Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Babies Aren't Cute Forever

Here's the thing about babies. They are damned cute. I know not everyone feels this way. In fact, I have heard a lot of childfree people say they have never found babies cute. Many even find them repulsive. I am not one of those people. I guess in this way, I am a typical female. With very few exceptions, I find babies adorable. I love their fat cheeks and their rose petal skin. I love the way it feels to hold a baby in my arms, and a baby's innocent eyes and smile can melt my heart. I love to observe how they change and develop and it's fun to witness them discover things for the first time. They remind me of puppy dogs.

Are you surprised to hear these things from me, Firecracker Mandy, Spokeswoman for Childfreedom?

Don't be. Here's the thing. A person can find babies adorable, love to touch and hold them, enjoy other peoples' babies to the hilt and yet have not a single inkling of desire to have one of her own, and here is why. Unlike most women who lose all sense of reality and perspective when their heartstrings get pulled by the siren song of Rose Petal Cheeks, I am keenly aware that the cute baby phase is fleeting and lasts only a couple of years before the adorable bundle of joy turns into an awkward, annoying kid, a surly teen and often, a troubled adult.

I see the evidence of this all around me. Take our next door neighbors, Len and Clarissa. These poor people are ready to jump off a cliff thanks to their troubled 18 year old daughter. It seems like every week there is some drama going on at their house. We've witnessed full blown screaming matches between them and their daughter. We even witnessed Len smashing a bat through their daughter's car window in a fit of rage and frustration.

Last year, while they were away on vacation, their lovely daughter had a drinking party at their house, a fight broke out and one of the kids threw a cinder block through 2 of their windows to the tune of $2,000. Last night, my hubby was out doing yard work and Len came over to chat and told him the latest about his lovely daughter. He and Clarissa have discovered she has been stealing money from them and after reviewing her cell phone bills, and seeing that most of the calls were to slum ghetto areas, they deduced she is into drugs. So they did something they have never done before. They went into her bedroom and snooped around and guess what they found? A crack pipe. After years of countless episodes, they are finally going to throw her out of the house.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. It seems Len is constantly updating my hubby every time he sees him with awful stories of how their daughter is ruining their life (as well as hers). One time, I ran into them in Macy's and we stood and talked for about 20 minutes. The entire conversation was them bitching about their horrible daughter. These are nice, clean cut middle class people whose worst offense has probably been being too permissive as parents. And look what they got.

But I bet she was a really cute baby.

Last night, we were checking out a rental property (we're selling our house and downsizing). The landlord met us there to show us the property. When we entered, the place was a mess and she was packing up stuff in boxes. She told us her son had been living there. So I asked why she was packing his stuff instead of him. "He moved to Florida". Okay, so he left all the packing for his mom. Nice. During the course of my discussion with her, I told her several reasons we would be good tenants, one of which was the fact that we have no kids to destroy the place. "No kids? You are LUCKY." Putting aside the fact that luck had nothing to do with our being childfree, it was clear that she was conveying she regretted having kids.

I bet her son too was a really cute baby.

This morning as I was getting ready to leave for work, I heard the news that the Craigslist killer, Phillip Markoff, committed suicide in his jail cell, after scrawling a bloody message on his cell wall. Looking at the footage of him on the t.v., I thought to myself - I bet his parents never expected him to grow up to become a murderer. By all accounts, he was a clean cut, preppy medical student, had a beautiful, intelligent fiance and was planning his wedding. On the side, though, he was leading a secret life of perverse sexual escapades via Craigslist and killed one of the women he had a liaison with.

I bet he was also a cute baby.

I realize not all babies grow up to be crack users or Craigslist murderers, but let's face it. There are a lot of troubled people in this world and most of them were at one time cute, cuddly babies. Even normal, well-adjusted people like myself cause their parents unending grief. I was an A student, high-achieving, fairly goody-two-shoes kid and teen (no drugs or drinking), but between my teen years to the present (mostly due to personality conflicts) my mom and I have had more estrangements and fall-outs than I can count. Our relationship is an unending cycle of a year or two of peace, followed by a year or two of strife. The last fallout resulted in an estrangement of over a year and a half.

