Yesterday, I was on the phone with my mother, and she said that she wanted grandchildren. Of course she’s said this before, countless times and sometimes I humour her, sometimes I ignore her and sometimes I just annoy her by saying that I’m going to the pub to accidently get her one. Yesterday, I asked her why, and her reply, “I keep seeing my cousins/friends with them and they’re so cute!” The way she said it, it was like her cousins and friends had acquired pet Chihuahuas for their handbags instead of actual little people.
My aunt, who is like my second mum is the same. There’s a lot of talk of wanting grandchildren, and how babies are so cute. Unfortunately, although her oldest son is 26, the grandchildren talk is more aimed towards me. (Settling down at any time before the age of 29 is unheard of in my immediate family). Even my father, who is barely done parenting as my youngest brother is only 14, goes on about grandchildren. About 10 years ago, they were going on about my uncle’s kids. They turned out to be monsters however, so everyone lost interest pretty quickly. All the offers to babysit, gone, just like that.
I do wonder sometimes if people who are of grandparent age have forgotten about the real deal of being parents to newborns. The general statements are, of how babies are so cute, and God forbid you mention your apprehension at having one. It’s almost unsaid that if you’re in love, and you’re with someone, then the next step would be to have children. To be honest, I don’t think the previous generation thought very well and hard about having children.
You’re old enough, you get a job, you get married, then you have a baby. It was just the way. Sometimes, there was slight consideration about how much it would cost to raise it, but very minimal thought about education, attention and being emotionally strong enough to be a supportive parent. Schooling and medical costs were the government’s problem and getting a scholarship into a good university was the child’s problem. When I was growing up, there was no thought to medical insurance or even having a backup plan for university costs. It was all dealt with when it happened, and whoever was available just pitched in and took care of the kids. Sadly enough, this situation has produced a rather stressed out person in me (as is proven in this piece).
Don’t take this the wrong way. I do like children, and I don’t see them as a waste of air, but in spite of all the fluffy talk from my mum and aunt, they are hard work. It’s not just a matter of falling in love and having a baby. It’s so much more than that. I’ve seen some great kids and I’ve seen some kids that have not turned out great, and a lot of times, you can’t blame the kids. It’s more than just popping them out, and I think before embarking on this journey, it is so important to go through a period of self enquiry. Sometimes you realise that you’re ready, and sometimes, you might find that you’re not, and you never want to. It’s important to understand that it is fine to not have children.
I have a couple of friends who are getting married but don’t want children. Everyone they have told has acted like it’s unheard of, but it is their choice, and I command them for being honest about it. We are not talking about an accessory here. We are talking about a real live human being who will grow, who needs attention and love, and who will need to be supported for at least 16 years of their lives. Children, these little miracles, are so pure, perfect, sensitive and intuitive. If you are angry, they will absorb that anger, if you have image issues, they will absorb that too, when you are confused, you will confuse them, and when you can barely take care of yourself, it will affect them too. It is the biggest commitment you will make and although you hope they will love you, they might not.
A lot of people think that having children proves that they are OK, that they have reached a certain point in life. Like the shoes, handbags, cars and houses, children have become a status symbol. It’s a certain kind of child who plays a certain sport, goes to ballet lessons or plays a certain instrument. The problem is all this showing of statuses does affects the child. Add to that the constant stimulation – TV, iPad, endless video games. And man, have we created some really over stimulated, highly stressed out children in this world. Why? Because mum and dad are over stimulated and highly stressed as well.
There is a lot to think about for parents. As for grandparents I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s the second chance for them without the messy bits. Maybe it’s the child they can return at the end of the day – something cute and cuddly to play with without having to then deal with night feeding, diaper changes, tantrums and potty training. But the decision really must lay with the people actually having the child. This is not a gift you can return, and it’s not even a gift that keeps giving. This is a person. Someone with thoughts, feelings and needs, and if you can’t fill your own needs or if your own needs are your only consideration then maybe think again. If you feel that you (either alone or both you and your partner) are ready to give and keep giving, then it is time, but if you’re unsure, perhaps get a pet. And get one for your parents, a young active one they can show off.