Navigating The Minefield that is (potential) Fatherhood

As a middleclass white male in his 30’s with a steady job, married to a middleclass white female in her 30’s with a steady job, you can imagine that conversations often turn to when we should start trying to have a kid.

That’s the obvious next step, right? Everyone is having kids. Some of my friends are on their second kid already, and I can’t even decide what the fuck I want to do for a living.

What to name it, what room to turn into a nursery, what to do with all the shit that was in the room that will become the nursery, what books to read, what hospital to choose, are there any decent daycares nearby, should we use Pampers or cloth diapers, and on and on and on.

There is so much information out there about having kids that you start to forget that humans have obviously been having children forever. The same amazing internet that allows you to read this bullshit blog also gives every crackpot and weirdo with a bone to pick about parenting a venue to discuss their philosophies. It’s overwhelming.

On top of all that bullshit, I am fucking terrified at the prospect of being a father.

I’m terrified of the idea that there will be a living being that I cannot (legally) get rid of no matter what. My cat gets his wiener jammed up and dies, that is terrible, but the cops aren’t coming to my house afterword and taking statements.

I’m terrified of creating a human that I will be responsible for, for at least 25 years, since the economy is shit and the new normal is moving back in with your parents after college, if we can even afford college in 20 years.

I’m terrified of making the decision to create a child that will not be able to take care of itself for 18 years. Even adulthood at 18 is a legal fiction – we all know most of us are useless assholes until 25 or 26. A dog can walk within hours of birth, and as soon as it can walk you can begin training it to shit and piss where it’s supposed to. A human takes 10 years to figure that out, even when you use M&Ms for positive reinforcement like my parents did, or add a disgusting plastic mini-toilet to your actual toilet made especially for little butts.

I’m terrified of having to suborn my own desires, needs and life to the wellbeing of a child to ensure it grows up OK, and not into a serial killer. I mean, that is a huge responsibility. Do I really want to be responsible for the next Jeffrey Dahmer? His parents were normal people, and look how he turned out. Can I afford to take that chance? Can you?

I’m terrified of creating innocent life and forcing it into a world on the brink of massive ecological disaster. Global warming is real, only morons and assholes contest that, and regardless of what caused it, it’s going to be really difficult in a few generations’ time to feed eight billion people. Why not cut my losses and not contribute to the pending apocalypse, or at the very least not create another innocent to have to suffer through it.

All that heady and responsible stuff is great to think about, but if I’m being honest with myself, what really scares me about having a kid is losing the ability to do the shit I like whenever I want because now I have offspring to ensure the survival of. I read a lot of comics right now, and I’m not sure I’m ready to give that up just yet. I barely have enough time as it is to play the video games I have; there’s no way that gets better once I procreate.

On top of the sheer weight of the decision and the lifetime commitment it brings, having a child brings you into that exalted class of people we know of as parents; or, as you may know since you passed high school biology, fucking EVERONE.

Everyone can father or bear a child, factoring out a condition or injury of some sort. It’s not very special, since everyone can do it. So why do we act like it’s this amazing thing that no one else can do? Why do we high-five each other for fulfilling a basic biological imperative? No one gives me any accolades when I take a shit, except for my best friend from high school, who still thinks a nasty one is pretty rad, but he’s a man-child. So why do we lose our minds when we have kids?

It’s bad enough for men, being a father in this culture. A dad shows up for half the t-ball games and wipes some spittle off the kid’s face and the world treats him like a hero. The expectations are very low. We’ve all seen the commercials where the mother comes home to find the dad and kid doing something objectively retarded, like dipping their feet in latex to make socks, or spraying every pot and pan with cooking spray before putting it in the cupboard, and the mom has to fix it. We are trained to expect the bare minimum from fathers.

As annoying and insulting as society’s expectations for fathers are, it is nothing compared to what mothers go through when pregnant or with young children. A mother can do no right in America. Since there is no consensus on what “good” parenting is, but every single one of us considers ourselves an expert with an unprovable but unmalleable grand theory of parenting, no matter what a mother does, she is wrong to someone. Spank your kid, you’re being too harsh. Give the kid the candy he’s crying for, well, that’s being too soft and that kid will never learn.

