Monday, December 29, 2008

A Night at the Movies

Happy holidays everyone!

I am having a fantastic holiday season. I am very fortunate to get off from work the week between Christmas and New Years, so I am having a great time just lounging around, watching movies, taking a nap every day and doing fun things. Pure heaven. I hope you are all having a nice holiday season too.

On Saturday night, hubby and me went to see the film Doubt (good film, by the way). Before the movie, we stopped at the concession counter to get some popcorn and a soda. There was a family of 4 ahead of us and it seemed like it took forever for them to get served. We stood there impatiently as the mom pointed at this candy and that candy (one for each kid), added a soda and then a gigantic popcorn. When all was said and done, I looked at the cash register and the total was $44.00!!! For concessions! This does not include the movie tickets (which are $9.75 now). So add it up: 4 tickets at $9.75/piece is $39.00 PLUS the $44.00 in concessions, for a grand total of $83.00. For a 2-hour family outing at the movies!

Hubby and I just looked at each and said "yep, another reason we're glad we don't have kids." I mean, honestly - how in the world do people afford it? Here I was, cringing at paying $11.00 on our concessions (which, in my opinion, is outrageous for a soda and a popcorn) and these people were not blinking an eye at $44.00.

Maybe I am cheap, but I was watching this mother order all these $4 boxes of candy and I was thinking - why don't you just bring your own? I mean, they are easy enough to toss in your handbag and you can get the same boxes of candy for $.89 at the drugstore. I guess people enjoy throwing money away. Either that, or they are doing their share to kick-start the economy.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hear Ye, Hear Ye Childfreedom Readers!

I am pleased to announce that a Childfreedom t-shirt is in the works! I have a couple of inspired ideas I am working on, but in order to finalize the design and type of shirt I will put the design on, I need to know how many male versus female readers I have.

If you would please take a moment and vote on the poll on the upper right, it would be most helpful.

More to come...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Invasion of the Parking Spot Snatchers (and the return of Daisy Duke)

Yesterday, for the first time, my blog was invaded by a storm of angry moms. It was like a swarm of locusts rolled in. You probably missed the excitement because they invaded a very old post of mine - The Stork Spot. Go ahead, read the post and the comments. I'll wait.

When readers post a comment on my blog, I receive an e-mail notifying me of the comment so I can read it and either approve or disapprove it (it's a very rare comment that I don't approve). So when a notification came that there was a comment on The Stork Spot I thought hm, that's interesting. That's a pretty old post. And then a second comment arrived, and a third, and a fourth. It occured to me that these moms must be coming from somewhere. I mean, as proud as I am of this blog, I would be a fool to think that it's going to attract a gigantic audience of moms.

And then I remembered -I have SiteMeter! I can track the referring source of my visitors. So I did. And suprise of all surprises, they were coming from a parenthood blog/website called ParentCenter.

Apparently, a blogger/mom on ParentCenter is upset with Target because she was not properly accommodated with a primo parking spot and had to schlep from the back of the lot like the rest of us lowly, non-maternal citizens. So she started poking around the internet to find information on Stork Parking and shock of all shocks - she discovered that not everybody thinks pregnant women and women with children are entitled to special parking spots. In fact, she discovered that there is actually an anti-Stork Parking "movement" and cited my Stork Spot post as articulating its sentiments the most clearly. (I didn't realize I was part of a movement, but okay, I'm in).

Anyway, I find the comments very revealing because they shed light on exactly the rampant pronatalist attitudes that are the focus of this blog - the unblinking attitude among most people that of course moms should get special privileges. Why? Because they are moms, you moron! Bow down! They work hard. They are uncomfortable. They brought us into the world. We owe them. Humanity would not exist without them. Coddle them! They are entitled.

A mom is uncomfortable. Get her seat. A mom is shopping. Give her your cart. A mom needs to park. Give her a spot right up front. A mom needs to leave work early to take care of her kids - stay late and pick up her slack. A mother is coming. Roll down the red carpet. Just read the comments on the ParentCenter site. They are all in favor of the Stork Spot. Can you imagine!? Moms in favor of moms getting special parking spots. Yeah, I guess if primo Childfree parking spots suddenly started appearing in shopping centers across the nation, I'd be in favor of them too.

