Monday, December 09, 2013

Talking About Identity

I spent much of the weekend with girlfriends who are moms, but among the more understanding moms I know. That's why it was so weird to me when, during a conversation about female characters in literature and film, I froze when my friend asked me this:

If a character was more like you, what would she be like?

I froze. Like an idiot I froze. The real answer? I don't have a maternal instinct. I don't see children in my future, and that changes what a love story looks like. It's something that's never addressed.

I gave that answer, but was surprised to hear her give one of the stock mom responses: "I didn't think I could do it either."

It was hard not to just sigh, but the conversation sort of stalled awkwardly there.

But this isn't about what she said. It's about how I felt. I felt uncomfortable, guarded, scared of offending her like I'd offended so many mom friends in the past. It's always easiest when it doesn't come up in conversation, or if I start discussing my niece or goddaughter to bring myself back into a conversation that's left me behind to talk about children and child development.

I was scared. And what happened was exactly what I worried would happen. Things got awkward, the conversation died.

Being childfree is a huge part of my identity, and I've learned over the years that it really bothers a lot of parents, including super liberal, supportive friends. "I don't understand why you have to call it something," one father of a toddler says in reaction to someone's post that mentions childfreedom. "I don't get why it has to be a thing when it's the absence of something."

But that reminds me of the people who squirm uncomfortably when a celebrity comes out as gay and says "why do they need to tell me that? I don't want to know that."  Because it's a part of who we are, and it's something that heavily influences life every day.

Others look at those of us who do talk openly about our decision and accuse us for overcompensating. This is another variation of "why are you telling me this when it makes me uncomfortable," as far as I can tell, and that bothers me. It says "keep quiet, you're making too big of a deal about this", and it invalidates my feelings.

But it's hard to open up to parents who are friends, especially after feeling a lot of judgment and hurt in the past. Immediately followed by "I didn't think I could do it either" was a flashing and shrieking alarm that said "this is not a safe place." That's a really unpleasant thing to feel when you're with someone you care about deeply. And that's why we clam up, why we don't speak up.

How do you talk to your parent friends? Do you have this problem, when you can get along well as long as the childfree issue doesn't come up but conversation comes to a huge halt when it becomes more than a surface comment or two?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Sick Kids

The 6-year-old son of a friend-of-a-friend passed away yesterday. His older brother has the same fatal, degenerative disease that he has and probably won't make it much past 10 years old, if that.

These are the kids no one tells you about when they're trying to convince women like me that motherhood is amazing. I know motherhood is amazing. It's not as if I doubt every woman who says they love being a mom.

But it's more complex than that. It's complicated. It's a crapshoot.

Sometimes it's not a life of Kodak moments and milestones. Sometimes it's a life spent shuffling between doctors and hospitals instead of ballet and birthday parties.

What are the chances of me having a sick kid? What are anybody's? There are the kids who are simply chronically ill with no major disease or disorder, who require more constant one-on-one care than a generally well child, and there are kids who, because of genetics or circumstances during delivery will need care not just until they're 18, or through college, but for the rest of their lives. And then there are the ones like this poor family's, who are so sick with incurable conditions that their lives are cut tragically short.

And it's not just the stuff that happens in the womb. A classmate who was in the same gifted and accelerated classes in elementary school got hit by a car, spent 6 months in a coma and woke as a severely retarded 12-year-old. Something as simple as a bee sting or a rogue peanut butter cookie changes some family's worlds. Anything can happen, and it does. Life is complicated that way.

I'm not suggesting kids like these are unworthy of love, or anything of the sort. Being sick isn't their fault, and it's not the parents' fault either. I'm saying that their care should be left in the hands of someone who wants the job and can handle the job. The possibility that my hypothetical children won't have the easy temperament, curious mind, and uneventful development as yours is something that I need to address. It's one of the driving forces behind my choice.

Because, honestly? I could raise the "perfect" child, maybe.

But that's not how this works. I can't save up a little longer, pay a hefty premium to get the luxury model with all the extra features, and have the best one delivered. I can't plug in the traits I find appealing or ask that someone clone my niece (because if I could guarantee that I'd get one just like her I'd sign up in a second). That's not how it works.

Also I know myself. I know how I think. Some women can handle a sick child with grace, even those who require full-time care. They are committed to their role as mother. To do that without a great deal of resentment would require such a dramatic change in who I am as a person that I just don't see it ever happening.

