A Wicked Case of the Baby Shrugs

3c27d88be8a50583bbb40cb32f9dfc52All of Facebook is having babies. I don’t know what your feed looks like, but mine is filled with tiny versions of my high school classmates. Our late twenties hit and—baby boom!—people spawned. Suddenly, everyone is having gender reveal parties and cake smashes.

Everyone, of course, except me. It’s not that I don’t want kids. We totally want to start a family, one day. I definitely want a tiny Grace to shower in feminist values and bookstore love, one day. It’s just that one day, in this case, is at least two-quite-possibly-five years away. Right now, the dear Professor and I are perfectly happy not worrying about college education funds, dirty diapers, or gendered toy aisles. Despite everyone, everywhere, wanting to know when we’re planning to start popping dem babies out, we’re decidedly not planning.

Also, let’s be honest, I’m going to be a crap mom. I’ll love our wee McGregors, sure, but the mom instinct is not strong in me. This week, I developed suspicions that it may be missing altogether. Some virtual friends of mine were all atwitter over an “incident” that happened at their daycare: someone fed the children McNuggets and store-bought cupcakes.

Are you shocked and furious? Congratulations! You are a responsible enough human to become a parent. My reaction was a grand shrug and intense craving for fried chicken slurry. Not once did I fear for Wee Isabelle and Wee Lancelot’s delicate systems or scream “THE CHEMICALS! OH, WON’T SOMEONE SAVE THE CHILDREN FROM THE CHEMICALS!?”  on my rooftop. In fact, my only contribution to the discussion was to point out that everything is made of chemicals, so let’s not demonize a perfectly good scientific term, okay?

It’s not like I think children should only eat McDonald’s, but surely a handful of chicken nuggets won’t doom them to a life of crime and obesity. No one ever says “Johnny was such a good kid, until he ate that one nugget. Now it’s all hookers and Pokemon thefts for him.” Humans are way more resilient than that, even the small ones. Why, when I was a kid, I ate mountains of chicken nuggets and my left kidney only twitches occasionally. The moms were unimpressed. Some of them may have intimated that childless people just don’t understand kids. Which is…totally true.

I was never super great at being a kid, in the first place. When I tried dangling from the monkey bars that one time, I let go, fell to the ground, and couldn’t breathe for five minutes. When other kids wanted to play in the woods, I talked nonstop about ticks and Lyme disease. So, the thought of having kids–normal, happy, not convinced there’s a dead body in every empty field kids–is a distant one. It’s like considering the moon, when you’ve never even flown on an airplane. Or a chocolate mousse, when you’re allergic to milk and chocolate. Or children, when you are totally indifferent to their existence.

I have, in other words, the baby shrugs:

“When are you having kids?”


“Don’t you want kids?”


“You’ll want them someday, surely.”


“You won’t feed Isabelle high fructose pork syrup, right?


“Tell me you heard the thing about syrup!”


So many shrugs. Luckily, my beloved is currently shrugging, too. When we do have children, they’re probably going to eat chicken nuggets every once in awhile. However, all cards on the table, they’re going to be so damned weird that those evil chemicals won’t make a dent. Genes are wonderful, horrible things.

– Grace

26 thoughts on “A Wicked Case of the Baby Shrugs

  1. Listen, before I had J, I hated kids. I mean, not just like I hate most people, like, kids had a place of hate-honor in my brain. Quite honestly, there are many that still do. (probably the children of those moms making a fuss over store bought cupcakes.) But when you have your baby, you’ll change. People don’t talk about it these days, but women have been moms without any sort of direction or handbook for a millenia, even moms that never wanted kids. You remind me of me. And my kids are awesome. And I am a PHAT mom.

  2. Glad to know I’m not the only one…and I’m not alone in thinking that occasional chicken nuggets and store bought cupcakes are bad (besides, who the hell has time to bake that). Although in my house I’m sure the cupcakes might not make it out of the house…

  3. Am I shocked and furious about the nuggets and cupcakes? No, not in the slightest. And I’m 7 months pregnant. So surely, if there’s a mum instinct, I must have it? I am super amped to be a mum soon, and very excited about having this little kiddo, but no, the idea of her being fed nuggets (delicious nuggets) every once in awhile does not shock or appall me. It just reminds me of my own childhood, and like you say, we turned out ok.
    I don’t think the mother instinct has to be “that” kind of mother instinct for you to be a good mum. If and when you’re ready, you’ll be fine! (I say this as a way to reassure myself that I will be too!)

  4. Grace:

    Full disclosure: I am 45, I have two boys, aged 10 and 12, whom I adore, and I’ve been married to their father for 22 years.
    Listen to your instincts. Enjoy your husband and your life. You will know if and when it is time to have children.

    BTW, those histrionics over chemicals are mostly maternal saber rattling and public demonstrations. Don’t feed it or buy it; sorry to say, it gets worse before it gets better. Just ignore.

    In short, go with your (non-pregnant) gut.


  5. I so relate to this! Don’t get me wrong, I’m OK with kids. I don’t want harm to come to them and I even work on behalf of kids, but I think they have a time a place. Not during happy hour. Just not OK.

