Sunday, September 13, 2009

Maternity Ward: Welcome to the World, Baby Girl

"I'd love to have children. It's what completes you." -Paris Hilton
You know those girls who talk about babies all the time? The ones for whom marriage is merely a means to a very particular end... children? Well, they freak me out. Seriously. I don't know if I can explain it exactly, it just seems so backward. They seem to gain their identity from their ovaries. They are ones who flip out when their children leave the home because for all the doting and care and attention they poured out on their children, it was somehow about them... the need to be needed. Think of Ray Romano's mom in Everybody Loves Raymond. C.S. Lewis says, "Controlling women are the sort of women who 'live for others.' You can tell the 'others' by their hunted expression." Preach it. We've all been around a person like this; the woman who toils away in the kitchen on Thanksgiving Day and then blows a gasket because you didn't eat enough of the green bean casserole or cranberry sauce... never mind that you're allergic to cranberries. Or there's the woman who volunteers all the freaking time at church for various activities and makes you feel like dirt because you just don't have the time to make a brisket, much less coordinate the potluck. I get the sneaking suspicion that these women are modeling themselves after the Proverbs 31 woman. And can I be honest with you? Uncomfortably honest? I can't stand the Proverbs 31 woman. Sure, I love the idea of her... she's all handy and self-reliant, what with makin' all her own clothes and food and being a shrewd business woman. But come on. She doesn't sleep. Her children will arise and call her blessed because she's been baking bread since the crack of dawn. Sorry, I don't like bread that much. "She gets up while it is still early"... "her lamp doesn't go out at night." Glorified workaholic, is what that is. And, as Stasi Eldredge pointed out in her book Captivating -which I loved- she probably doesn't have time for sex, either. (*Gasp* "But Christian women aren't supposed to think about sex! They're not supposed to want to have sex!" Thats a whole 'nother blog entry right there, folks.) And if she's doing all of this out of anything but real, selfless love for her family and for her God, it's going to show.

Now you're probably wondering if I'm some sort of Ebenezer Scrooge... I must hate kids and want to devote all my time to a selfish hedonistic lifestyle, right?
Wrong. I adore kids. And its a risky thing for a 24 year old Christian single girl to talk about, because you automatically seem to get filed into a certain category... there's either "solid Christian girl with lots of marriage potential" if you get gaga over babies, or "nominal Christian girl with some serious worldy hangups and priority issues" if you aren't sure you want them just yet, if at all.

I'm neither one of those girls. I grew up with two younger brothers... and I was the go-to babysitter. So I didn't exactly leap at the nanny jobs that my friends had in high school and college. People assume that if your primary income isn't from babysitting, well then you must not really like children. But that isn't it either. Here's the deal: I happen to have an incredible mother (don't we all... but seriously she's phenomenal... you should meet her) who poured her life out to give her children all the spiritual, intellectual, and emotional sustenance she could possibly muster. Now, because I had an incredible model for what a mother can be, I frankly don't want to give anything less. I've been brought up to believe that children deserve all the love and nurturing they can possibly get from their parents, who are ideally (albeit feebly) supposed to be modeling the selfless love of God. Children are such incredibly beautiful little beings. Magical, in a way. They're fragile and at the same time, steady... simultaneously cantankerous and reverent to hilarious degrees, full of wonder and potential and covered with the fingerprints of our Abba Father. And I can't imagine not wanting to protect them and foster them and love them to life.

But wait... law school has been my goal since third grade. While my childhood friends were planning their weddings, I was planning my presidency. My grandfather recently asked me if I plan to get married and have children at some point. I told him I was certainly open to the idea... to which he responded "Well then what are you going to college for?"

I suppose it shouldn't really be a difficult question to answer... these days, all mothers work. That seems like the obvious answer. But my mom didn't, and for that reason, I don't have a paradigm for that sort of lifestyle. I will always feel that staying home with them is the best alternative, at least until they're old enough to start elementary school. I can't imagine farming my kids out to daycare and letting the world get its greasy fingers all over them, when I know the sort of attention I received, and how I benefitted from it in those formative years. Believe me, I understand that not all families have the luxury of stay-at-home moms, and not all moms want to stay at home... although more often than not, I find new mothers willing to give up their job security for extended maternity leave. I'm guessing something instinctual kicks in. But often, necessity trumps desire and instinct. Financially struggling households are commonplace, as are single parents households (and my hat is off to them). But - and forgive me if this is too bold - it doesn't seem to be the ideal scenario, and I think they would tell you so.