You would think that a woman pregnant with her first child would be able to escape some of this bullshit since she hasn’t actually given birth yet to a child whose behavior can be judged as a direct reflection of her, but you would be wrong. Pregnant women are fair game to having their stomachs touched by complete strangers without warning, did you know that? I didn’t, until a close friend’s wife was pregnant and was harassed by every other goon on the street who wanted to touch her belly. I also would imagine that since being pregnant is a physically exhausting process that forces immense changes on a woman’s body and results in a possibly days-long period of excruciating pain followed by weeks (at least) of recovery, that other women, especially mothers, would cut them some slack, but that too would be wrong.

Women are the worst to each other when it comes to motherhood. Every woman who has had a child that has made it to age five acts like they’re a once-in-a-lifetime Olympic athlete, and shits on those who haven’t made it there yet. Apparently every mother in America wore only the most fashionable and well-fitting clothes while they were pregnant, regardless of the cost of buying an entire wardrobe that’s useable for only nine months. Pregnant women need to wear looser clothes, or tighter clothes, or maternity versions of the latest fashions, they show too much skin, or not enough skin, ad infinitum.

Did you know that medically it’s fine to work out until the ninth month of pregnancy? Doctors don’t recommend a pregnant woman run a marathon, but they can and should absolutely keep physically active. It’s good for both the mother and the baby. But don’t tell another mother this, because there’s a 50-50 chance that they think exercising while pregnant is the same as hitting a crack pipe. My wife once mentioned to other military wives at a get-together that she had read that it was safe for a pregnant woman to have a small glass of wine once in a while, and that Italian women tend to do this with no ill effect on their children. She was not endorsing this, recommending this, or saying she would do this, she was just stating that it occurred. The other women there looked at her like she was advocating shooting their children up with heroin.

Is this a situation I want my wife subjected to for the rest of her life? We will make the decision together, and she will likely say it’s absolutely worth it, but I’ve got to imagine it’s exhausting to be the object of constant criticism and scrutiny just because you decided to have a child like every other woman on earth.

Have you ever watched any of the television shows or movies kids are into, or listened to children’s music? It’s all horrible. Kids have terrible taste. We treat them like idiots and make them watch the most mind-numbing and intellectually insulting shit, and then wonder why it takes them 25 years to un-fuck themselves. Kids will sit there and watch the same video on repeat for hours without blinking; you can swipe your hand in front of their face and get no recognition, but if you take the iPhone away they will break down into tears and piss themselves. As I write this, the Muppet Show song “Mahna Mahna” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8N_tupPBtWQ) has implanted itself into my brain with little chance of my getting it out of there for hours. And I’m supposed to want to bring a creature like this into my life, on purpose?

None of this is to say that I was any better as a child. Far from it, I’m pretty sure I was averagely terrible, if not worse. My parents are saints for not dropping me off in the middle of nowhere and leaving me for dead – doubly so for not doing that to my brothers. I just question their judgment a bit for deciding to have kids – I’m happy to be here, of course, but wouldn’t they have had a happier and more fulfilling life without the hassle?

But that’s the thing – even with all the bullshit my parents went through having three boys with anger-management issues, drug problems and small Irish dicks, they still don’t regret having us. I’m not sure they would be open and honest about it if they did, but they seem sincere enough to me. Every parent I know says that once your first child is born, you understand, and from then on your whole world revolves around that child. Being a parent is not a sacrifice, but an honor. I get that.

But what’s still holding me up is you have to make the decision to commit your life to a child before you ever have the chance to get to that “aha!” moment of holding in your hands a child that you made. With a pet, you get a chance to see if it’s a fit for you, and vice-versa. You don’t get that chance with a child. You don’t get to take your kid for a walk around the block and see how he reacts to other kids before you decide to keep him. It’s a total fucking crap shoot. I guess when the time comes I’m just going to have to hope for the best and roll the dice with a human life, like every single father before me, ever. I’m just glad I won’t be held to the same standards as my wife will be, because that would be exhausting.

Dennis Hatherly

(Politics and Military)

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