Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Myth that Must DIE

The time has come.

It is time to put an end to the persistent and pervasive myth that will not die - the myth that until a person becomes a parent, s/he doesn't know what love is and doesn't know what it means to be a giving, selfless person.  I am sick to death of hearing this lie from celebrity moms who are on the front lines in spreading this garbage around (and news media outlets who eat it up), and I am equally sick of hearing it from everyday moms who think they are Mother Teresa for pumping out a unit (thanks, George Carlin).  With bags under their eyes, empty wallets, splitting headaches, and husbands who intentionally work long hours just so they can avoid coming home, moms everywhere are heard shouting from the rooftops that motherhood has transformed them from self-centered creatures, to "much better", "much less selfish", "more caring" people who "finally know what real love is".

Do moms love their kids?  Most do, and many love their kids deeply. (Many also resent them and regret having them, but that's another blog post).

Do moms have to sacrifice a great deal of themselves in order to raise children?  Absolutely.

Does being a mom result in a woman giving, giving, giving and giving some more?  Yep.

Does a mom have to give up many of the joys she once enjoyed, like keeping her appearance up, dining out with hubby, working out at the gym, relaxing without interuption, reading, napping, cooking sophisticated meals, shopping for herself...and on and on?  Affirmative.

Do moms have the corner on love? On caring? On sharing?  On selflessness? 

Absolutely not.

IT IS NOT SELFLESS TO MEET ONE'S RESPONSIBILITIES:  If a couple decides to have a child and bring a new life into the world, then that couple is responsible for caring for the child they created.  This caring will take a seemingly infinite number of forms, including feeding, dressing, bathing, changing diapers, wiping noses, bandaging cuts and scapes, doctor visits, expenditures of vast sums of money, teaching, correcting, scolding, praising, prodding, encouraging, cheuffering, PTA meetings, play dates and the list goes on and on and on.  These tasks will eat up most of the parents' life.  Does meeting these responsibilities make a person selfless?  NO.  It makes him responsible and there is a difference.

It is not selfless to bring a new life into the world and then take care of all the responsibilities that are created because of that choice.  A truly selfless person looks around and identifies already-existing people or other creatures who need help or care and then steps up to the plate and gives of themselves to help them. Taking this a step further, I would argue that considering how many truly needy people and creatures there are in the world, and taking into account that the world is already straining under the weight of overpopulation and the destructive and dire effects of global warming, bringing more people into the world is a truly selfish act, and one which should be actively discouraged rather than encouraged, praised and glorified to the point of absurdity the way it is.

PARENTS DO NOT HAVE THE MARKET ON LOVE, CARING AND SELFLESSNESS:  Contrary to the negative stereotypes parents like to hurl around about the childfree, we do not live in a bubble where we exist only for ourselves.  Only in our dreams are we lying around in bed all day, being fed bon-bons and brought tropical drinks by a cabana boy.  We have jobs, and mortgages and bills to pay and most of us are not rolling in dough.  It is not all about me, me, me.  We are spouses.  We are significant others.  We are siblings.  We are sons and daughters. We are grandchildren.  We are friends. We are aunts and uncles.   We are companions to animals.  We are volunteers in our communities.  We are dedicated employees and many of us are teachers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, therapists and other caring professionals.  There are many roles in life that allow a person to express love, caring and selflessness and being a parent isn't the only role in life that makes that possible.

IN MANY WAYS, PARENTS ARE MORE SELFISH THAN THE CHILDFREE:   Let's face it.  Parents have children for themselves, not for the children.  They want to have a "family".  They want to experience being a parent.  They want someone to carry on their name.  They want to relive their childhood.  They want to have a helpless little being to love and they want to be loved by this little person.  They want a little Mini-Me who can reflect themselves back like a mirror.  They want someone to take care of them in old age.  They want to be a grandparent someday.  They want to fit in and be a validated member of the Parent Club. They want to feel the accomplishment of "having it all".  These are all selfish motivations and are all about me, me, me.  The unborn, non-existent child does not need to be created, so it is ridiculous to argue that having a child is a selfless endeavor.

