Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The best policy

One of my closest friends claims to be childfree. Her boyfriend of three years fathered a child as a teenager and had a terrible experience – as I understand it, the parents of the girl refused to let him be a part of the child’s life, and now he’s got a 10-year-old who doesn’t know him. The family ignores his existence, though he notifies them every time he moves in case they or the child wants to find him. It’s a crappy situation, though. He’s also a bit of a playboy, a character trait that I don’t appreciate in him because it’s not at all what my friend needs, even though I consider him a dear friend as well. He could be a great boyfriend… to someone else. Someone who doesn’t want kids and is open to an open or poly relationship.

So anyway, she claims to be childfree. Career-centered in a high-powered job, making money that my husband and I will likely never see, she claims she doesn’t care about kids and would rather a life without them. But I could tell her heart wasn’t in her words. I recently brought it up to a mutual friend who confirmed my suspicions.

She desperately wants a baby. She desperately wants to get married. But she’s invested so much time, money, and emotion in this relationship that she doesn’t know what to do. She’s 33 and at a crossroads where she needs to decide what she wants from life, because her career as it is today and raising a child as she wants to are mutually exclusive.

I wonder at times why she isn’t honest with me. Because I can’t relate? I suppose. Because my husband and her boyfriend have talked about getting vasectomies at the same time and having a big party? Maybe. But mostly I think it’s because she’s trying to convince herself.

It’s not that she doesn’t find a childfree life unappealing. She has the money to travel, the career that takes her to the most amazing places. She loves the city life and knows that the white picket fence that she dreams about doesn’t really suit her personality, and yet she wants it so badly sometimes.

But she’s stuck with this guy, this guy with a great heart who’s just so not right for her and who, at times, I think feels as trapped as she does in the relationship.

I want to talk to her about it, but I don’t know what to say. I want to tell her I can tell she’s not childfree in her heart, that maybe she needs to take some time to decide if it’s just biology having its way with her or if she really does want to slow her life down and raise a child. She deserves someone who’s better for her than who she’s got now, someone who will give her more than “If you want me to marry you I’ll marry you.” He loves her dearly and I don’t doubt that, but they won’t be happy. If he gets this vasectomy I know she’ll resent him for it. I want her to know that it’s okay to want a baby, and to want more.

Ultimately, she's in control of her own fate and needs to be honest with her boyfriend. Sometimes I wonder if she just needs somebody to confirm that it's okay to be conflicted about his vasectomy, and that if she really wants to have biological children with him, then she needs to speak up now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Risks and Reward

I am really proud of my best friend. She spent years being paranoid about what others thought of her, of whether her actions befit a “good mom”, and no amount of “hip mama” talk could break her out of it. A good mom doesn’t go to clubs and dance and stay out ‘til 2am even though the kids are safe and sound at grandma’s house. A good mom doesn’t have a funky haircut or *gasp* hot pink streaks in her hair – what would the other moms at the day care think? These thoughts plagued her, a former goth, and I watched parts of her change dramatically.

Oh, sure, part of it is growing up. At 30 I’m more selective of what I wear on a day-to-day basis than I was at 22, I go with clip-in streaks and tie-on hair falls that can be removed for day at the office, but I’m far from grown up. It wasn’t so much that she changed, though. It was that she wanted to do funky things with her hair, to go out with us to the club, to wear the t-shirts with the double entendres. But her refrain remained “I’m a mom now”.

Her sons are now 5 and 2, she’s now 32, and she just took an amazing risk to do something she’s talked about for years: she just joined a roller derby league. This has been a dream of hers as long as I’ve known her, long before the resurgence of the sport. She thought about derby names – the dirtier, the meaner the better – and she went about designing her derby image. She’s buying the good skates and the good pads and going out there to kick some ass. And while the fear of injury is there—a teammate of a good friend of mine became paralyzed after an accident in Chicago, and other girls have suffered horrific breaks—she’s actually recognizing that while she’s far more likely to seriously injure herself doing derby than in her day-to-day life as a stay-at-home mom, serious injuries in the sport are actually not that common. It’s a risk that’s worth taking.

Additionally, she’s going to be doing a Polar Bear Plunge for the Special Olympics, another thing she always wanted to do (jump into a freezing river for charity) that is unbecoming a proper mom. The best part of all this is that she is so much happier than she's been in years now that she's letting go of her fantasy of what a 'proper mom' is and becoming more confident that the best thing she can do for her kids is just be herself.

To celebrate her newly unburied risk-taking spirit I’m donating 100% of profits from my CafePress Childfree Me Store for the month of December (by far my busiest month of the year) to her to pledge for her Polar Bear Plunge. If you ever thought about getting a Childfree t-shirt or coffeemug for you or a friend, the profit’s going to a great cause. (The store link is now fixed)

Thursday, November 29, 2007


A common theme among the comments about my friends’ newborn son and daughter, respectively, is how much the photo and stories of the baby make these women want one of their own. There was once a time where I wished I felt that way, but being comfortable in the fact that I simply do not is a huge development, and I’ve got to say I’m pretty proud of me.

As I’ve watched the most recent of my friends becoming parents, watching photos of their growing bellies, listening to their excitement and concerns, buying gifts and attending showers, I was sort of expecting to come to some big personal crisis. Would my body start to want a baby against my will? Would I start wondering about my legacy, wishing for a baby of my own? I waited and waited, feeling reasonably prepared to deal with the feelings when they arose, knowing that it was biology, animal instinct that would be kicking in.

But nothing happened. Even now I look at babies Ruth and Delilah, Morela and Cullen, and I think… well, virtually nothing. Morela and Cullen are the spitting image of their daddies, Delilah and Ruth undoubtedly their mothers’ daughters. But that’s about it. No pangs in my uterus, no wishing, no wanting, just “heh, cute baby” (or, in the case of one of the children, “yipes, NOT a cute baby”). Babies babies everywhere, and I sit here, the only woman in the room unaffected.

It’s an awesome place to be, because it shows just how far I’ve come, no longer mourning that which makes me different, but embracing it as a part of me that makes me me.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Touching a Nerve

My post regarding my friends' choice to co-sleep with their infant and my complete lack of understanding toward it really seemed to touch a nerve with people——much moreso than any other post of mine, and I find that surprising.

People commented that the post was judgmental, and to that I say "that was the point". I'm not saying they're making the wrong decision, I'm just expressing confusion and a complete lack of understanding for it. The 24/7-ness of parenting is probably my main objection to the idea of being a mother, and co-sleeping, where the child sleeps in the bed with his parents, boggles my mind.

It does so for a couple reasons, but primarily it's invading the space of the bedroom. (Please bear in mind I realize how ridiculous this idea is if you have a child–—that's kind of my point.) The bedroom is a sacred place to us. No television, no distractions. Only a few select things happen there, and my husband and I like it that way. Having a child in the first place is distracting from the relationship, and bringing a child into the bed makes one-on-one intimacy (not the new breed of family intimacy that occurs while bonding with the child) nigh impossible. I find this bizarre.

OBVIOUSLY things change when you bring a baby into the picture. I like things the way they are and would rather they didn't change.

Am I judging the idea of co-sleeping? ABSOLUTELY! I understand why it's beneficial to the child, but on a selfish level I simply don't get it——and it IS a selfish thought. Am I judging my friends on their choice? Yes and no. I think they're going to make whatever decisions they feel work for them. I enjoy exploring my reactions to certain things when I feel so strongly, and this is one of those moments. I am horrified by the idea of it, but I also think that they feel this is the best decision for them——so more power to them!

I'm not planning on making a gazillion posts about the decisions my friends make about parenting and the rightness and wrongness of such decisions, especially as more of them become parents. But when something bothers me as much as the idea of co-sleeping does, I like to get my thoughts out and reflect upon them. Your comments fuel my reflection and I'm thankful for that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Co-Sleeping"? Are you SERIOUS?

My friend and her husband are having a baby. They were supposed to have a baby last Sunday (the 11th) , but she just doesn’t seem to want to be born so they’re inducing on Thanksgiving. In her years of dealing with infertility, my friend has idealized the idea of being a mother, having a child, and I fear she’s in for a rude awakening. From her comments at the baby shower “they can’t possibly poop that much!” or “that will be a snap!” to certain commentary she makes on her blog, I worry that she may be walking blindly into it. I hope she’s just putting on an air of cockiness because if she’s not, the reality of having a baby is going to hit her hard.

One thing that really kind of freaked me out more than their plans to use cloth diapers, make their own baby food and be overall perfect parents 100% of the time with no complaints because raising a kid is not that hard—other moms are just big complainers, is that they don’t have a crib. Yup. No crip. They’re co-sleeping.

Because having a baby isn’t 24/7 enough apparently.

Isn’t it bad enough that having a baby zaps your romantic energy? That you’re already spending every waking moment with the child. Now you’re going to bring that child into your bed? I can’t imagine where one might think this is a good idea. Every mother needs a break from their child. If they don’t take a break once in awhile they’re in danger of losing their own identity outside of “mother” (and many mothers will likely argue that this is something that’s perfectly alright with them). I place a great deal of value on my personal time and space and can’t imagine NEVER being alone. Because that’s the life you doom yourself to if you’re co-sleeping without even the OPTION of putting the baby down without you because you don’t have a crib!

There’s a lot about motherhood’s appeal that eludes me, but this takes it one step further. … I started to type here that “there are elements of motherhood that are appealing”, but there really aren’t to me. Sure, having a 5-year-old might be kind of cool once in awhile, but not 24/7, but babies? Everyone else can keep their babies because I don’t want one. And while babies themselves and the inherent commitment is terrifying enough, absolutely nothing about a co-sleeping arrangement sounds appealing to me. It sounds downright scary.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Hate" Is a Very Strong Word

As a childfree woman in my childbearing prime (eew...I hate the word "childbearing"), the question often arises about whether I hate children. I’ve done a lot of soul-searching on this topic, and the best response I can come up with is “hate is a very strong word”, and I’ll attempt to explain why.

