Friday, January 30, 2009

Culture of (Too Much) Life: The Epitome of Selfishness

Today's post is from a guest poster - my hubby, who was just foaming at the mouth to express a vent. Enjoy...

Recent news reports noted that a mother in California just gave birth to octuplets after using fertility drugs..and she already has six other kids!! As a childfree person who has heard the phrase "selfish" leveled at my kind for a lifestyle choice that affects me alone (still haven't heard a rational explanation for that one..?!), I am mindblown by the fact that this woman believes six children will somehow not provide her with the full maternal 'rewards' that she craves!

With conservatives pushing for laws that will allow pharmacists to flaunt the job duties they accepted when hired, so that control over reproductive rights can be manipulated, where is the outcry for doctors to be given the right to refuse fertility treatments to naive, narcissistic fools like this couple? First, there is no indication that the couple are billionaires - a status that, in this economy, would be necessary to fully support a family of 16 financially from birth through college. I guess the responsibility will be shared with, among others, the taxpayers.

But just as offensive is the notion that, since she chemically altered her body in favor of natalism despite doctors' warnings about the health risks to the kids, she is somehow doing a 'noble' thing. This is where the concept of "Culture Of Life" completely fails society. I'm not suggesting that abortion is a desirable method of birth control..but for all our contempt of China, they realize a few things that we don't, and it's one of the few downsides of democracy: NO ONE on Earth should be allowed to have unlimited children.

The poor elder siblings of these 'miracles' expressed excitement at having more brothers and sisters - oh, really? Get back to us in 6 - 12 years! How do these parents think they can possibly give every individual child anywhere near the attention, affection and guidance they'll need, when simply making and cramming food into their gullets will consume over 6 hours a day?!! What kind of relationships will the parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/friends all have with each other, as they attempt to formulate and coordinate the protection and guidance of 14 teenagers and young adults through a world full of dangers that they themselves can't fully imagine? Will the parents even be HOME AND AWAKE during all this?! How many jobs would you have to hold, and hours of sleep lose, just to keep their asses in Underoos?! The upshot is, since the couple will never again have time for sex (or anything else), the shallow gene pool may be culled by default. But, hey, don't worry, all you natalists - these people will definitely seek, and almost certainly get, some form of welfare. Why don't conservatives think of THAT when they cackle about 'it's a child, not a choice'..hey, wait - it WAS a choice - it was MAN who put those drugs into this selfish woman, not God! Can't you picture God slapping forehead and saying, "Great - I'll have to make 37 more tornadoes just to clear land for crops to feed this batch!!"

And even not taking into account the wider implications of this selfishness (the strain on our food supply, heath care, taxes, etc.), the overarching obscenity of this is: WHY DIDN'T THEY ADOPT? Millions of orphaned, unloved, homeless children worldwide, and do you think adoption occurs to more than a few percent of would-be parents? "Honey, what would you like most in life?" "Why, 14 replicas OF MYSELF!!"

So my apologies for everything my "selfish" lifestyle has taken from my family, and from the world.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Authority on Regret - Revisited

One of the neat features of SiteMeter is that it tells me how people find my blog. Sometimes, people find my blog through other blogs who link to this one (thank you!). In other cases, people do internet searches for particular terms and end up here.

Here is an interesting tidbit for you. The most common type of internet search that directs people to my blog is along these lines:

"Will I regret not having kids?"
"Do childfree people have regrets?"

I find this interesting for a number of reasons. First, fear of regret is something that appears to be a serious concern for a whole lot of people, particularly those who are considering making the decision not to have children. This has always been interesting to me and in fact, I wrote about it once before.

Where does this fear of regret come from and more importantly, why isn't there an equally powerful fear of regret concerning having children? After all, if a person choses not to have children and changes her mind later, she can always adopt. The reverse, however, is not true. One cannot have a child and then change their mind. Given the permanency of having children, not to mention the lifetime of sacrifice, burden and obligation that comes with it, it is my argument that that type of regret should be the type to elicit fear and send people racing to the internet to research whether they will regret their decision later.

Where does the fear of regret concerning childfreedom come from? It stems from one thing - being constantly inundated from every angle with this message - and believing it:

"If you don't have children, you will regret it later."

