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.


Nicole said...

I totally hear you on this. my husband and i talk about this a lot - as we have many a leisurely evening or weekend day... and we like it that way.

I remember once in my mid-20s, going by the community center in my then neighborhood and seeing a kid's swim meet going on... I nearly had a panic attack over the idea of having to give up all my saturdays to things like that. And then I felt guilty as my parents had done so for me. But, you know, I guess when you jump into parenting - you realize in time that your down time and weekends are no longer yours. Having that time will be something I am grateful for. Always.

Anonymous said...

I used to dance ballet for many years. Not only is it expenssive it is required that the older you get the more classes you take. There are a lot of intensive summer dance programs that have the girls practicing hours and hours everyday. My Mom made me get a job to pay for my classes and she made me walk to the studio from my school. I used to feel like she was unsupportive, now I understand why she didn't want to put that level of committement of her time and money into it.

Lynn T said...

It's so all consuming isn't it. I have friends who make time for their own interests, but I am surprised that they can be bothered, you'd think all they would want to do with any spare time is take a bath in peace or lie in a darkened room! I think it is great that more people are taking the time to think about ALL that parenting consists of, weighing the pros and cons and considering all the what ifs, before deciding whether parenthood is for them. Your blog is one of a number of websites which helps to get the message out there that paretnhood is a choice, not an obligation. I think you really have to be prepared to dedicate your whole life to your child. You mean not need to, but I think you need to be prepared as depending on the circumstances your child may need 24/7 dedication . I think its great these days that more and more people are saying KEEP IT. I'm choosing the other life.

Maybe Lady Liz said...

For about 4 and a half years, every Monday morning when I asked my boss how her weekend was, she'd sigh dramatically and say, "Well, just lots of driving the kids all over the place, all day long." She never once mentioned anything she'd done for herself, hanging out with friends (did she even have any? no idea) or that she'd even had any fun at her kids' events. Yikes!

Marcia Davis said...

I am almost 70. The one question I get over and over again is, "Do you regret not having kids and grandkids". In my memoir, which I'm still trying to get published, I'm brutally honest. Do I miss the frantic week-ends of child-centered needs and wants of grandchildren? NO! Were there times I wished I could enjoy a special occasion like a dance recital of my own kid? Yes. That is until I think about everything before and after those soft, fuzzy life events.
I'm blown away by how many people think it's no big deal not to chose a childfree lifestyle. There's still so much emphasis on having that child. Now, it's not with any marriage certificate.Or, the lure is adopting a child from a third world country.
As for me, there was enough in my own ballet schooling not to want to do it again with a child of grandchild of my own.

CynthyB said...

Oh my lordie, I feel I don't have enough time in my life for all the things I want/need to do, let alone adding in someone elses needs. I am like you, and need my me time, otherwise I get grumpy and stressed and don't like being too busy. I get resentful of the people who make demands on my time (which I know is wrong and I give myself a talking too) but it would be soo much more with offspring!

Anyway, glad to hear you are feeling better! You are definitely not alone, indeedy!

falfie said...

Marcia, I enjoyed reading your comment! It's always nice to hear from "veterans" of the childfree life. Although I have no doubts that my husband and I have made the right choice, I still wonder what I will think of that in 20 or 30 years. I'm so glad to hear someone say that there are things they wish they could have experienced, but overall don't regret not having kids.

With regards to the post, I just wonder why the kids have to be involved in every activity possible? What ever happened to kids just playing and being kids?? I think this obsession with putting kids in so many activities is just one more symptom of this idolatry of kids that seems to be so prevalent these days. I makes me sick sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I have a question. Like most of the women I know, I too wish to remain child-free. I am 27 and in a loving caring relationship and my fear is that if I choose to not have children will my boyfriend eventually leave me for a woman who will? Has this happened and does it happen often? Is love between two people enough? BTW, he does not work and I do. He wants children and I don't. Sounds problematic but it works perfectly for some reason. At least it has for the past 6 months. This is either a match made in heaven or recipe for disaster. Any thoughts?

Stasha said...

It works if you communicate openly and honestly about it. My husband wanted kids when we met and before we got engaged I needed to be sure he was comfortable with us not having children, but I've seen friends waiting for the other to change their mind and it never happens. It all comes down to communication. This has to be an issue that you can talk about and that you can commit to talking about for the rest of your lives. It's staggering how often we check in with each other to make sure we're okay on this issue, but it's a big one, especially while our friends are all having babies.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Parents will and do have regrets but will never divulge it for fear of hurting their kids. That is a fact.

Anonymous said...

I babysat all through my 20s for probably 14 different families, a lot of times so parents could 'sneak away' for a Friday night out.

They'd come home and pay me $10/hour for 5 hours... that's $50.

And then there's the dinner (plus tip)... $40.

And the movie and popcorn... $30.

So, they just spent $120 to escape parenthood for a measly 5 hours. And so often the moms said they'd fall asleep during the movie because they just couldn't keep their eyes open.

After they paid me, I would walk to my car... and never failed... I'd say to myself, "I'm SO glad I don't have kids!"

No regrets!