Not the “oldest” profession, of course. Why is prostitution considered the oldest profession? Because motherhood and homemaking are not considered a profession. They are givens, unpaid and disrespected, something one has to do because they love their family members too much to neglect them. I am currently in the middle of Life Experiment #2, attempting for the second time to walk the path of mother and homemaker without an outside “real job”, balancing the needs of six people, one of which is my own self soul, who periodically begins to whine and pine for some attention and spoiling.
It is always interesting to me the attitude of the social workers, whose assistance I have always had the misfortune to require (but the fortune of being able to attain). On the one hand they don’t want you to abandon your children under a dumpster, so they talk up the joys and wonder of motherhood, handing out an entire trees worth of pamphlets telling you how to coo at them and immunize the hell out of them. Out of the other side of their mouths they will ask you, don’t you want to be sterilized now, and demand to know what birth control you will be using, and don’t you think you’ve played at this game long enough. Far from being acknowledged as the biological objective of our entire existence, which I agree can and should be circumvented if an individual does not desire to participate, parenthood is in our modern world a hobby, and if you can’t afford it because there are no jobs with living wages available in our capitalist system, then you should just sterilize yourself and go back to flipping burgers.
Even more interesting is going out with the baby, and having people ask me if it’s my first, and then seeing their eyes go buggy when I say, “No, my fourth.” Four? Why in God’s name would anyone want four? Can’t you control yourself? But they don’t say anything out loud, maybe because we are in the polite South, they just smile, move slowly away in case it is contagious. But to answer the unspoken questions, what else is there that is even half as fulfilling as parenthood? (I fully realize and accept that some people could come up with a long list of things, and I appreciate the diversity of our individual experience.) To see them learn something new, to see them swim deep in their imaginations, to hear the wise words they use to describe the world, to see their satisfaction at a new achievement, to see their amazement to observe something I have come to take for granted. An addictive hobby, I must say, but one that requires every ounce of passion and dedication, and then we still don’t do a perfect job. I am doomed to screw it up and be despised by each of them from the onset of teenagehood until approximately age 25 when they begin to realize that they are adults and have the power and responsibility to do as they will with their own lives, despite any of my mistakes. Hopefully they will realize that their mother did the best she could, and they will do even better.
Maybe that is the point, the desire to move into the future in the only way possible, recreating your own flesh, which you infuse with your own knowledge, dreams and ideas, to which the new individual adds and subtracts with their own unique imagination and drive until the connection with their parental origin is only the tiniest umbilical thread, impossible to sever. We like to pretend in this modern world that we are alone in the universe, but behind each one of us is a huge crowd of ancestors, a legacy of individuals, now mostly faceless and nameless, who spent a good portion of their life energy ensuring the survival of the next generation. Picture your favorite deceased grandparent and imagine how much they are pulling for you in this world, then multiply that infinitely back through time. What if the momentum of these centuries of striving to succeed could be claimed and harnessed, and we could do great things with this wind at our backs?
And if I stop wanking poetic for a minute and just admit the truth, these four kids are the four coolest people I’ve ever met. Why wouldn’t I want to make hanging out with them my job?