It was one of those team building things at work and we were supposed to “speed date” and meet the new people in our team. To make the dating process easy, the organizers had even put up the question we should ask each other: “What is your greatest accomplishment?”
I dated three people in the time we had, two women and one man. Both the women said that their greatest accomplishment was “having children” while the man said, “Aside from my children, my greatest accomplishment is this project I worked on at the start of my career.”
I said, “I don’t have one. But when my first book was published, TIME magazine reviewed it. That was really something.”
I wasn’t being modest. I sincerely don’t think I have had enough time for greatness. And isn’t this a question that should be asked when you’re in your death bed?
These speed dating things are complete bullshit, I’ll give you that but really, is having children a person’s greatest accomplishment?
Making babies is “technically” easy…
It’s not that difficult to make a baby, though I know it can be for some. But the basics are: you have sex, you get knocked up, you go into labor and if you live in the Western world, good doctors deliver the baby.
We are seven billion people in this world and growing rapidly, so having children is one of those everyday things we do. Granted, having children is a major life event, no doubt about it – but having children cannot be my greatest accomplishment – even though when I was twenty five, my doctor told me that it might not be on the cards without some major help (read as IVF).
Here I was, all of 25 years old, still believing in the promise that one day I’d grow up, get married and have children. I had grown up, I had married and now they were telling me I couldn’t have children. I was devastated. The worst part was that I didn’t even know if I wanted children. My husband and I were talking about children in the abstract, “Do we want to have children because we want to have children or do we want to have children because society expects us to?”
And then the doctor says no babies and all I want is babies. Like being on a diet – as soon as you start it, all you want to eat is chocolate cake with hot fudge and vanilla ice cream and you were always undecided on hot fudge.
It’s the way nature made it
However, I got knocked up without any medicinal help and had my babies. But I seriously thought about how life would be if I didn’t have babies. My husband and I decided that it wouldn’t be so bad – life was good as it was and it would remain that way.
But what about when we get old, we wondered? What about it?
It wasn’t like we saw our parents every day, and I don’t think I’m a comfort to my parents in their old age. They’re living their lives and we talk over the phone once a month and that’s about it. My father-in-law is living his. He bought himself a sports motorcycle for his seventieth birthday, hasn’t retired yet and we haven’t seen each other for Christmas in…well, years. No one is having a coronary over it and my father-in-law doesn’t give a hoot – he doesn’t have time, he’s got a life.
Kids are great. And now that they are here I can’t imagine life without them, but I don’t think my life would be meaningless without them. I think it would hold just as much meaning as it does now. It would be just as much fun as it’s now, just different fun. And even though I have had them, they are still not my greatest accomplishment. It didn’t take much effort.
I had sex without protection. I got pregnant. I managed to stay pregnant and then went into labor, which isn’t something I can take credit for as it is nature’s way.
I can take credit for working my butt off and honing my writing skills and getting published. I can take credit for cooking fabulous meals because I put in the effort to learn how to cook. I can take credit for seeing a therapist to better my mental health and general disposition. These are voluntary acts that required me to put in effort to achieve something that isn’t “nature’s way.”
I can’t take credit for giving birth. I have to give credit to the doctor in California and my midwife in Denmark who despite my abusive language kept her cool (they did not give me an epidural in Denmark as they did in California).
Motherhood is fabulous. My kids are spectacular. But I really don’t know if I knew then what I know now I would’ve still had babies. I really don’t. This procreation business is so primal that no matter who tells you what – no matter if you return from the future and tell yourself don’t do it – you’ll still want to because when baby fevers catches, there is no hosing it down. And, because it’s a primal instinct, because it’s a natural thing, it cannot be my greatest accomplishment, just like having a dimple on your chin cannot be yours.
Tomorrow, when my kids become whoever they become – it will be their accomplishment and still not mine.
My greatest accomplishment then? Still to come. Working on it.