There are some children I adore. And there are many, many times that I want to take these children, who I love completely, and shut them in a room so they stop bothering me. I have a low tolerance for being annoyed—a favorite phrase in our house is “you’re not being annoying, I’m just being annoyed”, something I say to my husband when I ask him to stop, say, humming along to a song or tapping his fingers against the table in a way that bothers me. It’s not his fault and I acknowledge that, but I am unsettled by it just the same.

This is a character flaw I know well, and it makes me sad that I have such a low tolerance for simple behaviors that I decide are annoying, but there it is. It also doesn’t take much for that annoyance to evolve into resentment, even with my own husband at times. It is among the biggest reasons that I cannot be a mother. If I’m capable of being so irritated with nieces and nephews—whom I love completely—that I want to smother them with a pillow just to get some peace and quiet, that I want to scream at them “No I DON’T want to see something cool, I’m BUSY!”, how could that possibly change magically when having my own kids? Parents love to say “it’s different when they’re your own”, but I don’t buy it. Not for a second.

The evidence is everywhere, really. It’s a simple fact: parents get annoyed by their kids. They get angry. They get furious. But for me, it’s when that annoyance turns to resentment that bothers me.

This is all avoiding the question of whether I hate kids. I think I can honestly say I don’t much like kids. I don’t like that babies require constant attention to the exclusion of all else. I don’t like that toddlers are destructively curious and incessant talkers. I don’t like how preschoolers ask constant questions and are always fighting for attention. I don’t like how schoolchildren are mean to each other and are horribly materialistic just because TV tells them to be. I don’t like the selfishness of “kids these days”, thinking they deserve whatever they want because they’re the most special thing on the planet. I love my nieces and nephews, but sometimes I really don’t like them, just like there are moments when I don’t like my husband very much.

I’ve seen many parents struggle with this paradox, of loving their kids, of knowing they’re supposed to love their kids, but feeling like horrible people if they just want to give the kid a tranquilizer for a moment’s peace and quiet. I think parents who realize it’s okay to not like your child once in awhile are the ones who make the best moms and dads. But for so many it’s a constant struggle, and I know that would be my problem. I’d resent the child for needing me so much, I’d get irritated at their little habits, I’d get pissed off because I couldn’t listen to my music, watch my movies and television shows, go on my vacations.

People love to tell me what a great mom I’d make, and I’d probably do okay some of the time. But I don’t want to. Because I know myself and I know that my personality is not cut out for motherhood. It’s okay with me, I don’t feel a sense of loss over it. But people who don’t like children and can’t tolerate them doing what they do—the sheer state of being a child necessarily means one is going to annoy the hell out of grown-ups a lot of the time—have no business making babies.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ooooh, shiny!

"My couch smells like shit," my best friend said to me today. "The kids probably spilled milk on it and didn't tell me."

Of course there’s an element of selfishness to my lack of desire for kids. I think everyone should look at the decision to procreate from a selfish level to help understand the reality of what aspects of their life they will be losing if they add a kid to their life. One of my big hang-ups is that I really like my stuff. I love being surrounded by beautiful things. My art glass collection brings me joy. I enjoy lighting candles throughout the house, setting a pretty table. I am proud of my meticulously alphabetized media collection, my beautiful chess set, our office full of blinking lights and expensive technology… all sorts of non-kid-friendly things.

When people with kids come to my house they love to tell me what nice things I have, and a resounding theme is “I wish I could have nice things”, or “it’s so much easier to decorate when you don’t have child safety to think about”. A living room free from bright plastic toys and random kid crap strewn about makes me really happy.

The loss of my pretties would be damaging to me, as would the need to more seriously consider purchases. I don’t want to go into huge debt to be able to have nice things. My husband and I are materialistic, but not to a fault in that we have no credit card debt and continue to have savings as a major part of our budget.

But the thought of my sofa smelling like shit (and my best friend has BEAUTIFUL furniture) makes me really sad. Her beautiful Victorian home is still gorgeous (I’m constantly envious) and she does have beautiful things, but the corner protectors on the coffee table, the scratched up hardwood floors and random cars and toys strewn about the house kind of screamed “mom’s house”.

Of course it’s not all about the stuff and all about the money. This was just on my mind after my conversation with her this morning.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

All About the Benjamins

So yesterday I became a grown-up. I got an American Express card.

I know, it sounds totally ridiculous. My main motivation was so I could buy good tickets to see Wicked the musical – you need an American Express card to buy advance tickets, apparently, but it was also time to see if all the work toward repairing a couple bad years with credit in my early 20s had finally paid off. And apparently it has.

My husband and I had abysmal credit when we met. Lack of credit education and attending major state universities led to us both naively signing up for more credit cards than we needed and getting in over our heads. Luckily I was so bad at it that my debt topped out at about $2000, but the marks it left on my credit report were deep and dark, especially from the car I bought that I couldn’t afford. Someone somewhere put the idea in my head that if I paid each bill every other month (credit cards one month, the car the next), I could make it work. I’m still in awe that I could have been so dumb about it, but there it is, and I was unable to get even the tiniest credit card until about 4 years ago. Ditto with my husband.

Fast forward to today and in four years we’ve been able to clean up our credit. The days of being unable to get a credit card seem far off now that we have almost $20,000 in credit limits. Oh, the damage we could do with that kind of purchasing power...

But here’s the thing. We’ve made the mistake already. We corrected the mistake and learned from it. We never spend more than we can pay off in one, maybe two months, and we pay the cards off in full. When family members have learned that we have no debt, their response is almost inevitably: “Well, you don’t have kids.”

Don’t they see a problem with this? So many people think about “living within their means” and they include credit cards as a part of their means. Sure, the credit cards give us $20,000 that we could go out and spend on stuff. That doesn’t mean we can afford it.

But if we had kids we’d almost certainly be in a position to use those cards to get us by. The home in the good school district, the practical vehicle, the school supplies and clothes, the extracurricular activities—we couldn’t begin to afford that and still save for the future. Retirement? Hell no, not when there’s college tuition to think about! Traveling? Not when you have to pay for another person. And we do okay financially.

Shift focus to a couple we know who’ve just become pregnant. Husband is freaking out because he needs to get a better job. They do okay, but struggle a lot financially because they live in an expensive area and both work fairly low-paying customer service jobs--they never went to college and neither has a real trade. To think that they’d be able to stay in their area after the baby’s born, especially if Mom wants to stay home (or, if she wants to work, she has day care to think about)… it’s just not reasonable. Unless they rely on credit. They already complain about their credit card debt, so what are they going to do when they add this expense to the mix while neither of them are making any more money?

They’re smart people, but having a child right now just seems like such a foolish move for them. But she’s getting older (she’s 36), the window’s closing. They seem to follow the “God doesn’t give you more than you can handle” philosophy, but really, how can they expect to do this? It’s all so impractical that I just can’t wrap my head around it. I’m thrilled that they’re happy—I know they’ve wanted this for awhile but have been waiting for “the right time”, but how this translates into “the right time” is simply beyond me.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hindsight and What-Ifs

M brought up an interesting point-to-ponder in her comment to my last post, about my friend Angie's struggle with her emotions regarding her boyfriend's kids. Would I have felt differently about my husband if he had come with a child?

I honestly don't know. Angie's situation is difficult, I think, because he has always come with this baggage. She knew he was a parent long before they started dating, and that's one reason that they knew each other for over a year before finally getting together. It's colored her impressions of the relationship and the "where is this going" end of it since the beginning.

My husband's ex was raising a son when they were together, and he was a true father figure to the boy. His sourness over the way she left things was exacerbated by the immediate breaking of ties with her kid. Even though he was pretty much the dad for the two years they lived together, he never got to say goodbye (because she was evil and selfish), and I think that's a sore spot that he never talks about. But let's say, for a moment, that this kid was his child, and that he was still in his life. Would I have still been interested?

I can say that it probably would've been something to add in the "con" column of our pro/con list (not the kid, per se, but all the baggage the kid brought into the relationship), but I'm not sure it would've been the dealbreaker. I don't think I could be a custodial parent, but if it meant having him in my life? Knowing what I know now about my husband I'd do it in a heartbeat, much in the same way that I'd take custody of my niece without question if something happened to my brother. However, I doubt I'd have even begun a relationship with him if he had been a custodial parent. A non-custodial parent? That's a big maybe.

As for Angie & her boyfriend? Who knows. After her engagement broke up a year and a half ago she vowed to spend the year abroad that her former fiancé had poo-pooed due to finances. She's been saving up since then and I think it's extremely important for her personal growth that she does it. I also think that her boyfriend will not be able to join her, and this will break her heart. Had they met after this year abroad I think it would be a completely different story, and maybe they'll come back together after her trip. I just think that if this doesn't work for them, it will have a lot more to do about the timing of the relationship than about his kids.

Dealbreakers and Tough Choices

One of my closest friends has met the man of her dreams. Well, he’s got many qualities that the man of her dreams would have. They are totally and completely in love, but she’s still torn about the relationship, primarily due to his two children: a 9-year-old from his first marriage, and a 2-year-old that’s the result of a lying girlfriend who told him she was on birth control because he was such a great father, she wanted him to be the father of her child (there’s anecdotal evidence from friends she has lost by pulling this stunt).

Angie is a fence-sitter with her feet hanging onto the childfree side (she’s sure she doesn’t want children of her own, but thinks someday she might like to adopt or foster kids, though she identifies as childfree), and at first she was open to her boyfriend’s kids. His oldest is well-behaved and pretty cool, very independent and only comes over a couple times a week. His ex makes it very difficult for him to see the baby (though she has no problem taking his child support money). But now, as they look at the past 8 months together and consider the next steps, she’s got serious cold feet.

