If that was my kid I’d…(Will I be a good Mom?)

Source: sheckys.com

Today while running on the treadmill I observed a boy of about 6 or 7 years old from our apartment building riding his scooter around the park right outside the window in front of me. There was a pair of ducks at the edge of the park that caught his attention, and he proceeded to stop and stare at them for some time. They did not move, so he started to circle them repeatedly. When they still did not move, he kicked his foot towards them. They remained still. At this point he picked up a rock from the ground and threw it towards the birds. As there was no response, the boy continued to torment the birds by alternating between circling and rock throwing for about 15 minutes. My rage steadily built as I thought about how scared the ducks must feel and wondered why they did not fly away. Finally I had enough, jumped off the treadmill, opened the door of the workout room and walked onto a small patio and yelled to the boy “Throw one more rock at those ducks and I’ll come over there and throw a rock at you!” He quickly rode away. I am expecting to hear about this tomorrow from one of his parents.

Thinking about my response afterwards, I realize I could have probably handled the situation better. I realize it is likely not appropriate for an adult woman to threaten physical harm to a child. In my defense, I did refrain from sticking out my tongue. But it did make me wonder, if at 31 years old this was how I felt the need to teach a child a lesson (I’ll show you how it feels to have someone bigger pick on you!) what kind of mother will I be? I am quick to judge others when I feel they are making mistakes when it comes to parenting. I find this to be true of many people, whether they are parents or not. When I see a child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or running amok in the mall I am quick to throw a disapproving eye at the parents. If I see a child drinking a grande hot chocolate or eating a huge hunk of chocolate I tsk tsk at the mother who would allow their child to consume so much sugar. You didn’t breastfeed? Criminal. Is that baby food organic? Is that freshly squeezed orange juice? Do you have an RESP? I can tell you exactly what you should be doing in all of these situations. But what do I really know about raising a child? Nothing.

I am a pharmacist. I know very practical things about children. I know how many milligrams per kilogram of many medications a baby should receive.  I know what to do in case of dehydration. I know what to give for fever, constipation, upset stomach, colic etc. I have growth charts showing typical heights and weights for children at various ages. But I have no practical knowledge of babies whatsoever. I have never changed a diaper. I have held exactly two babies, and my foremost thought was “If I drop you, your head will break”. I do not have any clue how long a child should breastfeed for, or how often. I don’t understand what “pumping” means. I have seen a breast shield and I am still confused as to how it is functional. I don’t know when a child should be able to hold their head up, sit, crawl or walk, but I know I am terrified that my child will not do any of these things at the right time. I don’t know when a child should begin to talk, read or write, or what to do to encourage these things. I don’t know when they should be toilet trained. I don’t know how they should sleep in a crib so they don’t die of SIDS. I don’t know if SIDS exists anymore, my mom told me about it a long time ago and that is why I never babysat an infant. When asked how you know what to do when you have a baby, people always say “You just know”. I think this is crap. Animals “just know’ instinctively how to care for their young. This is because all they have to do is protect them from predators and the environment until they can survive on their own to be considered good parents. Humans have to do this as well as nurture them, mold them into good human beings who are well rounded, well-adjusted, happy, healthy and successful in order to be considered good parents. This is a big challenge. I am hyperventilating just thinking about it, and I am an educated adult woman. I don’t understand how women 10-15 years my junior can do it. Some argue that in the ‘old days’ women got married and bore children when they were children (13-15 years old). But they also died very young, so they didn’t have to live to see their failures. Child parents now have the advantage that their parents are often still alive to help with child-rearing, and if not, well, let’s not pretend their offspring are at any sort of advantage. Has anyone seen 16 and Pregnant?

Even if I can overcome all of my fears of becoming a mother, I wonder, when is the right time? What is the “maternal instinct? Is it something that every woman has? Do I have it? What about the biological clock? How loud does it tick? I have always seen my distant future with children. But there was one point that the sight of a baby would not even phase me. I would be at work and a woman would come in with her newborn baby, and everyone would Ooh and Aah. They would pass this creature around from colleague to colleague while it squirmed and squished it’s red wrinkled face together. When it reached me I would always politely decline the chance to hold the little imp, never understanding the draw. Similarly, I could never understand the appeal of the newborn pictures where every baby looks the exact same, red face, black hair, alien face. And why show off the sonogram? Nobody can see anything. But something has changed. Now when I see a pregnant woman I feel an overwhelming urge to rub her belly. And I suddenly want to hold babies. Every baby! And take them home. I see the appeal. I realize my baby making window is narrowing. But I still don’t feel urgency. I don’t know if years of working with women, hearing pregnancy stories of heartburn, hemorrhoids, gallstones, enemas, 60 hour labors, pain, and stitches in unimaginable places have tarnished my viewpoint.

So am I missing a mother gene? Is there something wrong with me that I am over 30 and not dying to bear a child yesterday? Or is there something wrong with a society that pushes the idea of maternal instincts and biological clocks on women and makes them feel like if they do not fulfill a mother role by a certain point then they are flawed? It seems like pressures continue to be mounted and it is difficult to prioritize in this day and age. Be educated, have a career, be independent are the modern goals. But also get married and have children. We want it all, but often it is hard to find time for it all meaning some things need to be placed on the backburner. Women are increasingly choosing to get their careers and lives in place before having children and so perhaps it is not that this goal has decreased in importance but only that it has slipped from the forefront of the priority list. I feel that as I check other goals off of my list, I get closer to feeling ready to make the big step. Hopefully by that point I will mature a little more as well and not be picking fights on the playground.

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