IN MANY WAYS, THE CHILDFREE ARE MORE SELFLESS THAN PARENTS:   Whereas the majority of a parent's life, energy, time and resources are used up caring for her children and the responsibilities that exist in the insular family bubble she has created, the childfree's resources can be directed outward.  Childfree folks make great spouses and partners because their love, energy and attention is fully focused on the other person.  They are not distracted by needy, draining third parties.  The childfree are helpful to their parents, since their lives are not bogged down with childrearing responsibilities. The childfree make great friends.  They truly listen.  They care.  They are available.  Want to do something, go somewhere, plan something?  They are up for it and will likely have the time and money. Call them on the phone and you will have their full attention the entire phone call.  They are fun to talk to because they are able to stay up on current events and remain interesting conversationalists.   The childfree make great employees.  They can be counted on to arrive on time, well-rested and alert, work their full shift, fully focused on the tasks at hand, and are often available to work overtime when needed.  Finally, by nature of not being overwhelmed with childcare responsibilities, the childfree are able to be more involved in their communities and with volunteer activities to make the world a better place for everyone.

Despite everything mentioned above, parents still get to prance around emblazoned with the Selfless Saint Martyr Medal, while the childfree continue to fight off the barrage of relentless negative judgements and perceptions of us as selfish, immature, materialistic hedonists.  Our only consolation is that our ranks are growing and more and more attention (much of it positive!) is being paid to us in the media.  Through in-person meetups, childfree blogs, discussion forums and online social networking, we are connecting, supporting and providing validation to each other.  We are mirroring each others' feelings, thoughts and observations. 

Most importantly, we are no longer alone.


Scribble Scribe said...

I totally agree! And have touched on the 'selfish' topic in a rambling blog entry ;) http://independentofdependents.blogspot.com/2011/07/stereotypes-selfish-and-indecisive.html

Society needs to see children as one of many options a person can choose on their path to a fulfilled life instead of the ONLY option. I agree there has been more positive exposure lately and I hope this continues! :)

Serenity Yoga said...

I 100% agree, you've put into words what I've thought for so long but couldn't quite articulate.

Marie said...

Well said.
I have always been annoyed by this myth. One of my passions, and something I am working to be able to afford someday, is rescuing and rehabilitating horses. I have been told a number of times that if I really want to know what love is, I need to stop wasting my time and money on these (suffering) animals and pop out a kid or two. This opinion makes me sick to my stomach -- PARTICULARLY when I'm told how selfish I am for being childfree!

The Shepherdess said...

I LOVE IT! You are spot on with absolutely everything, and I particularly love the bit where you point out that having kids is ultimately a selfish act. Brilliant!

Laura said...

Thanks for such an intelligent and well written blog entry. I totally agree, we are frequently seen as out for ourselves just because the people we're giving love, support and care to don't happen to be our children.

Jane Cullen said...

I could not agree more wholeheartedly. I am so tired of society martyring parents when I'm the one who gets to work on time, stays late, works overtime and pays taxes to help support all of the breeders out there!

Francois Tremblay said...

I think there is a paradox, insofar as having a child is utterly selfish, but taking care of them leads to a lot of sacrifices.

But that which clears it all out is your most important realization that there's no merit whatsoever in fulfilling a duty that you have yourself incurred. Because of that, the sacrifices are not to be lauded.

ATmswCF said...

ABSOLUTELY! This was a much needed post, thank you!

Temujin said...

Being a parent can make you “self-less,” in that you lose your independent identity, you don’t have time for yourself, our own needs get low priority, etc. That is NOT the same thing as being “selfless” in the sense of being generous with your time, volunteering to help the less fortunate, etc.

Making the most of a situation you’re stuck in is admirable, but it’s hardly something that makes you exceptional. Screwing up your life and being forced to take responsibility for it does not make you a saint. Saying you’re selfless because you’re a parent is like saying “I’m a very nice guy. Look how well-behaved I was when I was in prison!”