Angie loves to travel and plans to live abroad for at least year in late 2008, and for a number of reasons, all tied to the kids, it’s not possible for her boyfriend to join her. She’s come to resent the ridiculous amount (nearly her rent payment) that he spends on child support, as well as the time he spends with his son. A busy chef, his hours make it hard for them to spend time together, and the two nights a week he has off are spent with his son, and she’s not feeling up for bonding with him until she really discovers what she wants from the relationship.

She’s in a tough situation. She’s completely in love, but dealing with a serious dealbreaker situation. I don’t envy her position in the slightest, especially since I adore him as well, and seeing them together brings me joy. But their lives are just fundamentally incompatible. He wants to move abroad with her, to have his son visit them over the summer, but she also doesn’t want to spend a month or two living with his 9-year-old. It’s so sad to me that the situation is so difficult.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Keeping Up Appearances...NOT!

I have a request to extend to the parents out there. DO NOT come to a party just to prove that you’re still hip and cool and normal and can hang out with all your kidless friends if you can’t be hip and cool and normal and hang out with all your kidless friends. KTHXBYE.

We have a couple we know through some other friends. In another time I’d have called them friends, but that was before an unfortunate (and hugely petty) altercation not involving us resulted in not really seeing each other for the better part of a year. They are now babified and Mom has completely changed. I do not like her anymore. In fact, I think I actively DISlike her.

Many of my friends have become parents without simultaneously becoming horribly unlikable people. I’d argue that MOST, if not ALL of my parented friends have done so. But this girl is too much.

EXAMPLE: She and her husband do nothing but sit on either side of the baby carrier, which sits on the futon. They do not interact with others. They are there to say “we went to a party this weekend”. Yes, their costumes of Mario, the Princess and a tiny one-up mushroom were clever and adorable. But when you don’t interact with people and spend the ENTIRE PARTY SITTING ON THE DAMN FUTON, why bother having the costumes?

EXAMPLE: The one time Mom ventured out into the party early in the night (before drinking had begun, by the way), the host’s new girlfriend, a mother of 3, asked if she could hold the baby. Mom FREAKED OUT and said “NO!”, then backtracked and said, sheepishly, “I don’t want to be the overprotective mom, but I don’t know you.” Your husband’s best friend trusts her with his penis, she has proven herself friendly and likable… hell, the rest of us like her lots. She doesn’t want to breastfeed the kid, she just wants to hold her for a moment and give you (who appears to be struggling) a break to maybe pull your top up to keep you from flashing everybody your boobs. Oh, and no touching either. That’s right. No touching the 4-month-old baby. We can admire her, though. But who knows where your hands have been, even if she’s reaching out to grab your finger.

Mom and I used to have great conversations. We used to want to get to know each other better, hand out. She was awesome and thought I was awesome. Now we have no words to share. She’s weird and standoffish and obsessively overprotective.

And I could not figure out, for the life of me, what they were doing at the party. Other friends in this particular circle (one we don’t usually travel in) have brought their babies to events but still manage to be sociable, interesting people who love it when others show interest in their daughter who’s about the same age. They come to a party to enjoy themselves and we enjoy their company. It doesn’t bother us that the kid is there. This couple, however, is so self-absorbed that it’s just AWKWARD. The party literally did not get going until they left because they made everybody so uncomfortable with their protective wall and “no touching” rules. It was just bizarre.

It felt to me like they were there just to prove to themselves that they could still party. But they failed, and I was actually embarrassed for them.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On Morbid Curiosity

The babies are coming. One will be here in a matter of days, the other still needs another week in the oven. I’m actually kind of looking forward to the babies of two of my friends. One is getting the boy she was hoping for to add to her two girls, the other struggled for years with infertility and has had a *knock wood* very healthy pregnancy, but I'm also excited because they’re both extremely honest, prolific bloggers. I enjoy reading their words because they know that (a) there is value in documenting the good, as well as the bad, in parenting and (b) it’s a way for me to learn more about it. I enjoy learning about parenting the same way I enjoy learning about science or something—it’s nothing I want to practice, but it’s sure nice to know if the topic comes up.

I don’t know why I enjoy reading these types of blogs. I also enjoy trolling on the Clucky and “trying to conceive” LiveJournal communities... it’s really intriguing to me that I can be so interested in the experiences of others and yet completely turned off (and often creeped out) by the experience for myself. I blame my obsession with psychology for this, and my belief that baby rabies are a biological phenomenon and just because your body wants a baby doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right time or that there IS a “right time”. I find myself fascinated and a little heartbroken for the woman who try try try, becoming obsessed to unhealthy levels. I’m mesmerized by the girls in their teens and early 20s who are freaking out because their boyfriends don’t want babies RIGHT NOW. To me it's shocking because it’s so the opposite of what I feel.

I think it used to be a masochistic act, because going to these sites used to make me feel deficient in some ways, wondering what was wrong with me that I didn't want what everyone else seemed to want, but now they make me feel powerful. I feel in control of my body and of my life, and I feel secure in knowing what I want and that this is the right path. I’m moved and captivated by the stories of these women because I think it helps me learn about “the other side”, what they’re thinking and feeling, especially since so many of my friends seem to be crossing that threshold. And while I have plenty of strong, likeminded women and couples surrounding me, I feel that having this extra bit of empathy might give me a chance to keep some of the new parents in my life as friends, even if our relationship is relegated to LiveJournal comments and the occasional e-mail.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How I Met Your Mother

I love pretty much everything about How I Met Your Mother, but I became hopelessly devoted to it when, on last week’s episode, they did something I’ve NEVER seen a TV show do, as far as I can recall: They kept Robin single (presumably) and childfree.

After seeing so many strong female characters who declared they didn’t want or have time for kids changing so completely, presumably to be “more relatable” to the average tv viewer (Callie on Grey’s Anatomy, Jordan from the now-cancelled Studio 60 and Cuddy from House among the most irritating).

Last week’s episode was an intriguing one. Robin started dating this great guy that Lily set her up with, but he had a kid. She tried to make it work but discovered that she had a real problem with it. And, in the end, when they did the flash-forward to the future, the drawing of Ted’s kids with “Aunt Robin” going to the zoo together, going to the park – they kept her as the “cool aunt” (how I identify myself) , which was so unbelievably cool to me. I love Robin, I totally and completely relate to Robin, and they let her “grow up” and follow a childfree (and apparently quirkyalone!) path.

Obviously a lot of CF women change their minds at some point in life. Quirkyalones become quirkytogethers and live happily ever after. But we all don’t. It was nice to see a tv show take a chance and commit to a character not having kids, and having that commitment not be wrought with tragedy and disappointment.

Anyway, I thought it was really cool.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Redefining Family

I hate the phrase “starting a family”. Oh, I use it too. We all do. But I hate the implication that my family — me, hubby, and kitty — is not actually a family. Ditto for my single friends and their animals.

Sure, even the dictionary defines family as “parents and their children” and really doesn’t have a definition that includes my husband and myself solely (which is bizarre), but I define the word much more loosely.

My friends are family, the people I love and adore, the people I would bend over backwards to help, the people who would drop everything (and have done so) when someone in the group needs a hand.

And our animals are family. My cat Romeo has been with me for over a decade, and I can’t imagine my life without him. He comforts me when I’m sad, cuddles me when I’m sick and, well, bothers me when I’m busy. When he dies, I will mourn him and miss him. Hell, I cried a lot for my betta fish Marko, and he was “just a fish” who I’d had less than a year. My new betta, Fabrizio, is also family. It gives me joy to see him swim in his tank, and I like to think when he flits about and comes alive when I approach, when flares his gorgeous fins of red and blue and teal that he’s happy to see me too, rather than simply a Pavlovian response to food.

Of course my parents and my grandmother (my only living grandparent… that’s weird to think about) are family as well.

When people ask “when are you starting a family” I reply “I’ve already got one, and I think I'll keep it.” I believe we need to redefine family to the people and animals who love one another, and those with whom one surrounds oneself in order to experience joy and security. Or something like that.

I love my families. All of them.

Monday, October 08, 2007


There are several interesting threads that I pulled from yesterday’s baby shower. The one I found most interesting is definitely the wife of a friend of mine (let’s call her S to avoid confusion among all the female pronouns), one of the three childless women (our of over 20) at the shower. S and I have never really talked, though we go camping with her and her husband, but we truly found a camaraderie amongst the pomp and circumstance and organized fun of the shower. (To be fair, it was a really good time and I’m very glad I went). S and I compared knee scars and when the extremely pregnant girl sitting betwixt us, as S snapped away with the camera (she was designated photographer), asked if S was taking pictures because she was “baby crazy”.

“Oh god no, not yet. But my husband is about 1000x more baby crazy than I think I’ll ever be.” Preggers girl didn’t know how to react to this, so she sat silently between us again as S and I talked, quite literally, over her belly. CREEPY. But I digress…

S feels she’s not ready for kids yet and is starting to fear she won’t ever be. She finally just finished school and is really getting her career started, she still wants to travel, she LIKES traveling to see her husband’s concerts (he’s a musician), she loves his second job as a concert promoter. The fear comes from the fact that he wanted to start having babies before they were even married. And now, she says, he’s just nuts. He approaches every baby he ever sees (often to the dismay of the parents—he’s not exactly wholesome-looking) and coos and makes faces and plays, then goes on and on and on about it for days. She and her husband are both in their early 30s and have been together as long as anyone I know—probably 8 or 9 years now.

It’s interesting to meet someone where the roles are reversed. She married him figuring she’d ease into it, that eventually she’d feel this drive all her friends were talking about. Now she’s left, one of apparently 3 in her circle of friends (if I counted right at the shower), who isn’t currently extremely pregnant (there were 4 women, all due within a week of each other in a month), toting around a newborn or saddled with a couple toddlers. But it’s not happening.

