As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to join a cult.
Wait, no. I’ve always been fascinated by cults.
From Jonestown to Hale-Bopp, from the Manson Family to Scientology, the psychology of those kinds of groups – and the people who fall prey to them – has interested me.
But I never thought I’d join one myself. Then I had a kid.
As soon as my first child was born, I became a member of the universal parenting collective.
Make no mistake about it, parenthood is a cult. Don’t even try to pretend it isn’t.
If you insist, here is a list of characteristics that define a cult:
- The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader – Sorry, we have to go, it’s his nap time.
- Mind-altering practices are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s) – What are sleep deprivation and constant screaming if not mind-altering practices?
- The group is elitist, claiming a special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members – Sanctimommies, anyone? Parenting one-upman-ship, anyone? A.P.P. anyone?
- The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society – We think we’re the best, but we’re really the worst.
- The leadership induces feelings of shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members. – Oh, you co-sleep? You’re still breastfeeding? You circumsized him?!
- Subservience to the leader or group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before joining the group – Half the reason I started this blog was to prevent this from happening to me., to prevent myself from losing my identity and forgetting my friends. But it happens to all of us, to some degree, at least at first. You have to fight it! You need to be deprogrammed!
- The group is preoccupied with bringing in new members – “Have you started trying yet?” “When are you gonna pull the goalie?” You’re not getting any younger!” ONE OF US! ONE OF US!
- The group is preoccupied with making money – If only because kids drain it all!
- Members are expected to devote inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities – Oh my god, the birthday parties. The play-dates. The Mommy and Me groups. The parenting blogs. IT NEVER ENDS.
- Members are encouraged or required to live and/or socialize only with other group members – How many non-parent friends do you have? Be honest.
- The most loyal members (the true believers) believe there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group – The difference is that for parents, there IS no way to leave. Believe me, I’ve tried!
Sound familiar? Of course it does. Every single one of those things applies to parenting!
It breaks you down, it isolates you, it forces you to engage in bizarre new rituals (swaddling, bedtime, peekaboo) and adopt strange new terminology (“potty,” “binky,” baby talk). It drains your finances, makes you unrecognizable to friends and family, and fundamentally alters your priorities, all while limiting your interaction with anyone outside the cult and putting you in thrall to people who control your every thought and action.
There is no getting around it: Parenthood is a cult, and you’re a member.
Don’t feel bad. There are millions of us. And don’t fight it, just drink the Kool-Aid. (It was actually Flavor Aid, FYI.)
After all, resistance is futile.