I don't know why all of this is coming to mind recently. If I do indeed have a biological clock, it's definitely not ticking. I don't look at beautiful babies and think "I want one!" I think "Let me hold him! ... and then give him back." My best friend has a beautiful son that I adore (and don't see often enough, for the record... Courtney...) And I am excited to meet my children one day, if I have them. But I don't feel any urgency, whatsoever. It's a terribly complex question for women these days, women who feel as though their primary calling isn't solely motherhood. I don't understand the antiquated mentality that governed society for centuries... the notion that you have little girls and keep them only to be future breeders. The real focus was on growing the boys into confident, viable men. The girls were acceptable so long as they were reproductively mature. In Western society, it seems really passe to have this mentality. Paul addresses this matter in Galatians 3:28, saying we are neither male nor female... so we're people first, male/female second, right? (On a hefty side note- how much of our historical global trauma could've been avoided if we'd diligently applied that scripture to our lives?) Now, I hesitate to say this because I'm reluctant to be labeled a fembot, and I know that there are plenty of people who'd rather just not think about it, so they disavow anyone that does think about it. I'm not a second-wave feminist who applies Title 9 to life in general... my unquestioning allegiance to the feminist movement stopped around the first wave. But for as long as I can remember (no exaggeration) I've imagined myself having a fantastically purposeful and challenging job, borne of my love for God and my love for mankind, championing the defenseless and fighting injustice, giving a voice to the voiceless and rest for the weary. I feel a calling to live out Micah 6:8- not a calling to keep myself in a Mercedes-Benz and the ever-perfect mani/pedi. But what if this calling interferes with my idea of perfect motherhood?

Case in point: I know other professional women, women who've gone before me and attested to the fact that once they had a baby, they suddenly wanted nothing more than to quit their job and take care of it. Well, that seems natural and healthy and... holy. I truly believe that children, for those that have them, are to be their parents' primary ministry. It makes sense, right? We first learn of God as Father, so obviously the parental role (one of the most natural in the world) is divinely inspired. And I believe that parenthood is one of the most powerful ways to learn about the character of God. Here is the heart of it: I don't want my children to be casualties of my noble career pursuing justice and healing for other people. Chuck Colson pointed out in his book How Now Shall We Live? that fatherlessness seems to be at the heart of most major social problems. And spiritually, that makes perfect sense, what with our projecting our earthly father's issues onto our Heavenly Father and acting out accordingly. So it would seem that so many social ills are the result of parents who ultimately failed to make their children their priority, their first ministry. I've seen this happen so often with pastors kids... it's tragic. And I couldn't live with myself. I feel that you can do both... that is, have a rewarding personal career and be a devoted parent... and I was stoked to read an article in Surf magazine several years ago about Shayne and Shannon McIntyre, the surfer couple that had a baby and never missed a beat, simply including him in the ride, taking him with them everywhere. Now thats my kind of gig. Read more about the McIntyres, and Shannon in particular, here

Who knows why these questions are suddenly filling my head? I'm single, recently graduated, and virtually free to do as I please. Settling down isn't exactly on the top of my list, and I don't foresee children in my near future. I want adventure, I want to see the world, I want the Lord to incline my heart, and to take me where He goes. So now here I am, trying to navigate the path of a young, anxious, hopeful, discouraged, excited, frightened, confident, confused 24 year old without a road map, save for the Holy Spirit- who, frankly, doesn't audible as often as I'd like. As Fannie Flagg put it... Welcome to the world, baby girl.


Trevor said...

Wait, so why do you hate babies so much?

H.B. said...

No, no, I love babies... I just don't think I could finish a whole one.

Jeremy said...

Where'd you get that line Hil?

HBM said...

Some gay guy I went to college with...

Jeremy said...

One time does not make me gay

Joel Glenny said...

So good! Plus you dropped a reference to Surfer. "Good things, good things"