Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Since When Was Parenting a Crime Anyway?

You know, I'm getting rather tired of people attacking me. Yes, I'm taking this personally. Whether they do so in a mindless rant or in a more articulate, even entertaining post, I'm tired of being attacked for my choices. Yes, so I chose to have a kid. I chose to opt out of a career for a couple of years. I choose to take my kid around with me, I even choose to write about him on my blog now and then. Why should I be attacked for any of those choices?

Yes, I have a charmer of a son, he is also pretty attractive (I'm guessing the nursing-home switched babies on us) but so what? If he weren't handsome he ought not have a place in my blog?

I do not grudge young, single folks their 'freedom'. Many support parents/family, a lot of them stash away most of their earnings, far too many are desperately lonely. I think the pros and cons in their lives are about as evenly balanced as in mine. I sympathise with their frustration at being made to feel inadequate for not 'settling down' and producing children. But as all my friends -- in the real world -- know, I've never been an advocate of early marriages and parenthood. It works for me because I wanted it (ok, don't remind me of this when I whine) but I've never thought it's the ideal thing for society at large.

I'm pretty annoyed that some unmarried/non-parent bloggers think the correct way to deal with their frustration is to blame it on us, the ones who did what their parents want them to do. I've got news for you lot: our own parents crib about our choices too. We have frustrations of our own. And adding your utterly unrelated angst upon us is unkind, selfish and in the end, meaningless. It adds nothing to your lives, takes away very little from ours and achieves, well, nothing. Is that why you sat and wrote out your post? Isn't it more honest to type, "I hate people asking me when I'll get married. I'm happy the way I am, I wish they would just fuck off." Isn't that what you want to say? Then why say, "People with kids are such losers, I'm glad I don't have any."

[Note: If anybody responding to this post feels the need to swear please type out your swear words. I hate silly asterisk-ed wannabe words.]

I'll tell you why people with kids are given leeway now and then. Because we don't get time off. Because this lifestyle (it doesn't begin to compare with a mere job) is as physically demanding as anything anybody can come up with. Because the levels of stress are on par with the bitchiest of offices. Sure, it's fun, but it's also very demanding and a lot more work than anybody without kids can begin to imagine. I held down four part-time jobs while I finished my demanding MA course so I think I can say I know what I'm talking about here. I've worked full-time in an office, had good times and bad times there. I've been a corporate daughter all my life, so I know what that life is all about. And I still say parenting is harder. There's no boss to say, "You've done well, I think you deserve a raise" or "Your bonus this month is a junket." Our achievements are marked by gummy smiles and sticky hugs and wet patches on our clothes where sleeping little mouths have drooled onto us. So if we go on and on about it, have you ever considered we do it because we need to reassure ourselves that we are doing something right? Because there is nobody else above us, no boss to take the blame. Far from getting more money, stay-at-home parents are cut off from their independent sources of income and have their commitment questioned when they try to return to the work force.

Mothers who try to carry on working have it no easier. My father's PA recently had to quit her job because her parents fell ill and could no longer babysit her six month-old daughter. She didn't find reliable help in the time she took off. Some have worked too hard to give up on their careers and struggle on. Others have no choice. Whichever way it goes, parents have no easy choices.

So yeah, if somebody sees the baby in my arms and offers me a seat I'm grateful and I accept. If I'm invited to jump a queue I sometimes accept. If somebody wants to make a fuss over me, I allow it. And if ever anybody tries to say I don't deserve it all I get rather annoyed. Why don't you live my life and then tell me what I do and do not deserve?

Being intolerant of children is not using your freedom of expression. Children are not a separate race of people -- they are people. Some people are likable and some are not. Kids are like that too. I have a terrible reputation in my extended family for being too strict with my son. But I believe it's never too early to teach him right from wrong. I know he is capable of understanding it. Have known since I caught him sneaking looks at me before reaching out for my book, something he knew he was not allowed to touch. This at four months, when he could only roll over! I became such a strict disciplinarian only because I don't like parents bringing up their children to put their own kiddy needs before everybody else. So I do know what you're talking about when you write about annoying kids. But not all kids are annoying.

