Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Living At the Dance Studio

My (step)sister-in-law has two adorable little girls, and she made a post on her Facebook page that started me thinking and led to me noticing commentary from other moms I know that sort of terrified me. Maybe it's because summer is coming, but everyone's all a-twitter about what their kids are going to be doing this summer.

"Just enrolled Gracie in Dance! Starting next week we'll be living at the dance studio every night!"

(S)SIL is enrolling her younger daughter in dance classes that, inconveniently, meet on the days that her older daughter has off, which puts them at the dance studio almost every night of the week. The level of commitment blows me away.

I have my commitments. Gaming every odd Thursday, a rotating dinner-and-a-movie party with friends every Tuesday (hosting once a month). Additional hosting on weekends and such. It gets exhausting but it's fun for me. I get to host friends, make delicious meals for everyone to enjoy. It's something I could conceivably manage with a baby, possibly, but one or two young children who are already getting into extra activities? When I think about my life becoming that of a (hardly) glorified chauffeur, driving my child from this practice/class/birthday party to that, I start looking for myself in the picture and can't find me.

Other moms are struggling to find activities for their children over the summer. One stay-at-home mom is fretting because activities that don't put her at the center of everything are hella expensive. Send the kids to the neighborhood community pool? $500 for passes… PER CHILD. And that's not even the private club, which involves a $1500 buy-in *before* the annual fee. Park classes? When I was in elementary school in the '80s $5 bought a supervised afternoon at the park and craft supplies to make with friends. Now? $300 please, to join the summer program in their upper-middle-class neighborhood, and then individual class fees. Why yes, that IS per child, TYVM.

It's ridiculous. And for parents who don't have the luxury of staying home? Now suddenly there's a full day worth of childcare for three months that is now a problem. I've said it before and it's certainly not news, but kids are damn expensive.

I don't know what's worse, really, the financial cost or the time. For me I think it would be the time. I don't have a problem, in general, with throwing money at the problem (supposing I have it). But my time is a non-renewable resource. I need time to be me, to do things I enjoy. I could find joy in my children, I suppose, but I know I'd be miserable living at the dance studio every night. The novelty of "look what I can do" would wear off quickly. The pressure to be perky and enthusiastic among the other moms, to not look run-down and tired like I would surely be, would be devastating. I imagine high school all over again, full of gossip and cliques. I wouldn't fit in with the other moms, of course. Flashback to sitting alone at the lunch table in high school, in college, looking around for people who look like me. It's almost panic-inducing. No; strike that "almost".

Okay, fine, I don't need to enroll my kid in anything like that, but that doesn't help matters. I'd want to nurture my child's interests, which would get to be exhausting. My god, how much time it would take. It isn't any wonder that so many parents lose their own identities. Time alone makes it almost impossible to nurture yourself anymore without being branded a neglectful parent. "You're leaving your kids for the weekend to do WHAT?" "You're going on vacation without your kids?"

Judgment. Ridicule. The constant fear that you're ruining your kids. Keep it.

I'll be busy traveling with other grown-ups, eating in the best restaurants in the country and spending my time living my best life. If it's not your idea of the good life, that's fine. Ask me if I have regrets and I'll throw it right back at you.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Looking Brighter

My depression is subsiding with the warm weather, thankfully. I've spent several days in the sun and working outside getting the garden ready for our early spring and I'm feeling more optimistic about things in general, and you all have helped tremendously.

Seriously, you all are awesome. The influx of support while I've been depressed is amazing and encouraging. I thank those of you who are commenting so much. I feel less alone and I'm so glad I've made you feel less alone too. You are so amazing it makes me consider lifting the anonymity of my blog, but I still can't bring myself to do it (not that any of my friends wouldn't recognize themselves in my stories if they came across the blog, but that's beside the point). The anonymity protects me, keeps me honest and frank.

To all of you who've offered up support, you're amazing. Want to talk? Reach me at childfreeme at gmail and Google+. Maybe we can get together and have a childfree hangout on G+ sometime soon. I'm useless as an organizer, but it's something to think about — we need to stick together!!

Also, if you like my blog, consider clicking on a couple ads. It isn't much but every little bit helps me write more.

Much love,


My friends' little girl — the one who's made of magic — is amazing. I'm overjoyed to be welcomed as a part of her life and she is absolutely awesome. When I consider how much I love Babygirl I feel almost self-conscious, like I'm intruding on Mom and Dad's territory, even though they encourage us to love the hell out of her because there's plenty to go around. Most of the time since she's gotten over her colicky start in this world she's a dream, but when she has a bad day… damn.

We stayed the weekend at their house and Saturday was a really bad day. Babygirl didn't sleep so well the night before and neither did mom and dad, so everyone was a little on edge, yet somehow they managed to be gracious hosts. We did, however, get to see the vicious cycle of frayed nerves, exacerbated by the fact that their live-in nanny, Babygirl's grandmother, is contemplating moving out and suddenly they're faced with looking into the cost of childcare.

