The needlepoint group nearly came to blows today. I am not allowed to talk about the specifics of what goes on there, but in general the subject was having children in a world with no foreseeable future (against the backdrop of the BP fiasco); i.e., the irresponsibility of choosing to procreate. This group contains a handful of mothers and a handful of non-mothers and it got heated really quickly. In the process of this discussion I was asked how I, as a card-carrying bike-riding environmentalist, could justify having kids, and if I regretted having them. Somehow I managed to throw out a comment that enraged both groups and became a lightning rod for all of the anger, grief, resentment, and confusion that women repress around childbearing. What is interesting is that I was holding back.
What I wanted to say was that I do sometimes regret having my children. Not frequently, but it happens. I find it hard to believe that there is a mother (nanny-less mother) out there who has not briefly entertained this thought at least once. I mean, come on: it is Sunday morning and you've been up all night all week with your fussy baby and you've just managed to get him to sleep when your other child comes barreling into the room to scream at you about how you made him the wrong flavor of pancakes and he hates you, thereby waking the baby, who begins to scream mercilessly, while all around, neighbors' windows slam down (and you know you're going to be hearing from THEM later) and all you want to do for the luvagod is GO TO SLEEP! Do you a) smile serenely and offer up a little prayer of thanksgiving that you were blessed with the care of these little angels? or b) wonder what you ever did to deserve this and passionately wish it would STOP? If you answered a), please come over and babysit. But I seriously doubt that anyone did.
What I did say was, I thought, far less controversial. I told the woman who was wondering whether or not she should have children that I thought her question was her answer. If she felt strongly that she shouldn't bring children into a foundering world and had no strong desire for them anyway, that she simply shouldn't have them. Easy.
Ha! What a BP-sized barrel of worms. I would like to take a moment now just to be grateful that I am no longer in that room.
But even though those women do not know me, even though they have never met my children and therefore haven't the first notion of who I am as a mother, their personal attacks shook me.
I have been feeling shaky in general lately. Am I going back to school? Am I a good person/educator/mother? Am I moving out of the state? Am I going to start driving? Am I doing what I am meant to be doing? Who AM I altogether? Blech. Obviously, my armor was pretty thin to begin with.
But I realized on the long bike ride home that the shakiness is trying to tell me something. I have been pushing myself very hard, and it leaves me vulnerable. So, upon arriving home, I did some chi gong. I took a shower and made a salad. And then, when I was pretty sure that my energy was entirely my own, I took stock of the situation.
And here is what I think:
I think about a mother stegosaurus, many ages ago. She sees worrisome signs about the future of her species and she is unsure whether or not she should have more offspring. She is concerned that she perhaps ate too much greenery this season and is looking a bit bulky. She wonders if life would not be better on the other side of the river. She wishes her mate had pointy plates, like her friend's mate does. She worries about all of this. And then she, and all the others, go extinct, and in the end, who the hell cares.
This universe is temporary. Life itself is temporary. We are experiencing life for possibly the first and maybe the last time in all of time. Ultimately, whether or not one adult female of the homo sapiens sapiens variety did or did not get her feelings hurt on a given day in 2010 on the planet earth is kind of... irrelevant.
In other words?
Don't take it personally.