When someone says you don’t know love until you’ve been a parent, I take it as a gross exaggeration and not a literal statement. Like when someone says “you haven’t lived until you’ve been to Paris.” It doesn't mean you're literally dead before you've been to Paris.

As I pointed out on another childfree blog, if you don’t know anything about life until you have a child, or if you don’t know anything about raising children if you don’t have any children, then that means everyone has a first child out of ignorance. If you didn’t know love before having a kid, then you did not have a kid out of love, because you did not know what love was.

So, if you were incapable of love and knew nothing about raising children, why the hell did you have a child?

katie said...

Thanks FM: Once again you have put the truth out there unapologetically & articulately. The MYTH drives me crazy and its hypocrisy is maddening. Love your blog!

Dave said...

I am glad you mentioned volunteer work.

I have been involved with the NAtional Scrabble Association's School Scrabble program for the last 10 years. I have been able to do this and get lots of enjoyment from this unpaid work (except for the cold pizza lunch I get LOL) because I am childfree. Being CF enabled me to not have to work full-time, and with that newly free time I enrolled with the program in 2001.

The kids I work with and help out greatly enjoy my visits and the small tourneys I run. I have a stack of handwritten letters from many of the kids thanking me for visits and seminars, and looking forward to my next visit.

But while I enjoy this volunteer work, I also enjoy sending these happy kids back to their parents at the end of the day where I hope they will be easier to handle. I then get to return home to a peaceful and quiet home after a noisy but enjoyable afternoon (or day) and take a nap. :)

So how am I not selfless?

Miakat said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome!

More importantly, we were never alone. The childfree have been keeping the world turning since the dawn of time. Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, Gloria Steinham, Florence Nightingale, Dr Seuss, Beatrix Potter and Rosa Parks are all chldfree and wonderful. There are hundreds of examples, you could write a sizeable list! Not to mention, there was this dude called Jesus once, more than a few people thought he was pretty rad.

Just because we dont toot our own horns as much doesnt mean there isn't a great contribution to the world happening!

Believe said...

I love how parents say the childfree would be too selfish to have kids, but imply with how they became selfless after having kids that they themselves were selfish to begin with. Not only is this stupid in and of itself, but this makes them hypocritical.

Tell me why some believe in marriage, a good career, and a home- all proving they believe in having certain foundations before children- except for the selfish part. And what sets this last thing apart from the others, is that it's a behavior/state of mind. Something some would argue is the most important to have and hardest to achieve.

If they would agree with us that drug abusers, etc. are not fit for parenting, then how are they different in this regard?

Gecko said...

Fantastically written and very, very true.

My husband and I chose not to have children to avoid passing on a nasty genetic condition that my husband has. I'm so sick of being told that I'm selfish for not taking the risk.

Roxie Harlow said...

As always, I agree completely! Very well said! I love that you mentioned the childfree being excellent at conversation. I was stuck with a bunch of women with kids at a party last weekend and all they talked about was pics of their kids and different child photographers. Dull! They were so involved and selfish about it, they didn't even notice I was there. Or so it seemed. I have witnessed the selfishness of parents so many times. They feel they deserve more and take priority because "we have kids".

Christine said...

Awesome. So awesome that I wish there was a "share" button so I could post it on my Facebook page and let the masses go wild.....

lauracarroll said...

Awesomely Said!!


Unknown said...

Wow... Just wow. As a parent, I decided to write a rebuttal, but it ended up being too long for the comments section. So, I posted it up on my blog. WARNING: those who are militantly anti-parenthood will get upset. However if you don't mind reading an opposing viewpoint, direct link is: http://young-old-fart.blogspot.com/2011/09/i-am-not-selfish-prick-for-being-parent.html

Cheers, and keep writing what you believe!

Melissa said...

This is nice. It's very condescending to tell someone they don't know what love is because they don't have children. They obviously didn't love much before then.

SylDLucas said...

Neither parents nor the child-free are inherently selfish or unselfish.