It’s at this point that I’m going to start putting words in her mouth.

I wonder if she wants kids at all. She wants to keep partying, to keep clubbing, to enjoy her work and build her career. She, like me, was the only one to show no interest into the babies who tagged along or the hostess’s toddlers. She’s the only one who didn’t completely freak out over EVERY cutesy little thing she saw. I have a hard enough time dealing with the in-laws; I can’t imagine discovering that my choice is at odds with what my own husband wants. I feel terrible for her.

It could just be cold feet, but I felt a kindred spirit as we spoke, as she lamented again and again, and to more people (who apparently know of her husband’s baby rabies and who speculated that his coming “retirement” from the Biz is so that they can start a family), that he wants this so much more than she ever will, and the sadness in her eyes… maybe I’m imagining it there because I was so needing someone, someone who didn’t know a diaper pad from a breast pad (eeew) or why you have to try a bunch of different kinds of breast pads to find “the one that works for you for the leaky leakies” (double eew).

To be honest, I hope I *am* reading too much into it, that she isn’t as ambivalent, because that ambivalence just means bad news for their marriage and for the kids that she’ll have to please her husband because it’s the right thing to do.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Drive to Procreate (+ tangents)

I’m just going to say it, because it’s been on my mind and it’s making me crazy.

I don’t believe in infertility treatments. I also don’t know where to draw the line, but to me it is the ultimate in selfishness to spend a gazillion dollars to have a child that’s biologically “yours” when there are so many children out there who need homes.

That said, I also believe adoption is absurdly expensive and should be made more accessible in order to make it a more reasonable option.

Add this to the list of posts that will lose me friends if spotted by anyone I know.

I have a friend who dealt with infertility for years. I am not minimizing her pain—it was very difficult for her, and this belief of mine does not diminish my joy that she was finally able to conceive and will, in a month, hopefully deliver a healthy baby girl. This is also the friend that told me that the fact that health issues would likely mean I would have fertility problems as well made her feel better about me being childfree because I wasn’t wasting a perfectly good uterus.

I have very mixed emotions about the choice she and her husband made, which is one many make, to put their money toward conceiving a child that was biologically theirs. They were so close to choosing foster care or adoption. They have friends who are going through the process. There was a part of me that wanted to see them make that choice, perhaps to help shatter the whole idea of family being about blood that is battered about with my husband being the “last of the family line”.

There’s a lot of guilt that accompanies feeling this way. I don’t resent this new baby girl (for whom I just bought the most adorable quilt), or her parents, but it brings to light a conflict in my mind.

A huge motivating factor for me, second only to the fact that I have no desire to be a mom, is the fact that there are too many children in this world. I cringe when I hear the Mexican girl in the office talking about her 62 cousins, the children of her father’s 18 siblings. She is one of 7. Yeah. Exactly.

So seriously, we need more children in this world? I have no romantic illusions about adoption. I know it’s hard for many couples to find a child. I know interracial and international adoption both come with their own completely unique sets of problems. I know it’s full of conflict and in no way is it the “easy” alternative. But my god, to go to such trouble just to give birth yourself and to have a part of “you”?

With my complete lack of understanding on this, you can see why I have no business even considering being a mother. I completely don’t get this drive, this desire that’s insatiable until a baby is growing in your belly…

All I can think of is that bit from Aliens…. What’s in-f**king-side me?!… I’m creeped out by pregnancy, I dislike babies and their excretions… it sounds foul to speak of it that way, but I don’t like it. Being pregnant, caring 24/7 for baby, cleaning up *EVERYTHING*... It just sounds like hell….

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Magic Number (Part II)

So back in January of 2006, I mentioned that my husband and I had come to the decision that when I turned 30, then we’d start looking into getting him snipped. Well, that day has come. I turned 30 last week, and I’m surer than ever of my childfree path. But we’re still not getting the vasectomy. Since the discovery of my PCOS, we figure that as long as I have my IUD it’s simply not worth bothering with it. Not worth the risk to him or the pain he’d go through when my chances of getting accidentally pregnant are ridiculously slight.

So far, the biggest part of 30 is that I’ve noticed that I’m 30. Things like retirement accounts, and general lifepath questions are coming up a great deal. I’m more concerned about the interest rate on our savings account and our plans to buy a home this year, more conscious of the fact that if we want to retire in 25 years, we’ve got to start saving hardcore as soon as my husband gets out of school. But I’m also conscious of how happy I am with my life, which is why I think 30 was no big deal for me.

I celebrated my birthday with my Chicago group of friends, 20-some people, ages ranging from their mid-20s to mid-30s, all childless, many childfree, gathered together for a night of music, drinks and fun. We spend two nights a week, sometimes three, surrounded by friends. We can go dancing on Thursday nights and get home at 2am only to go to wake at 6:30 to go to work. We can spend weekends at concerts or having late nights with friends. We’re financially secure, we’re happy. It’s a damn good life.

I’m also much more secure in my choice to remain childfree; a lot more secure than I was when I started this blog. I’ve met more childfree women and couples, gained the acceptance of more friends, and inched toward opening dialogue with less supportive family. In that last year and a half, a number of new babies have entered my world, and to my relief have had no maternal effect on me. Even as some of my closest lifelong friends become mothers, as I attend showers and meet their new babies, I am now left feeling not dysfunctional, as I did before, but secure, able to love these kids without fear that they’ll spark an unwanted biological desire.

Of course, there are still people in my life who don’t get it. There always will be. But those people are either phasing themselves out of my life or learning to deal with the fact that it’s my decision.

Yes indeed, life is good. I love my childfree life, my childfree marriage, my childfree and childfree-friendly friends… Life is good.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Grey's Baby Rabies

Ok, explain this to me.

I love Grey's Anatomy and have spent the last several days that I've been laid up post-surgery catching up on Season Three. And holy CRAP, the women have gone nuts. As if they weren't before, but still. I suppose this contains spoilers.

The thing that made me the most upset is Callie (my favorite character -- I'm glad she seems to be sticking around) approached her husband George about wanting to have a baby. Lovely, curvy, strong Callie, who doesn't want babies, approaches George and says something that she has no desire to carry a baby around in her body for 9 months and raise a kid, but her hormones are telling her she wants a baby. She knows it's hormones, but is she saying she wants to have a baby? Her answer? "Apparently." Apparently?!

Add that to Addison ranting and raving about "forgetting to have a baby" and whining that she's now surrounded by babies...SHE'S A O.B.!!! The chief's WIFE is pregnant at 52? WHAT?! And now suddenly Alex wants to be a father to Eva's baby?! Babies here, babies there, because that's what we needed in this HOSPITAL DRAMA, we need more babies!!

The show was so courageous in the way it handled Cristina's unwanted pregnancy, at least talking honestly about abortion, and I was happy to see that Bailey's baby didn't play heavily into the plot (though I have to wonder whatever happened to it). But now, the baby-centric shift has me concerned for the next season. What, can no one relate to these characters because they're not mothers?

Honestly, though, the thing that bothers me the most is Callie's statement that "apparently" she wants a baby, even though she says in the same breath that she doesn't want one because of how it will affect her career. And nevermind that their marriage is SO NOT OKAY. A baby's going to help that? I'll be curious to see how they handle that, because what that shotgun marriage needs is so NOT a baby.

I don't know, I'm always a little disappointed when shows turn babycentric. Maybe it's because I can't relate to it. Grey's took SUCH an extreme turn in the last few episodes that it's really bugging me.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Shifting Tide

I wandered onto my MySpace page today and looked at my Friends list to find a large number of profile photos changed. Quite literally over half my girlfriends have changed their photos to pictures of their newborns or creepy pictures of their pregnant bellies (am I the only woman who is freaked out by bellies and "bumps"--or who REALLY hates the word "bump"?). Anyway, it really threw me.

I wasn't terribly surprised--obviously I know that an almost silly percentage of my friends have been preggo or have recently had little ones in the last few months. An even greater number are joining the ranks of the TTCs (Trying to Conceive, apparently). It really hadn't hit me, though, until I saw that page of photos.

To see it in black and white... I don't know, I see myself fading more and more out of the loop. I haven't decided how I feel about this yet, but it's unsettling.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Breath of Fresh Air

Last night I had my girly appointment with my new doctor. I chose a young doctor intentionally, and I’m sort of getting used to having a doctor who’s my age, but I’m very impressed with her. She diagnosed me with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome when other doctors saw my weight as a cause rather than a symptom, and she’s very kind and knowledgeable. And, if I didn’t like her enough, we had this exchange yesterday:

Doc: “Are you planning a pregnancy?”
Me: “No.”
Doc: “Now, or not ever?”
Me: “Never.”

She proceeded to tell me how she wishes all her patients would consider what having a child meant. She admitted that she had no idea what she was in for when her daughter was born just under a year ago. “Your life doesn’t just change,” she said. “Your life is over! I’m just so glad I waited ‘til I was 30 and did everything I did until then.” She said it was the hardest thing she ever did and she could totally appreciate why someone wouldn’t want a child. Of course she loves her daughter, but she couldn't believe just how much of an adjustment it required in her world.

And the best part?

She never asked me why I didn’t want one. This was the absolute first time I’ve mentioned my childfree-ness to someone other than a fellow CF and the words “why not?” were never uttered.

It was so nice.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Didn't We Just Do This?

I received an invitation in the mail for our niece’s first birthday party, and I was flabbergasted. It’s really the only word. Now, of course a first birthday is a big deal. But this wasn’t just any birthday party:

They rented a hall. And not just any hall; a fancy place that doesn’t say “birthday party” so much as it says “My Super Sweet 16”. They also included hotel information in case we’d like to stay overnight (they’re about a 3 to 4-hour drive away; they reserved a block and it’s NOT at the Super 8). This hall also means they’ve invited enough people to justify renting a hall and reserving a block. My husband’s grandmother was invited, to show how deep they went with this. She is the child’s father’s stepfather’s ex-wife’s mother, not even related AT ALL.