(And in case you are wondering - yes, I too was a cute baby.)


CFVixen said...

I'm usually ambivalent about babies. Some are really cute. Some are...well, not so cute!

Even if the baby is scrumptiously adorable, all it takes is for them to crap their pants or spit up for me to give them right back to their mothers!

But the point of your post was dead on. You can have the cutest, most adorable baby in the world...and end up with nothing by strife.

Cara said...

Another great post.

Just today I read an interesting news article about a flight attendant taking a baby away from the mom who slapped it. I guess the "cute" wore off!


mitsy said...

Excellent article. My Mom has been in town the past two weeks visiting (my parents retired to another state), and although she doesn't pester me and my husband too much about not giving her grandbabies, she had to bring it up at least once during our visit. Her argument is "Honey, you hear so many negative things about parenting, and they're just not true." She also wonders why I have no interest in kids when she and I share so many other interests (we really do). What she doesn't seem to get is that Hub and I simply have zero interest in kids. I tried to bring up the Babies Aren't Cute Forever argument, but that was faced with the You Have Always Been Such A Pleasure To Raise rebuttal. And yet I know that they've also experienced a lot grief because I didn't exactly do what they felt was best for me - not that I feel any guilt, but I still feel like I've been a disappointment in many ways. *I'm* sure happy with the decisions I've made, but they clearly think I should have made different ones. Anyway, just kinda venting here a bit, but it definitely helps to have someone like yourself write my exact thoughts down so eloquently.

sara star said...

I know not every childfree woman had an uncomfortable childhood. But my mother's inability to deal with me taking different life choice paths than she wanted is an influence on my choice. Parenting was hard for my mother--and I can only assume, even as hard as I might try to be different than her, that I could turn into my mother as a parent. I just couldn't do that to a child. I noticed a few other childfree bloggers mention estrangements from their parents. It might be one of the "types" of childfree, those who didn't enjoy childhood very much.

Unknown said...

Having kids is a package deal and a mystery package, to boot. The cute is undeniable on certain babies, but it's not enough to offset the sacrifice required.

Great article, Firecracker Mandy!

charmed said...

this is dead on. I was visiting some family a few months ago. I was taking a long drive with them to see my younger brothers for the oldest ones high school graduation. When I got to my aunts house, My cousin got there and his Girlfriend was outside. My other cousin(his older sister) brought his baby inside and handed her to me. This cousin knows I don't want kids. so she hands me the cute baby and then asks "doesn't this make you want kids now?" I just laughed. do people really think holding a baby for 30 seconds is going to make me want one? I just told her no and laughed. I'm lucky b/c most of the family members I've told haven't really given me any grief about it. One of my other cousins says she doesn't want kids either and I don't think she gets much grief about it either.

Dave said...

I never found babies cute for the reasons everyone else here has stated. It is what they do, not how they look, which matters.

Sea_creature said...

It's so true, they don't stay babies forever. The newest mom in my life is already lamenting that her second, a 6 month old, is 'growing up too fast'. She's also shared with me many of her 'I hope he doesn't turn out like' stories, too. Yes, the great crapshoot that is raising children!

I have some issues with my mom as well. We get along just fine, but I'm sure she harbors some pretty deep disappointments about my CFness. She's done okay in keeping it to herself and telling me she just wants me to be happy and she understands, but some of that disppointment slips out here and there.

Like many of you, I saw how stressed my mom was with working and raising us. My dad worked long hours, too, so I had to help with the grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning. I made my own lunches for school and did my own laundry. I don't want to be nailed to tons more chores and laundry that can come from must ONE kid!

And charmed...that's so funny that your cousin handed you the baby and said that. I got the same treatment when my cousin recently had a kid with his current wife. His wife gave me the baby and I held and cooed at her a bit. What does she say? "It's a shame you don't like kids. You're so good with them! Are you SUUUURE you don't want any of your own?" GAH!