That you're child-free doesn't mean you're going to volunteer, take care of your parents when they need you, or do anything else good for society. Unless it's already in you to do that, that is.

Where people make the mistake in calling the child-free selfish is in their understanding of the definition of the word "selfish," which is to be concerned with yourself with no regard for (or in disregard of) others.

How not having children affects the lives of others has yet to be explained.

Author of "No Children, No Guilt"

Rhona said...

Completely agree. I for one am not selfish at all. I give time by volunteering and helping adults who need it. I was able to stay at home and help my parents with my grandmother when she was serverly sick for a few years. If I had a child, no way would this be possible. With work, it is so very true. I am able to work late and come in early because, well, I can. I don't like it all the time but my time is such that I can do these things. Also, I was presented an offer to move to another city and work in an office I much more prefer due to my childfree existance and flexibility. We are not selfish. Parents are 100% selfish as they bring another person into this world to deal with all this. Society puts them on a pedastal but not me (and thank goodness, not everyone) but like you said, the word is out there that childfree is an amazing life option.

Spectra said...

Speaking of being selfish, I saw a preview for the show "The Little Couple", a show about two "little people" who are trying to have a baby. Apparently, they've been trying for a baby for years and have spent hundreds of thousands on fertility treatments and can't seem to accept the fact that they probably just genetically can't have biological kids. Yet they are now talking about IVF or a surrogate. Hello, if they REALLY wanted to do the right thing, they'd adopt a baby instead of choosing to pass on their defective genes. This is part of why my husband and I don't want kids--we think it'd be extremely selfish to have a baby knowing he/she would almost certainly have issues...my husband's bipolar and I have OCD/depression and have struggled with an eating disorder. Why would I pass that on to a kid?

Argus said...

Either you left a very important point out or I missed it — you didn't mention that after you have paid the anguishes of pregnancy and the medical expenses of birth, washed the diapers, bandaged the cuts, argued with the teachers, driven to football/classes, cuddled the anguish, bought the puppy and saved for tuition — a life sentence, in fact — Uncle Sam reaches in and says "Thanks very much!" and conscripts your lovechild off to yet another 'liberation' and/or exportation of American Democracy.
If you do get your lovechild back in one piece it won't be the one you raised, loved, inculcated values into and taught human decencies.
Why bother?

evansb2 said...

Although I found the defensive tone of this blog entry to be off-putting, I suppose it is a natural reaction to our child-centric society's assumption that everyone wants to be a parent. As a man who has known since I was a teenager that I wanted to be a father, I've often marveled at how little thought many people put into to having a child. Many seem to just stumble into it with less planning than when purchasing a car.

In direct contrast, all of the child free couples I know have spent a great deal of time thinking and discussing their reasons for and the implications of their decision not to raise children. Perhaps this is because they feel they must justify it in our child focused society. Whatever the reason, I have always admired this forethought. I firmly believe that, if more couples/prospective parents put this much effort into their decision to have kids, we would see better parenting and healthier families out there. Society would clearly benefit.

As for myself, at 41 I finally got to become a daddy and find my calling. I am not trying to say that I am a saint or better than anyone or anything other than saying that I feel very lucky. Everyone is put on this earth for a purpose, and I'm happy I found mine—just as I am happy for my friends who have found theirs. The callings that my friends have found range from doctor to teacher to executive to painter to globe-trotting photographer to personal trainer and everything in between. Some are parents, some are not. However, the happiest ones have been true to themselves and followed their muse.

My personal belief is that if we end our lives fulfilled and have tried to make the world a better place then we have lived successful lives. The path that leads there is our own choosing.

ChildfreeChristianAggie said...

It takes a great deal of time and effort to deliberately search for and find a blog like this; I wonder why parents are going out of their way to comment here?

I wasn't aware that they had that kind of time on their hands. They should be using the extra time spent on here to love on their partners and spouses.

Unknown said...

