from Thomas Hobbes (1588–) Works Motherhood

Alison Winch

1. Generation

it takes a man to generate a man – Aristotle

Hobbes considers the species reproducing itself through his cunt.
He considers a horse chestnut tree in late April:

lamblit green pushing against its own brown ability to reason –
spineless pre-foliage anxious to make more of itself.

He considers loins; jet-lagged adrenaline, their wanting to wank.
And mantra of thoughts – make a doctor, or a teacher, no, an entrepreneur.

Hobbes knows it is capitalism restocking its labour market
but he fantasises: chubby thigh-rolls, ammonia-sweet nappy.

He asks: should I procreate? And hears
TICK TICK TICK TICK of the human race becoming extinct.

Hobbes considers his passions and the nation’s childcare provision.
He ponders unknown outcomes and risk

and the individual’s natural state of fear, competition and violence:
every man is enemy to every man; two bodies cannot exist in the same place.

Children? It’s a no-brainer!
The year zooms inevitably into May and the leaves of the horse chestnuts exult.

2. Labour

Back when there were only men, Hobbes’s jerkin and slashed sleeves were scrubbed by. His commode lined as it was with the pages of Descartes and Newton was emptied by. The parmesan cheese – he remembers the cheese – fritters and pickled cucumbers were prepared by. And the pomanders. No matter, he wrote Leviathan, made up some stuff about the state of nature in order to pretend that he’d never been given birth to, and was genius.

Hobbes and his vital blood board the 29 bus. He makes a covenant with its passengers: I will clear up my baby’s puke and smooshed banana, I will shush screaming if you choose not to call social services. I will parent another humanoid, but so as not to make social reproduction too much like it’s everyone’s business. Then he gathers convention around him like
a Batman cloak.

Baby is barbaric; all body and Id-impulse. It’s like the sex Hobbes would like to have if he wasn’t so postnatal and scared.

North London inclines and plateaus as the tempers of homes blurt into roses.

He doesn’t yell, I’m not wiping the seats out of maternal love. If he did they might lock him up.

The passengers are vexed by the din and fluids but also have a vague recognition that it has something to do with the future: people hoovering the streets at 5 a.m.; getting their arses cleaned.

Hobbes listens to a podcast on mummy wummies. Week 3: The Torture of Sleep Deprivation. The voice tells stories of psychosis, suicide, infanticide. Hobbes sobs.

3. Regret

Hobbes’s animal blood is behaving badly. The journalist asks if Hobbes regrets having a child for a feature she’s writing on mothers who regret having children. He starts to answer but then bursts a raspberry and extrudes towards the 29, the buggy an SUV grille guard.

His child exists. To regret this would be to wish… He can’t say it aloud.

Once he’s hung up his broad-brimmed hat and combed his wide moustache, he cringes into a foetal position on the kitchen floor by the leaking bin. Once he’s hung up his broad-brimmed hat and combed his wide moustache, he cringes into a foetal position on the kitchen floor by the leaking bin. Outside a yellow scream of laburnum.

Hobbes pumps out several centuries of housewife tears and stills the daily affirmation – I am a good enough mother – that motions his day. Then he reaches into his body for that substance: regret, and demands, what kind of thing is this?

Mainly, he regrets his rationalisation of those uncollapsed Is suspiciously strolling about in uncollapsed time – his big philosophical break!

And saying that that the sun is like any pump – a human heart for example – pushing out matter.

But to the journalist he had exploded: why don’t you report the closure of Sure Start Centres, NHS cuts, cost of everything? Why shrink that to a mummy feeling? And! This moment is felt by a person quite different from that moment.

She looked disbelieving, aren’t you one of the founding fathers of individualism? And then she turned away bored, realising that fathers regretting begetting children is not the thrill.