Now, I can understand this if their house wasn’t suited to host a party. But it’s the same size as the houses in the rest of the family. They’re also custom printed invitations; now, I do custom printed invitations all the time, but that’s because I’m a graphic designer and I enjoy showing off. What we’re looking at here looks to be more of an event than the baby shower we had barely a year ago when we all spent a great deal of money to help welcome little Josie into the world. All I could think when I saw this invitation was "I'm sorry, but didn't we just do this?"

I’m all about celebrating birthdays, but I feel like every month we have a little one’s birthday to celebrate. This wouldn't be a big deal, but celebrating with my husband’s step-side of the family includes bringing a very expensive gift (otherwise you look — and feel — cheap). It’s STUPID. These are not wealthy people, but they live as if they are, having extravagant parties and shunning Target and TJ Maxx in favor of Marshall Fields and Von Maur. And we’re expected to keep up with this standard. It’s absurd.

Contrast this to my best friend’s son’s 5th birthday party, a simple pool party for family at their home. Sure, she bakes a funky cake for him, but she loves to do this. And there’s no ridiculous expectation for gifts—sure you bring something because it’s fun to buy things for 5-year-old boys (and hell, Transformers are in the stores now!), but there’s no fear of being seen as cheap because you bought his cool Transformers T-shirt from Target for $8 and not the $30 fancypants one from Lord & Taylor. Her kids’ first birthdays were mellow, and they have continued to follow suit. These parties make sense, but even these are still expensive.

Birthday parties are an expense that I think few consider when adding up the price of raising a kid. No, going to the extremes that my husband’s family is going to is seriously overboard, but even a small party for the family can get extremely expensive. Now add up the parties once the kid gets into school. Inviting 30 kids so no one in class feels left out, competing with the other families. And don’t forget that each of these 30 kids is having a party, so a couple times a month you’ll be buying a present so your kid doesn’t attend the party empty-handed. I can’t believe how much my mom spends on birthday presents for my niece’s friends. I suppose it’s not any more expensive than one of our dinner parties, or bringing a bottle of wine to a friend’s; I guess what’s mostly at issue is that I don’t enjoy myself at the kids’ pool party where I’m playing babysitter/lifeguard. Perhaps this is where “selfish” comes in. But I digress…

My point is that little Josie, their “miracle baby”, is going to be spoiled senseless, just like all the other kids in that family. That’s reason alone to not want to bring kids into that family. I would have to return all the expensive gifts because I wouldn’t be able to stand my kid wearing a $50 outfit or playing with a $100 toy. They deserve nice things, but nice and extravagant are two very different things.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


I’ve been seeing a word battered about lately to describe childfree folk and it’s been frustrating me.

SMUG: contentedly confident of one's ability, superiority, or correctness; complacent.

Are we confident, outspoken? Of course. We have to be. We’re constantly put in a position where we have to be. When you put someone on the defensive, you’re asking them to talk themselves up, to prove their point. I know in my experience if I respond with vagueness, without passion, out of desire to avoid confrontation, that’s when it gets the worst. I’ve learned through experience that my passion needs to match the passion of the person presenting the challenge, and parenting is something that obviously inspires a lot of passion.

Ours is a lifestyle that requires confidence. The moment people find out we intend not to have children, we’re anomalies, topics of discussion. Sometimes it’s respectful interest that motivates people to ask questions, and that I welcome. But I’ve found the people most likely to write us off as smug are those who egg us on, who force us onto the defensive so we have to proclaim “hell yes I made this decision and I’m damn proud because it’s the right one for me!” When we find others that share our views (like in an internet forum), we rejoice, we get excited, we relish the opportunity to share our story in the safety of others.

In the meantime, many of the mothers in my life (my close friends thankfully excluded) are incredibly smug. There are the breastfeeding Nazis who thrive on making even other moms feel inadequate if they don’t want to or aren’t in a position to breastfeed, nevermind the moms who adopt. There’s the pedestal moms, like my sister-in-law, who truly and honestly believe that the act of motherhood is the only way through which one can become a “complete” human being, or the martyr moms whom no one could possibly understand how much they sacrifice for their kids, and that sacrifice clearly makes them better people than the rest of us. These moms throw hypothetical arguments at us, designed to rattle us emotionally, that, when we throw them back, make us rude and smug. Suggest to them that they might regret their decision, or make them justify why they felt the need to go through expensive fertility treatments instead of adopting one of the kids that already exist (I have mixed feelings about this) and it just serves as confirmation that we’re heartless. But yet when we inflect our words with a confidence that says “don’t challenge me on this one” in hopes of avoiding a conflict, we’re being smug and self-righteous.

Am I the only one who sees this double-standard?

Here’s the thing; they’re not better than us. And we’re not better than them. We’re all just folk here, all making choices that suit our lives. We childfree are proud of being self-aware, unrattled (usually) by societal pressure and confident in the choices we make for our lives.

If that constitutes smugness, add smug to the list with selfish, I suppose.

Monday, July 02, 2007


This weekend I witnessed a moment of poor parenting as a direct result of childfree envy and it made me REALLY, really sad. We attended a party at the home of some friends, and our lone childed friend chose to bring his three kids – 7-year-old twins and a 9-year-old. The rest of us, many of them longtime friends of his, are pushing 30 or comfortably there. Some are childfree by choice, some simply haven’t taken the plunge yet, and others are childless after infertility. Regardless of the circumstances, though, these were the only kids. They’re close with the host couple, though, and as such they were welcome at the party. It was widely known, though, that there would be a great deal of drinking at said party, and this was deemed acceptable around the kids; we were instructed to pretend the kids, who spent most of their time in the pool, weren’t there. This was pretty okay.

Except their dad, also pretended they weren’t there. It’s no secret that his marriage has been strained recently and he’s going through a “what am I doing with my life” crisis. He’s been (more or less publicly) wishing his family away, wishing he could have the do-over at life you don’t get when you start having kids at 24. To be fair, his wife is pretty awful, and he’s spent the last few years trying to please her, which can’t happen until he eliminates all ties with all his friends (we’re all a bad influence and she is ANTI-childfree), even though he’s usually a GREAT dad. Well, I think he snapped on Saturday, when he proceeded to get drunk. But not just a little drunk – we’re talking slurry, sloppy, puking-in-the-bathroom, pass-out-on-the-futon, you-ain’t--23-no-more drunk. It was really sad.

His eldest was REALLY upset at seeing her dad like this, and we all tried to help. I was left to wonder… why did he bring the kids if he intended on drinking like this? Why not leave them with his wife, who didn’t want to come and be forced to socialize with all of us non-moms? And if the kids are there, I’m sorry, but you exercise some restraint. I don’t care HOW much you long to “let loose”; getting that drunk in front of your kids is NEVER acceptable parenting.

So while I can understand why his wife looked to this occurrence as confirmation that we’re all just pushing her husband toward hellfire and brimstone (ironic, because they’re pagan), I wonder at the motivation for leaving the kids at a party with all his awful friends. If she foresaw this (“I knew this would happen!”), why let the kids come in the first place? Seems a really crappy way to make a point.

While I was adamant about following the “forget the kids are even here” instruction, I was keeping an eye. I gladly handed off the Wii to them so they weren’t horsing around by the pool or threatening to knock over the liquor table with errantly thrown water balloons (it happened twice…) I was also well aware when the conversations veered into the unsavory, and was apparently the designated shusher. I resented the fact that their father had made such a mess of himself that the rest of us were picking up his slack. I resented the fact that he brought his kids with no intention of watching them. Their dad is one of the brothers in the group (we’re all family), but my gods I wanted to strangle him. Not as much as his wife did, though.

The bottom line is that it made me incredibly sad that this father wanted so badly to escape his life that he let himself become that way in front of his kids, who mean the world to him. It gave me some insight into the life of my own alcoholic father, and that made my heart hurt. I don’t remember an incident like this with him, but I also don’t doubt that my friend’s eldest daughter will ever forget that night. She was really shaken up, and I saw myself in her eyes.

(my apologies for the rambliness of this post... trying to get posts in when I can, and sometimes that means sacrificing a proper edit)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

When Are You Going to Grow Up?

When my mom told me this weekend that she couldn't believe I was turning 30 in a few short months, I read something in her eyes that said something other than "my baby's growing up". I read "when is my baby going to grow up?"

Here's the thing. My brother, 28, lives at home with his 8-year-old daughter. He goes to college (finally, after a really sketchy employment history) and really will be in no position to leave the house anytime soon because of the kid. He is perpetually 18 years old, if that. He doesn't age in my mother's eyes because he doesn't grow up. When people ask how old my brother is, the answer that pops into my head has been -- for years -- 23.

Now there's me. Gonna be 30 this year, when all her coworkers' kids are in their 20s and starting families. I just signed on with VF Magazine (the reason for my latest absence from the blogosphere, though I have many handwritten entries that need to be typed up!) as their Art Director and Associate Editor. What does that mean? I am now a professional goth. All kidding aside, though, it's now part of my JOB to dress up, wear funky hairpieces, and go to concerts, listen to music, immerse myself in a culture that's dominated by a much younger demographic. Working for a music magazine is my DREAM JOB, and while my mom shares my enthusiasm (add in a possibly unhealthy dose of fear because it's a risk), I can tell that there's a part of her that sees this as a roadblock to me growing up.

As an aside, when I told my mother-in-law about the magazine this weekend, the distaste emanated from her like a sickly green fog in her aura. She doesn't like me being a career woman anyway, but this was just too much. "When are you kids going to grow up and start having a family?" oozed out her ears. The longer I know her, the more I think that she resents both my husband and me. We're too weird for her, we don't fit her mold, we're not like her kids.