Unless I'm willing to take that risk, that something might happen to a child of mine that forces me to upend my life so completely that I can no longer have a career, or a social life, or a balanced partnership with my husband, or the travel that soothes my wanderlust, I have no business having a child. Unless I can say that yes, I'm willing to have a child and to love that child and care for him no matter what happens, I can't go there.

There is too much risk for a reward I do not need in order to be happy. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Other F Word

"The Other F Word" is a documentary about punk rock dads, discussing how some of the icons of punk are reconciling fatherhood with their anti-authoritarian history. It's more than good. It's brilliant. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) made me cry. It's a story about how, for some people, parenthood changes them completely. It's on Netflix. You should watch it.

This is the bit of parenthood that makes me the most envious. It's an emotion I'll never quite understand, and part of being a childfree woman means acknowledging that I'll never have that. Weighed against all I have in its absence, I'm happily choosing my marriage and life as it is, but it is a choice.

Because really? Watch the documentary. Watch your closest friends, the ones who are great parents, and tell me that doesn't look kind of cool. It's pretty cool.

The assumption that many more judgmental parent-types will make about us, the childfree, is that we don't know what we're missing. That we're missing out on something so completely life-altering, that we can't even imagine it. They're right about one thing: We don't know how parenthood would change us. Nobody does. Maybe I would be like my formerly CF friend from the Best Laid Plans posts, and having a child would change my life. Or maybe I would be like my niece's mother. Like my mother. Cold, detached. Resentful. Maybe I wouldn't be able to bond. Maybe something would be wrong with my child and I'd have to go from being a successful entrepreneur to a full-time mom and caretaker. WE DON'T KNOW.

I'm going to be 36 this week, and I see the world a lot differently than I did when I was a 21-year-old childfree woman. One of the things that I'm noticing is that being childfree is a far more deliberate choice than it was back then. I've seen some of my friends' kids grow up. I've seen it change some people, some for the better and some for the worse. But I acknowledge the magic of that change, of seeing your child for the first time. I don't understand it and never will, but I acknowledge that it exists.

But I also look at my husband and know that we achieve a level of closeness that's a lot stronger, and a bond that's much more powerful than many of my friends who have kids. He's my best friend. We go on the most amazing adventures, and we can afford to see the world. Our vacation time is *our* time, and we use it all up, seeing exciting places or leaving on a whim for a weekend away.

Is that selfish? Would it be less selfish if I had a child and regretted not having that freedom? Would it be less selfish if I had a child and shipped her off to stay with others so I could keep traveling child-free? It's important to me as a person.

In the meantime, we spoil our friends' kids. They love us, and we love them. They beg their parents for us to come visit. They invite us to their "friends only" birthday parties because "they're my friends!" Our life is full of children, and we love the ones we're close to. That's enough.

If that's not enough for you, that's okay. I acknowledge that having a baby could change my world around and I would want to give up all the things I hold dear so I could be a good parent like the dads in "The Other F Word". I'm just okay missing out on that. It's a choice I'm making, and I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The New Girl

Any reservations I had about my friends' new foster (soon to be adopted) daughter have been unwarranted, and I couldn't be happier. She's a super cool kid and is fitting in with the family like she's always been there. We've been traveling with this couple for years, and while her presence certainly changed the dynamic on our recent trip, she really did feel part of the family. It was really cool.

She's also become attached to me, which was unexpected. She wants to hang out and spend time together, and she wants to include me in her "girl time" with her new mom. It's been fun hanging out with her and I really look forward to spending more time with her as time passes.

It's still strange, though, realizing that this isn't temporary. Their lives are forever altered now that they're parents. Our vacation sort of made me sad, because neither of her parents wanted to come do the nightlife stuff we've done together for years. They spent their time at the hotel pool instead of at the events we've always gone to together, and they skipped dinner out because she wanted PB&J in the room. Their priorities have changed, as they should, but I'm quickly becoming the childfree friend who doesn't get it, I guess.

And it's hard to see them as parents, to know that they're a family of three now. They want us in her life and we want to remain in her life, but it's changing the dynamic of our friendship in a very different way than friends who have a baby change. It's not bad, it's just… different. When friends have a baby there's an adjustment period. You don't have to watch your language, or make different food choices when they're over for dinner. You don't have to include her in the conversation so she doesn't feel left out. At 11, she's a whole person with feelings. 

