Here is the disclaimer: I like my job. Really.
I like kids. I like being around them. Our days are a routine of comfortable chaos: we sing the Hello song, we play, we paint, we run around, we eat, we sleep, we go home. Someone always gets hurt. Someone always winds up crying. Someone always needs a diaper change at an inopportune moment. Someone isn’t sitting quietly with eyes on me when I look through my Good Choice Binoculars to see who’s ready to go outside. But there’s comfort, too, in these mishaps – they’re expected. They’re the norm.
I put hair in pigtails. I play The Monkees constantly and The Wiggles in strict moderation. I perform puppet shows replete with voices and plot twists. I tickle. I chase. I plan projects that involve smearing shaving cream everywhere and playing with pumpkin entrails, and my thirteen two-year-olds love me for it. When my feet hit the woodchips of the playground Monday mornings, I’m mobbed – Beatles-mobbed, with pure adulation. And yet every paycheck, I sack away a little money in the tubal ligation fund.
I wasn’t always so sure about not wanting kids. I came into this line of work, ten years ago, properly baby crazed, albeit with reservations: a chemical imbalance I don’t care to pass on, a waistline I’m shallow enough to want to preserve, an aversion to committing to anything for eighteen years.
What changed my mind for good against procreating is the need that assails me all day long. My children have an absolute right to their legion, constant needs; what makes a child a child is their dependence on the adults around them. But at five o’clock each day, I’m able to walk away from the onslaught, and I’m relieved. I can’t imagine not getting to go home from children.
For eight hours each day, my body is not my own. My children crave touch. It’s the best way for them to interact with the world before their verbal skills are fully intact. I’m constantly clung to, hugged, climbed, and sat upon. I balance at least one child on my hip for the bulk of the day, sometimes one on each. I wrap my arms and legs around tantrum-ers to keep them from bashing their heads against the floor. I’m a human Kleenex, and I’ve been peed and vomited on more times than I care to remember.
Meeting the physical needs of my children is a manageable, if occasionally nauseating, challenge. And meeting their intellectual needs doesn’t faze me much. I design my own curriculum and I’m not concerned with whether my children can rattle off a list of vowels or count in Mandarin. Instead, I plan our days to be as fun as possible, on the theory that the best thing I can teach a toddler isn’t how to identify quadrilaterals, but how to enjoy the process of learning and exploration, to associate school with excitement and engagement.