City with no children

(title track)

I wonder if it’s my communal upbringing that’s responsible for my astonishment at the dearth of children in my world. At (a very white and inner-urban) thirty years of age it feels the camps are firmly drawn – those who have children and those who don’t. In many ways it’s a productive and/or protective binary: based on mutual understanding, mutual resistance, pragmatic pooling of time and resources, et al.

The division has been feeling rather acute lately, for better or worse.  Over the last few years friends and partners have speculated on how they expect to lose so much from children being born – partners worried we couldn’t go travelling, that they’d have to get ‘a proper job’ (full time, professional), that they might have to get a mortgage; friends have worried that x wouldn’t be able to socialise with us so much any more, that all he’ll want to talk about is baby’s bowel movements when we do, that she’ll replace them with some kind of hideous mum’s group. I’ve worried that I wouldn’t have any more time to write, that I’d fall apart from lack of sleep and other physical demands.

As I commented to Dave a while back, the conversations about kids on our side of the divide seem almost always to be negative – about how much we’d all stand to lose if one of us popped one out; about how much x has changed when they had the frightful misfortune of having reproduced. Never, I complained to him, do I hear folks talking about how exciting and wondrous it might be, how it might challenge us and mellow us and give us even more to laugh about together, debate about, inquire about. How it might bring us closer together, make us appreciate each other differently, give us more opportunities to live out our values and interests. There are plenty of good reasons why we don’t have children in our everyday social world, but I wonder if we’ve become unable to contemplate living with children on our own terms; thinking that one has to become someone we don’t want to be (in both the singular and the plural sense) as soon as the labour of one kind or another begins.

I wonder (with the prejudice of said upbringing) if this is a cultural thing; that is, sometimes it seems that in the culture that wants to dominate me, children are possessions to aspire to, the responsibility solely of the birth mother and optionally the father; to be domesticated, sectioned; laboured as projects. Who wants that? Who is going to be entrained by that? Is this why I live in a figurative city with no children? To paraphrase a friend: how am I supposed to know what to do with, let alone desire, something I’ve only had a few seconds of experience of in my whole 30-odd years?

Blue Milk, My Milk Spilt, Guerrilla Mama Medicine and Tammi have been great resources for my pondering on this topic. A step towards reworking the communal understanding of childbearing-and-rearing on the terms of me and my community. To be sure, Lisa Isherwood, quoting Wayland Young, notes that in an orgy-identified society the response to children being born is “let’s bring it up!”. In a non-orgiastic society, it is “whose child is it?” (2006:96). Watch out girls.


3 thoughts on “City with no children

  1. You’ve captured the modern #lattebelt deficit model of parenting nicely, ana. And now my children are 11, 9 and 6, I reckon I’ve been through a number of stages myself, from the first-time mum who would take O out of the car and hold him while putting petrol in (I truly thought it was some kind of child abuse to leave him alone in the car even if I was standing next to it), to the zomigod-when-will-I-ever-get-a-moment-to-myself mother of two, then three, to the working and studying mum with an au pair, to mum of three school-aged children who, as you’ve seen on the twitterz, now make me lunch and even clean the house sometimes… and so many things in between. Snorkeling with sharks and giant sea turtles in Malaysia was a thousand times more exciting with their dear hands in mine.

    We do give things up when we have children, and we do gain a lot (wouldn’t trade them for anything, etc). It would all be a lot easier if everyone just calmed the hell down about parenting, allowed and expected children to be with us in public spaces more (yes, it will be noisier. Get over it.), and had stronger links with our communities, both those that are proximal and those more virtual – they’re all real support. Ask anyone who made it to the Gala de tammois – the space was enriched, not limited, by the presence of a gaggle of laughing children. 🙂

  2. In my finishing-the-transcription imposed temporary isolation I might have missed this post if K hadn’t drawn my attention to it. Yay! It is something I had been thinking about after our conversation with our recent house guest (mortgages give you the right to reproduce, etc), so it’s good to see that there was some confluence there. It reminds me of a long conversation I had with a friend who complained that Australian/Western society leaves you completely without support, as a mother, and that people are inculturated to resist the “meddling of the mother/mother-in-law” and go your own way. While I certainly understand why it’s important for women to resist the kinds of criticism that are constantly levelled at them, it is a very individualist, “whose child is it?” kind of approach. That’s why I’ve made it a matter of pride (as well as love) to be present in the lives of my sister’s children and my friends who’ve had children, even though I don’t have much experience with kids and am oftentimes awkward around them. Anyway, I just wanted to say “Let’s bring it up!”, and kids are fun and when they’re not fun we can share the not-fun too. I unabashedly say that I plan to have kids and am not afraid of losing the life I would otherwise have had, supposedly, in that mythology where you’re either having adventures or you’re tied down and miserable for twenty years.

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