. I was telling them that many of the childfree people I interviewed had thought a great deal about the pros and cons of parenthood prior to making the decision to remain childfree. In some cases, couples had actually sat down and made a list of the downsides and the upsides.

One of the attendees, a parent, commented that she thought that a person who engaged in that kind of thoughtful process would make a good parent because they would have gone into it eyes wide open. I didn’t say it, but I thought, "But there would be one thing missing there, and that would be desire."

For me, desire is the HUGE missing element. If I had a burning desire to have a kid, I would probably overlook all the cons on my list. So what, I lose sleep, I’m stressed all the time, the kids disrespect me, call me names, hate me for a couple years. Who cares? I would rationalize or minimize the risks, the downsides, because I really want a child. I might even subject my body and my wallet to expensive and invasive fertility treatments if I had trouble concieving.

But I didn’t, and I don’t.

I don’t want a child, and that takes me out of the pool of desirable parents, in my way of thinking. I don’t have the desire, the "joy of parenthood" vision, the dreams of grandkids, the need to birth and nurture a child to sustain me through the "con" list.

Would I be a "good" parent? Perhaps, on paper. But, probably not a happy one.

God help the children.

[Photo originally uploaded to Flickr on April 11, 2006 by MichelleBlack.]

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Teri said...

LauraS - The parent in the audience was actually trying to pay you a compliment.

Imagine a young woman being told "you would make a great Purple Woman"!

Parents think their life is so great that they want everyone to share their world (and misery?). One person in my life in particular, cannot see beyond her children to imagine how I can be happy without them.

Not all parents have this affliction. Some parents have quite openly admired me for my choice to remain childfree, despite society's subtle and not-so-subtle pressures (in the form of bizare compliments) to do otherwise. I suspect that these parents realized they had a choice, and chose to be parents. They were not just blindly following some maternal instinct, hidden in a nursery rhyme.

first comes love
then comes marriage...(wait, where does great sex come in?)

I am so grateful that my own mother has been very understanding. She knows me so well. Our relationship is open enough that I understand that she would have loved to be a grandparent, but she never pressured me otherwise. She understands me too well to do that to me. She has compensated by telling me that the little brother I always wanted is a dog!

Robin said...

Great post! I've had several people tell me I'd make a great mom and I pretty much respond with...well I don't want to be one. Yeah I'm great with my furkids but that's because it's minimal work and expectation and pressure. Even my fiance (who is a father) has said to me a few times that I'd make a great mom but then he got to know me and realized I was not (if ever) ready for it.

JeSais said...

I too would be a great mom... I'm also good at math, but I'm not an accountant.

twiga92 said...

I think desire is a huge factor. If that is missing, how much harder to get through those sleepless nights, the kids hating you for a few years, etc.? I have friends who applaud my decision while being parents themselves. But they have the element of desire in their favor to get them through the hard times.

LauraS said...

I just noticed you changed "comments" to "gifts." They truly are. I thank you and I thank everyone here for the gifts!