The recent post on "Kidlessness" elicted quite a few comments, some of which reminded me of a bit of comforting advice I got from another FSP years ago when I was sort of freaking out about the impending birth of my daughter.
I had absolutely no interest in babies; I thought they were ugly and I had no idea how to take care of one. I had had some traumatic experiences helping out (not by choice) at a local preschool when I was a teenager. I confided my fears to this colleague, who had two kids.
My colleague said "All babies are scary and gross. Except your own." She said she was profoundly uninterested in babies etc., but she loved hers intensely and was fascinated by them from the start. This was immensely comforting.
And prophetic. I couldn't believe it when I saw my daughter for the first time. She was beautiful. How lucky I was to have one of the only cute and fascinating babies on the planet. A few years later, looking at her baby pictures, I realized that she was as hideous as every other baby. Yes I know, some people think babies are cute -- I encountered quite a few of these people and was both grateful for them and alarmed by them -- but I have never thought this about babies, except for one particular one, more than 10 years ago.
I think the biochemical effect that makes us think our own babies are cute and interesting is probably quite useful in general for the continuation of the species.
All this is to say that you don't have to think all babies are cute and wonderful to have a very happy experience with one of your own.
I turned out not to be quite as extreme as my FSP friend. Once my daughter was born, I didn't think all other babies/kids were weird and gross. At whatever age my daughter has been, the other kids her age have been kind of interesting to me. It's fascinating to watch them growing and learning new things. A different, older FSP once told me that every age (of her daughter) has been her favorite. That has definitely been true for me as well.
When I had anxieties about parenthood, it was important for me to be able to talk to these other FSPs. I had been reluctant to talk about my worries with most other people, except a few of my closest friends (who mostly expressed shock that I was going to be a mother; this was not entirely helpful). I worried that my lack of maternal instincts (or at least my belief that I lacked them) would be seen as monstrous in the specific context of being about to have a baby. I felt comfortable talking to these other FSPs, however, perhaps because we shared an atypical experience as women -- that of being FSPs.
(At the time, I only knew well 1 MSP who had been actively involved in raising his kids and had a wife with a career. We often chatted about family-career issues and that was great, but mostly we talked about practical things.)
Now that I am an older FSP, I am perfectly happy to talk about what it was like for me to do my professor job while pregnant (and very ill) or while taking care of an infant (and changing universities) -- perhaps this information can be useful or comforting to others -- but I must say that I loathe it when people assume that I will want to hear their graphic pregnancy/childbirth stories just because I am (1) female, and (2) a mother.
Perhaps that is hypocritical because I once sought out FSPs specifically to talk about baby-related issues, but I think that there is a difference between the type of conversation I had with some FSPs and conversations in which someone (male or female) revels in the intimate details of pregnancy and childbirth: for me, the former is mentoring, the latter is TMI.
2 days ago