Friday, November 21, 2008

Thinking of Thanksgiving

As if Thanksgiving with my husband’s family wasn’t stressful enough, headlined by my husband’s judgemental stepsister, stepmom and stepmom’s twin sister, but babies are going to be front and center; both of my husband’s stepbrothers’ wives are currently pregnant. I got to hear all about it at dinner last week, about how pleased they are that one couple who had a traumatic pregnancy with their first child, preceeded by several devastating late-term miscarriages, finally decided to give their daughter a sibling while expressing that it’s cruel to leave a child as an only child. By the way, finally is relative; their daughter just turned two.

The other baby on the way is the couple’s first child, and it’s coming to the stepbrother who was married about a year after my husband and I were, and boy is everyone excited. Except I recall my conversations with my stepsister-in-law about how she wasn’t ready to have kids yet, how she wanted to travel, to do more before she wanted to settle down. I find myself wondering what changed her perspective so dramatically. She wasn’t childfree by any means, but it appears that the pressure to have as many babies as possible got to them. Who knows, maybe she had a genuine change of heart, but in my conversation with her, where I first floated the idea that my husband and I might never have children, she seemed quite sure that she wanted to wait a few years, or at least until she was able to take a trip to Asia.

The talk of us having babies has slowed significantly while my husband is in school, with everyone knowing that I’m the sole breadwinner in the house. But the dynamic will be changed with two pregnant ladies in the house. It’ll be interesting.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sanctity of Marriage

While at dinner with my husband and my in-laws the other night, my father-in-law dropped a bomb on my husband. While my stepmother-in-law and I were at the buffet refilling our soup bowls, FiL blurted out to my husband that “oh, by the way, you have a half-sister. But don’t tell ‘the women’, we’ll talk later.” We then returned to the table to hear the last part of that statement and were none the wiser until my husband and I were in the car on the way home.

We’ve since learned that FiL had an affair on my husband’s late mother shortly after they were married, and a child was born. While the babymama denied that FiL was the father, he always sort of knew. He found out about three years ago and apparently decided that the time to tell his son, who had grown up as an only child, about this secret half-sister, over soup and salad at Sweet Tomatoes. She’s about 8 years older than my husband, is married, and lives in North Carolina. But the thing that FiL keeps bringing up over and over, is that she is married to a black man.

My husband quite literally could not care less about this qualifier, and yet his dad keeps referring to him as “her black husband” and that my husband has “three black nephews”. It’s especially striking to me that someone in his line of work, teaching in an ESL program, would continue to make this distinction in every reference, over and over.

The whole situation has me thinking about Prop 8 and other hate legislation for many reasons. First it’s the whole “sanctity of marriage” crap, expounded loudly by this man who created a child with a woman other than his wife while they were married. Then it’s the fact that my husband’s half-sister would never have been allowed to marry or have children with her husband had the laws been decided.

I am a happily married straight woman, and my marriage is as sacred as anyone else’s. That sanctity is not threatened when people who love each other are allowed to get married to the person of their own choice.

It’s been proposed by some that same-sex marriage is unreasonable because they cannot create life, and then I wonder what these people think about childfree marriages like mine. But then again, I know what they think. By and large they also feel like my marriage is less sacred because we are choosing not to create life for whatever reason. And yet they would never question the sanctity of a marriage where a man and a woman choose to adopt a child after a bout with infertility.

We’re going to make plans to meet my husband’s newfound sister in the nearish future, and it’s kind of exciting. It’s got us thinking a lot about family and what it means. Hopefully we’ll get along with her family because I know they’re both very excited to meet each other. I get a warm feeling when I consider her, which is really nice considering the apprehensiveness I feel with FiL and my husband’s stepfamily. I get a feeling of warmth and accepting based on early communication, and I think that acceptance and openmindedness is what family should be based upon. That acceptance should exist without qualifications like “my black grandchildren” and “my childless son.”

I'm hopeful that this might be the first member of my husband's family with whom we feel totally and completely accepted for who we are. And that's pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Weekends Away

We spend about one weekend a month with our friends who live downstate, and while the country life is so not for us we love the change of pace once in awhile. It’s quiet there, mellow, and visits to their house are often filled with great cooking and fun crafts. This time, however, I kind of wish we hadn’t come.

Our mutual friend and his wife decided to drop by with their three rambunctious kids — the manic twins and their alpha dog older sister. They were loud, they tortured the dogs (unintentionally — they called it playing), they ran around and completely changed the energy of the house. Our quiet weekend sanctuary was instantly transformed into a den of chaos.

The mother of these youngins (Momma) and I have never gotten along. She’s one of those super-judgmental moms who brands me “childhater” and inhuman because I don’t want children. I’m a bad influence on friends who have come out as childfree or settled upon a childfree lifestyle after me, and a bad person in general. I think she’s judgmental and mean, treats her husband like a slave who can do nothing right (he’s got his flaws too, of course) and I really am not fond of her. The kids are fine, just hyperactive, and that’s only exacerbated by the fact that we were down there to RELAX.

Because she’s hypersensitive to any signals I might send that confirm her opinion of me as a childhater, it of course bode well for me when all the chaotic energy and shrill noise left me with a massive headache not an hour after the group arrived. To her credit, Momma did try to keep the kids out of the room where I slept it off and sent them outside to play. When I woke up after the meds began working and went to join her and my friend in the other room, though, she retreated. While we hung out in the dining room, she sat knitting on the sofa and watched her kids play in the other room, isolated from us childless ladies. Momma and my friend used to be very close until my friend was diagnosed with cervical almost-cancer and decided after her surgery that while they may want to adopt in a few years, a natural birth might not be the best way to go. As far as Momma was concerned my friend had changed fundamentally and their relationship immediately began going downhill, as had happened with other friends who decided to put off children for awhile. It’s a pattern.

I feel sorry for Momma. Because she fails to realize that women are still women when they are not mothers, that we are worth being friends with even when we don’t have kids in common, she loses out on friendship and affection and has become a bitter, bitter woman. And while I’ve hoped over the years that she would warm up by knowing us, and knowing that my husband and I are good people, I’ve given up on that. We now merely coexist when stuck in situations with each other, and that’s okay with me. That said, if I hear that the whole family’s coming for gaming weekend in the future, I will respectfully bow out. Between the kids' energy and the stress of a strained relationship, that's not my idea of a relaxing weekend.