At the same time, I'm glad she's here. I'm glad they're giving her a chance and I think they're going to be a really happy family. I imagine it'll take some time for her to feel truly at home, to call them mom and dad (although she dubbed my husband, me, and our other traveling companions aunts and uncles, which was cool). Spending almost a week sharing a hotel suite with her and her family was badass. But I think she's happy, and that's really awesome.

It still doesn't seem permanent, though, and that makes me uncomfortable. I'm sure it's because of the nature of adopting an 11-year-old, the fact that she comes with this robust history full of things we can't even imagine, and she's now being asked to be a part of this family. We're a part of that extended family. We're excited to have her in our lives, and as strange as it is, I'm looking forward to getting used to having her around.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Best Laid Plans (revisited)

"I have these little panic attacks when I think that I could have missed out on having him. I love him so much it hurts."

I love that my friend, childfree one who accidentally got pregnant, is falling into being a mom and loving it. I didn't want her to be a childfree horror story, the one people hold up and say "yup, see, this is why we're making the right decision." But when she talks about the changes she's experienced since becoming a mom, it's hard to hear sometimes.

You want to think you know what you want, what's best for your life, and we can only do the best with the information we have. She's one of the lucky ones, bless her heart. She's got a beautiful baby boy who she loves to pieces and who enriches her world and her marriage. Would she feel the same if something was "wrong" with him, as was her biggest fear when she was pregnant? Who knows. She can't speculate, I can't know.

Would I have the same experience? Would I suddenly accept all the changes in my life, the knowledge that I could no longer plan to travel the world as I want? That I could no longer work like I do? Maybe, maybe not. We know my niece's mother never bonded with her and rejected her, leaving my brother to raise her while she skipped town. It doesn't happen for everyone.

I don't like that her situation pushes my "what if" buttons. Between her, my friend who is currently undergoing IVF at 39 after being a "career girl", and others, the "what if" buttons get pushed. It's uncomfortable when that happens. Makes me doubt my own judgment. But when I question my choice, when I wonder whether I'm making the right one, I always land in the same place:

It would probably be nice to want a child. But I don't want that life. My husband doesn't want that life, and we can't count on the hormones to come a-rushin' in to change all that when we become parents.

So there's some mourning. This isn't as easy a decision for us as it is for some childfree couples, the ones who outright dislike kids and the whole idea of parenting. We talk about it, what it means, what we want, and wonder if we'll come to the same conclusion.

But at the end of the day, we're happy with our family just as it is.

Monday, July 29, 2013

"We'll just adopt…"

A couple we're very close to is adopting an older child next week, and it's weirding me out. We've adjusted to the new mom thing with many friends by now, but this time instead of an infant entering everyone's lives it's an 11-year-old girl. She's already almost my height, and she has a personality that's all her own. A few years in the foster system have left her a little immature for her age, but she's this person. A whole person with a history and hopes and dreams and interests. It's taking some getting used to.

My husband and I got to meet her last week on one of her last visits before she permanently moves in with her new family. She's a sweet girl, eager to please but a little clingy. She's as good a fit for this family that could possibly exist, I think, and I'm super excited that we'll get to be a part of their lives. They wanted to adopt an older child for many reasons, but I think one of the reasons was that they thought it would be easier.

It's not easier.

A lot of childfree women say "If I want kids later, I'll adopt." A couple of my best friends have been adopted. It seemed simple enough. But now, watching my friends' experiences through this process — entering the foster system with the goal of adopting, not just fostering — have shown me how complicated it is. Promises of a child coming into their life until the birth mother (or, in one case, a former foster mother) files an appeal. Getting hopes up based on profiles only to find out that the caseworker grossly understated psychological issues or abuse histories. The horrible guilt at having to reject a child after going through a good portion of the process because it "just didn't feel right" when they finally met the child in person.

In the beginning I thought I was one of those women, the ones who would take in foster kids if I got the urge to parent later in life. Long ago I decided that wasn't for me, but seeing this process is reinforcing that. New Mom is finding bonding with the child a challenge for a number of reasons. She's finding herself a little resentful of the time, the money, the changes that are happening. I worry she's regretting her decision. She even told me that in just the last few home visits she's realized that she probably would have been okay if she and her husband were childfree.

Luckily, her husband is over the moon about the whole thing. He loves being a dad to his new daughter and is helping to compensate for Mom's nerves. I think it will be okay, in time, but as the reality is hitting, as moving day approaches next week, she's really scared. She's also nervous because she's not feeling "like a mom" yet.

