I thought getting a kitten would keep me company. I already have a cat who is still only young but old enough to want to sleep all day. The idea of the kitten was that our cat could have someone to play with while we were at work. Except that I was not at work owing to unexpected redundancy so voila! I had the time to look after and nurture a kitten whilst looking for jobs.
So here we are. Peanut and I. Or Winston and I. Or Winslow and I. Still not sure about the name. And whilst his prancing antics and lamb-like frolicking is a joy to watch, the constant attack on my hands as I type this, the incessant desire he has to chew on my laptop charger cable (instead of the perfectly good ball of wool I keep throwing at him) is getting rather trying. And it’s Day 1.
I expect the same is felt with children. You think about the way the little one will grab your finger in its tiny grip. The adoring look of complete trust and faith. The ‘I wuv you’ moments as they clamber up onto your lap. No one really mentions the inane whining or the constant demand for attention, as in not-for-one-second-can-you-get-a-tiny-moment-to-think. Or the deviousness of a five year old girl hitting her little brother around the head and then telling you, sweetly and genuinely concerned, that he fell over. The constant demand for attention. It is as if it is something that is shameful to be discussed, as if children were somehow exempt from the evil and bad nature of humans. As if they were some other form of life entirely and should only be praised. And for what? Being so small?
Not that I know this firsthand of course. Cats are not my replacement children as older women (and certain annoying contemporaries) love to tell me. I choose cats. They have just the right amount of dependency and cuteness that I crave. And they will do just fine until I can get a dog. No, it’s not my experience of children but my sister’s.
She looks fabulous at all times. She has three kids under five and still manages to maintain a toned, size 8 body, highlighted roots and a glowing complexion which astounds me every time. She has not slept in five years but I am the one who looks like I am suffering from domestic abuse: purple, swollen bags, translucent white skin, puckered forehead. ( I am also the one who looks like I’m still carrying baby weight. And I am ten years younger.) But despite her glamour, she is exhausted. She is drained and without patience or hope that this ongoing battle that she relives every day will ever end. I tell her it will get easier, that millions of mothers do it every day, that she is not alone. She looks at me like I am deluded. Frankly, it does not matter. When you feel like shit, knowing that other people are feeling like shit too is just annoying.
And she’s a stay-at-home mum with a wealthy husband. She has help. She has a cleaner. Most mothers can’t afford those luxuries and most can’t afford not to work. Can’t afford in the financial sense but also in the sense that their sanity is at risk if they stop working. The levels of exhaustion in those two scenarios literally blows my mind. I can’t help but conclude that having children is a penance, a sentence that has been socially accepted to be handed down to women, generation by generation. A constant reminder that Woman screwed up and ate the apple.
That’s why I’m sticking with cats. For now.