Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Center of the Universe

With all the venting I do in this blog about our child-obsessed culture, you would think that by now I would have vented about my extreme distaste for obnoxious loudmouth families in department stores and other public places. How could I have neglected such a topic which is so ripe for ripping into?

This morning I had a little time to kill before work, so I took a run over to Kohl's to find myself some new spring tops. Generally, I find my shopping experiences at Kohl's to be very pleasant - I usually find at least a couple things that I like that are at a reasonable price.

This time, however, my shopping trip was not so pleasant. First of all, before I get into the obnoxious loudmouth family vent, I must ask - WHAT IS UP WITH THE MATERNITY TOP TREND THIS YEAR and the FUNKY, PARTRIDGE FAMILY PRINTS?!!!! And why does every single thing in the store have to be part of this trend!!!???? Look at this top and please tell me WHAT WOMAN would look good in this? And why, I must ask, when a certain fashion trend is in style, must 99% of the clothing in a store be part of the style? What are women who want no part of a certain trend supposed to wear?

Secondly, I must ask: are women such mindless sheep that they will wear something that makes them look PREGNANT or like Mrs. Roper from Three's Company just so they can be in style? I just don't get it.

Anyway, I digress. The reason I am here today is to tell you how fed up I am with obnoxious families who shop together in stores like Kohl's and think they are the center of the universe - yelling and carrying on all through the store with no regard to the customers and employees they are annoying. Today, when I was shopping, there was this woman with 2 young children who seemed to always be in the same section as me and the entire time she was shopping she was yelling at her kids at a volume of about 2000 DECIBELS.

"Julia! Stop it. Get over here! Ryan, get out of that rack! RYAN!!!!! Did you hear me???!!!!! That's it - no McDonald's for you!!!! You blew it, buster! Julia, get your finger out of your nose!!! How many times have we talked about this????! Ooooooh, that's it - You're in BIG trouble, missy!! RYAN! RYAN, you are not listening to me!!!!Don't make me come over there!!! RYYYYYYYYAN. GET OVVVVVER HERE!!!!! WHAT. DID. I. TELL. YOU!!!!!???? Julia!!!! Put that perfume down! Don't spray it! Don't you DARE! I SAID DON'T! (SPRAY) That's it. No t.v. for you tonight!!!(SMACK!!!!)"
and on and on an on for an hour straight.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have no problem with people keeping reins on their children, but this woman was not in control. This family was a three-ring circus! The more she yelled, and the louder she yelled, the worse the kids misbehaved, and the more I felt like going over there, giving her a good smackdown and then duct taping her mouth as well as the mouths of her two brats.

Why oh why do people with kids think that they are the center of the universe and that we all revolve around them? They believe that when they are present, the rest of us must DEAL. Deal with their disturbance and noise pollution. Deal with their bratty, misbehaving children. Well I am sick of it and I am telling you - mark my words - the next time I am going to say something. The next time my shopping experience is ruined by an obnoxious family, I am going to approach the parent(s) and say, "excuse me, but do you mind toning it down? You are ruining my shopping experience and probably the shopping experience of everyone else in the store." And I don't care if I seem like a bitch. I am tired of being Miss Nicey Nice. I am tired of these self-absorbed, narcissistic jerks ruining my shopping excursions and it's time somebody sets them straight. Since there doesn't seem to be anyone else setting them straight, next time it is going to be me, and then there will be another entertaining blog entry for you! (something to look forward to).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lightening has struck!

Well, I never thought I would see the day, but a celebrity has received some press for her decision to be child-free.

Looks like Mariah Carey is perfectly happy sans children, but notice that a large chunk of the article focuses on her explanations for her decision. Always the childfree woman MUST provide a detailed accounting for her choice. Still, it's cool that Mariah is talking about it and that even cooler that some reporter was interested enough to report on it.

Kids for Carey? No, She'd Feel 'Violated'
Posted: 2008-04-23 17:33:27

(April 23) - Pop superstar Mariah Carey has ruled out having kids of her own some day, saying they would make her feel uncomfortable and points to "traumatic stuff" during her childhood for the decision to remain childless.