Of course, the moms reading my Stork Spot post think I am a big meanie and are horrified at my "hatefulness". What they cannot understand is that what motivates me is not hate. It's disgust with the unfairness and imbalance that exists in our pronatalist child/family/mom-centered culture where a woman makes one decision (i.e to breed) and suddenly she is catered to like Queen Elizabeth. Stork Parking is just the tip of the iceberg. Don't get me started on all the other stuff - tax breaks, family-friendly this, family-friendly that, special accommodations in the workplace, and on and on. And the entitlement. Good God. That's what gets me the most.

I know I am not towing the American line by refusing to bow down to the sacred cow. I know moms brought us into the world, but you know what? Our world is in pretty bad shape precisely because too many moms brought too many of us into the world. Maybe it's time they stop assuming that they are all doing us a favor each time they pop another one out.

It thrills me that my little blog has shaken things up a bit. We need some shaking up! Roughly 40% of American women do not have children and a good percentage of those are childfree by choice. Despite the message that is beaten into our heads to the contrary, "woman" is no longer synonymous with "mother". We are not a minority whose needs and feelings should be ignored and invalidated and I am proud to be among the many brave souls whose voices are finally starting to be heard.

(P.S. to Angry Moms - I'm still zipping into those Stork Spots like Daisy Duke. Betcha can't catch me! "Yeeeee haw!")

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mom's Letter to Santa

This is one of those internet things that gets passed around. As they say, the best humor is the humor that rings true.

"Dear Santa, I've been a good mom all year. I've fed, cleaned and cuddled my children on demand, visited the doctor's office more than my doctor and sold sixty-two cases of candy bars to raise money to plant a shade tree on the school playground. I was hoping you could spread my list out over several Christmases, since I had to write this letter with my son's red crayon, on the back of a receipt in the laundry room between cycles, and who knows when I'll find anymore free time in the next 18 years.

Here are my Christmas wishes:

I'd like a pair of legs that don't ache (in any color, except purple, which I already have) and arms that don't hurt or flap in the breeze, but are strong enough to pull my screaming child out of the candy aisle in the grocery store.

I'd also like a waist, since I lost mine somewhere.

If you're hauling big ticket items this year I'd like fingerprint resistant windows and a radio that only plays adult music, a television that doesn't broadcast any programs containing talking animals, and a refrigerator with a secret compartment behind the crisper where I can hide to talk on the phone.

On the practical side, I could use a talking doll that says, "Yes, Mommy" to boost my parental confidence, along with two kids who don't fight and three pairs of jeans that will zip all the way up without the use of power tools.

I could also use a recording of Tibetan monks chanting "Don't eat in the living room" and "Take your hands off your brother," because my voice seems to be just out of my children's hearing range and can only be heard by the dog. If it's too late to find any of these products, I'd settle for enough time to brush my teeth and comb my hair in the same morning, or the luxury of eating food warmer than room temperature without it being served in a Styrofoam container.

If you don't mind, I could also use a few Christmas miracles to brighten the holiday season. Would it be too much trouble to declare ketchup a vegetable? It will clear my conscience immensely.

It would be helpful if you could coerce my children to help around the house without demanding payment as if they were the bosses of an organized crime family.

Well, Santa, the buzzer on the dryer is calling and my son saw my feet under the laundry room door. I think he wants his crayon back. Have a safe trip and remember to leave your wet boots by the door and come in and dry off so you don't catch cold.

Help yourself to cookies on the table but don't eat too many or leave crumbs on the carpet.

Yours Always, MOM"

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Joy of Nieces and Nephews

Our nieces and nephew were over last weekend and we had a blast with them. They are 7, 6 and 4 (2 boys and a girl) and we love them to pieces. Every month or two, we take them for a day and plan a fun day with them. This time we had a Christmas-themed day. We baked and decorated gingerbread men. We also watched some animated Christmas shows (the traditional ones like Frosty, Rudolf, the Grinch) and afterwards, took a drive a local garden center that puts up a big animated Christmas display every year and walked through their animated village, which was magical. In the car, we listened to Christmas music and sang along. Then, we headed back to our house and had dinner together. Off in the distance we heard the sound of a firetruck and before we knew it, Santa was driving by our house in a lit-up firetruck handing out candy canes to all the kids. The kids were in their glory and the excitement was infectious. Of course, we made a big deal of the whole thing ("Is there a fire in the neighborhood?" "Doesn't Santa sometimes ride on a firetruck? Could it BE?"), which only got them more revved up.
The entire day was so much fun from beginning to end and it put me completely into the Christmas spirit.

