Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Hate" Is a Very Strong Word

As a childfree woman in my childbearing prime (eew...I hate the word "childbearing"), the question often arises about whether I hate children. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching on this topic, and the best response I can come up with is “hate is a very strong word”, and I’ll attempt to explain why.

There are some children I adore. And there are many, many times that I want to take these children, who I love completely, and shut them in a room so they stop bothering me. I have a low tolerance for being annoyed—a favorite phrase in our house is “you’re not being annoying, I’m just being annoyed”, something I say to my husband when I ask him to stop, say, humming along to a song or tapping his fingers against the table in a way that bothers me. It’s not his fault and I acknowledge that, but I am unsettled by it just the same.

This is a character flaw I know well, and it makes me sad that I have such a low tolerance for simple behaviors that I decide are annoying, but there it is. It also doesn’t take much for that annoyance to evolve into resentment, even with my own husband at times. It is among the biggest reasons that I cannot be a mother. If I’m capable of being so irritated with nieces and nephews—whom I love completely—that I want to smother them with a pillow just to get some peace and quiet, that I want to scream at them “No I DON’T want to see something cool, I’m BUSY!”, how could that possibly change magically when having my own kids? Parents love to say “it’s different when they’re your own”, but I don’t buy it. Not for a second.

The evidence is everywhere, really. It’s a simple fact: parents get annoyed by their kids. They get angry. They get furious. But for me, it’s when that annoyance turns to resentment that bothers me.

This is all avoiding the question of whether I hate kids. I think I can honestly say I don’t much like kids. I don’t like that babies require constant attention to the exclusion of all else. I don’t like that toddlers are destructively curious and incessant talkers. I don’t like how preschoolers ask constant questions and are always fighting for attention. I don’t like how schoolchildren are mean to each other and are horribly materialistic just because TV tells them to be. I don’t like the selfishness of “kids these days”, thinking they deserve whatever they want because they’re the most special thing on the planet. I love my nieces and nephews, but sometimes I really don’t like them, just like there are moments when I don’t like my husband very much.

I’ve seen many parents struggle with this paradox, of loving their kids, of knowing they’re supposed to love their kids, but feeling like horrible people if they just want to give the kid a tranquilizer for a moment’s peace and quiet. I think parents who realize it’s okay to not like your child once in awhile are the ones who make the best moms and dads. But for so many it’s a constant struggle, and I know that would be my problem. I’d resent the child for needing me so much, I’d get irritated at their little habits, I’d get pissed off because I couldn’t listen to my music, watch my movies and television shows, go on my vacations.

People love to tell me what a great mom I’d make, and I’d probably do okay some of the time. But I don’t want to. Because I know myself and I know that my personality is not cut out for motherhood. It’s okay with me, I don’t feel a sense of loss over it. But people who don’t like children and can’t tolerate them doing what they do—the sheer state of being a child necessarily means one is going to annoy the hell out of grown-ups a lot of the time—have no business making babies.


M said...

Have you heard of highly sensitive people (I think that's the official term for it, I'm not positive though if my memory is accurate). Anyhow I've noticed lots of cf people mentioning their need for alone time and intolerance to noise etc. as one reason to not have kids.

I have a theory going that many cf are highly sensitive people--not that we're sensitive in the dictionary def. of the word, but in the official definition of this term as determined by some author who I think may be a psychologist (can't remember right now.)

Anyway it's interesting b/c it may even be that it's partly or largely biology that determines who is cf, since being sensitive to stimulation is often something we are just born with. It doesn't mean cf people hate kids but those who are HSP literally have different reactions in their brains to stimulation and kids, as we know, create a lot of stimulation.

I don't think all cf people I've encountered are HSP, but I've noticed many who are cf seem to describe themselves in a way that indicates they may be.

I think I am a HSP and I think that partly explains why I like older kids but younger (read: louder and more chaotic) kids don't appeal to me as much generally.

I was thinking of writing a post on this but I may have said all I had to say here.

Stasha said...

I've actually read a book called "The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine Aron at the recommendation of a psychologist friend of mine and it was amazing how much it fit. Strange how I never made the connection to being HSP to my childfree views. I'm going to have to start exploring that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I too can't stand the simpleminded assumption that just because you don't want kids then well, you must really *hate* them, and/or must be a cold-blooded corporate career woman. Some people just cannot imagine much beyond the stereotypes.

Kris said...

This post is so, so very true of me too! (In fact most of your posts I'e read so far are! Keep up the good work!!) I also identify as an HSP and found Elaine Aron's book to be extremely helpful in validating my experiences.

Anonymous said...

OMG!!! Every sentence in this post of yours is exactly how I feel. Amazing. I'm glad there's another person out there who feels exactly how I feel. Thanks.