My husband and I have committed to supporting our friends and talked a lot about it. It's important to us that they're a part of our lives and we're ready to accept her. But it's a whole new kind of strange. From a selfish point of view, our relationship with them will be changing in a different way than new parents with infants changes. There will be this extra person there, one that we have to engage and include in conversation. Will we still be able to rant about work, gossip about friends, bitch about family when there's this girl who needs role models more than most kids?

It will obviously be more challenging for them. They're going to spend the next year or two adjusting her expectations, making her a part of the family. She's likely going to go through a phase, as "most foster kids do (according to their caseworker)" where she tries everything in her power to make their lives miserable as a challenge to see if they send her back to the group home and back into the system. It could be years before she calls them "mom and dad". In just a few years she'll be dating, driving.

And here's what gets me. They're changing this girl's life for the better, for sure. Without them, it's highly likely she'd be in the system until she's 18. They're giving her a chance at a life. But even so, they're starting from so far behind that by the time they're truly bonded, she could be starting high school.

I'm excited for them, but I find myself hoping they're doing this for the right reasons. Occasionally I wonder whether they went down this path because Dad wanted to be a father so bad and Mom just doesn't do babies. I wonder whether she does motherhood at all, or if this will change her, make her want one of her own to raise. It's going to be an interesting journey.

It's a window into the life I used to use as a way to get people off my back about not having kids. "We'll just adopt." It's far more complicated than I could have imagined.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why I Do This

Why do still I talk about this, after 7 years of doing this blog? Because I wish someone told me 7 years ago that this was okay. Because I get letters like this too often to just shut this down:

"Reading your blog gave me so much comfort in knowing that I am not alone and It has helped me understand issues that I could face in the future. I am given ridicule for my choice, and not being believed just because of my age is really painful and makes me feel like such a freak for not wanting what everyone else seems to want. I am so glad to find that there are other people out there who feel just like me and face similar issues."
There are some who take the time to hurl insults from behind an anonymous tag, but here's the thing. I'm going to keep writing. I'm going to keep talking about the decision I've made, my 7-year journey, that will be a 10-year journey. I can show what the world looks like through the eyes of a 35-year-old childfree woman. When I was in my mid-20s I needed to see the words of people in their 30s, who were feeling as I was then, to see how they felt in 10 years. Because I had no map. It's the same reason why I'm so excited to meet other childfree women, especially those in their 40s and 50s, who've dealt with the issues I'm dealing with now.

Writing gives me power. Sharing gives us all power. I don't use my actual name for many reasons, but I'm reachable. I am accountable for what I say. Any one who wants to can reach me at I'm crazy busy, so I don't often have time to respond, but I appreciate the letters I get, and I'm open to starting a dialogue with people who want to understand more about why we make the choices we make, and why I blog about it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Five Days with a Toddler

I've been staying with friends this week, attempting to work remotely with a toddler running around. I have learned things.

THIING ONE: I can do about 10-15 minutes with the child before I'm bored/annoyed/want to do anything else but wait on her every need, and this is a child I adore. On This American Life, in its Back to School episode, Ira Glass referred to babies (as seen through the eyes of teenagers) as "these incomprehensible bundles of need", and that's what this child is.

She isn't a bad child, by any means, she's just two, and that's what two-year-olds are to me. It's especially the case for toddlers who aren't verbal. She's bright and appears to comprehend well, but she's barely talking aside from babbling, which just plain frustrates everyone, including the baby.

THING TWO: The primary job of a toddler's caregiver appears to be keeping her from accidentally killing herself. Not just hurting herself, mind you — pain is an excellent teacher, and if she learns that putting fingers there means pinched fingers, that's a life lesson. I'm talking possible DEATH. It's the stray piece of sharp(!) plastic in her mouth that came from god knows where. It's the heavy thing on the shelf she can just barely lift. It's the gate above the stairs you swear to god you clicked shut — or hell, did she figure that out too? It's keeping her from putting her finger in the dog's eye/ear/butt and pissing him off. It's the drawer she figured out how to open and the knife you carefully set on the counter that's juuuuuuuuust within reach of her tiny fingertips because she developed the ability to stretch just a little further. It's constant vigilance.

