Yet another friend had a baby few days ago. I am hugely happy for her. And for the couple of other friends who have had kids in the last year.
But if truth be told, there is one small part of me which gets all freaked out every time I come to know of a baby-in-progress. The event forces me to take my head out of the sand and confront the brutal reality that time is passing by - fast. That it really doesn’t matter a jot what the emotional and mental age is- or whether, as in my case, that its 10 years behind the physical age. The latter is what ACTUALLY matters in the real world.
Also, nothing is straightforward or assured anymore. A generation ago, the jobs were more secure, the support system more solid and financial strength was linear and growing. Now, the first two are increasingly becoming a chimera, and if anything, the financial graph is flowing in reverse (monies are much easier to come by in the thirties/forties rather than fifties/sixties). All the more reason to have kids younger, so that there is some guarantee of being able to care for their needs, not to mention, the energy to enter into their pursuits.
It's not that I don’t want children. I do. But in the abstract.
I have a pretty strong suspicion that the life I lead right now (which is fun enough at this age) might start looking pretty sterile and colourless ten years hence. After all, only so much of movies, malls and travelling one can do before it becomes totally meaningless.
But the actuality of children - that’s a different story altogether.
Nothing actually makes one confront one's inadequacies as much as the thought of a child of one's own. It’s not even about being a perfect parent – I know that parenting is learning, growing process and no one is omniscient or right all the time. But inadequacies in terms of say, selflessness – voluntarily abdicating the focus on self, keeping aside one’s needs and whims for the good of someone else – always. I don’t know whether I can do that on a sustained and continuous basis.
I look at myself and S, I don’t think we are particularly selfish or self centered, or irresponsible, or cruel, or any of those things that make bad parents.
But I don’t know whether we have what it takes to be good parents either. We have our foibles, we have our moods, we can be quirky verging on eccentric, we can be abstracted and so inward looking that we lose sight of the outside world. We can be jaded, and unenthused. We cannot pretend - feign interest in things which bore us, or be social when we would rather be quiet, or display any extraordinary degree of emotional selflessness. Or allow anyone (including the spouse) to cross into the absolute core inside of that ephemeral concept of personal space
And one cannot get into childrearing with ennui and cynicism. A child does not have any definition of personal boundaries or limits and rightly so. But the thought of letting go, is what is so terrifying.
Or the thought of giving up that control which one has struggled to achieve in life -On one’s independence, on one’s body, on one’s sleep, on mental and emotional liberty. I know that people who are parents will rush to tell me that you can still do whatever you want to – whether its adventure sports or travel or whatever else. I am aware of that. However, one’s hold on life and limbs, has to be that much more tenacious for the simple reason that there is a kid depending on one – so there is always going to be that restrictive mental seatbelt. To paraphrase a quote I had read in some book “I cannot die now, I am a mother”.
I am not saying any of this is bad or something I don’t want to do – but the thought of doing that 24/7 for the next eighteen years without a day off, without margin of error, without a safety net – THAT thought is terrifying. I have seen a lot of people who were fairly irresponsible when they were single step up and rise magnificently and become wonderful parents. So I try and reassure myself with a “if they can do it, you can probably manage too” but somehow it ends up sounding like a meaningless platitude even in my head.
But I don’t know how some people do it – transition so naturally from one life stage to another. Marriage and then the maternal instincts come roaring in. I always seem to be in a denial –resistant mode about these sorts of things. Always seem to be fighting change, battling against growing up. And one cannot stay a child, if one has a child of one’s own.