@ChildfreeChristianAggie: I can't speak for other parents posting comments, but I found it because a friend of mine (who has, coincidentally, decided to be child free) posted a link on her Facebook page to this precise blog entry. The upside is that I decided to read more posts, and share with my wife. You know, something that loving couples do.

starwarsgirl1023 said...

I'm sorry, but I don't think parents are really qualified to speak about the childfree life. Just because at one time you were childless doesn't mean you were childfree by choice. Childfree by choice is a lifelong, conscientious decision, not a temporary state of being. Just as we're not allowed to speak about the childed life, I think it's only fair in that it works both ways. Great post as usual, Mandy!

Fraoch said...

I don't have to read a blog to find or understand the opposing viewpoint. All I have to do open a web browser. Or try to get Essure from my OBGYN.

Life is making choices. Every choice can cause regret. But I'd rather regret not having a child then regret having one.

Parents don't generally talk about regretting having kids because it is a major taboo.

And no, you're not a prick for having kids, but posting on a childfree site to defend your decisions is a prickish move.

Happily CF said...

This is a wonderfully-articulated post. I only wish I could show it to all the people who have claimed I am selfish and not truly fulfilled since I am not a parent.

This brings up an issue I tried to write about in a comment several months ago. (I somehow lost that post.) Along with the "you won't know what love truly is until you become a parent" claim, there is also the claim that one is not truly an adult - does not experience real "growth" - until one has a child. So many women claim to experience this growth and increased maturity level. I have come to realize that this probably IS the case with many women. The mistake they and others make is assuming that this is the case for everyone.

Let me see if I can explain my theory. I recently took an Adult Development psychology class which focused on an interesting theory of adult development - one called "Constructive Developmental" theory (CDT). It is a stage theory which, at base, really seems like commonsense. At base the theory is that, unlike what was previously thought, adults do continue to mature throughout their life. Previously, the theory was that adults can gain "wisdom," but that wisdom - increased knowledge and learning through trial and error - was not thought to be the same as actually CHANGING and having a fundamentally different way of interacting with the world and making meaning of the world. According to CDT, children progress through the lowest two levels, and most adults are at one of three higher levels, with the majority being at the lowest of those three levels. To move from one level to the next, they must have both appropriate challenges and supports. (It's a bit more complicated than that, but for the sake of this discussion, that's all you really need to know.) Both formal education and the work world provide such challenges and supports. Travel and a wide range of relationships also encourage growth and change.

To bring this back to the issue of parents claiming they were not truly mature until they had children... who are the people most apt to make such claims? In my experience, it is rarely the women with undergraduate and advanced degrees from great schools, and successful professional careers. Instead, it's usually the same women who have never had any other goal in life than to be a mother. They tend not to have much post-secondary education, and if they work at all, it's often in un-challenging jobs.

To be continued....

Happily CF said...


Now... I am NOT saying that everyone without much formal education or a professional position is at the lowest adult stage of development. There are many who are at higher stages of development, and there are some well-educated professionals who are at the lowest adult stage. But - and serious research has been done develop measuring tools and then confirm this - on average, those with less education and less challenging work are at the lowest level.

For some women, the experience of being a mother *IS* key to her development. Others have progressed to higher levels of maturity (that is, more sophisticated ways of "constructing" or making meaning of the world) by having other experiences. But if you take someone who has led a fairly narrow life... hasn't moved around or travelled much, left school after high school, spends most of her time in a small circle of people, doesn't have a demanding job... the major new experience in her life might BE motherhood (and also the role of wife.) This person might not ultimately reach the highest level of development, but she will reach a higher level than she otherwise would have. The thing is, according to the theory, when you're at one level, you have no sense that you could be at a higher level... you don't consciously realize that there is something missing. But then when you have experiences which help you to grow, you will likely have sort of an epiphany... you'll sense the growth. I think that's what's going on with many of the women (and some men) who believe that parenthood is necessary to become a "mature" adult.

evansb2 said...

"Childfree by choice is a lifelong, conscientious decision, not a temporary state of being."

