The young woman in question, Cindy, who is 29 years old, has been fairly open with all of us that she's not sure she ever wants to have kids. I've had personal conversations with her about the issue (she knows I am childfree by choice) and my assessment is that she really doesn't want kids, but is afraid to commit to that stance because everyone tells her she will change her mind, she's supposed to want to have kids, eventually the biological clock will start ticking, she may eventually regret it if she doesn't have kids, her Jewish (and very family-oriented) parents would be really disappointed in her, and all the other hundreds of reasons that have to do with outside pressures and very little to do with the desires of the person herself. It makes me wonder what percentage of people walking on this earth were born of parents who actually wanted to have them, versus popped them out because they caved in to societal and family pressure.
Cindy just became an aunt and returned to work today after taking a couple of days off to be with her brother and family. Her brother's wife gave birth 2 days ago and Cindy is just swooning over the new baby. I overheard her tell the Manic Maternals, "there's just something about this baby. When I held her, I swear - I felt my biological clock start ticking". And that was all they needed to hear. Immediately, the other hens began to cluck - "Seee! We told you it would happen. It just happens on its own. You can't help it. You pick up that baby and your heart melts. It's completely natural. Ah, the smell of a baby! I swear, when I pick up a baby and breathe in the smell, it is intoxicating and almost puts me to sleep." I mean, these hens were really laying it on thick - doing everything in their power to recruit Cindy into the Mommy Brigade.
You are probably wondering why old Firecracker Mandy, the Champion of Childfreedom, didn't jump in and set the hens straight? Well, believe me I considered it. But Cindy already knows my stance, as does everyone else in the office. I make no secret about being happily childfree and have spoken very directly with Cindy about dealing with outside pressures. In fact, just a week or two ago I gave her the exact same speech I posted here - that her life is hers to live and nobody else's, that nobody else knows what is best for her or what will make her life the most happy or fulfilling, that it's far better to be true to yourself and live the life you really want to live then to compromise yourself just to conform and be accepted - the whole nine yards. I even forwarded her some articles about how having children negatively impacts peoples' happiness and marriages. I decided that bursting in on the hens like an erupting thunder cloud at the very moment Cindy was expressing her adoration for her new niece would probably be counterproductive so I left them alone.
What I would have liked to have said to Cindy and the hens is that having those feelings of maternal bliss when holding a baby doesn't necessitate becoming a parent or indicate that a woman is destined to be a mommy. I can speak to this first-hand as I too have had those feelings, and still do from time to time, when a family member or friend has a baby. I feel that warm rush of maternal love flood over me when I hold a baby against me. I love to put my nose against his fuzzy head and breathe in the warm sweetness. I love to kiss and cuddle a baby and stroke his rose petal cheeks. It's okay. I can savor that moment and enjoy it for what it is, while still keeping my wits about me and retaining the full comprehension of just what lies beneath the veneer of baby cuteness: a life sentence of unending sacrifice, strain, struggle, worry and responsibility. For the average woman, though, there is something about a cooing baby that completely precludes her from having a rational comprehension of motherhood. She is only capable of living in that present moment of maternal ecstacy, like an addict who has just injected herself, instantly putting every rational thought completely out of mind.
Whether fleeting infant cuteness is a siren song, an addictive drug or something else altogether, it has powers that seem to render most women completely defenseless. It's only the strongest and most discerning among us that can Just. Say. No.