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.


Anonymous said...

At 40, I definitely see my childfree choice differently than I did when I was younger. I understand exactly what you're saying in this post and thank you for saying it. I feel like I am daily weighing the pros and cons of my decision and everyday I reaffirm my choice. But there is still a struggle with the knowledge that I'll never know how I would be as a parent. Except that...sometimes all I know is that, as a parent, I would be less happy. And often unhappy. And that's why I make my choice.

Tam said...

I hadn't planned on being child free in my 20s, but later, it became something I felt was best for my life. I am 40, married to a wonderful woman, and we are happy with our dogs and cats. Needless to say that we see very little of friends with children. Being gay these days doesn't proclude us from having children in all kinds of other ways, but we don't want any. I am so glad that I found your blog by accident. It's nice to be free to admit that I don't want children. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I was a late comer to the parenthood thing, quite by chance. I had always thought I wanted a child, but didn't have the old marriage thing buttoned up. I can say, 9 years later, this kid rocks my world every single day. He is amazing, far from perfect, but amazing always wins out. That doesn't mean I don't get not having a child. Heck, I know some parents that really don't connect with their child, and some that probably would have been better off without children. And, that is horribly sad. And, perhaps they make daily novations that this is the life they signed up for, like you, and miss or wonder what life would have been like otherwise. No one ever knows the path not choosen. I think someone far more famous than I said that. What I like most about your post (and I have read some real doozies from others) is that you acknowledge the wonder of the other choice, and don't downgrade anyone's choice. That, too, rocks.

Hera Sent Me said...

The worst thing those of us who are deliberately childless do to those who aren't is make them think:

I didn't have to have kids.

My life might be better if I hadn't had kids.

I wouldn't have to put up with my ex if we hadn't had kids.


So they respond by lashing out at us, because the truth is too much for them.

Anonymous said...

Do parents really "lash out" at the childfree? If so, how many?

If someone asks about when you are going to have children he or she is paying you a compliment because that person thinks that you would be a good parent. Maybe the question was prompted by seeing you interact very well with someone else's child.

No one asks someone who doesn't have their s#*t together "when are you having kids?" No one asks about future kids of someone with health problems. People only ask functional, healthy, married people about having children.

Being asked "when are you having kids?" is middle-class, heterosexual, healthy privilege.

Stasha said...

Some parents do lash out, but I think it's for a variety of reasons. But it's certainly not all parents.

As for your comments, I don't mind being asked if I'm going to have kids, and I expect that it's a question I'm going to have to answer. Personally, that doesn't bother me.

What bothers me is when my response is treated with hostility and disrespect. I only take issue with this when I'm pushed repeatedly to explain myself.

Anonymous said...

Parents of large families say that they get a lot of hostility and disrespect too. Apparently anyone who doesn't have 2 or 3 kids feels judged at least once in a while.

You may disagree, but I think that parents of large broods get much more public disrespect than the childfree do, even if large broods get much more governmental support.

There are websites by moms and dads of large families that are exact mirrors of childfree sites like this one.