The 38-year-old Carey told the UK version of OK! Magazine that having children of her own would leave her feeling "violated," adding "I know that's a kind of weird thing to say, but that's how I am.""For now I enjoy my dog Jack's company. It's definitely because of childhood traumatic stuff. The whole not wanting to have a baby as a baby." She did not specify what events turned her off on kids. Her parents divorced when she was three years old. "They just fought all the time," she told PEOPLE.The singer, who is in London to promote her new chart-topping album "E=MC2," said she had serious concerns about bringing up a child."It's hard to have kids in this world," she told the OK! reporter. "I don't think I could properly educate a child right now. Maybe in the future, but I actually haven't thought about it."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Shoot Me (Please)

Could anything more boring and coma-inducing than listening to a bunch of women talk about pregnancy, child birth and day care centers for an hour straight?

Today we had a farewell lunch at work for a coworker who is pregnant and leaving. There were about 12 women at this lunch - mostly mothers, but 2 or 3 of us are not mothers. Well, first the ladies asked the departing pregnant women, Jennifer, how she is feeling. A ten minute discussion ensued about tiredness, too-frequent bathroom trips in the middle of the night, trouble sleeping and so on. Then the discussion turned to potential names for the baby - another 10 minute discussion. Then the women embarked on a lengthy discussion about day care centers - which ones are good, which ones are not so good, and a lengthy discussion about the merits of a particular school with a "child-centered" philosophy. Then the topic of child birth emerged and the mothers began to regale all of us with all the gory details of vaginal birth versus c-section, natural childbirth versus epidural and on and on. All this, mind you, while we were in the middle of eating greasy, cheese pizza.

For the entire hour these 10 or so women - most of whom are intelligent, educated women who are normally quite capable of interesting conversation, talked about NOTHING - not one single other topic - other than this stuff. It took every ounce of self-discipline I could muster to maintain the appearance of interest and attention. I just kept thinking to myself, "how soon can I leave without being rude?"

You would NEVER, EVER catch a group of men sitting around and talking about expectant fatherhood for a full hour straight. Men realize that it's just not that interesting and there is more to life than babies, diapers and epidurals. But put a group of otherwise interesting and intelligent women together with a pregnant woman and be prepared to be bored out of your skull for 60 minutes.

Now you can understand why most of my friends are male.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Authority on Regret

Have you ever met a woman who was staunchly childfree and never had an interest in having kids, but then suddenly changed her mind? Remember my Spa Ladies post? Well, I was thinking about getting my hair cut soon, which got me to thinking about my hairdresser and how she told me she never wanted kids until she was 38 and then she suddenly changed her mind. When I asked her why she changed her mind, she said, "well...I was 38 and at that point it was do or die. I was afraid I would regret not having kids later."

I thought it would be interesting today to discuss the idea that women who do not have children will regret their decision later. Most of us have been told this, usually by multiple people (usually other women), and I think every childfree woman, somewhere in the recesses of her subconcious, worries that maybe they're right - maybe she's kidding herself by choosing this lifestyle and that some day her choice will catch up with her and BAM - she'll realize she made the wrong choice. It's just a matter of time. We all know where this anxiety and fear comes - all the women who are warning us that we will regret our decision later. When you're told something frequently enough, eventually you start believing it is true. How can that many people be wrong?

Well, my question to you today is a very simple one: how can a mother possibly know that a childfree woman will regret her decision later? She is not childfree. She has not advanced to a later life without children. She cannot reflect back on a childfree life and make an assessment of whether it was a regretful decision. No, the only women who can authoritatively speak about any regrets of being childfree are childfree women.

If you want to know if childfree women really regret not having kids, ask a mature childfree woman if she is regretful. I can tell you from the studies I reviewed for my masters thesis that regret was not an issue for the majority of childfree women. Additionally, the studies I reviewed show that elderly and retired childfree individuals (as well as younger childfree) are happier than parents of kids, even when the kids are grown and out of the household. No type of parent has lower levels of depression than the childfree. In addition, the childfree have happier marriages and higher levels of psychological well-being than those with children. This doesn't sound like the makings of a regretful life to me.

