A lot of my friends and co-workers are starting to have kids. I wish I could hear what goes on behind closed doors, because by all appearances they simply decided to have kids, and so, they had them. The decision seems so simple, so easy. Meanwhile, as with so many things, I can't decide. It's a blessing and a curse to see all sides of every question and answer. I think it makes me a better scientist. I think it could help me do good, bipartisan type work one day. But it stops me in my tracks when it comes to making decisions, especially large life decisions. Have kids? Yes and no, all at the same time.
I like kids. I had a lot of fun with my two little cousins this Thanksgiving. I love the idea of reading to and playing with my own kid; watching them grow up into whoever it is they'll be. But it's not all about imagination games and birthday parties. There are the long nights, the colds, the tantrums, the social problems - if you are lucky. And if you are unlucky, maybe there are serious health problems. Maybe there's the spectre of loss always tainting any happiness you might have. When you really love someone, you're vulnerable in all sorts of ways.
It has occured to me that I may be a Piggle-Wiggle woman. If you are unfamiliar, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle was a series of middle-grade books written by Betty MacDonald about an older woman, who has no children of her own, but has all sorts of clever ideas and a little magic to help the town's children through their various problems. All the kids adore Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and play at her house after school practically every day. But they're normal kids and so they are always misbehaving at home in one way or another, talking-back, not picking up their toys, etc., and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle always has a great solution to the issue.
Why am I telling you about a slightly obscure, though excellent, series of children's books from the fifties? The point is, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is very good with kids, loves kids, knows they're not perfect, and is always willing to help them and their parents, but ultimately, she never has any kids of her own. She's a widow and lives by herself with a dog and a cat.
Maybe I could be happy as a Piggle-Wiggle woman? As long as I had kids in my life somehow, maybe it's not as important to me that they be my biological kids. Maybe I'm not cut out for the day-to-day work of parenting. I'm selfish. I worry that having kids will mean I'll never have time to work on my writing and art projects, or pursue a more time-intensive career track. I'm afraid I'll resent my kids, even if I enjoy spending time with them.
What if I just live my life? And when I am old, or whenever, I can be like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and be a haven for whatever children might need me in whatever little way. Perhaps the nuclear family is overrated and we need more models for social happiness.
Are you a Piggle-Wiggle woman?
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