“When are you having kids?” my high school students always used to ask. Why they were so interested in this detail of my life I never understood—much like I didn’t understand when family members or anyone else asked. The question used to come frequently when we were first married, and then, as year after year slid by with no child, but only new feats such as a bachelor’s degree, teaching job, and master’s degree, the question all but went away, and with it, my child consciousness.
But when I got to my first semester of grad school in 2010, I had an epiphany. Sitting in class at that time as both student and teacher, I was to finally understand why students and so many others wonder that question.
It happened one night in literary theory class, when my professor, trying to explain the infant stages of Freudian development admitted, “Well, the research says this [insert windy explanation of anal and oral stages]; but I don’t have kids, so I don’t really know firsthand.” That’s all. One comment. Then he continued his lecture on Freud. But I was stopped.
Before that night, he’d been Mr. Know-It-All.
Now, he was just a man out of touch with reality…who, perhaps, had never changed a diaper.
(Photo from giftsfordadtobe.com)
What did my professor have? He had his books and his scholarly journals and his research (and with those, late night library visits while bedecked in baseball caps [to blend with students, he’d told us]), but what, beyond that? He didn’t have a wife. Or kids. Or religion. (Lots of grad students and professors end up losing their religion, I was also to find out.) The closest relationships he had seemed to be with us, his students. And he was great with us, very gentle and caring, and genuinely concerned for our welfare.
But in general…in general, I had to ask myself that night: Is this really the life? And more importantly, is this the life I want for myself? Do I want to be like this professor someday, standing before a class of adults (or high school kids, for that matter), in my forties or above, with no life experience to share with them, besides what I had read in books?
This was a profound moment for me. I journaled at length about it the very next day. And I talked to my husband. Was I missing something here? Was I about to embark on the wrong path, this path to the PhD? What did it mean that I was having all of these questions?
Mind you, I was hardly ready to toss the birth control, quit teaching, and/or withdraw from my graduate classes. Just then I wouldn’t admit that I wanted kids. Because I wasn’t actually sure I wanted them.
But one thing I now understood: If I had kids, I would become a more interesting professor…and a more interesting person. I would become more credible. More human. And that alone was something worth considering.
Lindsey, you certainly get me thinking. I would encourage you to read your last paragraph again. As a father, I would tell you there are too many “I’s” in that paragraph. When children come, the “I” becomes “them.” That is if you want to raise them, right. I’m sorry, but you can’t have it all and do it all well. There are not enough hours in the day. Children are 24/7. When you are not with them, you are thinking about them. Sorry, I got to preachin’ here and don’t know you well enough to do that. HF
Hi Harper! Yep, you are right about the I’s. At the point when I had this revelation, I was definitely not ready to have kids. This was a stage I was in, and I guess I was trying to convey the self-centeredness of the stage. Am I still there? Maybe a bit, but less so. You are right about not being able to do it all and do it all well. This has continued to be a concern for me. But I’m more open than ever to new possibilities, even if it means cutting back on other things I thought I’d be doing all my life. We will just see…Thanks for reading!