real life

"I'm 22 and I have a big issue when it comes to babies."

Kid: *stares*
Me: *stares*
Me: How’s school going?
Kid: I’m only in Kindy
Me: …

Kid: …
Me: So, read any good books lately?

This actually happened here in the Mamamia offices last week. Painfully, it’s not my first rodeo in the arena of knowing absolutely nothing about how children work.

At what age can they read? Why do they shout/cry/emit fluids all the time? Will they ever truly appreciate the fact that they can simultaneously use the internet while someone uses the landline? Do they know what a landline is?

These are few of the many MANY questions I have about kids. My biggest question however is this: Will my brain ever switch from thinking ‘kids are gross’ to ‘I want a tiny 50%-me human wreaking havoc on this planet’?

wanting kids
"Why do they shout/cry/emit fluids all the time". Image via Giphy.

For an indecisive over-thinker like myself it’s a mine field. I’m convinced that feelings of ‘getting clucky’ and maternal are either an inherent characteristic, hormonally triggered or imposed by expectation and I am driven to avoid all of them.

Inherently In-Built

My sister is one of these. The beautiful, kind and generally well-natured (except when I borrow her clothes without asking) maternal types. Their switch has permanently been flicked. Their aura is so loving that if we lived in zero-gravity, babies would literally drift towards them like a magnet. I, however, would rather find the nearest functioning canon and be shot in the another direction.

wanting kids
There are the maternal types. Image via Lionsgate.
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Having the in-built certainty makes things so much easier. You might not know when, how or with who but it’s something that you automatically factor into your future plans. The lack of self-doubt is enviable. I think this is more of a personality trait than an instinct though. This maternal inclination is transferable to anything needy/squishy, rather than exclusively towards a genetic replica of yourself.

That makes it doubly amazing because it has potential to form part of women’s careers rather than only their families. And we all know the world needs a little more of that in the boardroom.

Biology

It’s the same stuff that makes me eat a ‘family serve’ of lasagne independently, or become murderous when I get cut off in traffic. The combination of oestrogen and progesterone pulsating through my veins has driven me, and many women before me, to some irrational lengths. So is there an age or process whereby my body’s switch is flicked to commit energy to yearning for offspring rather than yearning for pastries?

A recent paper suggests that there might be a point at which a switch flicks for both men and women. The desire to have children may be influenced by age, exposure to infants and hormonal changes as a consequence of ‘couple formation’ and ‘falling in love’.

wanting kids
Fertility is complex. Image via Universal.
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None of these are decisive however, as studies all seem to conclude that human fertility is ridiculously complex and no few things can explain the urge. In our modern society factors like cost, access to support and resource stress also come into the conversation too. In a weird way that seems easier to comprehend - it all seem a little more textbook rather than purely hormonal.

Great Expectations

In a 1981, the French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter wrote that motherly love was not an instinct rooted in our nature but instead a socially acquired behaviour, which she used to explain why women’s experiences of motherhood were tainted with feelings of  imperfection and uncertainty.

wanting kids
Motherhood isn't a natural instinct. Image via Giphy.

Thankfully, since 1981 we’ve come a long way. Expectations and the idea of socially influenced behaviour have been changing so that there is no real ‘norm’ anymore. Families and parenthood come in every colour and flavour.

But I feel like ‘imperfect and uncertain’ perfectly describes the experience of parenthood. We’re all uncertain about the often imperfect outcomes that decisions will have. Should I even have a kid? Should they go to public or private school? Is it fashionably acceptable to buy them tiny baby Crocs?

Of course it would be naïve to think it’s as simple as flicking a switch. For some, the experience is strongly influenced by family, circumstance, medical reasons or anything in-between.

What was your switch moment? Do you even think it’s a switch or something completely different? What’s your opinion on baby Crocs?