THING THREE: As a parent, your life is a series of little messes. Cereal bowls poured on the ground, crackers crumbled on the sofa, yogurt covering the baby. Diapers and dishes and blah blah blah. So many messes, all the time. And when she's cleaning up, the baby NEEEEEDS her attention, so while she's doing the dishes, baby is whiiiiiiiining, a sobbing mess on the floor because she's not the center of attention. Mom has to turn off the part of her brain that says "I am causing my child pain" because it's not pain. It's manipulation. It's a game. Which leads me to…

THING FOUR: Holy crap, are toddlers manipulative. Figuring out when they're hurt and when they're crying wolf is a crapshoot. Everything is a crisis. Not responding to a whine? Try a cry? Let's make it sound like I'm in pain, that you're actually harming me. It's awful. To someone as sensitive as I am, it quickly becomes emotionally overwhelming, even though I know that taking my Kindle away from her so she doesn't destroy it is not actually causing her traumatic physical pain.

They say it's different when they're your own kids, and to that I call bullshit. It's not different. You just have the love that balances out the awful more, but it's still awful. On a bad day, Mom calls baby the Soul Sucker. While baby is up, it's all about baby. She wants to work, but realistically she can't concentrate on work until baby is in bed. It's not different. It's just "worth it" I guess?  I don't know.

And it's not just that. It's the series of broken Xbox controllers from being thrown around. It's Mom's brand new iPhone that got dunked in her cup of water because all the sippy cups are dirty, and the shelves full of things pushed way to the back, out of baby's reach, and the annoying door knob covers and drawer locks aimed at keeping her from getting into things she shouldn't get into. It's the screaming when she DOES get a hold of the expensive, breakable thing you tried so hard to keep her from getting her hands on. But it's "worth it"? I guess?

I found myself escaping into the basement to work in peace this week because even when baby wasn't bothering me, her emotional neediness, mom's frustrations, they weighed on me so much that I couldn't focus on my work. My guilt weighed on me too, for being annoyed when the kid is just being a two-year-old.

The adorable moments are great. But this week, I recognize those moments and say "these are the moments they say make it worth it. It's just not moving me." Right now, she's breaking up saltine crackers and crumbling them into the sofa and I've lost my will to tell her not to do it. I can't anymore. I'm tired.

It's now just one more mess for mom to clean up. Lucky her.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Best Laid Plans — UPDATE

Lots of people have asked about my friend I referred to in Best Laid Plans.

With a lighthearted laugh she blames it on the chemicals, the oxytocin released at birth. She loves her son. Loves him "so much it hurts. Like literally hurts." Her family thinks she's crazy because this comes as such a surprise to her. "They don't understand that I really did not expect to love my baby."

It's not easy. He's not a good sleeper and the broken schedule is wearing on her. (This is a common theme among the parents of newborns in my life right now.) She's so tired. Every conversation starts with how goddamn tired she is. And it's dull. Her son is gorgeous, but he's not very interesting right now.

And her instincts aren't finely honed. This bothers her. Dad's a pro, like he's done this before. He anticipates the baby's needs, knows how to quiet him, can interpret the cries in a way she's still struggling to do. She's self-conscious about it, but considering this wasn't ever her dream she's not surprised that she's absolutely clueless. But she wishes she was better at it. I have a feeling every mom probably feels that way.

She's worried about what this means for her career. She's the primary breadwinner in the relationship, the one with the degree and the good job. The one with benefits. They know they can't survive — not near Chicago at least — on Dad's salary, but the cost of childcare is so daunting she's admittedly in denial about it. Budgeting terrifies her. It's never been something she's had to do before, and now money is suddenly very tight. It's uncomfortable for her. This was exactly why she didn't want children.

I have faith they can get past all of this because she does love the hell out of her son and her husband. She's learning to be a mom and getting better at it. I'm hopeful for them. I get the impression that things are going as well as could be expected, if not better. 

The Harsh Realities

There seems to be a movement right now that encourages parents to admit that, on some days, parenting kind of sucks. I think this is a powerful movement, and I know that there's power in being honest with one another. Making struggling parents feel guilty for not enjoying and cherishing every single movement, making them feel like terrible people and parents for wanting to punt their children into the neighbor's yard, that's not helpful.

But honestly? It's all fuel to my fire, reminding me why I've made my decision.

I have several friends with toddlers right now, and others who've recently gotten past the "hell years", as one mom who just got through those years put it. "Oh god, 2 is the very worst." "3 and 4 are the worst. I don't envy you." I'm hearing it over and over. I'm seeing it in their mommy blogs, reading it on their Facebook pages, hearing about it on instant message. It's the rants, the frustration, the agony. "I understand why people hit their kids."

But it's not just that. I'm hearing it from the parents of newborns too, how just a few weeks in they're at their wits' end because they're not handling the sleep deprivation well, or the boredom after working consistently every day of their adult lives. "I understand why people shake their babies," my goddaughter's mother admitted after the third long, colicky night.