But my mom's always been supportive, even with her occasional slips during situations like "when you have kids you'll understand", or "is that why A doesn't want kids?" Of course there's a part of her that wants to see me with a family, that doesn't see my marriage as a family. That's natural. But it's hard.

Am I imagining the disappointment? I don't know. But "I can't believe you're turning 30" held so much weight, so much more than I think it should have. Moreso than just the fact that it means she has a 30-year-old daughter. She's said as much, when I tell her about my weekends clubbing with friends, my travels to see concerts. I know she hoped that I'd settle down after getting married, and just the opposite has happened. I confuse her, but at least from her I feel that it's okay.

MiL won't be happy until I'm pregnant with my second child and staying at home. Until then, we're still a couple of spoiled children who need someone to teach us how to act our age.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Comfort of the Closet

It's not like anyone was shocked. We knew before he even started dating a close girlfriend of mine, Patti, in what was easily among the more awkward of relationships any of us had ever seen. She: beautiful beyond words, intelligent, funny, friendly. They made a devastatingly attractive couple. And they had fun together, but she couldn't shake the feeling that something MUST be wrong with her, that she must be unattractive or something (whatever) because he just didn't seem to like her "in that way" throughout the nearly 6 months that they dated. Thankfully, he ended the relationship while they could still be friends. They're both dating people they really care about now, and they're leaving for a previously planned European vacation together as friends. It's the best of circumstances.

But anyway, we knew before all that. Sure, he was meticulously groomed, expensive taste in everything from clothing to his yuppie condo, loved the arts and the opera, favored showtunes and (totally gay) europop to mainstream music... but there was something about him that bypassed metrosexual and nestled comfortably into the archetypal closet case.

People would always just assume he was gay, which he would vehemently deny with increasing frustration over the years that I've known him. When Patti mused about why he wasn't more interested in her, everyone would chime in "because he's gay".

While I can't attest to knowing exactly what he was feeling, his ambivalence about coming out, his desire to fit in, his paranoia about what people might think... I can relate to this. Now that he's come out to his friends, he's crossed the first hurdle and realized that none of us cared in the least. To his chagrin, no one was shocked. It's kind of funny. But those were his friends.

It was easier to tell my friends that I'm not having children. And, like many people have done with our newly out friend over the years, some people, like my mom, have just *known*, instinctively, that a childfree life was the path for me. And while it's something that I've grown more and more comfortable with over the years, I'm still plagued with worries of making people uncomfortable, especially those I care about. The fact is, most people couldn't care less. It's the select few that I let get to me.

So while my friend adjusts to life as a (mostly) out gay man, he too must figure out how to deal the blow to his very traditional Christian family. These people met Patti and were so overjoyed (and likely more than a little relieved) that at 28 he'd finally met a nice girl to settle down with. Like me, he has to deal with the possibility of really disappointing and potentially devastating people that mean so much to him because he has to live the life he's meant to live. Sure, they might already know, they might not care, or they might be, as Patti believes, in complete denial. He has to get them to accept that he will never have the traditional family they want so badly for him. So yeah, I understand a little of what that feels like.

We're taking baby steps to coming out, telling people and hoping word spreads, but I think for the most part people know. Most of them probably won't care all that much. But it's fear of those who do, the people who once cared who decide you're damaged... it's that fear that makes it hard.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Changing the balance

Tonight's dinner was a very unique one. We met with my in-laws to celebrate my husband's grandma's 82nd birthday.

The first thing I noticed was the coldness with which my mother-in-law greeted me. She didn't even rise to give me a hug, even though I'm currently walking with a cane due to a serious knee injury two weeks ago. She didn't look me in the eye; she just seemed cold. I couldn't help but wonder if hubby's step-brother spilled the beans about our childfree-ness, if she was just having a bad day and feeling especially sour, or if she was still mad that we skipped out on the family photo on Easter to visit my family.

Also present were his aunt & uncle (childfree after infertility), and two of his late mother's cousins. Carol, the younger of the two, is a former nun who tired of the misogyny (good for her!) but never married. Susan, the eldest, was a scientist who didn't marry until well past her childbearing years.

It was incredible. We were surrounded by the childless.

I truly believe that Susan & Carol's presence was the only reason the topic wasn't approached for the first time in ages. Still, it was such a pleasant surprise. I also realized, however, that Susan & Carol's lack of offspring made my husband the last of yet another line of family blood. My husband is the end of the line for both his grandmother's mother and father.

It hasn't been talked about, but surely it will be. Until then, I think I'd like to bring Susan & Carol to family dinners more often. They really tip the scales and make it infinitely more comfortable to spend time with that side of the family.

Oh, and I'd like to find out what crawled up my mother-in-law's butt, because at the end of the night I didn't get a hug either. Oh, and we got the implication via a short conversation between hubby and his father, that she was upset with us because we don't call enough and we seem ungrateful. She's a sour woman anyway, but this was excessive.

Gee, could it be because every time we call we're doing something that makes you all unhappy? We're not getting that house in the suburbs yet; I'm not barefoot and pregnant yet (she hates that I'm career oriented); A doesn't make enough money, and hasn't gone back to school yet (even though his application is in). And no, we're not going to her daughter's 40th birthday surprise party. She doesn't like me anyway; she'll be glad we're not there and so will we.

Now I just need to think about what sorts of plans we have for Saturday, May 12...

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Here Kitty Kitty

There's a reason why we never got another cat. For almost as long as my husband and I have lived together, we've mused about picking up a new furry beasr. We've visited the Humane Society, even picked one out — twice. The requirements weren't strict: likes other cats, preferable a fat cat breed (hubby wants a big fat lap cat), poops in the box, and is declawed. It hasn't been hard to find a cat that fit the bill.

But we always back out.

Romeo, our current cat whom I've had for 10 years, is awesome. He doesn't gorge on food, deals well with what is all too often a dirty litterbox, is playful and affectionate even to strangers, and was likely reincarnated from a flamboyant old queen who trolled around San Fancisco in the eighties. While he's not without his annoying habits, he's about as perfect as any can be for me. Another Romeo would be beyond awesome. The question that plagues us is this: what if the new cat weren't like Romeo?

The topic came up as I was reading a post a friend made about her teenaged daughter. Robin is the total package kid. Bookish, pretty but not in a slutty way, into, for the most part, the same things mom is into but not in a creepy way, straight A's, literally top of her class. She's a good kid. Whenever I hear stories about Robin, I'm tempted to say "wow, if I could be guaranteed a kid like that, the prospect of parenting isn't quite so scary." Which is true, on some level, but it's also completely nonsensical. Of course there are no guarantees.

Another friend's 16-year-old daughter Devyn reminds me of Robin, at least from the stories. But then there's her son. 17, rebellious, a poor student (and not always for lack of trying; she's devastated that he just doesn't seem to have the smarts for college) with anger management and depression issues. At 17, he's already announced his plans to marry his girlfriend, and my friend's fear that he will knock up said girlfriend is CONSTANT. But these 2 kids, a year apart, raised in the same house, are totally different. One a deam, one a handful on a good day.

It's the same with my brother and me. You just never kno what you're going to get, even if you do everything the same. There are stories everywhere.

There's the friend with the precocious young girl and the older child with Asperger's; my sister-in-law with the good kid who is only a terror when the middle brother (learning- and sensory-disabled) starts acting up. Then there's the woman in my grandma-in-law's building who is still living with her 40-year-old who acts like a poorly behaved boy of 8.

I have doubts that I have the capacity to love such a child. And do I have the heart not to resent them? Does anyone, really? Life is enough of a struggle without the added stress of an ill or troubled child. Unless I'm willing to take a risk of having such a child, that's not even an option.

No thank you.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Just a Shout-Out Full of Thanks

Comments like these, and so many that you all post, are the reson I do this blog. I write to find that I'm not alone, but it's not often I get a comment that is not just so unbelievably supportive and full of great advice (you all do that for me!)... I literally could have written this entire comment. I'm working on a post about the precedence of "changing minds" when it comes to marriage, inspired by Tanya's comments.

Thanks again to all of you. When we support each other, we make it easier for everybody. I know I don't always reaspond to comments because I don't like that it doesn't sent a note to let you know I've responded, but I read them all and am touched often.

------Tanya's comment-------
Join the selfish club. I'm a member too and proud of it.

For many of the same reasons as you, my husband and I do not want kids. Going without a drink for 9 months is not horrible, but why do it if I don't have to?

"You'll change your mind" is getting tossed at me more and more because I always said I would NOT get married and I did. Dang. Changed my mind. If I did it once, I will do it again, right? WRONG! My anti-marriage stance was more "if it never happens, I won't be heartbroken" than "I will NEVER EVER NEVER EVER marry a boy. Ick!" My anti-child stance is definately "NEVER EVER".

At the moment, my husband and I have a "get out of marriage" free deal wherein if one of us gets clucky and wants a baby, the other can leave the marriage scot free. I like my husband a lot. I don't want to be without him. I have a choice...babies or him. I choose him.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

What do you say…

What do you say to a friend who's facing the decision of becoming a single mother? To someone you love who's dealing with a disrespectful husband whose only good quality left is that, when he's around, he's a really good dad to their kids? (But really, all he does is play good cop to her bad cop and call mommy a poopyhead for giving them a strict punishment for not following the rules.) What do you say when he's stopped realizing that being a good husband is not an optional, but essential part of being a good father, a good person? What do you say when time and time again he's proven he doesn't care enough to change, that he's dismissed her reasonable requests as "impossible to please" and has long since stopped giving the slightest effort?

What do you say when her marriage is over, when she wouldn't have stayed if not for the kids; when maybe if she just had her oldest, just one kid, it would be easier to leave. But now there's two, and they're so little.

What do you say to someone who is so heartbroken, hurting so badly, wishing she could leave but tethered by the children, who are the only good thing she feels she has left?

