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Confessions of an Anti-Mom

Milk Bones, business trips, sleepy snuggles: a child-weary woman tells all.

Dave Whamond

By Susan Caba

I am not, I guess, a natural-born mother. This became apparent as soon as my unborn son began to shift and kick midway through my pregnancy.

It was a moment that, according to the mythology of motherhood, should have sent me into rapturous contemplation of the life unfolding within mine. I, however, immediately thought of the Alien movies, in which insectlike monsters deposit their larvae into unwitting human victims. At the end of gestation, the creatures shed their hosts' bodies in a horrific ripping process. At best, I felt like a bottle in which a rat was scrabbling to get free.

Childbirth? It was hell, but I had a mantra, which I just kept chanting until it worked: "I want my epidural. I want my epidural."

And when the doctor finally held my newborn aloft, my first words were, "He's a conehead!" Apparently, the delivery trip through a narrow canal had been no picnic for him, either. Thank God, his skull quickly assumed a normal shape; I was afraid he would be doomed to a life of wearing knit caps.

No, I did not instantly bond with my baby. I didn't have the feeling experienced by a friend who told me that, at the moment of her own son's birth, "I looked into his eyes and he looked into mine, and we knew everything there was to know about each other."

I coped, though, and gained some valuable insights. The sound of a vacuum cleaner, for example, is wonderful white noise that put my infant to sleep almost against his will. Since I don't vacuum much, I made a 45-minute tape, which was also handy for traveling. I'm thinking of selling it online.

Here's another tip. Large-dog Milk Bones, I've learned, make terrific teething cookies. They're nontoxic, they don't melt into unspeakable goo when mixed with saliva, and the dog can be counted on to pick up strays left around the house.

Oh, sure, motherhood has its rewards. There is no more sensual pleasure than an early-morning snuggle with my sleepy son, his silky, sweet-smelling hair tucked under my chin, his chilly feet warming against my knees. And the look on his face the first time he caught a fly ball in a baseball game was worth more than any gift I've received.

It's not that parenthood is overrated. It's just so relentless. One day he wants breakfast, lunch and dinner. Next day, same thing. There's play time, too, plus a custom version of "The Three Little Pigs" every night before he goes to sleep -- and that's after the two stories read from books.

I have a confession. At my age, I don't like playing trains anymore, or swordfighting with sticks, or catching lightning bugs, or watching caterpillars turn into moths in a jar on the kitchen counter. I'm 45, with the figure of a Mesopotamian fertility fetish; I look silly chasing lightning bugs. And besides, they feel funny crawling up my fingers.

I'm told the pressure only gets worse as kids get older. I hear horror stories every day about unending rounds of Little League, soccer, school plays and last-minute trips for birthday party gifts at Zany Brainy. I've made plans to bring up my son as a complete computer nerd.

Call me the anti-mom, but I think the only sane way to raise kids is shared custody. Since I live with my husband, and we have no plans to separate, I'm looking for a co-parent with a separate household and room for an extra child every other weekend.

Barring divorce, I seek solitude and guilty pleasure in business trips. My hotel nights away are spent devouring any novel that doesn't involve Captain Underpants or the Stinky Cheese Man.

For my son, now 8, I plan lots of two-week trips to Grandma's house in Southern California. He hunts lizards there, visits the zoo, takes swimming lessons and eats tons of jellybeans, to the exclusion of almost any other nourishment. Sending him to Grandma's, I proclaim, is a sacrifice for me but a treat for him.

I left him there recently, in fact. As he waved good-bye and I sheepishly prepared to bolt, he looked into my eyes and I looked into his. At that moment, I had the feeling we knew everything there was to know about each other.

Susan Caba, a 1996-97 Knight fellow in journalism at Stanford, is a former newspaper reporter now freelancing and writing fiction in St. Louis.

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