You have to really want it to cope well with the realities of parenting. The more I hear from my friends, the more I understand that parenting is no job for a fence-sitter. I'm well and truly over any fences now (funny how a European vacation can do that), but in the moments when I think parenting could be cool I think back to the hard stuff, the moments that are currently driving a number of my girlfriends absolutely crazy. The ones that need to be disclaimer'ed to hell and gone so everyone understands that there are beautiful moments mixed in with the contemplations about how bad it could REALLY be to give a toddler a shot of whiskey to help them sleep.

I'm so grateful that my friends live in a world where it's safe to talk about how hard parenting can be. It helps new parents understand what they're in for in a way that I don't think previous generations were allowed. They were told it was the best time of their lives, that the kids grow so fast you have to love every moment, that you have to do everything right 100% of the time or you're a bad person. Even the parents of 10-year-olds I know didn't get that freedom. Not like today.

Today they can cry out in solidarity when potty training isn't going well and they just decide to put the potty trainer in front of the television because at least then he'll sit on it until he has to go. That's powerful stuff, and I think it's going to help this generation of new parents do a much better job.

It's also something I feel fortunate I'm not a part of. I'll sit back and listen, experiencing parenting vicariously through them while thanking the powers that be that my house won't ever have a poop-covered toddler running around… and if that does happen, it's not my problem to deal with it. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The One Thing That a Woman's Supposed to Do

Sometimes I watch terrible chick flicks to laugh at them, but  What to Expect When You're Expecting was a whole other brand of awful.

On the one hand, it reinforced that I definitely do not want children. I don't see myself in any of their lives. Yes, they're fictional, but I've pretty much known all the women whose caricatures are portrayed in the film, from the breast-obsessed mom to the image-obsessed mom. They've all been in my life at some point, and I cannot relate in the slightest.

It kind of makes me feel defective.

I don't really mean that in a bad way. I've talked about this before, feeling broken, defective, like something's wrong with me because I don't want kids. It takes on a different tone now that I'm older. It still sucks, feeling left out, but lately I find myself feeling extremely grateful that I've recognized this in myself and have been working so hard at loving my life as it is.

But when Jennifer Lopez's character bawls about not being able to do "the one thing that a woman's supposed to be able to do", it made me twitch. It made me angry. I've heard friends dealing with infertility say this a lot, that not getting pregnant means they're a failure as a woman, or as a wife.

Fuck that.

I genuinely feel sympathy for families going through infertility. I cannot imagine wanting a child, especially not wanting one so badly that every failed month is painful. I get it.

But you are more than your ability to procreate. I am not doing this world a disservice because I'm not procreating. I'm no less of a woman. You know what I was meant to be? A designer. An entrepreneur. A badass aunt and a really great partner. I'm meant to be me.

Be strong. Be sad if you need to be sad — I'm not saying there's no place for disappointment and devastation. What I'm saying is, stop equating womanhood with childbearing. Stop equating masculinity with the ability get a woman pregnant. Stop excluding me when you say "family" is everything. My husband and I started a family when we got married. We count.

I've been told I'll never know what love is, that I'll never fully appreciate my own mother, that I'm wasting a perfectly good uterus, and that I'm doing a disservice to my family and the world. These are not paraphrased statements. People have said these things to me. They've also implied that i shouldn't have gotten married, that I'm childish and immature, that my husband isn't a real man because he hasn't managed to knock me up for whatever reason, that I'm a bad person and incapable of loving the children in my life, that my life lacks meaning because I don't want kids of my own.

I'm mad. That's my emotion tonight; I'm mad. I'm tired of being bullied and made to feel less than what I am, and movies like What to Expect reinforce that. A woman is nothing if she doesn't get pregnant. Husbands are bumbling and stupid and lose all their masculinity when they become parents.
I didn't expect a good movie when I watched this. I knew what I was getting into, but it was far worse, and not at all funny. It was pathetic, and it made me feel sorry for people whose world is shattered if they can't have children.

Having children is great… if that's what you want. But someone whose goal in life was to be a mom is a complete mystery to me. AND THAT'S OKAY. I have different goals. Stop trying to make me feel like I'm less than you because of them, and I will never make you feel like you're less than me because you chose a different path.


