Last Friday was my last day at a phenomenal organization, where I’ve spent the last three and a half years helping grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions. I showed up at this well-known non-profit fresh from the tech industry, searching for emotionally fulfilling work, a place to land where I might at last grow and develop my career in ways that seemed to elude me previously.
When I told my friends I had accepted an offer at Make-A-Wish, some of them raised an eyebrow in disbelief, and all of them expressed surprise. You see, before I walked through those doors I’d viewed children as an irritation, an ubiquitous and thus inescapable nuisance, my advocacy of the child-free lifestyle well-documented and expounded upon freely. So going to work for a children’s charity wasn’t exactly the next logical step for me. But it was the exact right one. Continue reading →
I visited Carlsbad Caverns over an August weekend, and there’s nothing like exploring our National Parks system for instilling a sense of wonder, history and gratitude. Just when I think we’ve destroyed all of nature, that we’ve polluted the entire world, slashed and burned and dumped and drilled the environment into oblivion, I get outside and see we haven’t quite. Not quite yet. Which makes me realize that for my strong identification as an urbanite–Manhattan being my spiritual home, the place I feel most alive and centered–I need to sense the natural world. I crave the astonishing beauty of Mother Nature, and the feeling of integration with the environment, my place in it, and the humility it brings. I feel so connected and astonished and shriek! Tommy, stop that right now! Shriek! Well, nothing ruins a moment in the park like people who don’t know how to act in public. Continue reading →
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.
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 →