That quote pretty much sums up my experience with child free friends. Sorry if my post was considered prickish because I'm a breeder. I intended respect for those who have thought deeply about their life choices rather than simply stumbling into them.


starwarsgirl1023 said...

evansb2: No need to apologize. Your comment was not what compelled me to write the comment I made. I meant in general, parents that don't have respect for the childfree and have something negative to say really shouldn't say anything at all, especially on a blog specifically for the childfree. I was mainly referring to the other guy who wrote the ''rebuttal'' to Mandy's post(Jerod.) It appears he got all bent out of shape & defensive for no reason seeing as the title for his ''rebuttal'' is: i-am-not-selfish-prick-for-being-parent.

Jerod, no one here is militantly anti-parenthood (we just don't desire to be parents ourselves) nor did anyone say you were a selfish prick. I understand the link to this blog was on your Facebook friend's wall or whatever, but no one forced you to read it. It's likely you knew what you were going to read was going to be ''offensive'', but you still clicked the link & read it anyway. That is no one's fault but your own. And to say ''bitch, get over yourself'' to Mandy initially in your ''rebuttal'' was just in poor taste. I sincerely hope your children don't learn to speak like that to others who are different from them.

Amy Guskin said...

I think it bears mentioning that Mother Teresa DID NOT GIVE BIRTH TO ANY CHILDREN. And certainly, no one would deny that *she* was selfless. :-)

Freelance Feminist said...

I don't know if anyone is still reading this thread, but I've been mulling over a few things that I need to get out of my head:

First of all, even if we WERE being selfish, why is everyone picking on US?!?!?!?!?!?!?

There are thousands of selfish decisions people make every single day. For example:

Divorce when children are involved. Now, I'm not by any means against divorce. Actually, in some cases, divorce is probably the best way out. I don't necessarily think it's a "bad" thing. But just because it isn't "bad" doesn't mean it's not selfish. I mean, you have to admit it: divorce IS (at least a little bit) selfish. And you won't find anyone criticizing divorced couples as frequently and forcefully as they attack the childfree.


Using Mom as babysitter. Again, I get it. Until we as a society devise some system where BOTH parents can equally share in parenting responsibilities, new mothers might have to rely on their own mothers for a bit when they go back to work. BUT it's still selfish. And no one's attacking them.

Oh, and I think I forgot to mention...

IVF treatments. I think these should be really frowned upon in our society. It's funny how these are so blatantly selfish, yet no one is saying much about them. How can you be any more egotistical to spend a fortune on making your "own" kid when there are a half million other children (in the U.S. alone) who need to be adopted?

And a last thought...

It might seem as if I was mainly picking on mothers, but that's just because I don't even want to get STARTED on what fathers do. (Making your wife take care of your kids for you? Oh, no. That's not selfish at all.)

The only reason people pick on us so much is because we're in the minority. Because it's the majority opinion against the minority opinion, it's like it automatically makes the majority right. If people began screaming that IVF treatments were selfish, you can bet there'd be a HUGE lash back. I can only remember this Yiddish proverb I once read, "If 400 people say a stupid thing, it is still a stupid thing."

DH said...

I agree totally, the problem is that the world is encouraging people to have babies without putting the proper thought and attention into it, without wanting them for the right reasons and what about all the money that people with children are automatically offered by the state? Surely you should only be having children if you can totally afford to support them?

Jess said...

Anecdote time:

I was at the zoo with a friend of mine, who is also childfree. We passed a little boy standing in an alcove, by himself. I don't know how long he had been there, but while we were standing there, trying to figure out if there were parents nearby who had just gotten tired of his issues, *dozens* of families passed him by with nary a glance. After a few moments, we determined that he was alone and I went up to him and did the whole "are you lost?" routine.

He was, so I took his hand and we went to find a zoo staff member so they could assist. On the way, we stumbled across his family, who greeted him with a, "This is why you don't wander off." (I thought that was great, by the way.)

The point of the story? How dare parents people call me selfish. Not one of them stopped to help this kid; they were too busy wrangling their own children. It was up to me, the childfree woman, to make sure he was safely reunited with his family. I don't even like kids, but I'm not going to stand by when a fellow human being is in distress, either.