Spectra said...

This is a big reason why we don't want kids. My mom loves babies and loved it when WE were babies, but she hates kids. As soon as we were able to walk around and get into trouble, she regretted having kids. As we grew up, I think we were pretty "good" kids for the most part, but my brother (who was indeed a very cute baby) barely graduated from high school and continued to live with my parents for a good 4 or 5 more years while smoking pot in his room and working part time at a pizza joint. He "borrowed" a ton of money from them and always cussed them out.

As my husband said to me: "There's no guarantee that your kid wouldn't grow up to be an asshole. I work with lots of guys who have grown kids like that. It's not fun". Amen to that!

Chris said...

I really liked this post.

I'd like to hear more about your minimalist living plans/motivation/ideas. Being a homeowner myself I find its not all its cracked up to be and downsizing is something I've been thinking a lot about.


Christy said...

You were a very cute baby!

It's the worst when somebody has an ugly baby, because I don't want to lie. I try to say something like, "wow, your baby sure has a lot of hair," or "breathtaking," if I think they're not a fan of Seinfeld. I hate it when people say all babies are beautiful. They are so full of crap.

Any baby animal is cuter to me than a human baby. Even most adult animals. My fiance gets so upset when those Sarah McLachlan commercials about abused animals come on the tv. He starts swearing and has to change the channel. He can't stand to see the sad, little abused faces, but when we see the "help the children" ads: pretty much nothing happens.

When people talk to me about the innocence of babies, and of how special their particular baby is or is going to be, I always think of seeing Jeffrey Dahmer's dad in court. He looked so stiff and grim and uncomfortable. I wonder what he would say to us childfee.

Theresa said...

I can remember exactly where I was when I realized I was infatuated with the idea of having a baby...not the seven year old brat they become. It was shortly thereafter that I had the Mirena put in and never looked back. I am so thankful that the realization hit me BEFORE I had that baby!

CeCe said...

My nephew was born today. He is cuter then ever. I am in love with him already but I get to come home and sleep right now while my big sis is exhausted and may not get a good nights sleep for months!! I am just sorting out how it feels to be an auntie right now. It will be interesting to see if any maternal instincts kick in for me or not now that I am an auntie.

Anonymous said...

So interesting... the more people in my life who have babies (most friends/relatives are on to their second by now, if they're having more than one), the less "maternal" I feel. I am quite a nurturing, loving person,and I fret endlessly about those I love. However, this does not translate to me wanting to have/raise a child. I do not dislike kids as a whole, and I find many to be cute--especially before they can actually speak. But for me, there is a huge difference in admiring or appreciating a cute child, and having to raise a whiny, screechy, needy, moody baby then child then teen. No, thanks. I'll take my moody, needy, barfy canine children any day.

Eddie Beagle said...

Judging by the picture that just came up on my FB wall, some babies are actually hideously ugly!

Sarah said...

I've never thought that babies or kids are cute - they don't do anything for me at all. I agree with another commenter who said that the animal cruelty commercials are heartbreaking to watch, but the feed the children commercials cause no reaction. Of course I don't want anyone to suffer whether they are a human or an animal but children just don't move me.

Ellie said...

I love this quote, and it feels timely to the post: "Now the thing about having a baby - and I can't be the first person to have noticed this - is that thereafter you have it."

Sorry, human babies. You've got nothing on animal babies!

Corrinne said...

I really agree so much with this. I have never found babies cute. I don't dislike them, but I really don't get it. And most of them look the same to me as well. I cannot tell if they look like one of their parents for the life of me! Every now and then I find some toddlers cute. But it is rare.

And like others have said, it isn't that I'm not nurtering. I have 3 dogs, 2 cats, a bearded dragon, and some pet mice. I LOVE to take care of them and they are my world. And I still cry at the Sarah M. commercials, depsite the fact I donate every month. (it is less than $20, so it isn't much). I also love to take care of my husband and do things for him.

