A friend recently posted on Facebook about how she doesn't know how to answer when people ask her a certain question and it got me thinking - not least because I'd also asked her the same question (I'm really very sorry - you've always been so lovely to me and I was thoughtless!).
It did get me thinking about some of the assumptions I, and probably many other people, make about what being a parent does to you - not least because I was complaining about someone the other day to my Ma and she asked if the person had had kids... as if that might explain their attitude.
I had kids early, partly in the expectation that I'd not be too old to enjoy myself when the bulk of the responsibility of raising a kid had passed - utter bunk! If I'd've had more fun when I was younger I argue that I'd've been a far better parent (Sorry boys). As it is I'm old enough not to pay maintenance but I'm far too broken to go off having adventures (though I still dream).
But what's with the desire to have kids anyway? There's that there biological imperative about passing down genes - but the effect you have had when you shuffle off your mortal coil isn't about how you randomly mixed genetic material with someone else; it's about how your actions change the world around you, hopefully for the better. Timothy Leary wrote about this in The Politics of Ecstasy when he talked about DNA only being part of the story, RNA also plays a huge part (Old hippy I am).
There are 3 women I know who are truly good, not any side to them at all, just generally good eggs. One has had kids, the other is expecting and the last hasn't (That's crap you know, I know lots of utter brilliant women - not least my mate on Facebook). They'd be brilliant (probably not the best word to use for them but I can't think of a better) whether or not they'd had kids. There are people who're good at all sorts of spheres of work despite not having had kids. I've known brilliant nurses who have had kids as well as brilliant nurses who haven't had kids,. I've worked under brilliant people who have had kids and those who haven't. I've managed brilliant people who have had kids and those that haven't.
Being brilliant has sweet FA to do with parenthood: this is a common misconception (just look at our PM - admittedly that's a subjective comment but there you go), just as being pants (or perhaps I should say: being in need of improvement - because we can all learn!) has nothing to do with parenthood. People can be (and in my more negative moments “will be”) crap despite being a parent! If you define yourself by the roles you've had to take on then you're limiting yourself. We're all a constantly changing mixture and amalgamation of our roles and all the other things that make us us, and that thing that makes us us is constantly being bombarded and enriched by the phenomena (people, things, pets, weather, breakfast...) that's all around us.
There are certain things that can (and should) be learnt as a result of having kids (such as how to cope with little or no sleep, change a nappy, how to bathe a baby and how to manage other people). But those things can be learnt without having kids and learnt without the pressure of having little or no sleep (I learnt how to bathe a baby during my training) - there are also those lucky people who have those abilities innately.
I don't regret having had kids… despite the pain and utter heartbreak along the way… and it has made me the person I am today (for my sins), but so has everything else (people, things, pets, weather, breakfast...), perhaps I'd be brilliant at the things I'm brilliant at without having had kids - I like to think so.
I know I'm somewhat self-absorbed but I have written about identity before and I think that's why I wrote this, not to do anything other than gets my thoughts down (and of course, apologise). The last time it was in regards to no longer being a water gypsy now I think it's probably a result of empty nest syndrome and trying to figure out how I feel about my youngest living child deciding to make his own way in the world.