Molly said...

Sometimes I feel like I am the only person in the world who does not want to have children. It is nice to see there are others just like me. I had a conversation at work the other day with a women (mother of 5) about how I don't want to have children. She kept saying "You'll change your mind, I said the same thing." When I asked her how old she was when she had her first kid, she said "19". She clearly didn't keep that opinion for long, but why is it so unacceptable that some of us will never change our minds?

GretaP said...

I read the post and comments as closely as I might. Didn't seem to find this point: If having children truly is the best thing that could happen to a woman, how are the childfree SELFISH for giving up on it? Shouldn't selfish behaviour be to join in it? Doesn't really make sense to me. Then again... mothers AND being logical? And, pardon my English, I'm not a native English speaker.

You can call me GretaP

Links said...

Very interesting post. I'm 25 and still on the fence about having kids (leaning towards a 'No' currently), but I'm tired of parents putting themselves on pedestals and talking down to people who have decided not to have children of their own. Hopefully they're teaching their kids to be respectful of other people's life decisions. *rolls eyes*

Trista said...

It is a myth that having children is the ultimate selfless act.

I would say that having a child is no more selfish/selfless than choosing not to have a child. I wouldn't call one act superior over the other, but I definitely wouldn't say that opting for children makes a person more selfless than any other person on the planet.

Adopting, or even temporarily fostering, children is rather selfless. Also, I worked/volunteered in Special Education for ten years. As a para. If you don't know what that job is - look it up. It's far more draining/demanding than being a certified teacher. And you get paid much less than half the parents who drop their kids off at the school.

Maybe I sound biased, but that job was exceptionally selfless. I know some hardcore parents who have stepped forward and admit they would never have been able to handle my job. It was beyond difficult, much more challenging than dealing with one or even two children (who are not developmentally disabled) and it was thankless. Aside from the trials and tribulations of dealing with low pay, red tape within the public school system, and all the while juggle the responsibility of teaching children with down syndrome/austism/seizure disorder/behavior disorder/etc. to LEARN, I didn't get to call myself a parent and proudly slap the badge of unconditional love on my chest.

No. I went into work, and I was paid maybe 10 thousand dollars a year, and I pushed kids who couldn't even TALK... to just read. To just... use the bathroom instead of a diaper (and they were in 3rd, 4th, 5th grade - they were not infants).

To... NOT throw their poop when they're mad. To NOT smash the teacher's laptop in a fit of rage. To NOT hit me, bite me, pull my hair out in order to get my attention.

I held them when they were sick with fevers, vomiting all over themselves, and the school nurse can't persuade the kid's own parents to leave work and come get them. OH trust me. Even the stay-at-home moms made up excuses, refusing to pick up their special needs child. They'd waltz in as the final bell rang, after their child messed all over the classroom and the nurse's office had already closed.

I called social services on the parents who left bruises on a nonverbal student confined to a wheelchair. I had to be there to write statements, take flack from the parents and superiors who didn't want to "make a mountain out of a molehill."

Trust me.

When you're livelihood (and a small paying one at that) is on the line, just making a much needed phone call that could rob you of a job is fairly selfless.

I've seen plenty of parents who didn't foresee having a disabled child - and gave up wanting them. Going through the motions, subjecting them to neglect and abuse, and eventually checking out.

It's depressing. And it's far from selfless. It's downright criminal if you ask me. Ask anyone.

I was, however, thankful for all the good parents. They were (in my experience) few and far between. But they were there.

Trista said...

p.s. All that being said I (pardon my french) laugh my ass off at parents who act like they're Jesus Christ, himself, for having popped out a normally functioning kid and being expected to raise it.

ladyliberty said...

Thank you thank you for writing this! So very true. A classic post!

Michigoose said...

I don't think being a parent is any more selfless than training for a marathon or practicing a musical instrument for 12 hours per day. Doing things that you don't like in service of goals that you yourself have set doesn't make you selfless.