When I think about regret as it relates to having or not having children, I wonder why nobody is asking mothers about their regrets - all the things they have sacrificed to have children - like my coworker and several other moms who told me if they had to do it again they wouldn't have kids. Why do you think they wouldn't do it again? Do you think regret might be a factor in their feelings?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Add Another One to the List

Well, it happened again. I dared to ask a woman (a mother) my famous "what if there is such a thing as reincarnation and you got to live another life but you came into your new life with the wisdom of what motherhood is like. Would you have kids again?" and she answered, "no, I don't think so."
This time it was another coworker. She is 65, married and has two grown sons (in their 30s). She's very fond of one of the sons - he has grown up to be a very responsible adult and a doting son. The other son has been nothing but problems for her since the day he was born. He still lives at home with her, has a drinking problem and she was lamenting about the many thousands of dollars she "wasted" putting him through private schools, hoping that he would make something of himself. She also said, in talking generally about motherhood, that she really didn't "like" her sons when they were kids - she loved them, but didn't like them. She felt like she lost her identity for many years when raising them - that all she did was work and give and sacrifice. So in listening to her complaining bitterly about motherhood and about how much suffering her one son has caused her (and is still causing her), I wondered how she might answer my famous question, especially since she's very fond of the other son. So I asked and she answered.

I also asked her "so, considering everything, would you say that having children was worth it? Do the rewards outweigh the negatives?" It took her all of one second to say, "no". She told me that all the problems she has ever had in her life were the result of having children. So I said, "so, if you had no kids, you think your life would be free of problems?" She answered, "no, then it would be the church" (she's a deaconess and her husband is a deacon in their church). We both got a chuckle about that.

So far to date since I came up with this "what if" question, I have asked it directly to 8 people, mostly women. Out of the 8, 7 have responded that no, they wouldn't have kids if they had to live life over again. Interesting, isn't it?

I have to say, I am really impressed with people (especially women) who have the courage to admit they feel this way because it's not exactly the sanctioned way to respond to that question. Women are supposed to LOVE motherhood and say it is the best thing they ever did. I guess they feel comfortable telling me their honest feelings because they know that I am childfree and will not be judgemental of them for how they feel about motherhood. I don't think many parents will admit these things to other parents.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Problem Partner

Recently I was having lunch with a friend who is a psychologist. We got to talking about what we've been up to and I told her I was just finishing up my masters thesis. Of course, she asked me what it was about and I explained that it was about pronatalism and how our culture's message to women that they must have children in order to live happy and fulfilled lives is in conflict with the reality that most childfree women are very happy.

She told me that in the past week alone she's had 2 sets of couples (clients) dealing with the problem of whether or not to have children. In one case, the couple simply hadn't discussed the issue of children prior to getting married (something that never fails to amaze me), although the wife was pretty clear she had no interest in having children. So they got married and I guess the husband figured he'd talk her into it, or she'd "come around" and change her mind once they got married. Not. So here they are at couples therapy trying to come to some resolution.

The second couple, my friend told me, had both agreed (prior to marrying) they did not want to have children. They made a firm agreement on this important matter. Once they got married, though, the wife began to have seconds thoughts, and her second thoughts turned into a full-blown ticking time bomb, I mean, clock.

My friend then described to me her session with this couple and how she spent a good part of the session exploring the husband's reasons for not wanting children. She told me that the husband didn't seem able to articulate any specific reasons for not wanting children - he just doesn't want them.

So my question to my psychologist friend was, "so, what were the woman's reasons for wanting children?" Dead silence. It was clear she hadn't asked that question and it didn't even occur to her to ask the question. I found this interesting, especially since it was the woman's change of mind that was causing the problem in the relationship. After an awkward pause, my friend replied that they never got around to that question as the session came to an end, but it was clear from her awkwardness that she just didn't consider that the woman's change of heart and sudden desire to have children was something that should be explored.

And herein lies the problem. The partner who does not want children is addressed as the troubled person, even though it is the other partner who is attempting to reneg on the couple's agreement and is causing the problem in the relationship. Always the choice to not have children is seen as disordered - never the choice to have children, even though it is clear that bringing children into a relationship where one of the partners does not want children, is a recipe for disaster.