And again, as I stated in my previous post on this subject, my question to you is this: who are the people conveying this message and what first-hand knowledge and experience do they have of regrets incurred from not having children? Can a childed person speak authoritatively on the subject of childfree regret? If your answer is no, my second question is this: is it adviseable to believe messages that come from inexperienced and ill-informed people?

To those reading this blog who are plaqued with concerns over possible long-term childfree regret: if you truly want to know whether the childfree life is one of regret, question a childfree person directly and see what he or she has to say. There are many of us out here and some of us are old enough to evaluate the regret issue with authority.

As for me, I am in my 40s and not only do I not regret my choice, I grow more grateful for it and certain of it with each passing year, and my gratefulness only intensifies when I compare my life to those around me with children. To that end, the next time you hear parents bitching and moaning about their children and about how hard parenting is, how much they have given up, how they have no life anymore, etc., really listen to them. Observe them objectively and ask yourself if they seem happier than you and if the life they lead is one that a person would regret if they did without it. Don't let the fictional "parenthood is all puppies and rainbows" message fool you into falling into step with the vast, mindless flock of sheep.

Only when we evaluate parenthood critically and for what it truly is, instead of through the unrealistic, rose-colored pronatalist lens our culture foists upon us, can we make well-informed decisions that will result in the life that is best for us - a satisfying and fulfilling life that is void of worries of regret.

In closing, when a parent tells you with authority that a life without children is one of regret, just remember this simple and very wise slogan:

(And remember who the real authorities are)

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Icing on the Cake

So remember Sandy - the staff member (and new mom) I vented about a few posts ago who was always calling out of work and really making me frustrated? Well, she gave me her 2 weeks' notice a couple weeks ago. She told me the job was just too much for her, being a new mom, and she found a job closer to home with slightly shorter hours and this will make her life more manageable and allow her more time with her son. I accepted her resignation and asked her to please put her resignation in writing, stating that her last day will be January 23rd, which she did.

Although her 2 week notice threw me into a frenzy (2 weeks is not much time to advertise a position, review resumes, select potential candidates, schedule interviews, conduct interviews, hire someone and then have enough time left for training), I knew that in the big picture this would work out to be for the best. Sandy has pretty much had one foot out the door ever since she had her son.

So I sprang into action and did all the above and found what appears to be a wonderful replacement for Sandy. Her first day was this past Tuesday (we were off on Monday for the MLK holiday) and the plan was for her to have 4 full days of training with Sandy - Tuesday through Friday. 4 days isn't much, but Amy is very bright and I felt it could be sufficient to get her going.

So yesterday (Thursday), I e-mailed my staff and announced that I would be having a pizza party for everyone today (Sandy's last day) to bid farewell to Sandy and to welcome the new person, Amy.

Late Thursday afternoon, Sandy comes into my office and says she got my message about the pizza party and how nice it is that I am doing that, but... actually, she doesn't think she will be able to come in on Friday. Her son has a doctor's appointment on Friday at 2 (which she had forgotten about) and also, she needs to get to the Social Security office because she needs to get another SS card for her new job, so she can fill out the I9 form.

I could not believe my ears. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!!??? How much gall does it take to CALL OUT on your last day of work - a day you had agreed to in writing would be your last day? A precious day of training for your replacement? A day your boss is throwing a farewell party for you? I mean, just when you think a person cannot be any more irresponsible and inconsiderate, they set a new record.

So this was the last straw. I let her know very specifically that I was very disappointed in her. And I explained exactly why. Friday is her last day. We need her for training. Her letter of resignation stated she would work through January 23rd. On top of this, we are throwing a party for her. I told her I was disappointed that she was not honoring her commitment.

She was very willing to listen to me and made a point to express that she felt badly about it. She went into a long speech about how this is exactly why she decided to leave - that she always feels she is letting people down, she hates being pulled in so many directions, she feels that everyone is being slighted - her family, her employer. She can't do it all. Of course what I wanted to say was "well what did you expect? What did you THINK having kids and working a job would be like?" But that's right - she didn't think. She didn't plan. She didn't consider would it would entail. She wanted a baby, period. And she would "make it work". Although she claims she slighted everyone, in reality it was us - the employer - who got the shortest end of the stick.

