Five Things I Say To Career Women Who Tell Me They Might Want To Have A Baby

Recently there’s been a spate of internet discussion offering justifications for or against women becoming mothers as overworked graduate students versus as overworked post-docs versus as overworked pre-tenure professors versus as overworked decrepit old crones like the way I did it.  When I see this type of thing I am greatly affected.   I generally throw down my beer bottle and holler “Glory Halleluiah!  If it ain’t the ancient trope of Social Control Over Female Fertility all gussied up Academy-style!  What would us mangy old feminists do with ourselves if we didn’t have to get up off the couch every thirty minutes and lop another head off of that wretched Hydra?”  Yes, it is true that when women get each other alone, we sometimes talk about where babies come from.  Here’s five things that I say when the issue comes up.  Just like with the rest of this blog, just because I say it doesn’t mean I’m right.  Just like with the rest of my life, just because I might not be right isn’t going to keep me from saying it.

Five Things I Say To Career Women Who Tell Me They Might Want To Have A Baby

1. Having a kid is hard but it’s not any harder than a lot of the other stuff you are already doing.  In fact, it may be easier than some of the stuff you do every damn day.  Once your kid is born, you feed and water them and they keep doubling in size — a lot of that shit just goes on autopilot.  Pregnancy is the bad part, and I won’t lie to you.  The gestation my offspring sucked so hard that I don’t even have words to describe it.  But even so, there are women who enjoy being pregnant and go around all bursting with the cosmic power of fertility and whatnot, and I say more power to them.  Personally, I just laid around eating doughnuts and rejecting every single paper and proposal that came my way.  It just seemed fitting that everyone should be as miserable as I was.

2. Don’t fall for all that crap about how universally hard it is to get pregnant past 30 and get all freaked out that you’re running out of time.  Jeezus, look around you.  If it were all that super impossible to get knocked up there wouldn’t be so many goddam people in the world.  Never believe anyone who is trying to scare you into choosing one thing or another when it comes to your fertility.  As with everything else that’s important, only listen to people that you trust and respect, and even then make sure you decide for yourself.  You are the only person who can know what’s best for your life.

3. Don’t worry too much about whether you have the patience, maternal instincts, whatever, to be a “good mom” to your offspring.  Seriously, if you only remember one thing I say here, let it be this: You get special chemicals in your head that help you put up with their crap.  No one was more surprised to discover this stuff than me, and it’s just unreal.  I genuinely believe that every single stupid little thing my kid does makes for the world’s most interesting and fascinating watching.  I am also convinced that he is an angel beyond reproach.  Basically, my son could set fire to the dog and I would just take pictures and post them on Facebook as yet more charming proof of his irresistible precocity.  You will like the kid just fine, trust me.

4. Quality care is key.  I read (or I made up) an interview with Barbara Kingslover who writes genius books and also has like eighteen kids where someone asked her how she “does it all.”  She answered simply, “I write when my children are in someone else’s care.”  The bottom line is that some of the good work that you will do will need to be done while your kid is off being someone else’s problem.  The good news is that there are lots of women (and men) who can provide quality care: friends, relations and paid care-givers.  Some of these women in particular are absolute wizards when it comes to babies; they taught me amazing things like which end to put the diaper on.  The bad news is that quality care is f*cking expensive and if I had a solution for that one my retirement account would probably have more than eight dollars in it right now.  The other good news is that having a kid really does make you more efficient at work, and here’s why.  You can finally walk right past what used to be time-consuming hallway interactions remarking politely, “Listen Old Man, I’m not forking out $2k per month so I can come in here and listen to you gibber hatefully about how the ‘A-rabs’ have taken over Charles Street.”  Here’s another important thing: Babies aren’t really all that heavy at first and so you can take them with you almost everywhere you go.  Sure people might give you the stink eye sometimes, but they will usually stop short of calling security and having you escorted out.  I’ve learned that you can take a sleep-deprived toddler who has consumed nothing but Halloween candy for thirteen days into a faculty meeting and although he is hardly welcome, he will not prove himself to be the worst-behaved person in the room.  Oh by the way, in case it is news to someone, they eat from your boob and so do this whenever you want and wherever you want and if someone gives you a hard time tell them that I said “F*CK OFF.”

5. Take your folic acid.  It can’t hurt and you never really know what you’ll decide to do with your life, anyway.  Or maybe you do.  Maybe you’ll decide to have a kid and fall in love so hard and so irrevocably that you won’t even recognize yourself afterwards like I did.  In the end, my advice here is the same advice that I give whenever a woman tells me that she thinks she might want something — anything.  I automatically say to her, Go get it.  Go try.  Go get what you want.  And maybe you’ll even want what you get, like I did.  Because you can do this.  You can do this, too.

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