Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Living Life Big

Recently I was chit-catting with another co-worker of mine - a young woman in her early 30s. About a year and a half ago, when I first started working at my job and was getting to know her, the issue of having children came up. When I told her that my husband and I are childfree by choice, she confided that she and her husband were unsure whether they wanted to have kids. Neither of them had a particularly strong parental desire and they were plenty happy with their lives already. At the time, my assessment was that they probably wouldn't have kids.

Fast forward to a couple weeks ago. My co-worker is now about 5 months pregnant and very much looking forward to being a mom, although she does confess many anxieties about how she will handle having a child and whether she is mom material. Out of curiosity, I asked her what made she and her husband change their minds about having kids, since when I first met her they were on the fence. Her response was, "we just gave it a lot of thought and you know - I realized I'm just a person who has to live life big and have EVERYTHING in life. I always want to have it all!"

My immediate internal reaction (which I did not verbalize for obvious reasons) was "if you want to 'have it all', why would you have kids?" Having kids limits the all you can have, and yet, amazingly 95% of the population has been effectively brainwashed into believing that having kids is part of the "have it all" equation. This fact is a continual source of amazement to me.

An objective assessment of the lives of childfree versus child-encumbered people quickly reveals that unlike childfree folks who can pursue every interest and opportunity in life, child-encumbered people sacrifice almost everything in their lives to "have it all" by having kids. The second they have kids, most of their lives go out the window. As I have lamented before, I can't even get 2 hours with my close friend now that she has children. Dinners out are so rare, I can't even remember the last time we went out to dinner. My friend and her husband no longer take vacations (can't afford now that they have kids), no longer do volunteer work (no time), no longer have dinner parties (too hard to do with kids to take care of), no longer take classes or pursue hobbies, no longer have intellectual discussions, no longer have more than 5 minute phone conversations (and the 5-minute calls they do have are constantly interrupted), no longer do anything other than take care of kids. And this is the have-it-all, live-life-big lifestyle we're all supposed to chase after?

No thanks, I'll pass.


Phoena said...

I had a friend like this about a decade ago. They couldn't decide about a baby, so they got a dog instead. They had such a hard time dividing up the dog-related chores, and aruging about how to raise/discipline the dog, I thought, "Thank all that is holy that they got a dog instead of a kid. At least now they see how diasterous having a kid would be." At times I thought might divorce over the dog because they'd fight about him all the time!

Then we both moved away and we didn't keep in touch as much as we should have. But then one day she emails me and tells me they were having a baby. I thought, "What the heck is she thinking?! Did she learn nothing from the dog?"

A few years later she called me one day and was telling me what was going on with her life. While she didn't whine about parenthood or her kid, she did sigh at one point and say, kinda sadly, "Having a kid changes everything." I felt bad for her, but I still don't know why she thought it would be easier than the dog.

I hope things turn out better for your friend.

Childfreeeee said...

Interesting story, phoena. Sounds like parenthood is going to be quite a challenge for your friend (if their dog-caring is any indication)

My friend actually appears to be very happy being a mom which I attribute to her very upbeat nature. No matter how much she takes on and sacrifices, she is always the most upbeat, chipper person I know. I've never seen such a happy mom. But my relationship with her certainly has suffered and she simply cannot do many things anymore.

Anonymous said...

truth is no one can have everything, a good friend of mine pointed that out for me, one example...Paris Hilton is wealthy but she clearly lacks class and intelligence...