What’s the first thing on your mind in this moment? In this week’s Gospel, Jesus calls us, in riddle-like fashion to reconsider our priorities. He says that the last will be first, and the first will be last. The things that are primary in daily life, like money, appearance and power will be last in the eyes of God. Moreover, self-sacrificing love, which is often the last priority of human society, is the primary value of Christianity. Christianity has a reversed set of priorities, and a perpective that may not be aligned with even the most positive values of modern civilization.
Jesus goes on to explain to his disciples that whomever accepts a young child (παιδίον or paidion) in his name accepts the one who sent him. Many of the interpretations of this reading speak to the innocence of children, and their ability to place unconditional confidence in those who are entrusted to care for them. While I think that this is a great place to start, I would like to go a step further.
I have many friends with children. My Facebook feed is saturated with posts which speak to both the joys and intractable challenges of parenting. Children are innocent. Children rely on others for their care. Children trust unconditionally. Children are wonderful– and then, not so much.
One Saturday, I was finishing a postlude in a parish when an Eastern European gentleman approached the organ bench to chat with me. We had met a few times when I had visited the same parish on previous occasions. He was friendly and mildly abrasive in a way that could be discounted by cultural maladjustment. I should add that he had a daring fashion sense and ostensibly decent genetic material. I’ll give anyone credit for successfully pairing a brown belt and shoes with black slacks.
We started talking about FontSound, consulting, the struggles of self-sufficiency as an entrepreneur, and then the repartee revealed other intentions.
“Vat your hossbandt do for a living?” he asked
“Uh, I don’t have one…” I stammered.
“Vhy you not married?”
I smiled a bit nervously and responded, “I am just not…”
Then he continued to pry, “You hevv boyfriendt?”
“NO! but… hey, here’s my card, check out my blog…”
I’m really not interested, I thought to myself, because you are insanely attractive, dangerous, and I don’t want to get involved with you, but because of all this, I’ll be polite.
“Vhy you not hevv boyfriendt?? Cahmohnn…”
I reached for my card.
“So here’s my website…”
He refused to take my fancy FontSound business card, or listen to my excellent explanation about why I am not married. Despite his offer of having “work” for me to do, any conversation beyond the organ bench just felt like bad news–but he did get me thinking about this week’s Good News.
There are many reasons why I am not married, and why I probably never will marry. I believe that wage inequity makes it impossible for a woman to freely consent to marriage. I’ve lived independently for longer than I ever lived with family. My aptitude for home economics is remedial at best. I could burn myself making ice cubes and I shower at the gym so that I don’t have to clean my own bathroom. I also believe that marriage is inseparable from whatever natural potential exists for childbearing. The potential for motherhood has never appealed to me, and is in fact, a source of what some might call an unreasonable fear. I know so many who have had their hearts macerated first by their child/ren’s mother or father, and then by the offspring themselves, that it feels way too risky for me.
My position on motherhood is a position that is congruent to my vocation as a single person. It is not for everyone. I am unreceptive to any advice that suggests I should rediscern my vocation and it would be unthinkable for me to influence anyone else’s discernment. I am certainly not an advocate of artificial family planning. I would never abort a child conceived as the consequence of assault but I pray God will protect me from my worst fear. I am not an advocate for population control, and if anything, I think that large families are a tremendous gift. (My dad’s parents had 11 children and 40 grandchildren.) My friends have beautiful, intelligent children. They never cease to amaze me, as I am sure they never cease to amaze their parents. When I worked in a parish, I had the most fun when I organized children’s events. I have a bizarre, childlike sense of humor, and sometimes liken myself to a 12 year-old with a credit history. Children are wonderful, but I am not suited for motherhood.
As an adult with ADHD, I lack the psychological circuitry to function in complicated life-situations like motherhood, which demand patience, concentration and time-management. Furthermore, my own experience of pre-menstrual syndrome is a harrowing two-week ordeal where my body thinks that my uterus has signed a lease. Half of the month I’m on fire, and half of the month I am functioning in second gear. Nine months in second gear, with increasingly excessive fuel consumption would be an inevitable disaster.
This has not been an easy life path to discern. It precludes me from the financial stability that marriage offers. It has created a bit of a social vacuum at times. I also struggle because I still have quite a bit of estrogen left. I like men, but I doubt that anyone would have enough love to give that would make parenting a palpable possibility.
Let’s be realistic. For people who want to be parents, who have always dreamed of parenting and who have the necessary character traits, children are a gift from God. Yet, even the best parents will admit that children can be inconvenient at times. Children create interruptions. Children call us to look beyond our own comfort zone. Children cause pain, and yet every parent I know can affirm that their children are well- worth it.
As such, these are the teachings of Christ. Christian love is not always a convenient choice. It interrupts the flow of self-interest. It stretches us beyond our own comfort zone. It is painful unto death and yet, the life that never dies is worth it all.
For these reason, I remain open to the remote possibility that my heart will change. Maybe I will be ready one day to stretch beyond something I’ve held in truth since kindergarten, but I highly doubt it. Besides, the risks to mother and child continue to increase with each birthday. If something really changes, I could always foster or adopt, but unless the spirit prompts, I choose to embrace the financial restrictions, inconveniences, and judgemental inquiries which accompany the vocation of the non-mom.