Friday, April 05, 2013

Full Time Job

I already have a full-time job. Two, on many days and nights. I work from home, often for very long hours fueled by lots of late night coffee, and because I generally make my own hours, when I can choose my hours I work into the wee hours of the night. I'm a textbook night owl, preferring to work late and wake late.

Because I love my job, my career, this is perfect for me.

The moment I consider how a child would change the way I live my life, my work is the first thing I think about. I think about the long days, the crunch time nights where I get three or four hours of sleep because I'm balancing so many clients, and know that there's just no room.

In addition to all this work, I have a marriage that I treasure. Our couple's time is very important. Even after 10 years together, we program in snuggle time into the morning alarm. We enjoy gourmet food and entertaining friends, and traveling is a huge part of our life together. To give up the vacations we take, to use our treasured vacation time to manage sick kiddos, I can't imagine that.

You make sacrifices, moms will say, and it's worth it.

But what if I don't want to make those sacrifices? What if the price is too high?

This is something I have a hard time explaining to people who've known all their lives that kids would be a big part of their life. Of course you can't explain to someone whose kids are their world just how much you value your time. When you don't have the drive to be a parent, there's nothing a parent can say that can make me want to change my priorities.

I know amazing parents who do it with grace. I know others who struggle. The consensus is that there are sacrifices involved, of course. Some work part time or fewer hours. Most who work full-time have family who cares for their kids. But all understandably devote an incredible amount of time to their kids' lives.

It's like adding another job to the list. I mean no disrespect when I say that, because I understand that everyone's kids are far more than just a "job", but that's just it. Because I don't have the drive, all I see is the work involved. As my mom said when I was younger, I'm "more of a career girl."

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

It's Okay

The childfree aren't allowed to have doubts. Have you noticed? I've hesitated to call myself "childfree" at times because there are segments of our community that are so hateful toward people who are more open-minded when it comes to the ideas of children and parenthood.
Just because being childfree is a complicated decision for you doesn't mean that you're some sort of failure to the CF community.
I say this because people have tried to make me feel that way. On social media and public forums, other CF women jump on me and say I'm not really CF if I think being a mom looks kind of awesome sometimes. I haven't had anyone tell me it's okay to be conflicted sometimes, that even stopping to consider whether it's really what you want is okay.
Really, it's okay.
Don't we have enough people on our asses about how we're living our lives? If we say that sometimes it makes us sad that we're missing out, or that we're a little jealous of the things that make parenthood awesome, we're vilified by the childfree community and told by parents that we should stop kidding ourselves. We're not allowed to express conflict or doubt. EVER.
How does trying to make CF some sort of exclusive club help anyone? And why is an expression of doubt an acceptable reason to stop supporting someone's decision?

We are all different, and we come to this community for different reasons and in different ways. No major life decision is without some degree of conflict. We need to support each other. You're not better than me at being childfree because doubt never comes into the picture, and I'm not better than you*.

And no, you can't say for certain how you're going to feel in 10 years, 20 years. You may change your mind… yeah, I know, I've already talked about how we're not allowed to suggest that. But reality is reality. One of my formerly CF friends is currently plunking tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments at 38 because she feels like she missed out. Becoming a mom is all she can think about or talk about now.  I just shared the story of a CF friend who couldn't go through with her promise to herself to have an abortion if she got pregnant. They were childfree until they weren't. IT IS A THING. This isn't a label we have to wear to the grave. CF can mean different things to different people.

It's okay to admit that things can change. It's okay to be conflicted sometimes. Major life decisions almost always involve some degree of conflict or wondering what might be or might have been. And it's okay to be firm in your decision while getting emotional about it from time to time. It's okay to never have a single shred of doubt; if that's the case, I solute you. Tearing women down for expressing conflict or changing their minds is just as bad as the people who we get so angry at who insist that we're making a mistake.

We're human, we're not machines. Our emotions are complex, and the childfree community is complex. Embrace it, and embrace each other.

*unless you're an asshole

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

It Changes Everything

There's still no verdict on whether my friend I mentioned in the latest post is going to love being a mom or not. She tells me that she's tired, a lot, and that it's more work than she anticipated, but that he's a good baby and she did fall in love at first sight.

I think that's good news.

But she also said it changes everything, which I've no doubt about. It's the thing I fear the most when I consider parenthood.Even the healthiest, happiest, easiest baby changes everything. But still, I look at my friends with the active, happy kids, and I look at other friends whose baby is developmentally delayed enough that we're all exchanging looks and biting our tongues, and I don't see a life I want.

