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.