The kids didn't doom them to this fate. They'd never have lasted this long without them. He's selfish and she needs more than he wants to give her. But she already knows that, has already said that having children with him was probably a mistake, that marrying him was a mistake. The most devoted mom I know, and she's saying these things, feeling this things.

Seriously, I just don't know what to say.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

So… How did it Go?

I'm touched that you've noticed my absence. I'll explain the goings on of the last couple weeks in another post.

So you want to know how the big family weekend at the waterpark hotel was? In a word: Claustrophobic. 16 of us in a hotel suite designed for a maximum of 15 people. And let's not forget the nephew's birthday party, when we stuffed over 20 in only one of the rooms. Yeah, big giant fun.

I will say this: the waterpark itself was a lot more fun than we anticipated. Free from the ball and chain that is a child who wants to stay in the kiddie pool and cannot go on the really fun rides, we were able to explore, to go in the deep end of the wave pool without a child tethered to us, if only by our eyes. We could go down the big giant waterslides, the scary ones, and hide in the blessed "Adults Only" whirlpool. That part was great.

The kidcenticity of the room itself was really more awful than I would have imagined. It was all anyone talked about. Oh, unless they were talking about puppies. Kids and puppies, kids and puppies, while my husband and I sat awkwardly quiet, except for reiterating that a dog just wouldn't fit our lifestyle.

Most of the comments about "when you have your own" fell on the usual awkward giggles. I took the advice of a few lovely commenters on the last post and just let the silence lag, and it said more than we could have said with words. By the end of the weekend, the tone had changed.

The most notable change was when commentary was made about the gift we got for nephew Hayden, the gift that enthralled the boys much more than the blippy buzzy toys, even more than the Nintendo DS games:


That's right, folks, 2-feet wide of big, bouncy blue ball.

I thought the boys' parents were going to kill us. It was AWESOME.

But after a day and a half of awkward silence, their father said "don't worry, you'll have your turn…" and then he paused. "At least we hope you'll have your turn."

This was a big turning point, as minor as it sounds. The addition of an "if"-type statement is a big deal, acknowledging the possiblity that we might not have kids.

The "coming clean" did happen, however, in the form of an awkward conversation with the newest of my sisters-in-law, recently married into the brood. She and I were in the room we shared with each other and our husbands, and an Egyptology documentary was on. We both expressed a wish to visit the Pyramids someday, and she said she wanted to visit the Great Wall of China before she starts a family, but her husband wanted to get started pumping out kids right away. I mentioned a group trip some friends are planning to China in 2009.

"Are you guys going to wait to have kids until after that?" she asked, and I paused. I told her the standard "kids aren't really on the map right now" answer, but added, "and I don't think at this point they will be." I have decided not to rule out the possibility entirely with the family, but it was out there. And then it got weird. And I kept talking. I don't know why.

She said she understood, but "at least you're not one of those couples who like discussed this before you got married and totally are against having children." I couldn't bring myself to say "actually, that's what I just said. And that is what we are." We talked some more, though, and I explained that it was an uncomfortable topic with the rest of the family and she again said she understood.

I don't know how I feel about it, to be honest, but I do feel like I crossed a crucial step. She will no doubt tell her husband, who will tell his siblings. It will get around, and that's a start.

Because I finally came to the realization that the most mommy-centric of the bunch will always consider herself a better person than I am because she's a mom (she's THAT kind of mom), and she'll always treat me like I have no clue about anything because being a mom imbues you with a level of world knowledge unattainable by any other means. She will continue to passively insult me by saying the things I'll never understand until I have children. It's who she is, and I'll always dislike her for it. I'll never be truly accepted by that family, and neither will my husband, and that's okay.

I'd rather be myself than keep pretending. This will get around, and we'll see what happens with it. The seed is planted. I think that's the way this had to happen. I feel lighter.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Coming Clean?

So again I enter a family gathering with the in-laws where I’m dreading the confrontation. As I mentioned in a recent post, the family is being brought together at an indoor waterpark for a bit of a reunion. Far flung siblings and their spouses are traveling, some flying in. This is a big deal. And it’s going to be a disaster.

It won’t be a disaster for the families with kids. I’m confused, though, because more than half of the siblings have no children, and this is a place that is SO childcentric, I honestly wonder how anyone is expected to have any grown-up fun.

Surrounded by so many kids, doting non-stop on the nephews and the new baby (now about 9 months old), with all of the siblings now married or engaged, it’s sure to come up. We’ve decided to answer honestly, instead of putting people off with phrases like “oh, kids? The farthest thing from our minds right now ‘til A finishes school!”

This is a huge step forward for us, it really is. And who knows if it will happen, really, but we've decided it's time to come clean.

I do know I need to talk to my husband and tell him to let me handle it. I worry that he will be overdefensive, never giving anyone the opportunity to discuss the issue like adults. People aren’t going to understand, and that’s okay, but we have to give them a chance to open a dialogue, to learn about the childfree choice.

It’s easy to jump to the defensive, to respond with that witty comment.
"Why don’t you want kids?” they will ask. Must resist the urge to snap back,
“Why do you want kids?”

I will admit, I need to practice my responses in my head. So often I end up overexplaining myself, overjustifying myself, and end up damaging my own credibility, giving people too many opportunities to attack. I run it over and over in my head in an attempt to prepare:

Father-in-Law, while cooing at baby Josephine: “I can’t wait ‘til you have kids.”

*Nervous chuckle followed by awkward silence* (we’ve decided not to be the ones to bring it up... usually it ends here, but soon I know the conversation will evolve.)

FiL: “So really, when are you guys making me a grandpa?”

“Actually, Dad, we don’t plan to have any children.”

Okay, see, this is the problem. No matter how many times I roleplay this conversation with my husband, or go over it on my own in my head to try and predict how to manage it that will inevitably happen someday, to prepare how I might keep the conversation rational, this is where I lose it.

This is because my father-in-law is not a rational human being. He is an emotional, deeply selfish man who sees every situation in relation to how it affects him. Will he react with anger? Will he dismiss us? Will he cry? He'll probably cry, and that’s a situation I don’t know how to manage.

I wish like nothing else that I could expect a response like “oh, that’s disappointing. Why don’t you want kids?” Something that could continue the conversation without putting us immediately on the defensive, either out of embarrassment for making my father-in-law so upset, or out of frustration over a selfish, stupid or irrational response—I hate to say it, but all of these are far more likely than any reaction that is not a conversation-ender.

Am I not giving the man enough credit? Obviously this is an emotionally charged issue, especially for someone who’s never been shy about expressing his desire for grandkids of his own (his other grandkids are his stepchildren’s kids), and I would be silly to expect a completely deadpan reaction. He’s all about over-the-top reactions (my husband gets his drama genes from somewhere), and I just see us consoling him, plying him with explanations, justifications, promises that it’s not his fault for being a terrible or absent father, unable to say what I really want to say:

“We’re not having kids because we don’t want to be parents. We love our marriage the way it is, and we haven’t come close to finishing living the life we want to live, traveling, and moving up in our careers. Between my niece, our friends’ kids, the boys, we have plenty of kids in our lives and are really happy that way.”

The conversation needs to be framed not as “we would love to have kids, but…”; we need to frame it as “we don’t want kids. Period.” And that’s the biggest challenge, and the easiest trap to fall into when overexplaining the childfree choice. We have to fend off arguments like “you can still work” and “you can still travel” before they get a chance to be presented.

We’ll never have a good enough explanation for some people. But it’s time to stop hiding and at least give it a shot, even if it means upsetting people we care about. We have to give them all a chance to prove us wrong, to prove us melodramatic, to show us we freaked out over nothing.

Sure, it could happen. I’m not taking bets on us being wrong, though.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Pick Any Two

We have a saying in the graphic design business that is echoed throughout many industries: Good, Fast, or Cheap—Pick Any Two. It's just a way of telling clients that they can't have everything they want. If they want it Fast, it's either going to cost them plenty or the quality will suffer. If they want it Cheap, they'll need to be willing to wait behind priority projects if they want the best product.

The "Pick Any Two" part of the policy is something my husband and I subscribe to when it comes to the idea of childrearing. Raising a child is about sacrifice, and no one has ever claimed otherwise – sacrificing a good part of your life to have this new good thing.

For those of us who would love our careers and would not intend to leave the workforce after having a child, I break down the major parts of life into three elements: Career, Personal Relationships (including the marriage/partnership), and Childrearing. Reigning over all three of these is Health and Personal Well-Being, because it affects all three equally. Stay-at-home and single parents have an entirely different set of issues, but let's focus on families with two working parents.

Break your day into 16 waking hours—after all, 8 hours of sleep is recommended to maintain overall health and well-being. On a typical weekday, consider that a full-time career averages about 11 hours. This includes getting ready for work in the morning and door-to-door commuting time each day. That leaves 5 hours. Figure an hour (conservatively!) for healthy dinner preparation and clean-up, and at least half-an-hour to eat at the dinner table or at the very least together in front of the TV—let's work those personal relationships. That leaves 3.5 hours 'til bedtime. What are we doing with that? A trip to the gym or a nice solid workout at home? Connecting with friends and family in person, via phone or internet? Personal entertainment? Hobbies? Romantic activities? 3.5 hours can fly by. We've covered Career and Personal Relationships. Where on earth is there time for children, especially a young child who needs us to be at our best?

The answer?

There's that word again. But how do you decide what suffers? Do you try to do all these things and let your health—the one thing that matters most overall—suffer by getting too little sleep, relying too heavily on fast and convenience foods, and skipping the physical activity? Do you decide to live a less tidy lifestyle and put off cleaning to the weekends (but wait—there's soccer games and birthday parties and trips to grandma's house and the grocery store and oh my gods when are we going to do the laundry?!), leading inevitably to fights over cleaning and frustration that you can't have company over because the house is a disaster.

