Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Windows

Another childhood friend joined the ranks of the childed last week. He's a gorgeous little boy, even when not considered by newborn baby standards, and she's thrilled. But for the first time, I don't really feel a wall has been erected by his birth. It's odd to me that it would be she, the OB nurse, the one whose life revolves most completely around babies and mommies, that would be the most accepting of my decision, never questioning it, being completely understanding. It's a nice change.

I look at my other friends' kids, growing like weeds, the infants suddenly toddlers, the toddlers suddenly kindergartners, gathering together for playdates and such. I'm now the last of my childhood friends to remain childless, and it's interesting. We're all in our 30s and it boggles my mind that of all the people I knew when I was growing up that I'm the only one to decide that kids aren't for me. Oh, there's one friend from high school who's childfree, but we're barely acquaintances.

In the meantime I've got my cousins popping out kids, my (step)sister-in-law, and again I've got that feeling of being left out of a club I don't belong in and don't actually want to be a part of. It's the meeting at work that's just for the "real" employees (no freelancers please), it's the family events that I've stopped being invited to in the last year. I watch from the sidelines and think "my god that looks like a good time" while simultaneously thinking "that would make me so miserable."

The childfree life for women like me is full of such paradoxes, I think. The desire to be included is almost inherent, instinctual. I suspect it's part of the reason that so few women challenge the expectation of motherhood, even when they suspect it's not what they want. They pursue it because it's what they should want, and because the people with whom they surround themselves chant the mantras of "it's different when they're your own" and "everything changes, but it's the best thing you'll ever do".

Challenging these ideas is, well, challenging. Over the years I've been able to surround myself with people who understand me, letting those who refuse to try linger on the fringe except for an awkward "hello" every couple years at the club or a friend's party. It's better this way and I'm happier for it. But through their blogs, their Facebook profiles and the other forms of communication we still share I see a window to their world, and it honestly looks like a fun place to live in. Not for me, but for them, and I'm thrilled to seem them, surrounded by the kids that fill their lives in place of the things we did together in the good ol' days, and overflowing with happiness.

There's an ache to being left out of this world, but it diminishes the moment I consider how awesome my life is for me, and how I know they look into my window and wish they had the freedom to travel, to go to concerts and stay out all night dancing, to have the kind of grown-up time that we do. And I'm sure, like me, most of them wouldn't trade in their own lives for a moment.

6 comments:

Ken said...

I very much appreciate your perspective on this important experience.

I, too, am struggling to find the balance between my satisfaction with my own childfree life and my appreciation of the pleasures enjoyed by friends who chose to live differently.

Best,
Ken

Margaret said...

This resonates very powerfully with me as well. Thank you for posting!

Easter Island said...

thanks for posting that. being childless/childfree has such a huge effect on friendship and families as we get older. i'm not sure i was aware of that when younger; even my friends and cousins who wanted to have babies waited until really late, so i felt like less of an outsider.

after writing articles and stuff about childlessness, i hear a lot that i never knew before. older childless women will come up and talk to me (or send a card), and i'm dismayed to discover that the feeling of alienation can continue for the rest of our lives.

these are fulfilled, artistic, community oriented, career women, but even at age 50 or 60 their childlessness is awkward. everyone in their book club or at their ladies' weekend brunch only wants to talk about their kids and grandkids, not the actual book the club would be reading if they weren't tied to their offspring.

thanks for illuminating your corner of this experience. maybe our generations can do a better job of integrating the childless and childfree into "normal" life. or maybe parents and grandparents will never have anything else to talk about besides the fruit of their loins?

Lorelei said...

As someone both childfree by choice and conducting research in the area of childlessness, it is a pleasure to read other individual's experiences-especially from someone who does not loathe children- to relate to.

Thank you from my heart.

Childfree Travel said...

Thanks for this, I too am in my mid-30s and "baby fever" is in full swing for everyone but me. I have to remind myself that I don't want that life but I do want to be included. I am thankful for understanding friends and many more windows than walls but there is a seperation nonetheless. I wish all these people that we can connect with online were in my realy world as well as my virtual one.

Anonymous said...

I felt a sadness when my bestie got married so young (just 21). I knew that her husband would be her new best friend. And he is.

The shocker was the even deeper sadness that came when she announced she was pregnant at 25. She was always the one that said she DID NOT want kids. Guess she changed her mind.

But I was always the one that DID want kids. And here I am at 33 and I don't have any. I changed my mind in the OTHER direction.

Funny how things can change.