I asked her if her mother could take her son for the innoculations ("oh no. I am the mom! I must be there for that"). I then asked her if she could reschedule her son's doctors appointment ("I don't think I can. It takes months to get an appointment unless it's an emergency"). I also asked her to visit the SS office once she starts her new job - since the new employer is apparently very flexible about her hours, they should have no problem with her taking some time away from the office to get her paperwork together.

After some back and forth and a phone call to her son's doctors' office, she agreed to come in on Friday and work an early shift and leave at 2:30. I guess this is the best I can hope for from this person.

All I can say is, God bless her new employer. She assures me that the new employer is totally aware and on board with her need for a flexible schedule and that she emphasized to them in the interview process that her child comes first and her work hours will have to accommodate the rest of her life.

Okay, well good luck to the new employer. They are going to need it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Lessons of Playing Parent

Our nieces and nephew were over again this past weekend (ages 7, 5, 3 and 4). They came over on Saturday and stayed overnight. We took them home on Sunday afternoon, so basically we had them for a full 24 hours.

As always we had a great time with them. They are just so freaking adorable and we love them so much. I keep wishing time would stand still so they didn't have to grow up because they are just so cute at this age.

Anyway, as you know, whenever we have the kids, we have a great time but at the same time it renews our gratefulness for the life we have chosen. They came over at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday and by dinner time the entire downstairs was in shambles. Their stuff was everywhere, the kitchen was a disaster area (because we had to feed them and had no time to clean up afterwards). I felt like a grasshopper hopping from room to room and from kid to kid and jumping from this thing to that thing. This one needs something to drink. That one is tugging on the other one and needs to be stopped. This one is banging on the electric piano with the volume on high. Then another one (who cannot be outdone) runs over to my guitar and starts banging on that, so I had to quickly go rescue my precious guitar from abuse.

And on and on it went all day.

At one point, hubby took them upstairs to the third floor to play Twister with them, so this gave me a short break. I lied down on the couch and put on the t.v. - an old episode of The Sopranos was on (one of my favorite series) so I watched that for a few minutes. It only took a couple minutes before I felt myself drifting off to sleep. Now on any other weekend, I would do just that, but on this day I realized that no, I cannot go to sleep - the kids will be downstairs in a few minutes so don't bother getting comfortable. And sure enough, it was only a few minutes before they came downstairs like a herd of elephants. Of course, I immediately shut off The Sopranos (way too unsuitable for childrens' eyes) and sprang back into action.

I realized that what sucks most about being a parent is that you must always be ON. You never get time to shut down (except when you go to sleep at night). Your mind must always be hyper alert and at attention. It can't drift. You can't be spontaneous and do things on a whim. Everything must be controlled and organized all the time. You must always be in reaction mode - observant and on your toes. You are not really present in yourself - you exist in answer to others and in reaction to their actions. You are a handservant. There's no daydreaming, no wandering thoughts, no introspection, no napping or lounging, no just being. I barely had any meaningful conversation with hubby the entire time the kids were over. After 24 hours with the kids, I can feel myself getting resentful about not having these things that I so take for granted. I resent the indigestion I get when I eat with them and can see why my friend has lost so much weight to the point of looking malnurished. I can understand why my sister-in-law is in a miserable mood all the time, and why my brother looks like a beaten dog most of the time. I resent having every bit of energy pulled out of me by these little creatures whose needs seem to be endless and infinite.

I always say to hubby after these forays with the kids - "Thank GOD we made the decision we made. I just can't imagine living this life every single day." A day here and there is fun and novel and exciting. But if I had to live this way every day I would turn into a completely different person (and certainly not a person anyone would want to be around!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Shock and Awe

The other night, one of my closest friends took me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. We went to a wonderful Thai restaurant near my house and had a lovely evening chit chatting away and catching up on all the latest. My girlfriend, who is a mother of young children, was just thrilled to be able to sit still at a table and actually eat her dinner. Recently, she's lost a significant amount of weight to the point that we've all become concerned about her (she's starting to look malnourished) and we know she is not eating disordered. She tells me she's been to the doctor and gotten a checkup and full bloodwork done and she has come to the conclusion that it's simply a matter of never sitting still because she's always chasing after the kids, and also...that she doesn't really ever get to eat a full meal. She said she takes a couple of bites and then loses her appetite because inevitably something is going on with the kids that takes her attention away from her meal.

