When people see me with kids and see how much I enjoy them and how good I am with them, they cannot wrap their minds around the fact that I do not want kids. People assume that if a person likes kids, she must want them and that not wanting kids equals hating kids. For me, this is not true. I don't hate kids. I hate the lifestyle that comes with having them. When I tell people that, they look at me like I am speaking a foreign language. They just don't get it.
My very close friend Sara, who loves being a mom, demonstrates for me every time we are together why I do not want the parent lifestyle. We were together all day on Saturday at our house doing our annual holiday cookie bake - a tradition we have been enjoying for over 20 years. We start at 8:00 a.m. and go until well after dinner time, sometimes into the evening. Her kids stay home with her husband on cookie bake day (thank goodness) so we have the entire day together, just the two of us.
Even though Sara is sans kids for the day, she never escapes the demands of being a full-time mom, with her husband calling her on her cell phone every hour to check in and ask for her advice on every situation that arises with the kids. She's got to talk him through everything from what foods to feed them to how to get them to settle down for nap time to what time he should put the t.v. on, to who gets what snacks. He is helpless without her.
Last week, Sara and I went out Christmas shopping together at the local Target. I noticed that Sara always seems like she is on methamphetamines - she is always racing. While I am casually strolling through and aisles, browsing and looking at things in a leisurely and contemplative way, Sara is manically grabbing this thing and that, talking a mile a minute and making decisions quickly in a feverish rush, even when it's just the two of us and there is no reason to rush. I realized that her frantic demeanor has been honed from having to do shopping trips with her young boys who have very short attention spans that expire after 10 minutes a store, resulting in out-of-control temper tantrums. Sara has learned to think and act quickly and impulsively as a means of survival. Being with her turns my stomach in knots.
I have also noticed that with the onset of children, Sara has lost most of her attention span. When she and I are together and having a discussion, I have to get to the point quickly because she quickly loses her focus. She pretends to be listening, but I can tell her thoughts are elsewhere. Her brain has lost its ability stay with a train of thought for more than 1 minute. Again, blame it on endless hours of interactions with her kids who require rapid-fire responses from her - several per minute.I love Sara and our friendship goes back many, many years. I am sure our friendship will go on until the end of our lives, but being around her now gives me bad nerves. I keep telling myself to hang in there - that in a few years, when the kids are older, things will settle down and she will return to the calm and attentive friend I once knew. In the meantime, I just have to remember to take deep breaths when I am with her and try not to absorb the frenetic tension of her manic lifestyle.