It's really not comparable to your attitude towards other communities or another species. Kids are how we continue the line of which you and I are but two links. A dislike of kids (as opposed to an irritability at being disturbed by them) is a scary sign of communal dysfunction. You may not be comfortable around children but being unable to stand them is not a good sign of mental balance.

The reason such a sentiment bothers me is this: kids are vital to continue the race. They will pass through all sorts of stages, need all kinds of help, teaching and training and they will carry on the work you are doing. In turn they will have children of their own. We were born to continue a long line. I'm not saying we should all have kids. But I am saying we all, yes, all, have something to pass on. Maybe a skill we acquired or developed. Maybe some insights into a field of knowledge. Perhaps just how to live harmoniously. Whether we have kids of our own or not, I think it's vital we pass on what we learnt in our lifetimes, because I think (like the Vikings) that it is eventual immortality that justifies our actions now. Why else are we writing down our thoughts, recording histories, opening centres of learning, conducting research? If we are doing something only for ourselves, our own generation, then why don't we destroy our learning when we die? Why leave it behind us if not for the next lot?

If something is not fit for posterity then it is a futile endeavour. Being intolerant of the next generation (and the generations after that) is a self-goal. You may do it spectacularly, but you end up looking an ass.

It's late, I've had a long day, tomorrow's going to be even longer. So here are links, instead of being properly placed within the post:

http://thebratthebeanandbedlam.wordpress.com/2008/01/11/why-is-it-alright-to-be-openly-intolerant-of-children/
http://www.aadisht.net/2008/01/12/more-mommyblogger-mockery
http://tellmepanic.blogspot.com/2007/07/udder-juice-good-bad-or-just-plain-ugly.html
http://2x3x7.blogspot.com/2007/12/civil-parenthood.html
http://2x3x7.blogspot.com/2007/12/civil-parenthood-revisited.html (these last two are thought-provoking rather than mindless rants but I think the basic premise is a bit worrying.)

Oh, and the third link is about something a little different but since I'm ranting -- why the hell aren't there mothering rooms in every goddamn mall? A clean room, need not be large, where one can change and feed a kid. Does not need toys (who'll clean 'em) does not need a tv. Just a clean room with a basin and a couple of chairs. Maybe a high chair? Every hotel/restaurant/mall/public place should have one, even if it's just a curtained off alcove. Because no woman wants to feed in public. They do so because they are not given a private space to feed their child. And while I'm on the subject, shame on my generation for being so squeamish about the most natural act in the world. It's natural in a way that even masturbation isn't. One you do because your very body and mind come together to urge you to; the other you decide to do for your own pleasure. I've breastfed in public spaces and my parents' generation looked the other way and carried on with their lives. It was a common sight in their time. And I'll tell you this, even bottle-fed babies are more comfortable being fed in a quiet room. I spent so much money at Mothercare (Madras) purely because they have such a room there so I could take my infant son when I wanted to go out. Whether I browsed through the books at Crossword on the next floor or had a coffee at Brio (also upstairs) I knew my son would not be paying the price for my afternoon out. Why the hell is this concept taking so long to catch on?

29 comments:

DotMom said...

sue.....sue.. sue. why do you have to feed in to those psychos.. you are way too sane. barking dogs bark. just ignore these effing jerks. these people don't even merit a response. seriously. Hugs to you. don't take it so personally. they are aholes. period.

the second more interesting point in your post.. early marraiges and having children early... I am your antithesis. I married late and had a child late. And I feel if I had a child when I was 24, like my mom did, it would be soo much better. If you find the right person and feel like reprodcuing, societal expectations should not matter. And why do you think early marraige and having children early are bad for the society?

Sue said...