I'm 35. This is pretty much it, and I've made my choice. It's been my choice from the beginning, but the older I get the more gravity it holds. 
For me, it's becoming clear that there's going to be some mourning involved. I sort of wish I wanted kids, that I wanted to sacrifice so much for that experience, for that kind of love. It's not enough for me. I was so excited to spend a whole day babysitting my goddaughter last week, and it melted my brain after 4 hours.

I love watching her play, explore, learn. She's an amazing kid, and funny as hell. We cuddled, we played. I love her to pieces, but oh my god I wanted to crawl out of my skin after 4 hours. But I couldn't. I had to stay vigilant, making sure she didn't get into anything or hurt herself, even though there was relatively little trouble she could get into.

It was an easy day with her and I found it exhausting, and boring as hell. All I did was sit on the sofa watching Hotel Transylvania for the hundredth time because that's what the baby likes best, and occasionally fill up her bottle with more milk, feed her food she didn't want to eat anyway, and clean up her messes. The good stuff outweighs the bad/dull/exhausting when you're a parent, I get that. It changes your priorities; I get that too.

But I like my priorities. I like that I'm up at 3:00 am working on a project for a client. I enjoy working 60 hours a week because I love my job. I enjoy going to school on top of this all to finish my MBA. I love that Mondays are work/study nights, Tuesdays we go to our trivia league, Wednesday we're going to see my husband's cousin in a Broadway production, Thursday we're gaming with other friends, and Friday we've got date night. My life is amazing.

I'm not eager to bring something in that will fundamentally change my relationship with my husband, or my life, or my priorities. A life where I'm not creating — writing, designing, imagining — would weigh so heavily on me.

Some parents I know manage it. I've watched other couples grow bitterly resentful of one another because they feel disrespected. While some still put a high value on grown-up time, others dissolve into their new role as Mothers and lose the rest of their identity. They're not bad people, or stupid people, but that's how parenthood changed everything for them.

So when I say I wish I wanted it, I mean that I know I'm missing out on some pretty amazing stuff. Everybody wishes they could have it all. I just know that I can't, and I'm at peace with that.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Best Laid Plans

She didn't plan this. She planned for this not to happen. She and her fiancé were happily childfree and she'd been religious about taking her birth control since high school. She did everything right.

And she got pregnant.

This is the story of a dear friend who's due to have her son any day now. It sounds like a childfree cliché, a horror story that never really happens. But it did, and it's breaking my heart.

I'm hoping my friend has a change of heart, that something happens to her after her son is born that makes her fall head over heels in love and feel silly for ever thinking anything else would happen.

At this point, I'm not sure if that'll happen.

When she found out she was pregnant, she scheduled an abortion. As happens with so many women, a heartbeat changed her mind, but not out of love. Out of guilt. She's adopted, from a mother who was 19 and just starting her life on her own. But my friend has a good job, a wedding date planned, a great relationship with her parents and her birth mother, and she's in her 30s like me. So she decided to keep the baby.

She's lost friends because she ever considered ending the pregnancy. She's lost friends because she's not over-the-moon ecstatic. She's lost childfree friends who can't believe she'd have the baby. Her husband, who agreed to a life with no kids, is beyond happy to welcome their son in to the world. I'm glad for that; at least, if she doesn't change her mind, the baby will have him.

But her experience is so like how I imagine my own that it frightens me. She's told me I'm the only one she can talk to about how she really feels instead of customizing it the person she's talking to. Why is it impossible for people to just encourage her to feel what she's feeling? She hates being pregnant, she's terrified that the child will have something wrong with him or that she'll be a terrible mother because she doesn't have a nurturing bone in her body. She's already feeling guilty for being a bad mom and he's not even born yet.

I hope she has a change of heart. I hope her friends stop being assholes and start respecting her. I hope her son is healthy and beautiful and she thinks he's the best thing she ever did.

The last thing I want is for her to be a poster child for why childfree women shouldn't have kids. No child deserves that.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Troll - The Last Word

"Wow! I'm very glad you are all childfree. Most of you sound very uneducated. I can rest well at night knowing women, as ignorant as you all, are not reproducing. Your species will die off quickly and pain free."

I hate to give this sad person any airtime and I was so tempted to let it just disappear into the ether,  but I want to make sure all of you smart, well-spoken ladies see this so you can have a good laugh at our very brave Anonymous troll. That said, I'm curious what this person's species might be, if not human like us. I like to think we've made alien contact. Or maybe we're the aliens? Thoughts?