I don’t remember exactly how we came to the topic, but once a friend told me that I was too selfish to be a mother. That stayed with me after many years – it’s probably the most striking thing anyone has ever told me, and I’ll never forget it.
That statement, declared essentially as fact, returns to me during moments like tonight. As is tradition in our extended family, Christmas is spent at my aunt’s house. My cousins’ kids – ranging in age from one to ten – were all over the place, unwrapping gifts. No one else could operate this bubble gun that had been prepared as a prize of sorts, so I was entertaining my one-year-old second-niece by making bubbles. Suddenly, she fell and hit her head on the wooden base of the couch I’d been sitting on. The floor, I hadn’t noticed, was wet with soap from the bubbles that had fallen. And as they carried the poor girl away, crying her lungs out, she looked at me with an expression I wouldn’t have expected from a child so young.
It would have translated to, why did you let me get hurt?
Though no one blamed me outright for it, naturally, I blamed myself. Towards the end of the night, as I tried to make myself as small as possible in one corner of the couch, my five-year-old second-nephew – the brother of the girl who had fallen – suddenly muttered that I should leave. Later on, as I was walking out the door, he suddenly blurted out that I was a bad person, that I had made his sister fall.
Right then and there I resolved never again to hold a child younger than the age of ten.
To be fair, I dislike holding children of all ages. I like kids – I wave at kids passing by in baby carts, I reach out to their pudgy hands with my little finger, but I dislike holding kids. For all the children that my cousins have, I only remember one I’ve held – ironically, the same boy who told me I was a bad person. It’s probably because I’ve always been around people older than me, but I’ve never had to look after anyone else. I don’t have siblings, I’ve never been directly responsible for a pet, and the only living thing I was completely and solely responsible for was the patch of mungo beans that we had to grow for a project in elementary school.
Which brings me to the conclusion that maybe I’m one of those people who aren’t meant to have children, or even marry. I was rewatching Season 1 of Downton Abbey earlier, and in one of the episodes Mrs Hughes asks Mr Carson if he’s ever wondered what it would have been like if they’d never dedicated their lives to celibate service to the Crawleys. I look at Mrs Hughes and think, I could totally do that. Never marry, I mean. Never have children. Work to the end of my days.
Maybe, in thinking this way, it’s true – what my friend said. Maybe I really am too selfish to be a mother.