DotMom -- I think these rational debaters do more harm than the psychos. I haven't responded to the psychos all these days but Falstaff's posts got me writing the 'I'm here' post of mine.

They are not assholes (I hope) and I find it alarming that otherwise sane people think it's acceptable to say kids should be banned from public spaces.

I think you can have a lot of fun in your twenties if you aren't busy raising kids... Not saying it's harmful for society exactly, but I might have been a more peaceful, happier, accpeting mother if I'd got to choose when to become one.

I did have all sorts of fun in Uni but I was precocious. And even I wouldn't have minded another year or two of that life. Because I'll never have it again. Maybe it's just the grass looking greener, though.

GettingThereNow said...

I don't think that keeping mum and not responding to them is going to stop these people from writing such posts. As long as they are airing their views on how WE should behave, I think we have the right and obligation (to ourselves at least) to air our sides.

This is an EXCELLENT post Sue. I have been seeting at these posts, but haven't had the time or energy to write a rebuttal but I am glad you and Mad Momma did! Oh, and HOW!!

The point is, one may disagree with what another section of society is doing but they don't have the right to be so vitriolic in expressing their opinions. One can express an opinion without 1) insulting the person/people they are expressing that opinion about, 2) being intolerant and 3) imposing their opinion and shoving it down other people's throats.

Agreed they are doing so on their personal blogs. BUT when they write about ME (as a parent or a parent-blogger), it gets personal and deserves a fitting response. And instead of bashing their opinions on their blogs we, as civilized adults, have only came back to our own blogs and expressed our opinions without pouring out the same venom they did.

and I lost the train of thought there :( But again, EXCELLENT post!

GettingThereNow said...

**SeetHing

the mad momma said...

Great job Sue, Love how well you made your point.

About the asterisks. Its not because we're bashful :D its to stop the words from popping up on a google when someone is searching for p**n. See - done it again.

SUR NOTES said...

gosh, been trying so very hard not to get into this debate. typed a huge paragraph at mm's post and then deleted it. wrote a post on my blog, deleted it. found the whole argument so tedious.

you know, i am one of those 'criminal' parents who takes my 27 month old child everywhere. have been doing it since she was four months old. and probably because of that she knows that its not nice to disturb people. if she gets bored she falls asleep. or finds something to amuse her -like the tassels on our seat in one screening. on journeys she has her books, her puzzles, us, and any adult who is interested in her. kids know when they are not wanted and will never go to adults who dont want them!

and on the occassion when she would not be quiet, like the time she began singing saawariya the moment a docu screening began she was whisked away and a pal went off for a walk with her while i watched the film.

so all this talk of me subjecting my child on the unsuspecting public- well what do i say? my child is a part of my world- and my world does not involve staying at home. she has adapted pretty fast, and knows when she can go wild and when she can play with the tassels!

ps. sorry for such a long post but here is a really funny story a pal told me. a couple sitting in front of him placed their kid on the row in front of them, next to an unsuspecting young man. the child kept asking the young man for pop corn and toilet visits while the parents watched the film. dont know if he obliged!!! but after reading copious notes on this civil parenting stuff i feel like doing the same!

SUR NOTES said...

sue, in my unabashed rant i forgot to mention that i loved your post. the general debate is tedious, not the points put forward by you and mm.

Tithi said...

you know what, dear, i simply adore your clarity of thought. simply show your middle finger to all those who say such things about parents and parenting. experience counts, as they say! stay-at-home parents have it tougher, i'd say, going by my mom's life. she pretty much didn't have a life beyond me.
i really appreciate the point about being a disciplinarian parent. it's definitely important and i wish i can be half as good as you are with the bhablet!
very thoughtful post! all the best!

Moppet's Mom said...

Whether you're single, or committed, or choose pets over kids, there will always be people who disapprove of your way of life. And some will be vocal about their disapproval, no matter that it is no business of theirs. So also for the lifestyle we've chosen.

