Sunday, 29 April 2012

Leave me out of parenthood, thank you very much.

Looking after teenagers is hard. I’ve just spent a week supervising my tenacious fifteen year old sister only to find myself behind in work, and the washing. This is what an accelerated experience of parenthood is like? If so, leave me out of it, thank you very much.

I’ve never been excited about the idea of having children, but this week has hammered home the difficulties of following some of my dreams if I do go down that road. But, if I should choose not to have children, what effect will that have on my life as I age?

For one thing, there will be no one to look after me as I get older.

From a wider perspective, in parts of Asia and Europe, family tend to look after their old-folk as they reach the end of their lifespan. Not so in Australia. We’re such an individualistic society, and rarely do adult-children look after their old-folk full-time, including them in their lives, but rather cart them straight off to an old-persons home.

If my figurative children are going to cart me off to an old persons home, is there even any point having some, bringing them up, paying for their schooling and dealing with their crap when they’re teenagers, just so they can forget about me when I’m old? Surely I’d be better saving the money I would have spent on their education, for my own retirement.

Perhaps this is a cynical view of life, and a narrow view of the enrichment of family. After all, family brings us love, support, affection, life experiences and society. However, it also brings headache, obligation, frustration and Christmas dinner missing a turkey because Uncle so-and-so has run off, drunk, down the road with it.

Parents are flawed, including my own. God knows they did their best, but, like the rest of us, they’re human. Mum is currently struggling with Grandma’s dementia and the family expectations placed on her because of this, and because she’s the eldest and a nurse. Couple this with supervising a disruptive and antagonistic teenager, who refuses to go to school; she’s burning the candle at both ends.

This same teenager has been trying my patience this past week, as I put my oar in to help carry the load. Within the next year or so, grandma will probably end up living in a home. Which is sad, but what about the stress put on my mum, to manage grandma and her own life? Both ends of this stick are hard. I don’t want to end up in a home like grandma might soon, but I wouldn’t want to be in mums position, either.  My mum is one of a kind though, and always puts herself out for others in need.

When the time comes, I’m not going to leave my parents to fend for themselves, but I will struggle to manage my life and theirs. Mum is a strong person, but I don’t know that I could manage my writing, work, teenagers and parents at the same time.

I’m the eldest, and when I was a child I helped bring up my younger siblings. Perhaps this is where my lacklustre impression of parenthood started. For me it still represents a lack of freedom and a hell of a lot of responsibility.

It just seems like there’s a lot to juggle, this should-I-have-children conundrum. Will I manage to bring up a child so they’re a respectful teenager and then adult, or will they turn into a nightmare emo-child from hell?
There’s so much about parenthood that’s unpredictable, and while I like that life throws curve balls, the psychotic teenage-child sort is not my cup of tea.

I’d like to skip the whole thing and go straight to having a relationship with adult-children. Then I can have the experience of family, and maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll have some company in my old age.

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