I have also been told I'm great with kids (by people with no motive to convert me, as far back as high school) but I just don't want them. I cannot see the appeal. Now, fur babies, those are whole different thing. =)

Unknown said...

I tell people who feed me that line..."But babies are so CUTE!"

And I always say..."You know what is REALLY cute? Baby Mountain Gorillas! DAMN they are SO cute! I love them, the sweet little faces, those tiny little hands!

But... I don't want one of those either. Because they don't stay that way."

I just had to sit through my mother-in-law silently creeping out the patio door to observe me playing with my two darling little nieces. (Like I couldn't see her hiding in the shrub, hands clutched to mouth, straining her ears to hear if my ovaries were ticking over.)

My time went like this. "Look, look look at me! Look, I can do this!" ( a little hopscotch move.) and my response, "Mmm. Lovely, you ARE good at that" as I resumed packing. "Look, look, LOOK AT ME!! I can do this!" (balancing on one foot.) "LOOK AT ME... LOOK AT ME DO THIS!" (clapping with one hand.)"Look, LOOK AT ME NOW!" (hopscotch move again.) rinse, repeat, for AT LEAST A FULL HOUR...the more mumbled and non-committal my responses got, the more full on they got. "Look, look! Flopsy the bunny is playing in your hair! Look!"

It was so repetitive, so god awful boring. And these are the cutest, most well behaved children I have ever met. They were just trying to interact with me! I feel like a slug...but I want to scream when I think...this is what it is like for 12 or more hours a day with little kids! It is endless! It just goes on forever!

They were at my wedding a few months ago, and bless them, they thought I was a princess...and were hanging off my body like limpets THE WHOLE DAY.

Selfish, maybe...but I didn't get to dance alone with my new husband, enjoy the speeches, they even cut my wedding cake for me. (After insisting that we put candles in it so they could blow them out.) Cute, yes. Incessant, constant, needing my attention every second...YES. And again, my darling Mum-in-law thought it was SO CUTE, that it might make me want babies SO BAD, she didn't bail me out at all. Everyone just watched me dance my first dance as a newlywed with two little girls under the age of four. They insisted sitting with me at my table so when the speeches by my husband about his beloved, departed Nan started, they were drowned out by: "PSST! Look! I am not sitting across from you...I am adjacent! Look!"

Listen, I am not a monster, nor are any of you CF peeps either. But holy shit! Enough! IT WAS MY WEDDING DAY AND I MIGHT AS WELL HAVE BEEN A CLOWN AT A BIRTHDAY PARTY! Where was Sister in law / Mummy? Pregnant with her third, so had to go lie down after the ceremony. Even all of my wedding snaps are of these two little girls! Yes, they are cute...I GET IT! But, for cristsakkes...leave me alone! This was MY DAY!

Aaah. I feel better now. Thank you.

(and for the record, after the babies were trundled off to bed, all of us childfree got ridiculously drunk and jumped in the pool with our wedding gear on. We partied until 5am. It was fabulous.)

Zen Trekkie said...

Babies aren't in the least interesting to me. I do have to turn off those Sarah M. commercials - it's just SO SAD!
But I don't give to the national organization - I give to my local shelter. If you give to the ASPCA, you're funding their lobbyists, their efforts to end hunting (yes, they would rather let a deer starve from overpopulation than let hunters kill them), paying their spokespeople, and of course, paying for those slick ads to guilt you into paying $20 a month.
That money does not go to shelters. If you want it to go to a shelter, find the specific shelter and donate...otherwise, you - and millions of unsuspecting people - are paying for their political agenda.
Sorry for the rant - I was just so angry when I found out what they were doing - pimping pictures of sad puppies to further their political agenda. It's wrong.

Unknown said...

I don't find babies cute at all. They usually smell like poop and they're very squirmy and noisy. If anything was going to convince me to have a kid, it would be the cute, inquisitive 4-5 year old, but a baby? Never. I shudder to think about having an infant. If they popped out much older, parenthood might be doable, but otherwise, no way! Oh wait, then there are the ungrateful teen years... nope, no thank you!