don’t get me wrong, i love children. i know how to hold a newborn properly. i am capable of changing a dirty diaper without gagging. i don’t flinch at the sight or smell of shit or barf. i could spend hours playing outside with kids, coming up with games to play, to amuse them and myself. i smile at babies in strollers, fighting the urge to pinch their cheeks or whipping out my camera to snap a shot. from the ages of just bust out of a hoo-ha to about 10 years old, i am a damn good pseudo mother. it comes with the territory of growing up in an asian household where the eldest daughter is expected to
help do motherly duties. or maybe it’s just the household i ended up growing up in.
when i went to live with peter and my stepmother, i was just 10. my stepmother was 28 and had had her first baby some months prior. when i wasn’t conjugating french verbs or memorizing science vocabulary words, i was expected to help out. as in, prepare the bath, heat up the milk bottles, feed the baby, play with the baby, holy shit, be in the same effing room as the baby to make sure it’s not dying of spit or something. and have mercy, when my sister became mobile, i was the one who had to follow her around to make sure she didn’t fall and if she fell, there was hell for me to pay. talk about fucking pressure. and this was my life until the day before i went off to college. by that time, i had 3 sisters.
i was their tutor, their live in 24/7 babysitter, i bathed them every.single.night., i put them to bed, i took them swimming, i taught them to swim, and the kicker: if i wanted to go out with my friends, i would have to let one of them tag along, too. i had all that responsibility and no authority. if they misbehaved, i couldn’t scold them or discipline them. that wasn’t my “job”. when i graduated from high school, peter and his wife went on vacation for two weeks. my sisters’ school terms weren’t over yet so i woke them up in the morning, made their breakfast, made their lunches and took them to the busstop. i picked them up after school, made their snack, helped them with homework, played with them, made their dinner, bathed them and put them to bed. repeat 14 days.
fast forward 3 years, the summer before my senior year in college. my entire extended family on my stepmother’s side decide they want to go on a month long vacation. except they didn’t want to bring their kids. naturally, they turned to me. as the 3rd eldest niece (the other two were already working so were off the hook), the responsibility fell on me to look after the 11 cousins for the month of august. i dub that time as the summer of hell. i had a major dramatical i-will-cut-you falling off with a step-aunt over that fiasco and i no longer speak to any of the extended family on that side.
and that is just the surface reason behind why i don’t want to have children or be a mother. i’m not saying i know what it’s like to be a mother but child rearing responsibilties — that i know. and i don’t like it. i never once saw peter lift a hand to help with late night feedings (a chore i was, thankfully, exempt from), i don’t even think i ever saw him hold any of my sisters. and i don’t think i’ve ever seen any of my uncles, on either side, help with the child rearing. it boggles my mind when i see my male friends help their wives with the kids. that is sad, that my perception of child caring is so skewed. i fear that if i did ever become a parent, i would subconsciously shoulder the responsibility of parenthood, shutting out the poor guy, because that is all i know.
nowadays, my sisters pay me no mind. they don’t call me Big Sister anymore, as a sign of respect. they only call when they’re in trouble, need money, want to bitch about their parents or want something. gone are the days when they would rush to the door when i came home to greet me with exuberance. in fact, their parents think i’m a bad influence on them, and we’re all in a semi-estranged situation. it’s like a small death inside of me every time i think about it, that my usefulness and function are done, pushed to the wayside.
my stepmother has told me that motherhood is a thankless job, a position without grandeur or glamour. she even insinuated: without joy. and in the next breath she asked me when i was going to give her grandbabies. i responded that i don’t have the luxury of a 10 year old stepdaughter to help me with the all the thankless work.