Having Kids Will Turn Your Favorite Dystopian Literature Into Your Worst Nightmare Fuel

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worried woman reading bookYou know what’s awesome? Zombies are awesome. Or, zombies were awesome – back before I had kids. Now when I take one of my favorite bone-chillingly dystopian books off the shelf, I can’t seem to get more than a few pages in before putting it back on the shelf. World War Z? Y: The Last Man? I used to love that stuff, but now it makes me look forward to my eight thousandth reading of Fox in Socks instead.

Things like Hunger Games or Divergent don’t bother me as much (except for how much of train wreck the latter Divergent books turned out to be, but that’s another issue entirely). The kids-killing-kids parts of both trilogies do make me more anxious now than they used to, but I can power through. Really it’s the end-of-the-world stuff that gives me an unshakeable case of the heebie-jeebies. Zombies! Plagues! Man-made natural disaster! It’s as if having kids turned off the piece of my brain that knew how to say, “Chill out, lady, you know this isn’t real, right?”

I fully expected parenthood to turn me into a slobbery, bawling mess when reading The Fault in Our Stars. (Why? Why did I read a book about kids with cancer while eight months pregnant?) But am I the only mom out there who starts assembling over-elaborate post-apocalyptic escape scenarios in her head while reading trying to read The Road? Or tries to assess the relative safety of her basement as an end-of-the-world survival bunker in case of emergency? How long can a family of four live off of a Costco-sized bag of dried couscous, a box of powdered sugar, seven tins of canned mushrooms, and some antique homemade pickles, anyway?

Maybe this is just a good excuse to start diversifying my reading interests outside of the science-fiction and fantasy shelves, where I’ve lingered for most of my life so far. Or maybe I should keep trying to read dystopian literature, even if I wind up failing – it’s probably a better outlet for anxiety than most others I could come up with. Plus, the prospect of the end of the world puts day-to-day worries in stark contrast. It’s okay that the kids smeared Fig Newtons on the living room wall – at least they’re not in danger from some kind of alien super-bacteria! And who cares about that enormous pile of laundry? Not me, when I can be glad it’s only laundry lurking in my basement and not a slavering zombie horde.

Hopefully I’ll be able to sink my teeth back into zombies and post-apocalyptic wastelands in a few years, when my kids are out of the ‘helpless sack of potatoes’ stage of life. For now at least, there’s plenty of Strega Nona and Shel Silverstein poems to read – the end of the world is just going to have to wait.

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