Allow me to freely diatribe on why I’ve chosen not to have children. As a younger woman, I used to think about what I would name my kids, and how many I would want, and at what age I might become a parent. I’m an only child who adored kids growing up. Spending time with them was my biggest hobby, in lieu of sports or clubs. When I was five, my folks moved us to a neighborhood that was on the verge of exploding with kids (in a white, middle-class way), and I was the oldest on the block. For a decade it seemed like about two or three kids were being born each year, and I used to spend time with the neighbor women while they were pregnant, full of questions and excitement. When I was about eight, I began to offer what one neighbor branded “toddler entertaining services”, since I was deemed too young to babysit. This involved spending hours with kids, playing with them while their parents got stuff done around the house. At eleven, I took a babysitting class offered by Seattle Children’s Hospital, which went over all the basics of first-aid, CPR, and best childcare practices. I was certified, and for hire. Business was great. For the next ten years I was regularly employed within a mile radius so parents could work beyond school hours, or enjoy a night out. I took care of this group of kids from the time they were in diapers until they were old enough to be home alone. I’ve experienced, up close and personally, developmental stages, gender differences, and sibling relationships. I’ve meted out discipline, administered medication, expressed unconditional love, had the sex talk with kids of all ages. I’ve even cared for teenagers, because my relationships with my charges often lasted beyond their need for supervision. I was a natural, and I believe I made a lasting impact on the lives of each of these kids, all of whom made it into adulthood (yay!). Continue reading
One of my very close friends has four kids. We work together, and we hang out together outside of work, but at the end of the day, I go home, and she goes home to four kids. Often she will tell me tales of her children’s escapades and I either think or voice the understanding she has an entire life full of responsibilities that I honestly know nothing about.
And I’m totally okay with that. Continue reading
I stumbled across a passage in a Sam Lipsyte short story whose narrator captured an excellent observation on “maternal types”: “She didn’t believe there was such a temperament, unless one assembled it in the culture factory”. We talk a lot in this country about biological clocks, nurturing instincts, women having it all, and the selfishness (or unenlightened state) of choosing to be childless. When women become mothers, society provides rigid expectations, against inflexible imagery of what motherhood should look like. A sampling: once women get to a certain age, or marry, or find the right partner their thoughts are to turn to a desire for mommyhood. A woman becomes a “real” woman, discovers true love, and feels entirely fulfilled once she has children. Before then, she’s just pretending to understand the world and killing time until her life’s purpose begins. Should a mother not look or feel like what’s expected, well, she’d better suffer in silence. It’s not ok to say or even feel that perhaps having children wasn’t the right choice for her, or a mistake or a colossal task for which she’s not equipped. That’s wrong, and would mean she doesn’t love her kids.
I’d like to go on the record right now that I believe having a child when you don’t want to, or not exploring the choice to remain child-free are damaging to women’s lives—and to the children they have. Continue reading
I’m on a summer reading kick, having just gotten a library card and the time to do it. I ran across a line from a novel by Ayelet Waldman where a character remarked, “half the relationships I know are really support groups in disguise.” It made me pause, and I jotted it down (once an English major…). I often question how certain people get into relationships with each other, and what keeps them together. I think Waldman’s observation may contain an important truth, that people use relationships to support and comfort themselves, and I’m not sure that’s the best use of a partner relationship. Continue reading
It certainly wasn’t for my grandparents, together for nearly 60 years. They have trudged through thick and thin and still seem to like each other enough to hold hands in the grocery store, but I know that they fight. Marriage seemed logical to my parents, then when it broke they didn’t soldier through, they walked away bringing their bitter feelings with them. Now there is me. I’m a child of divorce. My mom briefly remarried, but my stepdad passed away in less than a year from cancer. My dad married a woman so she could get citizenship, as a way of paying some sort of karmic debt he thought he owed, and then he died of cancer. Everywhere I look in my family, I see failed or strained marriages, which makes me question why I even want to get married. Continue reading
Consider this part two of “Today’s Young Hot Things…” in which I return to the subject of the status quo. I want to understand the social pressure that brings such a vast majority of Americans to the middle, where lives led appear incredibly demographically similar. Marriage, house, kids. I challenge this path because as I watch more people head down it, the worse it looks. People don’t seem happy. People tell me they’re not happy. An “it is what it is” mentality (which Kate H. would rail against as entirely passive and lackadaisical) seems to prevail. Does living the status quo make people feel normal, that coveted look we’ve all longed for since way back? Or does it feel more like a hostage situation? Continue reading
Kate H. wrote about the tragedy avoidance conversation she had with her mother, in the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide this past weekend. She would unplug from her current tragic state completely, buying a one-way ticket out of the country to live simply, alone. I thought about what I would do, having not felt suicidal since adolescence, and reaching to remember depression so all-encompassing. I posed the question to my husband, who suffers from Biopolar II (a form of bipolar disorder with less severe, “hypomanic” states). He’s experienced deep, black depressions often since I’ve known him, and has considered suicide. I wanted to respond to Kate H.’s post, with some sort of outline of my own, not foolish enough to believe I will never reach that hopeless, miserable state again. Continue reading