    Also, a chicken nuggetless life is no life to force upon a child.

  6. Wow–I think that makes you probably better suited to be a parent…if a chicken nugget is enough to upset you then you’re in for a rough ride! I have two kids and I’m 28…over achiever I know.
    I hope you enjoy the years you’re planning not having babies. They are great. The baby years are too but to each his own! Also I’m coming over from Idle Fancy and I’m happy to watch you just make dresses 😃 babies put a bit of a damper on the sewing!

  7. This is absolutely wonderful. Although I think people without kids can understand them..I used to be a nanny myself and, as much as I love eating healthy, it’s a chicken nugget. Kids love the shit out of that crap…frosting, sprinkles, ice cream, french fries, you know. I think your mothering ability is fully capable if so choose to use it. Your kids will be better balanced if they learn that they can eat junk food…sparingly.

  8. I’ve got the baby shrugs as well, but I’m slowly tipping over to the “no way” side. Having kids someday always seemed like a given, but it’s now been 7 years since my husband and I started living together, and 4 years into our marriage. It’s so NICE not to have to worry about taking care of someone else and just doing whatever we feel like. I don’t really feel like I’m missing out on anything, because I can always play with other people’s kids, but then I don’t have to do any of the real work. And let’s be honest, when I think about kids, I think about the fun stuff–doing science experiments with them, teaching them that they can be whatever they want to be, playing make-believe, etc. Totally don’t need to have kids to do any of those things. A lot of people are then like, “But whaaaat?! However will your life have meaning?!?! Who will take care of you when you’re old?!? Don’t you want to pass your genes on?!? Do you hate kids or something?!?” And then I’m like, “Guess what, I can make meaning in my life without having a child, plus so many people have kids just to give themselves “meaning” and it’s a continuous cycle of people having kids to fulfill their meaning in life and it really all means nothing; I’ve got a 401K to take care of me when I’m old; although it would be awesome to see what a mini-me/husband looks like, I could really care less about passing on my genes or leaving something of me behind; and actually, I really fucking love kids, except I actually just love to play with them, not take care of them.” Anyway, whatever you decide, do it for yourself and not because you feel like you have to. Maybe you’ll have kids, maybe you won’t.

    Also, the assertion that childless couples don’t get children is super not true. I’m the oldest of 11 kids, and I understand children a lot better than a lot of first-time parents.

    • Same here, eldest of 6 children. You too, the caregiver of baby siblings. 🙂 However I enjoyed helping mother put baby sister (she’s now a doctor, mother of 2) for afternoon naptime.

      Yea, tell me about cloth diapers and helping little ones toilet-train.

  9. I feel the same way as you! But I don’t think it’s a sign of not wanting to be a mother, more a sign you’ve lived life and know the smallest of things like nuggets won’t kill your kids. We live in an age of cotton wooling! My childhood was filled with store bought sugary treats, trampolines with no enclosures on concrete and much playing around in muddy puddles. That didn’t stop me becoming successful. These parents you speak of probably have no idea how to raise a kid themselves so they just cling onto such petty things. Don’t be disheartened by it 😉

  10. You’re not supposed to say what I’m about to type. It is so, so, so, so hard. I want more children, but I COMPLETELY understand why one may not. Unless you want them, just don’t. It’s one of the only life-long decisions that we make on a whim, just because everyone else seems to be convinced of it.

  11. As the only mother (of one!) in my circle of married 40 something BFF’s who all have the shrugs, my advice is follow your own instincts, love being a mum but miss the freedom (and money) of child free life!!

  12. I love that you said the chemicals from the nuggets and the store bought cupcakes won’t make a dent because they’ll already be super weird. If i ever have kids (I have the shrugs now and I’ll probably have the shrugs well into my 30s) I’m hoping they’ll be super weird like me! But besides the idea of growing a weird and small human being inside of me and having a cool motherly connection with it, I’m scared to give up my freedom! I want to travel without having to pay for a third person. So many people rush into having kids right after they get married and they don’t even get to enjoy the company of their spouse. I say you’re doing what’s good for you by shrugging. Like everyone else is saying, definitely keep trusting your instincts.

  13. A few years ago there was a joke going around, you know, one of these funny emails that everyone forwarded because facebook hadn’t taken off quite yet. It compared a mother’s actions in relation to her first, her second and her third child. (Examples: 1st: You take your baby swimming, to the baby gymnastics and baby massage. 2nd: You go to the baby gymnastics class every other week. 3rd: You take your kid with you when you do the groceries shopping. / 1st: When baby drops its dummy you pick it up and take it home to clean and sterilise it. 2nd: You rinse the dummy with some baby juice. 3rd: You wipe the dummy briefly on your jeans and stuff it right back.) I had to laugh at this because, even though the little monster was my first child, according to this he should have been my third. I have no patience for parents of PFBs (precious first-borns).

    In other words, you are not lacking any maternal instincts, you are just using common sense although it seems to have gone out of style somewhat when it comes to raising children these days. Keep doing what you’re doing, it’s your life and your decision, no-one elses. Oh and also, I would certainly miss your writing because, once you have children, time to write will become scarce, trust me.

