No Little Person
January 19, 2016 § 13 Comments
In graduate school, my biological clock went off. I had never previously considered children–in fact, I actively disliked them–but the imperative to have them suddenly surfaced. I welled up at the sight of babies in strollers, cooed over fragrant little beings in onesies.
Fortunately, it passed.
I’m still slightly conflicted, although now at the age where childlessness is nearly inevitable. Every now and then my husband pats my tummy in a meaningful way, and I focus hard on the words that finally swung me, my life coach saying, “Of all the dreams you’ve ever expressed to me, none of them had a little person running around in there.”
I do wonder what might have been. During the MFA, I’d asked a guest writer and mother, “Doesn’t parenting take away all your time to write?”
She said, “Well, I used to wake up, read the paper, get to writing around eleven, drift through a few pages. Now, it’s like a mission, ‘He’s down for his nap I have twenty minutes GO!’ So I’m actually more productive.”
(I’ll pause for a moment while half the parents now reading laugh hysterically and the other half nod grimly.)
What I’d like to write about, instead, are all the ways of tending to the world that are less easily validated than parenting, but which are just as fundamentally necessary for children to flourish. I mean here the writing and inventing and the politics and the activism; the reading and the public speaking and the protesting and the teaching and the filmmaking. These things are done by definition either by those don’t have kids at home, or by those whose kids are being looked after by other people – by states, grand-parents, friends…
Such communal caretaking, though we don’t acknowledge it very openly, is necessary: there are a few things you can do with a kid in tow, but not many. Most of the things I value most, and from which I trust any improvements in the human condition will come, are violently incompatible with the actual and imaginative work of childcare.
Lupton eloquently defends both parenting and non-parenting, while avoiding the easy trap of seeing them as rival states. As a non-parent, I breathed a sigh of relief; as a parent, you may well see some things you value reflected in Lupton’s journey.
“After Mother’s Day” is both a brilliant political assessment and a deeply moving personal essay. Go read the whole thing.
Allison K Williams is Brevity’s Social Media Editor.