But I digress...

The reason I wanted to write today is that I wanted to tell you about the fascinating exchange we had with our waitress.

At the end of our meal, our waitress came over and started chatting with us. She was very friendly and it quickly became clear that she is the type that once you start talking with her, you've opened Pandora's box and won't be able to get her to stop talking. Anyway, her English wasn't that great, but it was good enough that I could understand her.

She was telling us about how she took this waitressing job because she had a child a couple years ago and they couldn't support the family on just her husband's income. She was telling us how difficult it was to work and have a child and how she sometimes has to bring the baby into work because she can't get a sitter. She also told us about her difficult pregnancy, how she is worried her child has learning disabilities, and on and on (way TMI to be sharing with complete strangers). Anyway, at some point I made some innocuous comment to which she replied, "do you have kids?" I gave her my standard reply, "no, 3 cats", at which point she started talking about the herbs she had taken to help with fertility issues.

She went on and on about the herbs and I started to get the drift of what the point of all this was. She concluded her herbal dissertation with, "so don't give up hope. It can happen for you too!"

This is the type of thing I just DELIGHT IN - shocking the hell out of people and throwing them completely for a loop. So I replied with great gusto, "oh, no. My husband and I don't want kids."

Well, I wish I had a camera to capture the expression on her face because it was just the most comical thing I ever saw. Have you ever seen a cartoon where the character's eyes completely bug out of their head about 10 inches while their mouth drops open about 12 inches in horror? That was her expression. In fact it was so exaggerated that even my friend cracked up at it. Since it was clear from her expression that my statement of horror begged an explanation, I said, "we're very happy the way we are and prefer to devote all our time and attention to each other."

I could tell she was having a difficult time recovering from my horrific statement, but after a few moments she seemed to get ahold of herself. She then said, "you are like the owner's son. He just got married and now he says he doesn't want to have kids. He told me he made this decision after watching me with my kid and said he doesn't want to live that way. Too hard, he says."

It took a while, but eventually we were able to extricate ourselves from the waitress and leave.

Although it's common to get reactions of surprise when I tell people I don't have or want kids, reactions this severe are rare. The thing that continues to fascinate me about people who have reactions like this is that inevitably, they are the same people who go on and on about the stuggles and difficulties of having children. They are the same people who are complaining to you with bags under their eyes about how hard it is. These are not people who are in a la-la fairyland floating on a cloud of joy over parenthood. And yet, despite their physical, mental and spiritual exhaustion, financial stress, and all the many other negative repercussions they suffer from having kids, they simply cannot stretch their minds around the idea that some people may have no interest in such a life.

Fascinating, I tell you. Simply fascinating!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The T-Shirts are In!

The official Childfreedom t-shirts are in and ready to order!
Click "Childfreedom Store" on the right for more info!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Long, Rambling Rant

Have I ever mentioned that I work in a supervisory position? Well, as a supervisor, I oversee several people, something I think I am pretty good at but I admit, can sometimes be a pain in the neck. Actually, having been a supervisor now for a couple of years, I think I prefer to not be a supervisor. I'd rather just worry about my own work and not have to keep track of what other people are doing because inevitably, they are disappointments. Out of the group of people I supervise, there are 3 that are very conscientious and reliable - you know, the type you DON'T have to watch. The type who stay late to get the work done and don't abuse the system. The kind I can trust with anything. The others are people who generally do a good job, but will take any shortcut they can, even if it compromises the quality of their work, so they can get away with doing as little work as possible.

One example that is relevant to the subject of this blog is Sandy. I've told you about Sandy - she's the new mom I take walks with at lunchtime a couple days a week. On a personal level, I like her very much - she's very friendly and a warm person. As an employee, though, she's become a disaster since she had the baby.

The gist of the problem is that Sandy doesn't really want to be at work. She is baby-obsessed and wants to be home with her baby, but she HAS to work. Her mind is not with her when she's at work. She's constantly finding reasons to leave early, take off, call in sick (or call in because the baby is sick), call out because the baby has to go to the doctor, or this appointment or that appointment, and on and on.