After we dropped them off and were driving home, I was marvelling at how two people who love kids so much want absolutely no part of having their own. People ask us this all the time - "you are SO GOOD with kids! But you don't want any??!!???" And I think I finally came up with an analogy that sheds light on this.

For us, having kids is like going to Manhattan. Hubby and me love taking day trips to Manhattan and always have such a great time. We board a train with our friends and we all sit together and laugh and talk. And the entire time we are in Manhattan we always have such a fun itinerary of things to do. The sights, sounds and excitement are exciting and so stimulating. We are on the go. The noise, the chaos, the frenetic tension of having to stay on your toes and the unpredictability is such a jolt.

It's also incredibly exhausting.

I can honestly say that when the day in Manhattan is over, the sense of relief I feel in arriving home to my quiet suburban home and collapsing into my peaceful bed is indescribable. As great as Manhattan is, for us it would be hell to live there. It's too noisy. It's too chaotic. It's too overwhelming. It's too BIG. It's too man-made. There's too much going on. It's too unpredictable. It's too expensive. There's no quiet. There's no peace. There's no time to just be. Does that mean it's not wonderful? No. It is, but in small doses.

The same goes for kids. I truly believe that one of the main reasons we are so good with kids and what makes our times with them so joyful is that they are novel. Our normally zenlike home home goes from zero to sixty on the chaos scale as soon as they walk in the door. And it zooms right back from sixty to zero the second they leave. We like it when they arrive, and we like it when they go home.

When we are with them, we are laughing and entertaining and hugging and kissing them and chasing them and delighting in them. Our time with them is pure joy. But this joy and excitement exists precisely because we AREN'T parents. Parents may love their kids like nobody's business, but from my perspective, most of them are not really joyful in parenting. They are too jaded and tired. For us, every little thing the kids do and say is amusing, adorable and a revelation about how they are growing and changing. But for parents, the kids' antics are not novel or exciting at all. Most of the time they are too exhausted to play with them - they are too busy caring for them and correcting them to have the time or energy to play with them. Often when they do play with them, they appear to be going through the motions.

For us, storytime is a chance to delight and entertain them. For the parents, storytime is a tool to get them into bed so they can finally have some peace and quiet. From our perspective, there's just a huge imbalance in the cost/benefit analysis.

As an aunt and uncle, we get the absolute best of parenting without the worst. We get the arms around our necks and the I love yous that melt our hearts. We get to watch them jump up and down with excitement upon arriving on our doorstep. We get to share with them, and give to them, teach them and entertain them. We get to experience the excitement of being a child again through their innocent eyes. We get to enjoy the holidays with them. We get to influence them in a meaningful way precisely because we are not their parents. We get to watch them grow and change and learn and we imagine the adults they will grow into.

What we don't get are the endless hours of thankless and endless labor, sacrifice, expense and aggravation that go along with having kids. After a day of love, kisses and fun exhaustion, we can hand them back and save up our energy for next time. And when next time comes, we'll be recharged and ready for them with the same excitement, joy and love that they have grown to expect from us. We do not disappoint!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Observations of a Happy Mom

I walking again today with my coworker, Sandy. She's the person I wrote about last week who's a new mom. When we walk, we talk and vent about a lot of things - as I've mentioned, our mothers and other stuff. Today we were talking about motherhood in general. She's one of these rare mothers who is just bubbling over with joy at being a mom. She genuinely loves it and I can see that she is just delighted with her new role in life. I know one other mother who is this way - one of my best friends, Sarah. Other than Sandy and Sarah, I can honestly say I don't really know any mothers who seem truly joyful in their role. In fact, I've met many who have told me if they had to do it over, they wouldn't do it again.

