Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Living a Child-free Existence

My friend Amy told me that she knew she was ready to have a baby when she had a dream about an angelic, blond-haired little girl holding up her arms and saying, "Mommy." Well, I've had a baby dream, too. In my dream, I've had a baby girl, but I can't remember where I put her. And I keep forgetting I have a baby. A woman has come into the house to do some kind of home improvement and she says, "Oh, you have a baby girl," and I say, "No." She looks confused then motions over to the corner, where sure enough, there's a crib with a baby in it! "Oh, yes, of course, I have a baby girl. Huh. Guess I should check on her." There's no telling how long that baby had been there, and I begin to stress that there is no way I can properly bond now because the baby is too old, so hubby Al says, "Maybe we should put that baby up for adoption so she'll be taken care of." I'm very relieved and say, "Yes, I think that would be best."

So, I don't think I'm ready to have a baby. And considering that I'm going to be turning, ehm, 40 this year, I don't think it's going to happen at all. I'm ok with this. Yes, every Thanksgiving I think about how this is the one time of year that I wish I had a lot of kids and a huge family. And, yes, there are times I wonder if I made the right decision and what I'm missing, but overall, I have to say that I'm happy with my decision not to have kids. Many women, and men, can't understand and automatically assume that there is some physical reason why Al and I don't have kids. There is a physical reason, the idea of that much responsibility for the rest of my life makes me phsically ill and terrorfies me.

Now, I know there are those mightier-than-thou types who brag about how they don't want to add to the overcrowding problem in the world, so they are doing some great civic duty. Well, if you want to think of children as population, that's fine, but my reasons aren't nearly as noble. I just don't feel the need to have them. I like children. I love my friends' children and I would love it if my brother found a great woman to marry and had children, but it's just not for me. When I hold a baby, I don't get that down-deep tingle of "wouldn't this be great to have one of my own." I never have.

Basic of most basic of feelings, I don't want to have to go through growing up all over again, even if it is through my child. It wasn't fun the first time, why would I want to go through it again? Peer pressure, school, back-stabbing friends, weight issues, self-confidence issues. No. Not again.

Besides, I enjoy my time alone. I have time with my husband, I have time with our dog, who is a great low-effort companion, and I have time to myself, and that's all I have time for. I like being able to get up and go somewhere for a weekend; I like having the house to myself at night when Al has a night shift. I like that we can plan a trip to Italy next year, and maybe even squeeze in a trip to Scotland. Selfish? You betcha. But honest.

So, let's talk about the reactions I get. One "friend" told me after I was frustrated that her little monster screamed all the way through the store, that I shouldn't have children because I obviously didn't have any patience. Many people say, "Oh, but you would be such a good mom!" You don't know that, and you obviously don't know me. If I thought I would be a good mom, I would be one. Then there's, "Oh, I was going to invite you to the party, but you don't have kids and there were mostly families there." Actually, I was relieved not to be invited; she was right, I didn't fit in with that group. Then there's the tinge of jealousy, "Well, you get to do (fill in the blank) any time because you don't have kids." Or "What do you do when you stay home if you don't have kids?" And "Well, I'd like a little sports car, but with the kids, we just can't." Yeah, but if you had a sports car, you couldn't pull out in front of me as you run that yellow light with your kids sitting in the backseat of your huge SUV.

A few battlegrounds have been set: restaurants that will ask you to leave if your child is disruptive, and libraries that will take kids to the police station if parents don't pick them up when the library closes. I think we (I'm speaking as a general public "we") are tired of parents not being parents and letting their little darlings get away with anything and everything. I hate going to Wal-Mart because invariably there is some kid crying because he can't get down out of the cart or he wants that toy or candy bar. And I don't know how many times kids have run past my table in restaurants while the Moms sit and talk. They've gotten so used to ignoring their kids at home, that they easily ignore them in public. Besides, they're just being kids, right? I don't think so. If I had acted like that, my mother would have taken us home immediately, and I would have understood that it was my behaviour that made us leave early.

And then there are the people who get all bent out of shape because people without kids are giving them advice. Well, guess what, we live on this planet, too. And we have opinions and rights just like you do. And the world doesn't revolve around your children--your world might, but the rest of the world does not. And the fact that you have children doesn't add any more weight to your opinion or make it right that your kids are crying and screaming while I'm trying to eat a nice dinner or watch a movie or pick up something at the grocery store or trying to admire that piece of artwork at the museum. We have non-smoking areas in a restaurant, why not non-children areas?

Well, that's probably enough ranting for today. Yet again, all rant and no answers. But I guess that's how this outlet works. More later.

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