  14. My son very rarely eats chicken nuggets, because he prefers plain cheeseburgers in his Happy Meals. I insisted he have apples rather than fries even before they were included in all the meals though, lest you think I’m a bad mother. By the way, I figure all the extra chemicals might just help preserve him a little longer!

  15. Hmm. My belief, particularily for women, you must really want to be a mother. Women have to carry the baby, etc. If you have vacillated for several years, then drop mom idea. If you, have a nagging feeling you really don’t have mom need for quite awhile, don’t try convincing yourself.

    I am the eldest of 6 children…the youngest is 10 years younger. I guess I saw enough stress on my parents. I also have 7 nieces and nephews from 3 sisters. So really, if there are children in your life related by blood…. well, at least for me, I’m happy to see little cuties grow into big adults as an aunt. Eldest is now 27 yrs. old.

    I am also with a guy (last 20+ yrs.), divorced who has 2 now adult children from his former marriage. He loves his children but does agree: children really true don’t appreciate the daily acts of care from parents, the amount of energy, patience required for the next 20 yrs. and maybe longer after they leave home. And he has good kid-adults –no drugs, drinking. Sane adults.

    Just make your decision that raising a child/children means letting them go forever when they grow and leave you.

    I thought something was wrong with me…I thought that for about 2 hrs. in my early 20’s, when other friends were excited about getting pregnant. Then I forgot how much I questioned myself. Life went on.

    I do not kid myself. I joke with dearie that if we had babies, the baby would have dark brown large eyes (his are blue), light-dark brown hair…just like some of my half-nieces and nephews. But no, I don’t need to prove what will become..I just enjoy my nieces and nephews.

    Free @55 yrs. My partner is 70 yrs. No way, no babies. That’s enough.

  16. Great Post! I’m so glad I found your blog. Please come by and check out ours when you have chance http://strangeworldwithdoctormortschnub.com/ . My husband writes it, and I edit and post it up…it might be good for a chuckle. My husband Anthony and and I are not twenty-something’s….that is long gone for us. So I speak from experience, we have 3 kids that have most certainly inherited our weird and chemically alterned genes…2 adults size ones and one high schooler. They are so not normal…but for heaven’s sake, who wants a “normal” kid anyway? They make us laugh, they have mind’s of their own, they march to the beat of their own drummers..it’s as it should be. There’s no perfect parent and certainly no perfect recipe of food, books and child rearing technique’s that will make your kids well adjusted (what ever the hell that means right?). If you decide to have kids in the future you will do just fine and if you don’t you will do just fine.

    -Michelle Cortez (the brain behind the brain behind Dr. Mortimer Schnub)

  17. I feel sorry for 1) kids whose parents go crazy because OMG they’ve had junk food once and now they’re sure to become caricatural Walmart-going soda-drinking cholesterol-ridden fatties, and 2) people who cannot conceive life can have any meaning or value without having kids.

    Loved your post 🙂 thumbs up for your sense of humour!

  18. HOW did I not read this blog sooner? I read your sewing blog. I find every post in the “Confederacy” making me laugh and me going “yes, yes! exACTLY!!!” .
    p.s. I ate mcNuggets after a really long day. I’m not sorry.

  19. Kids will eat dirt, crayons and, occasionally, a vegetable. So, what’s so bad about chicken nuggets? There’s probably some accidental nutrition in there.

    A small, minor, probably insignificant point: reflection might not be the best judge of your character. As in, “I turned out ok.” It’s possible, but maybe, just maybe, you didn’t, and you’re the only person that doesn’t know that :).

  20. I am convinced Facebook exists for parents to be overtly righteous!.
    My kiddos and I are happily convinced MickeyD’s is evil and Burgerville (the great Pacific NW version of fast burgers) is local and organic (lol, omg).
    My advice to new parents is to unplug your facebook.

    And i second those dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets.

    …Found your humor via your sewing blog.

  21. Oh dear! How have I not found this blog before? My oldest is now a 22 year old college grad with honors and working, my second is right on her heels. My sins according to Facebook and some family members are: she & he ate those chicken nuggets and cup cakes, I signed up for meds for childbirth on my very first appt. both times, did not go to “natural” birthing classes ever, did not start a college funds, was over 30 years old, kids are 5 years apart, and the list goes one. I still get crap for this and I still don’t care and would not change most things (certainly not the above). I loved my life before, with, and after kids. Dino nuggets are the best.

  22. I am a little late to the party. We were married just over 5 years when we had our son. We were almost to the point of deciding that we shouldn’t when nature intervened. Now I am mother to a miniature Sheldon Cooper. The week after we brought him home, my hubby and I cried ourselves to sleep mourning our old life. No one ever admits to this, but it happens…a lot. Despite eating chicken nuggets, cupcakes, and GASP! high fructose corn syrup I think my kid is great. He is off the charts smart, and full of wonderful quirks and weirdisms. The fact that you don’t care about the chicken nuggets and cupcakes is exactly what will make you a great mom IF you and the Professor decide have kids. BTW – we are one and done, and we now get the why don’t you have another? It’s so unfair to him not to give him a sibling. And my favorite…you will get baby fever when he is a teenager and it will be too late.

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