Anyway, although Sandy is bubbling over with happiness about motherhood, she is also very supportive of people who chose not to procreate. She completely understands it and feels each person should live whatever life makes her the happiest. It angers her when she hears people judge childfree people harshly. She realizes that while motherhood is great for her, it's not something everyone should aspire to. Because of this, we are very comfortable talking openly with each other about these kinds of topics.

During our walk today, she said something interesting. She told me that of all the mothers she knows, she is the only one who is happy being a mom. She said that all the women she knows who are mothers are clearly not happy in their role as mothers. In fact, she told me that their unhappiness is so palpable that she often feels critically judged by them for being too happy. They treat her with suspicion for being happy and enjoying motherhood. Sandy wonders if some of them are jealous and it hurts her that they cannot share in or enjoy her happiness, but rather feel resentful of it.

I thought it was interesting that a happy mom shared my perception. I too have noticed that most women I know who are mothers do not seem happy in their role -in fact this is a big reason I chose not to have kids. They will tell you they love being a mom, but I am never able to actually observe joy and happiness when I watch them interact with their children. I have written about this in this blog. I have at times wondered if my perception of mothers as unhappy was colored by my own negatively-tinged childfree perception of motherhood. But here was a happy mother telling me that she has made the same observation that most women are not happy being mothers, so maybe my perception is not so off-base after all.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rendell - Put a Sock in It (and you too, Campbell Brown)

During a news conference yesterday, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania commented that Arizona Governor, Janet Napolitano is a good choice for Homeland Security Secretary. Here's what he said:

"Janet's perfect for that job. Because for that job, you have to have no life. Janet has no family. Perfect. She can devote, literally, 19-20 hours a day to it."

As would be expected, the media is jumping all over the remark as sexist, which it probably is. I mean, it's doubtful he would have made the same comment about a Joe Napolitano. Can you imagine him saying, "Joe's perfect for the job. He has no family so he has no life."

Setting sexism aside, though, this comment is insulting on another entirely different level, and one which the media would never pick up on. It is insulting to childless and childfree people. Excuse me, Mr. Rendell - so you are saying that we childfree people have NO LIFE? Um, I beg to differ. In fact, I would argue that we have MORE of a life than most people who are saddled with kids.

Oh but that's right -this is America and the only pursuit that constitutes a life is having children. Nothing else qualifies. It doesn't matter if a person pursues higher education, is engaged in the community, maintains meaningful relationships, travels, is engaged in creative projects, does volunteer work, is a devoted spouse, friend, son or daughter, aunt or uncle, sister or brother, employee or Governor of Arizona. The only people who have a life are people with "families", right?

(Oh, and just to be clear, when he says "family", we can be pretty sure he is not talking about a husband, wife and 3 cats.)

Take a moment to watch Rendell in action and then listen to Campbell Brown rip him a new one.

P.S. to Campbell Brown: You rail against Rendell for "perpetuating stereotypes about women", and in the same breath categorize women into 2 categories - "mothers" and "single women". Tell me, Campbell - oh, Champion of Womens' Issues - which of those all-encompassing categories do I fit in?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Quiet (and tasty) Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving was a little different for us. Since I am estranged from my mom, we didn't attend the big family affair at my parents' house but instead had a quiet Thanksgiving at home, just the two of us.

I decided to make the best of the situation and have a full-blown Thanksgiving feast just for hubby and me. I cooked everything over a 4 day period, so as not to wear myself too thin doing everything in one day. It was actually really nice to have a quiet day at home. Because I have nothing else to write about today, I thought you might enjoy seeing my creations (have I told you I LOVE to cook?).

Here's what was on the menu:

Green bean salad with roasted peppers, julienned mushrooms and slivered almonds (from the LeBec Fin Cookbook)

Tofurkey with roasted vegetables and mushroom gravy

"Sausage" bread stuffing (I substituted vegetarian sausage) - recipe from the Pillsbury Cookbook

Sweet Potato Bake (from Paula Deen's Christmas Cookbook)

Classic Macaroni and Cheese (from my favorite cookbook, The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated)

Apple Pie (from The New Best Recipe Cookbook)

Pumpkin Pie (from The New Best Recipe Cookbook)

(Needless to say we won't need to cook for the next week. )

After dinner chill.