Logical argument is wasted on such people, because the basis of their dislike isn't rational. It's emotional, and it comes from what I believe is a certain lack in their own lives that they choose to deny / deal with by blaming the outside world. It's sad, but it's really their problem, not ours.

the mad momma said...

@Sur and Moppet's Mom: No..no...You're doing us a disservice by sweeping it under the carpet. We need more articulate mothers like you two.. the MBA, the filmmaker, to come out and talk...

Nisha said...

Loved your post Sue. It hits right on the nail how difficult it is for stay at home moms like us. I can't begin to imagine what kind of twisted mindset these so called SAHM haters seem to nurture. Why, have they forgotten that they were also babies, toddlers and only adults in later life and they were as much pain as they claim all the other babies to be? Just because their moms didn't blog / have a record, does that mean they were perfectly, well-behaved kids?

karmickids said...

Sue, frankly, dear, dont give a damn. But I do know how infuriating these posts have been and how offensive. I for one, feel that we're morphing into a society that has begun treating children like unwanteds. Like the marginalised. Go to any tony restaurant with a child in tow and you know what I mean. even a well behaved child and not a riot on wheels like my brat. There has to be a line drawn somewhere, children have every right to be where their parents are and parents who choose to be parents are only doing what is natural. Did those who get into these rants think back as to their own childhood and their parents when they wrote that I wonder.

choxbox said...

i have gone/go everywhere with my kids, basically i do not have a choice as there is no fall-back option - no nani/dadi or full-time help here. more than that, i want them to go with me. i cannot remember ever having an issue at all. in fact i always think its the other way. in queues i have been asked to jump because i had an infant (this happened at the british embassy in delhi for eg), if there was a staircase with no lift around (like in tube stations), every *single* time folks have offered to help me carry the stroller.

or maybe i am too thick to notice the 'child-haters' ;)

Dhruva said...

Now I'm not the kind who has rationale (or grit :P) enough to hold a reasonable and extended polysyllabic conversation (thank heavens), AND being usually non confrontational, I think the best approach at a personal level to any situation where people are barking--just barking, not biting-- is to say "Whatever", and move on.

In reference to this specific situation, I think they would never realize how incredibly overwhelming it is to create something as beautiful as a child.

Not that I have any children of my own, just that when the li'll ones clutch on one of my fingers, it feels a very uncomplicated kind of nice.

Mona said...

there's always people that have a problem with what you do and how you do it, no matter what. i would just choose to let it go. but i'm glad you put up this post, sane, rational and articulate!
great post!

Itchingtowrite said...

on one hand they say breast milk is the best food for babies. on the other hand they don't provide feeding stations.

the greatest joy of being a mom is the closeness while breast feeding. it is we who wean off rather than babies!!
F@&*k off who talk rubbish against breast feeding moms

dipali said...

You have articulated your feelings so beautifully, Sue.
I'm glad I had my kids in simpler times! ( I was quite a 'bindaas' breast feeder, by the way, and must have scandalized quite a few people on the way). However, I do feel that my joy in my personal choices need not be affected by the views of others. And yes, mothers of babies and young children do need all the support they can get, both institutional and otherwise.
I personally feel that having a child today, for the educated minority who plan their offspring,
is a matter of great courage.
Proud of you all, young parents:)

david mcmahon said...

Su, I see your point,

I am a parent as well and I hear you. Don't get steamed up over the opinions of other people - that's the bottom line.

The equation between you andyour child is defined by you. Don't let it be defined by other people.

Simple, when you think about it.

Keep that smile on your face

David

First Rain said...

Hey, I just got back from vacation and I haven't even read your post. But before I do that I just wanted to say that being a mom requires a lot of courage and oodles patience and I am sure, lots of other stuff that I don't have any clue about.

That's enough for me give you a big hug :) and kudos for having a ball with the Bhabelet. Have a charmed life - all three of you.

Rohini said...

