My husband is a rare breed -- he loves the mall and likes going shopping, even if it's just window shopping. So maybe once a month or so, we go mall-walking, browsing the game stores, the clothing stores. We steer clear of department stores, but that's all besides the point.
This Sunday we sat in the middle of one of the mall crossroads at a coffeeshop, and we observed the families wandering about. None of the children around were being anything but kids -- no temper tantrums, just being kids, being THERE, all the time. I watched these kids all over the place and it just amazed me that there are women who look at the moms and covet their babies. But nowhere is it more fashionable to wear a child as an accessory than the mall.
Whether it was a fancy stroller or fashionable clothes, there's nowhere that children and moms are more put-together than at the mall. It's not like that at the grocery store, or even at Target, and it makes me wonder if the mall really does become a destination, a place to show off their beautiful trophies. Perhaps, if a woman will go and desire something from that world, maybe it's understandable that someone could look at that, the perfectly coiffed mom with her fashionable kids, and say "that's the life I want."
But I still don't understand.
Maybe because as a childfree person I allow myself to see past that veil of perfection. Other than the endless supply of Gap babies, there was one other pattern we noticed. 100% of the men who were there with families were visibly miserable. They carried the bags, they were the ones who had to say "no" to purchases, the carried the children who had worn themselves out by running around during what was intended to be a sitting break at the coffeeshop. After I noticed the pattern, I then tried to find a happy dad, and in this crowded mall full of families, the only happy men I saw had no children in tow. It was fascinating.
I tend to actively counter myself when I find myself focusing on the negative parts of families, so I start looking for the positives. And of course they're there. But overwhelmingly I see the things that the parents "didn't sign up for"... the touching of things that aren't supposed to be touched, the begging and pleading for the items they want want want, the uncomfortable apologies after someone wriggles away into oncoming mall traffic, causing a collision. I see the rift between mommy and daddy, who have forgotten why they decided to start a family. And I see the exhausted women trying in vain to control their kids, at their wits end and trapped.
I look at this and I wonder how people miss this. How do women look at this and say "I've always wanted to be a mom", or they look at this and want it so desperately? I truly do not understand their shock that "this wasn't what they thought it would be like" when things aren't always peachy. "What a parent is like" is all over the place. It's the hardest job in the world to raise kids at all, much less well-adjusted, well-behaved kids. Why can't these women who are living this life comprehend why someone might want to follow another path?