I’m scared of being a parent.
In fact, I’m terrified of being a parent.
Coming from a society that tells you to bite your teeth and endure even when the world is burning around you – you’d be scared to procreate and make someone like you. Growing up, I had an alright childhood – we weren’t very rich nor were we very poor and even if we couldn’t afford the privileged comforts most kids had, we were satisfied.
Looking back at times when things were simpler, I always feel conflicted and upset – I enjoyed having cheap ice cream and one dirham treats, I didn’t mind that most of the clothes I wore were under the budget of fifty dirhams. I liked watching cheap DVD rentals in the comfort of my house because we couldn’t afford to go to the cinema at times.
But every time I look at my cousin who can afford tennis lessons, swimming lessons, music lessons and has an iPhone – I feel envious and frankly sad.
It’s not that I consciously resent my family for not being able to afford materialistic things because that would sound selfish, at this point. My mother would always justify us not going for extracurricular activities by saying that we never showed “an active interest in having hobbies” and that because we didn’t study as well, we weren’t rewarded with those
despite us not being able to afford them. At least, that’s the narrative she likes to stick to whenever confronted (my siblings and I, but mostly my sister and I) about those experiences we ended up missing out on.
Which is why I’m going to write down this thought again – I’m scared of being a parent.
I learnt very early in life to grin and bear with your problems, no matter how big or small. I was considered a difficult problem child – one prone to crying a lot and getting into trouble. My parents never knew quite what to do with me because I was either really maddening or really neurotic. Whether the trouble I got into was purely for attention or just a case of bad timing, I will never know. But what I knew was that I was always invisible.
My parents had assigned roles for all of us – I was their second daughter who was supposed to be a son. I was supposed to be the “doctor”, the one who’d put seven years of her life in med school and bring home awards. I ended up being the kid who went to college because we sold our car and I got in on a scholarship.
My father worked in Oman while my mother worked in Chennai which ended up with me being raised by my grandparents. I liked my childhood, at least what I could remember from then but I hated my elementary and middle schooling years.
I didn’t end up making actual friends till sixth grade and I never knew that most of my classmates used to gossip about me till later in life. I was a doormat who people stamped on and took advantage of, my kindness and empathy was taken for granted or trampled on.
I had teachers who often carried grudges and ended up making my middle school and high school experiences hell. Case in point, my former high school teacher ended up calling my mother to inform her about a really cringe-worthy isolated incident (my then close friend needed to call her ex-boyfriend on my cellphone who was in Bangladesh when an earthquake happened) which resulted in me getting hammered within an inch of my life (you go, Asian parents with your hangers and slippers) and ended up missing my last class party before I changed schools. Another teacher of mine treated me like I was dumb because I couldn’t read and had trouble concentrating in class (mind you, I was in first grade and I still don’t know whether I had a learning disability, my mother to this day maintains that I was lazy, but that’s another story for another time), so instead of my teacher taking an actual interest in the said “stupid child” and helping her out – she ended up telling my father “that I was too stupid for a normal school” and would be better off in a special school.
The other two banes of my existence in school was Maths and P.E – being a fat kid was really the actual worst in an all girls school. My P.E teachers used to pass abusive comments about how lazy I was and when I started going to the gym in high school, I got lectured by a P.E teacher from school about how I need to lose weight by running as opposed to wasting my parents money by going to a gym. Mind you, whenever I saw her while coming back from the gym, I actually used to cross roads and take the long way back home. Nothing however, will top the anxiety attack I had in twelfth grade over an internal Economics paper that had me eating Panadol pills in hopes of passing away in my sleep instead of writing the paper (I’m not even going to go into when I started self-harming and the fall out of that).
The point of sharing all of this is just the awful realization that I’ve had terrible experiences growing up and I’m honestly surprised that I have survived this long. I’ve been emotionally and mentally screwed over and hurt by so many people, that I’m at this stage where I’m like, “Wow, if I don’t end up going Sylvia Plath. I’m going to be so impressed.”
I’m not going to pretend that I had a cookie cutter childhood and a great adolescence; I have issues that I still struggle with and it took me a very long time to come to terms with being myself. Those issues still put wrenches in plans whenever I contemplate starting afresh.
I am my own worst enemy. Which is why I’m terrified of having children.
A few weeks ago, me and my brother were talking about how emotionally screwed up the two of us are and I was venting to him how I’m scared I am about my future and prospects. I’m worried because I have so many variables stacked against me and sometimes, it feels like I’m existing rather than living because of that fear.
While I am happy with the way my career is progressing and I honestly feel like that’s the only part of my life that I can control. I’m anxious about the future because I see all my friends moving on in life (Masters degrees, a new job in a new country, marriage, motherhood).
I would hate to be a parent who ruins your child because of all the awful experiences you’ve had. I know that people constantly say that you are not your experiences and that doesn’t define you but I always wonder how do you move on from so much of pain and heartbreak?
How do you grow up and create a future when you know that the odds are firmly stacked against you? Especially when you know that when push comes to shove, you can fall like a house of cards and unravel.
That terrifies me.
I’m scared of being a parent that can’t give my child a comfortable life, I’m scared of being a parent that will make my child clam up and live in her room as opposed to having an actual relationship with me. I’m scared of being the parent who is emotionally distant and would rather dwell on things that don’t matter like a celebrity’s life or following a sports channel as opposed to knowing what is going on in my child’s life. I’m scared of scarring my child with cruel words that will be carved into her heart and when she’s at her lowest, she will remember it. I’m scared of being a parent who may one day discover a dead body instead of a happy and warm one in the room because I never saw the signs.
Mostly, I’m scared of making my children resent me and I’m scared of failing them.