You Should Get a Cat {or Why I Shouldn’t Be a Mother}

I‘ll admit it. I’m a sucker for online quizzes. “Which Disney Princess Are You?” — “What City Should You Live In?” — “Which Hogwarts House Would the Sorting Hat Put You In?”

I don’t know what it is about them. Maybe I’m just egocentric and I like answering questions about myself? I hope not. Actually, I think it has more to do with me testing the test. I like to see what kinds of questions they’ll ask. Will they be obvious to the point where I can skew the result simply by plugging in the answer I know the test writer was looking for? Will they just be silly? Or will they be probing enough that the results are, in fact, scarily accurate?

So, the other day, I took this quiz: “How Many Children Should You Have?”

My friend posted it on Facebook. It told her she should have 11 children. I couldn’t resist. So far, she’s only on her second kid. I’ve got four! I figure if she got 11, I should wind up with 22, right? Wrong.

This is the result I got. And I quote.

You should get a cat. Trust us, you should not reproduce.

Well, shucks. (And sorry, quiz writers, but too late x 4!!! Booyah.)

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Honestly, I was a little surprised by the result, but mostly I laughed about it. I mean, it’s true. I should have a cat. I do have a cat. I have a cat because I think a dog is too much work. (Is that horrible?) In Seattle, this is tantamount to saying I like clubbing baby seals with mutilated elephant trunks for kicks. Seattlites love and I mean luuuuuurve their dogs. (Sorry, Seattlites. I’m just keeping it real.)

Now, if this is how I feel about dogs, what does it say regarding my suitability to produce and care for children? You see where the quiz writers were going with this, right?

The truth is, by their standards, I’m not just not “mom material.” I don’t like carrying 20-30 lb. weights around all day. I don’t do well on starvation rations of sleep. And, as one quiz question put it, I have only two arms and am not, in fact, an octopus.

But humorous as the quiz was, and as easily as I could have dismissed it, it got me thinking: What qualities do you need to be a good parent?


According to the quiz, you need to enjoy hard labor, drudgery, discomfort, vomit-spattered clothes, and driving an enviably fashionable and yet functional frumpy minivan. That’s it! If you answered yes to any and all of these, you win the chance to be deemed worthy of reproduction!

If you answered no, don’t worry. You’re just like the rest of us. (Except maybe my friend who got that 11 kid rating.)

The truth is, you don’t have to be a “kid person” or in any way extraordinary (like a mutant octopus-woman with an extra set of eyes in the back of her head) to have children. You don’t need to excel at handicrafts or relish changing diapers. You don’t have to like wearing yoga pants and ponytails every day of the week (although, if that’s your thing, that’s cool).

You like a good political debate with someone of your own intellectual capacity? Cool! You don’t enjoy listening to Raffi on repeat for 12 hours straight? Me neither! You actually prefer having at least one straight hour a day where no person, art supply, toy, bodily fluid or other ooey-gooey substance is touching your body without your permission? Join the club!

You don’t need to be perfect parent material (whatever that is) to be open to life and let God work wonders. Need proof? Look right here. I’m your case in point.

I’m lazy. I’m overly sensitive, and I don’t like being touched when I’m stressed out. Speaking of which, I get stressed out. A lot. I’m easily stressed. I’m not very aware of what’s going on around me (which is why I never take my children to a playground that has open water or is located near a road.) I like to sleep. Also a lot. I like quiet. I like calm. I derive not only a great deal of pleasure but also a large portion of my sanity from having a clean house. I don’t like playing peek-a-boo for more than 60 seconds at a time. I’ll admit, I enjoy the occasional Sandra Boynton book, but not the five hundred and seventy-first time.

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I’m not supermom. I wasn’t born good at this stuff. (Though I like to think I’m getting better with each passing year and each new child.) There are plenty of things I do in a day that I don’t particularly enjoy. So does everyone. That’s life. There are lots more things that I do enjoy, and I write plenty of posts and take boatloads of pretty pictures of that stuff, but that’s not what I’m talking about right now. Right now, I’m admitting that this mom thing isn’t only for the “kid people.”

We seem to have forgotten that having kids isn’t a “choice” reserved only for the gifted, the martyrs, or the insane. Parenthood is grace. It’s an undeserved gift, but too many times, we are so preoccupied worrying about whether the gift is our “thing” or whether we’re “ready” for it that we forgot it’s a gift at all. We’re like Sally Brown in A Charlie Brown Christmas, so fixated on getting exactly what we want out of life that we give up on the gift thing all together: “Just send money.”

Can I tell you something? If I planned my life just the way I wanted it, I would be living in New York City right now. I’d be a {struggling} actress. In all likelihood, I would be single. I definitely wouldn’t be hitting up Mass every Sunday, and I’m not sure I’d think too much about God, except when things inevitably get tough. I’d think about Him a little then. I would have taken the quiz’s advice. I’d own a cat (not a dog, as previously discussed). I would not be a mother.

Can I tell you something else? I am so, so, so infinitely, immeasurably, awestruck-stupid glad that God had other plans for me.

I adore my husband. I love my children to the ends of the earth and beyond. I love Seattle, and I love being a homemaker and a homeschooler and a sometimes-writer. And don’t even get me started on where I’d be without this amazing God who conceived of crazy, beautiful plans for me and delights in turning my life on it’s head.

Don’t get me wrong: it’s hard. Because I’m not naturally good at most of the things I’m called to do. Selflessness, generosity, forgiveness, humility, hard work, discipline…? These are not virtues I was born with. Yet every day, I’m asked to dole them out in spades. I’m asked to be these things that I am not, that I would not have chosen on my own. And can I tell you something?

I am better–infinitely, immeasurably, awestruck-stupid better–because of my “choice” to let God take control and work wonders in this less-than-perfect woman.

I’m not saying that every woman is called to motherhood. Or marriage. Or any particular walk of life.

I’m not saying that a woman who is not a mother, whether by choice or circumstance, is somehow lacking. Quite the opposite. There is no list of skills that makes one worthy or unworthy of this calling. In fact, it’s not about being worthy–it’s about joyfully following the One who is.

I am saying that every single woman is known and loved by a God who has awesome, hand-crafted, so-far-from-cookie-cutter-it’s-unbelievable plans for her. And it’s by living into those plans, no matter how insanely different they might look from the ones we started out with, that we will find our truest peace, joy, and purpose.

I’m saying that if motherhood is in those plans, don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be anything specific or spectacular to do this and do it well. You just have to accept the gift with open hands and a willingness to learn and be led by the One who gave it to you.

4 comments

  1. Marie says:

    This is beautiful. Thank you! As a first-time mom to a 6-month-old, I oftentimes feel like I have to be really good at all the mommy skills in order to be a good mom. This is a good reminder that we’re all just doing our best.

  2. Samantha says:

    Beautifully said, Bethany. I really liked these lines: “Don’t get me wrong: it’s hard. Because I’m not naturally good at most of the things I’m called to do. Selflessness, generosity, forgiveness, humility, hard work, discipline…? These are not virtues I was born with. Yet every day, I’m asked to dole them out in spades. I’m asked to be these things that I am not, that I would not have chosen on my own. And can I tell you something?
    I am better–infinitely, immeasurably, awestruck-stupid better–because of my “choice” to let God take control and work wonders in this less-than-perfect woman.
    There is no list of skills that makes one worthy or unworthy of this calling. In fact, it’s not about being worthy–it’s about joyfully following the One who is.”

    Thanks for sharing what’s on your heart. I will share this with one friend who might take heart from your words this week.

    By the way, I came here via a link in a post in Sonlight’s “The Beam” email.

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