Mom and Dad are excellent parents under the worst stress, but Dad was under a lot more pressure than usual this time around. He and I are of very similar temperaments, so it's interesting to me to watch him dealing with his daughter. He's highly sensitive and easily annoyed, very nurturing but often impatient. And my guess is, because both Mom and Dad are very intuitive, perceptive people, Babygirl could be extra sensitive to their emotions.

I could watch her grow uncomfortable as Dad got more and more frustrated that she continued to fuss, and when he got angry that, once again, she slept only briefly before waking up and squalling. When I mentioned this to Mom she just laughed and agreed that it's as if Babygirl is yelling at Dad for getting so frustrated with her. We did a lot of laughing that weekend, and it got us through the worst of it. It's easy enough to tolerate the child's inconsolable crying, but it's the tense, frayed energy from Dad that really made me start to get twitchy and uncomfortable. I feel bad for him, because all he wants is to be able to comfort his daughter when she's hurt or upset and it eludes him. Because of his hypersensitivity, he can't not take it personally and it really, really gets to him. I imagine he and Mom fight about the fact that only Mom can really calm the baby down more on their own than they do when we're around.

But if it was just Babygirl we were talking about, it wasn't that bad. We got used to it. We laughed when Babygirl made a particularly hilarious sound during her cries and were able to go about our business of hanging out. The next morning, when she woke all bright-eyed and happy, her magic kicked in and all was forgotten.

There were so many times that day and night where my husband would take my hand and squeeze, or I'd glance at him with a knowing look.

I see so much of us in this couple. They're amazing. I've never known a couple to continue living their life as normal so easily with a baby in tow. They're not afraid to take her places. They know Babygirl loves animals and is always gentle with kitties — she loves our big fluffy boy especially — and they have no problem setting up the pack-n-play in our guest room so they can spend the night. They're not paranoid about germs or who holds her and they take everything in stride. Some things have changed — they're not as flexible as they used to be, but they're the same people. Unlike so many parents I've known who've become paranoid, distrustful shells of who they once were, losing their entire identity with the birth of their child, this couple proves to me that parenthood doesn't have to change you. They prove to me that you can have a child and not live a life of fear. It's refreshing.

But that doesn't mean there aren't fundamental changes in their life and their relationship. Far from it, and I'm seeing it more as Babygirl gets older and they're coming to the realization that this is their life now. This isn't going away. It gets more real every day.

While they're very much the same, their world does revolve around this amazing little girl. When she's hungry, when she's dirty, when she's sick or in pain from just plain growing too fast, they have to be there. Even with their nanny, there are really no breaks. Sheer determination and knowledge that they need their creative outlets keeps them devoted to their hobbies but it leaves them utterly exhausted. Their social life may not be suffering, but it's clear their romantic life is, and that breaks my heart for a couple that is so in love. But there's just no time and intimacy is easy to sacrifice when your nerves are shot to hell from wearing Baby on your hip since you got home from work. Not a moment of their days is unaccounted for… and not a penny of their money is either. The level of sacrifice is daunting to consider, even for people who, on the surface, appear to not have sacrificed much at all.

I can't fathom my life changing that much. The constant presence of someone so dependent on me, the frayed nerves causing tension in our marriage, or the lack of any intimate alone time. So for now, we'll just consider spoiling Babygirl with the toys and clothes that are so fun to buy, and we'll enjoy taking her from Mom and Dad when they need a break. It's a pretty sweet arrangement, I've gotta say.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Our Furry Kids

Sometimes I wonder whether my husband and I love our cats too much. One (awesome) parent friend called our enthusiastic sharing of photos "baby picture time!" and while we laughed it off, it was totally right.

That said, our three cats are totally our babies. Our phones are full of photos of them. They're prominent in our social media and we talk about them ad nauseum. As we watch our youngest grow we get excited about the littlest things. We squeal with happiness and watch when he plays with his brother and sister. We're overjoyed he's learning the wonder and warmth of laps. We cuddle all of them and love them so very much. All three of them are sociable, extremely affectionate and super snugglers. They are, without question, our family, as we declare happily whenever we have occasion to have all three of them with us at once.

I'd never equate having cats to raising children, but it fulfills so much of the same emotions for both of us. The love I feel for them is incredibly strong, and in the moments when I know they love us — when they take turns sitting on our laps, or when our little girl curls up to sleep on me every single night at bedtime, or when our big boy paws at us for loving — it's powerful stuff.

Especially while I'm fighting with my brain chemistry against Seasonal depression that's making everything seem a pretty gloomy, they bring me joy without fail. Cat cuddles make the worst thing better, and they're bringing me much solace. I look at them and think that this is the life. I don't need more than them. Between them and my friends' kids who we spoil rotten and enjoy plenty of Kodak moments with, life is really damn good.