"Phooey," some will say, "my husband and I both have careers and we are raising our child just fine." To them I ask, when was the last time you complained to someone that you wished you had the money to take a vacation, or to leave the workforce entirely and stay at home with your children? That you wished your husband would help out more with the baby or with the household chores? That you're living in a 'pig sty' because there aren't enough hours in the day? That you missed going out on dates, or sharing the intimacy you used to have when you first got married? That your boss is not sympathetic to your needs as a mother and 'made' you miss your baby's firsts or your child's mid-afternoon school play? That you panicked about your credit rating, or your soaring credit card balances? These are valid complaints, and they are real; I hear them constantly from even the happiest parents that I know. We childfree aren't without our own problems, but I like to believe we lead a life free of much of this pressure because we have picked two elements on which to focus. Try to do all three and something must suffer.

And what do you do when the child suffers? A show of hands now: How many of you wished one or both of your parents worked less and had more time for you as a child? How many cried because a parent missed a school or competitive event due to work? How many skipped on college or went into debt that haunted you the rest of your life because your parents weren't prepared? How many remember their parents fighting about work, about chores, about money? How many would swear not to screw up your own kids as badly as your parents damaged you through neglect or disinterest? How many wish their parents had focused more on their marriage?

And where does money fall in this equation? GOOD QUESTION. It's no secret that the thing married couples fight most about is money, so I lump that into Personal Relationships.

Money, some will argue, is also the one factor that can change it all. But can it really, and where does it come from? How many jobs pay exceptionally well—enough to pay all the bills comfortably, save for college and retirement, and prepare for emergencies (these are not optional)—while allowing the flexibility to give the children the time, attention and affection they deserve? Where are these high-paying jobs that not only offer flex-time but feature a work environment where people who choose to use the flex option are not chastised as lazy or undedicated? They do not exist. Achieving the zen of balancing Career, Personal Relationships, and Childrearing is nearly implausible without the wealth that most of us will never, ever see. For the rest of us, pick any two.

It's not that childfree couples don't have relationship issues, or marital problems, or arguments over who's doing their fair share of housework. I'm not implying that we always get a full 8 hours of sleep and we never choose pizza or Chinese takeout over a homecooked meal. But, at least in my household, our lives are balanced. After careful evaluation, we believe adding a child to the mix would upset this balance and make us unhappy in our marriage and our lives.

These are all issues that I would argue most parents never even consider when making the decision to have a child while intending to maintain a career. It's no secret that I have no great desire to be a parent, and the knowledge of these facts is a big part of that. I'm not focusing on the joys of raising a child because that's not the point. Of course there are good times, but so many times I hear about the good times "making it all worth it." It frightens me to consider what "it all" means: the sacrifices, the loss of connection with a spouse or partner, marital troubles, the suffering. Parenting is a noble choice for someone who has the desire and is prepared for this sacrifice. I feel blessed to live in a culture that is finally realizing that to make such a sacrifice is a choice.

(c)2007 TLA & Childfree Me, may not be republished without express written permission

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Changes of Heart… a touchy subject

It seems to be all around, people who never wanted kids getting clucky all over the place. The phrase "I used to be childfree" makes me squirm.

"Oh, you'll change your mind" is a favorite amongst the critics of my choice not to procreate… that or "what if you change your mind?" It makes my blood boil, but at the same time it's a somewhat valid point. The fact is, biology makes us that way. It makes people change their minds.

I suspect it's probably similar to the thing inside us that makes us hate boys when we're kids, that makes us think sex sounds apalling. Some argue that the fact that I am indifferent to babies and I find toddlers mostly just irritating (save for a handful of token really adorable moments) is just a phase that I'll get over "when the time is right."

They said it would happen when I met "the one". Nope. Didn't happen with my first husband when I was 21, and it's certainly not happening with this one. "Wait 'til you've been married a year." Nope — we're more adamantly childfree than ever.

And yet the phrase "I used to be childfree" haunts me. Mothers I know say it. Friends and family say it. Strangers say it. "I used to hate kids, but…" BUT.

I wonder sometimes if I will change my mind. While I get the occasional twinge now and again, I attribute it to hormones because I simply do not want a child, nevermind everything a child involves. Do these "formerly childfree" folks want a baby, or do they want to raise a child? I think that's the difference between us and them — them being the clucky ladies who want nothing more than babies babies babies without ever considering what that really means.

I've been asking myself again lately if I would terminate an unwanted pregnancy. The IUD makes that an easy decision, given the risk of birth defects and my complete disinterest in taking any sort of risks. I realized just recently that yes, I probably would, and for a number of reasons, ranging from the occasional cocktail I enjoy to the fact that we don't want our lives to change. It was a sobering realization, because I've long thought that I wouldn't be able to do it because I'm old enough, financially secure enough, and really have no excuse, but it really came down to three main things:

1. I don't believe life begins at conception. Perhaps it happens sometime between conception and birth, but I don't believe it's in the first trimester. Argue with me if you must, but I've researched it myself and we'll just have to agree to disagree. This is something I've thought long and hard about and I'm comfortable with my beliefs. I believe if I were in this situation I would be terminating a pregnancy, which is not the same, in my mind, as killing a child. You may believe differently and that's okay. (Note: I will not be engaging debate on this topic. Let's just agree to disagree.)

2. Every child should be a wanted child. I don't want to raise a child and have long insisted that an accidental child would be reared primarily by my husband, while I would be a secondary caregiver. But I don't want to have an "accident". This is the 21st century and I am an enlightened woman who knows what I want from my life. There is no reason I should have to go reluctantly into such a life-altering situation with no do-overs.

3. I am completely unwilling to deal with a child that is not the best case scenario. This sounds ridiculous, I know, but there are so many things — physical things, behavioral and emotional things — that can go wrong with a child. I would be utterly devastated if my own child was disabled in some way. Call me heartless, that's fine, but I'm being honest with myself. If I am not willing to potentially give up my career and my own life to care for a child, it is not worth the risk.

But primarily, it's this: We're adults. We don't need an excuse. It is our lives, our consciences and our gods we have to answer to; no one else can make the decision for us and it is no one else's business. Just because my infertile friends would be devastated if they knew I did such a thing, why would they have to know? It has nothing to do with anyone but my husband and me.

I do not want a child. I do not foresee myself ever wanting a child. Will that change? Who can say. There's precedent enough to say 'maybe'. But that's something to deal with if it comes up. Otherwise I live my life for me.

Do it; call me selfish.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Perfect Weekend and the Tyranny of Fun

The perfect irony, really. I was preparing to post on my primary journal about my wonderful weekend, a perfect weekend, really, when I read my best friend's post entitled, strangely enough, "A Perfect Weekend". I was thrilled to see this — she deserves a perfect weekend, and it's a joy to read that she's happy and things are going well. Her post did underscore the vast differences between what she and I believe constitutes perfection.

My perfect weekend involved spending some quality snuggle-time with the husband, taking care of each other after dual dentist appointments on Saturday morning. Saturday evening I went to a friend's house to enjoy a buffet of Thai food, followed by Girls' Night Out, featuring dancing and delicious martinis at a gay bar in the city. After the club, the boyfriends met us at a nearby diner for coffee and snacks, packed 7 of us in one Chevy Impala, and drove home. The morning paper sat on my doorstep as I walked in sometime around 4:30am. Today, Sunday, was spent sharing chores and making real progress on the house and laundry, ending with some yummy pizza and a 24 Marathon before I went to work on some freelancing projects. It wasn't without its flaws (the dentist, for instance), but after the last few weeks, this weekend was a real breath of fresh air.

My best friend's weekend involved family time with the extended family at a scouting fundraiser, where she and her boys toured a farm and learned how maple syrup is made. Later, more extended family came to her house to prune her lilac bushes and install a family firepit in the backyard. Then the family took a trip to Door County, Wisconsin (where she was disappointed that the shops she loves to much aren't kid-friendly, so she had to pass on them), and they picked out a new puppy. I am not dissing her weekend — it sounds perfect for her. It's just so not what I consider the perfect weekend.

I think it's fantastic she gets along with her extended family so well, and I'm envious of that in a way, though I know we'll never be doing the thing that will forever endear us to the judgmental ones on my husband's side.

As a Christmas gift, my in-laws bought everyone tickets to a waterpark lodge in Wisconsin Dells, and I can't think of a worse place to spend an entire weekend. "We can all go swimming!" my father-in-law squealed. No, the kids can go swimming. We can babysit. These places aren't designed with grown-ups in mind AT ALL. I'm sure the kids will have a blast, but after chaperoning a birthday party for my niece at a place like this, I can say with near certainty that it will be loud, annoying, and most important, No Fun At All.

Our saving grace was going to be the ability to retreat to one of the posh hotel rooms at the lodge. Recently, however, I found out that sanctuary will not exist.

My husband's step-mother (the control freak), in a step to encourage togetherness, has booked a cabin. That's right folk, all 15 of us, including a handful of poorly behaved nephews and one baby, crammed into a single cabin. KILL ME NOW.

That's not all of it, of course. We're celebrating one of the nephew's birthdays, which means we have to bring gifts for all the boys so the others don't feel left out (a stupid, STUPID tradition — teach the boys that when it's not their birthday they don't get presents… but we don't say no to these boys). There's also the family photo, for which we've been assigned particular colors to wear, and a whole host of meticulously planned activities.

I really wish I was looking forward to this. I'm fine playing with the boys, but not in a waterpark setting surrounded by no fewer than a couple hundred screaming kids. The fact that they're not used to hearing "no" or being scolded for anything makes me reluctant to be around them because I constantly feel the need to discipline them and teach them some manners. We're going into the Midwest's Disneyland for the weekend, in a resort filled with little centers of the universe. I have no desire for this, and it does not sound like a good time.

Our distaste for the situation will surely bring our childfreeness to the forefront. It sounds like a miserable time all 'round. But it was our Christmas present. It would be rude not to go. *sigh*