11 April 2013

Breeders Are the Worst

This weekend, I was at the library with our kids (alone), and while checking out books, the librarian  asked how old my kids were. I told her and she immediately added, “They’re really cute.” I must’ve looked confused or surprised by her comment, which in turn was interpreted by her as my refutation of her compliment, because she then said, “Of course, I imagine you must have your hands full.”

(Yes, as previously stated, I go out into the world deliberately hoping for exactly this recognition. But it’s still a bit jarring and unexpected when it actually happens.)

Back at home, I told my wife about this encounter and asked if the same thing ever happened to her. “All the time,” she replied. I thought she was kidding, but she wasn’t. She said she can’t enter a grocery store without having a complete stranger (often very old women) go out of their way to gush over the ridiculous adorableness of our offspring.

Who are these people exactly? Who are interrupting our day to tell us we have such impressive genes? Get out of here, people.

This sort of unexpected, random attention is the opposite of another phenomenon I’ve encountered lately. Let’s call it Breeder Backlash. People seem to hate us, for no reason. Or rather, they hate certain types of parents and they lump us all together as one mass of evil. Or so the Internet tells me. There’s a lot of online commentary about this whole parent/non-parent divide, such as this piece that was recently posted on Pajiba, “STFU, Childless People: The 10 Most Annoying Complaints From Non-Breeders About Parents,” in response to the STFU, Parents blog and the recent book inspired by that site.

The backlash is basically against oversharers. You know the ones. They definitely exist, I’m not going to deny it. They’re all over my Facebook feed. And I really hope that I’m not one of them.

And there are a lot of complaints. About the oversharers, the helicopter parents, the ones who appear to have absolutely nothing going on in their lives except there are kids in it. What’s weird about reading this Pajiba piece is that I found it incredibly relatable. But not from the perspective you’d imagine. From the other side. Even though I’m a parent, I still have these complaints about other people’s kids! Sometimes, I have zero empathy for other parents. Is that wrong?

One thing that stuck out to me in the Pajiba piece was an offhanded reference to becoming a parent having something to do with repopulating the Earth. Which suggests a selflessness which is not necessarily present. I would argue that there are actually more incredibly narcissistic reasons to have a kid. Like, I’m great and you know what the world needs? That’s right, more of me.

Also, this is an opportunity to mold a human being in your likeness, the perfect companion. You have all the same interests and you get to make all the choices about what you do. Finally, they think you’re the cat’s pajamas. At least for a while. You’re the entire world to them because they don’t know any better. And they just love you unconditionally. You can’t buy that type of flattery. But you can totally manufacture it.

Being a parent is very selfish. Or maybe I’m just doing it wrong.

So that’s a thing to keep in mind. Some parents think that people who don’t have kids are just self-involved and don’t really understand what it’s like to be there for someone else, to be committed to something bigger, to devote themselves fully to another life. Which is bullshit. As a committed narcissist, having kids is just as self-involved as not having kids. And yeah, we’re not all oversharing parenting zealots. Some of us just want to have our kids for our own selfish reasons.

Look, it’s not like we’re in the wizarding world and kidless people are just boring old Muggles. I wish it was like that. I wish being a parent was like getting to go to Hogwarts. It is not, let me tell you.

Because that would be amazing.

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