Excellent post, Sue. I too find an attitude of intolerance of children pretty bizarre and unnatural. It's fine to not want to have your own or to get irritated around noisy/ bratty kids (hell, I get irritated when my own behaves badly) but this extreme position is something I cannot find it in myself to understand...

threedrinksahead said...

I love how clearly you made your point! :)

And, I agree - being intolerant of children is insane! They aren't another species that you happen to not like.

Y said...

Oh, Sue.

*Sigh*

I know, I know.

ushmi said...

"Because no pregnant woman wants to feed in public"

er...

Sue said...

Cee Kay -- LOL! Yeah sure, I will fight every battle I choose to, especially when I didn't pick the fight!

I've seen you and MM disagree in the way you describe. :)

MM -- It's ok, I don't really care what searches lead here. And "porn" appears in another post anyway. Try googling "Bong porn", I believe Sunny Days shows up.

Sur -- "my child is a part of my world- and my world does not involve staying at home."

That's our philosophy too. When we don't take him it means 1) V and I want some time to ourselves or 2) he won't enjoy it so there's no point (say a movie or a play). Of course, there are times when he has his own invitations to attend so we go do our own thing. :)

Mind you, went for a fantastic folk song concert the other evening and realised I could have taken him because he'd have loved it. Felt very sorry I'd left him behind.

Tithi -- Thanks. :) I think it's because our mothers didn't have much of a life beyond us that they are the ones encouraging us to keep the rest of our lives (the non-baby parts) going as well. They know what it's like to have nothing else to do.

Moppet's Mom -- I'm talking of having a child here, not getting a tattoo. I can understand somebody disapproving of a tattoo but nobody is allowed to question my choice to have a kid. I'm not harming society but adding to it, continuing it. I have kept quiet so long but that hasn't stopped anybody and I'm sick of people thinking they are free to talk rot.

Sue said...

Nisha -- "Just because their moms didn't blog/ have a record, does that mean they were perfectly, well-behaved kids?"

Exactly! If more people were reminded of what pains they have been in their time, I think they would try to keep a greater sense of perspective where kids are concerned.

Kiran -- I know exactly what you mean about restaurants. I'm glad Cal is still more small-town in its attitude in this respect. And we can't afford the places that wouldn't have The Bhablet so I don't care. (Not that I've gone.)

Choxbox -- That's what I say -- I've never seen this attitude in real life!

Dhruva -- Aww... Well, you'll know for yourself how much more this "uncomplicated sort of nice" can be amped up when you have one of your own someday.

Mona -- I have let countless posts go before writing my response. I didn't mind so long as they were mindless rants, but I do take measured, well-written, humorous pieces seriously.

Itchy -- Yes! It was Kodi's Mom who pointed out to me that it was I who was continuing the feeding, not The Bhablet.

Dipali -- Thank you. Yes, it does seem to have been a simpler decision for you guys and I don't understand why it's steadily becoming so complicated. But thanks for standing up for the next generation, as always.

[Oh and enjoy your evening.]

Sue said...

David -- Yes, that IS simple. But I'm not talking of the equation between my son and me. I'm talking of the equations between him and people who seem to think he's superfluous.

First Rain -- I hope you had a fun vacation. Where did you go? Now go read and then tell me what you think!

Rohini -- Exactly. And I find it not just bizarre but scary. Here's a thought -- do you think it stems from a fear of the unknown? Something more complicated?

ThreeDrinksAhead -- See response to Rohini. What do you think?

Y -- You face it too??? How can anybody be intolerant of Peanut?

Ushmi -- :) Thanks, corrected.

Mystic Margarita said...

Excellen, thought-provoking post, Sue. It's scary to think that so many people these days share such a warped notion and don't shy away from expressing their hatred in such venomous, derogatory words. Makes one think where we're all going with so much, so-called progress.

Sunita said...

Great post Sue and very well articulated. Loved it all the way, your the-matter-of-fact approach.

Sue said...

Mystic -- Scary is the word, isn't it?

Sunita -- Thanks. Are you back at last???