We get a generous amount of paid time off where I work - altogether 35 days a year (including vacation, sick and personal time) and she uses every minute of her alloted sick time TO THE MINUTE. For example, one day, she came into my office because her anniversary date was coming up and she wanted to know how much time she had left. I told her she had only 2 hours of sick time left. (Sick time does not carry over - if we don't use it, we lose it.) So the next day she comes up to me at 3:00 p.m. and says "I think am going to go home early and use my last 2 hours of sick time. I have cramps." That kind of thing.

A few days before Christmas she hints to me that it would be great to be off on Christmas Eve and it's too bad we have to work that day. Well, we already get off Christmas through New Years (which is something like 10 days) but she still has to try to finagle more time off. So I said, "yeah that would be nice, but it's important that we are here that day to get everything caught up before we get our long holiday vacation." That was that. On Christmas Eve I notice she is not in the office. I get a call from her around 10:30 a.m. telling me her mom can't get to their house due to weather. Gee, I wonder if this is a coincidence. It just happens to be Christmas Eve, the day she wants off, and surprise, surprise - she can't get to work.

So while we were on the phone, I asked her what kind of back-up plan she has for situations when her mom can't babysit (I mean, let's face it, a number of things can come up - mom could get sick, mom could have car trouble, the weather could be bad). Her response was, "we don't have a back-up plan". I then asked her if it had always been their plan to have mom as their babysitter. Her response, "we never had a plan. We're just kinda playing it as we go."

And this is what gets me. People decide to have kids and don't think about how they will incorporate the change into their life. Everyone tells them, "oh, you just make it work" and they're not kidding - you know how they make it work? By calling out sick left and right, leaving early and taking advantage. Their employer and others who rely on them are the ones who "make it work" for them. We all have to pick up their slack.

Now, I realize she is perfectly entitled to take her time off. We get 12 sick days a year and she's entitled to use every minute of them just as I am (but I don't). I guess if her calling out left and right didn't lead to so many problems (backed up work, angry staff and clients calling me) I wouldn't get so peeved.

I don't know what the point is of this long, rambling rant, but I just felt the need to vent today.

I feel better. Thanks for listening.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Inconsideration Stinks

It never ceases to amaze me how clueless and inconsiderate some people are - especially parents who think they are the center of the universe.

My family was over last night for a big get-together to celebrate several birthdays as well as the holidays. This included my husband's brother and his girlfriend who have a 19 month old son (my nephew). At one point, I walked into the living room, and what did I see? My brother-in-law's girlfriend changing our nephew's diaper ON OUR COUCH - with no barrier between him and the couch.

Now I ask - am I just cranky or is this incredibly inconsiderate and disgusting? Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. I have many times witnessed people changing their kids on other peoples' furniture, carpets, whatever, with no barrier.

I understand that children in diapers must be changed and I am all for a freshly-changed child. I would even be okay with a baby being changed on our couch if someone really wanted to do that. But would it kill a parent to bring along some kind of changing pad or something else to put under the baby to protect my furniture? Or if they forgot to bring a changing pad, how about asking me for a trash bag or something to put under the baby before they change him? I mean, I love my nephew to pieces, but am I being unreasonable to expect someone to take the proper measures to protect my couch when changing their child's diaper on it?

Oh, that's right - it doesn't matter what I feel and think or what my expectations are. I am not a parent or a child, so my needs and expectations can be ignored.

I think the next time I have my period, I will pay a visit to my brother-in-law and his girlfriend and when it comes time to change my tampon, I'll forego the trip to the bathroom and will whip it out right on their couch and see what kind of reaction I get.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The T-Shirt Update

Hi Everyone,

I've been busy the past few days working on the t-shirt design and after much back-and-forth with my inner circle of ad hoc "consultants", I am happy to announce I finalized the design today and sent off the order. I am really excited about the shirt and can't wait to share it with you (and wear it myself!) I expect the shirts to arrive in about 2 weeks and I'll keep you posted as soon as I have them in stock.

It was a really fun challenge to think creatively about a design. I won't spoil the surprise by showing you it to you just yet, but one thing I will tell you is that it has a positive and empowering CF message (no screaming babies with slashes through them).

More soon...