Friday, April 17, 2009

The Parallel Universe

One of the oddities of being childfree, and particularly a childfree woman, is that oftentimes I feel like I am living in a parallel universe. I operate on an entirely separate plane of existence from most people. So much that I see around me does not apply to me. I turn on a morning program and they are talking about how to balance work and children. Doesn't apply to me. Or how our culture is not accomodating enough to women (in other words, mothers). Doesn't apply to me. Or how to get your husband to be a more involved dad. Doesn't apply to me. Or how to be on the lookout for teen "sexting". Doesn't apply to me.

I go to work and hear my coworkers talking about school systems, and day care centers, and discipline problems and money problems and tiredness. Can't relate.

I go onto Facebook and read updates from friends and family like "heading off to Johnnie's softball game tonight", "trying to figure out how 3 kids can generate 20 loads of laundry", "feeling blessed to be home with my new baby". Can't relate.

At the office, I stop by the waiting room to browse through a womens' magazine or two, passing over articles like "Raising Self-Confident Kids", "Healthy Lunches Kids Love", "Teaching Your Daughter to Love Her Body" and parenting advice columns. Doesn't apply to me.

Everywhere I go, I feel like my reality is unique and I wonder if anyone notices my alternate reality. Does anyone notice that I am calm and centered most of the time? That I am not running in 12 different directions? That I am well-rested? That my life is not comprised of worries upon more worries? That I am not scanning the self-help aisle of the bookstore for advice on work-life balance? That I have lots of free time? If they do notice, do they connect the dots?

Probably not because they are too consumed in their own universe where existence is a matter of simply staying afloat. When you're drowning, you're not likely to notice the lilting sailboat drifting calmly off in the distance.

There is one place that I don't feel like a universe unto myself. Here - when I read your insightful comments, when I click on your blogs, when you echo and validate my feelings, or add to my thoughts, or say that you have experienced the same thing, or feel the same way, when you declare a resounding sing it, sister. It is then that I do not feel like an anomaly. I feel like a member of the in-crowd, the popular kids, the ones who have it all - who carry a special secret.

Yes, that's exactly what childfreedom is - the world's best-kept secret. (If I have my way, not for long).


CFVixen said...

OMG, I loved this post. It totally resonates with me as I always feel like I'm "supposed" to feel like I'm on the outside looking in because I don't fit societal norms or expectations. Yet I'm so happy not to be on the inside. I look in and see misery and torment. I see no choices, exhaustion, and entrapment. Then I turn around and see my life. Free. Open. Happy. Content. Calm. Joyful. And, well, FULL. I just cannot imagine how a child would fit into that picture.

charlie said...

This is why I love the internet. Just when you think you're lonely, you can find like-minded people :) It does make for a sad life after many years. I'd trade the internet for real life friends any day.

Miss Mo said...

Every single day I see or hear about something in the news that reminds me how happy I am to be childfree. Sexual predators attacking our children online! The rising costs of tuition! Autism! High school shootings! Teen pregnancy! …the list goes on and on and I get to blissfully ignore most of it.

A friend of mine with 2 children is going through a divorce. She repeatedly told me how lucky I am that I am free and can do whatever I want with my life while she is trapped (her word) because even though she is ending her marriage, she can't start the life she really wants to have, because she can't go live where she wants because of the kids. I feel for her and love her, but her children are suffering because she started a certain kind of life -- and then changed her mind about it ten years later. Now the world of these two humans she helped create is in chaos. Talk about selfish.

Schrodinger's Kittens said...

Oh, yes--same planet, different worlds. Watching everyone else do things you don't, and not understanding why they do it. And because of that most people figure you have no common ground with them. Often they are right: to be female and childfree is like being an uncatalogued species. We look female, sure, but approach the world more like a man would: following our desire to pursue a career, advance our education, or manage our house and enjoy our free time with no restrictions. Some men think we're intruding on their entitlement, and those cosseted ungrateful females who think the world doesn't do enough for women (i.e, mothers) call us names and try to tear us down when we work for our dreams instead of waiting, like them, for what they think they're entitled to. And that sense of internal direction is what lets our sailboats bob gracefully at anchor or slice through the water under full sail (to extend your metaphor), depending on our desires, while others' boats are swamping and they're treading water.

So much of what's around me doesn't affect me, so I have learned to tune it out. My life is richer for what I've excised; travel light, travel fast and all that.

loribeth said...

I have to admit that I do sometimes feel like I am running in 12 different directions. Then I find myself feeling guilty, because I don't have kids & I still can't do it all?? Then I get mad at myself -- not having kids doesn't mean that I'm not a busy person in my own way.

But I totally agree with you about the whole feeling of living in a parallel universe!

marin said...

When people around me (family, friends, barely known people) decided it was time for me to know they wanted me to have a baby as soon as possible, with no regards to my feelings, my dreams or my opinions, I felt as the world started spinning in the opposite direction.

Then I found out that actually people from a different country, educational background and culture, think the very same way I do about life's priorities. It helped a lot.

All my gratitude to Internet, your blog and everyone's comments!

Mae said...

This is exactly how I feel. I mean, I have some hectic stuff going on with my attempt to graduate college by December, but nothing that relates to kids.

Everything's about kids. CNN's lifestyle section, about kids; the news the other morning was about how to tell if you need to take little Johnny to the emergency room or can deal with the problems at home. My friends have kids, most of them anyway, and for them it's very much about being able to work and take their kids to school and get enough groceries for their family for a set amount of time, etc.

I think I'm lucky, my friends do notice and envy my position. It's sort of strange, really, almost surreal. It's also nice that the people closest to me help me to validate my decisions with their support.

I love the childfree online community too, and for the very same reason. It's nice to associate with people who not only support your choice, but made it themselves.

Thanks for the really amazing insight.

Wag the Dog said...

Also, parents spend £14,000 on a baby's first year during which working mums give up £6,667 in income to stay at home caring for said baby.

Nope. Can't relate.

eyemandy said...

I certainly think being child-free is lonely sometimes. I have ZERO friends that are child-free besides my boyfriend. I don't particularly want to be part of the mommy masses competing against each other for the perfect child, but I wish I had someone other than my boyfriend to talk about it with.

It's not a popular lifestyle, though, so I haven't ever felt part of the popular clique in this regard.

It's even more lonely due to why I am child-free. I am child-free because it's nonsensical, in my opinion, for people to procreate in this day & age. I'm aware of the biological tug to reproduce and I actively ignore it. If it were necessary or logical in any way, I would change everything in my life to find harmony in raising a child. It's just not logical; but still, I'm not child-free because of the unwillingness to be a parent, different priorities, or the contrast between my freedom and theirs. I just think it's...ignorant.

Ellie said...

Lovely, lovely post.

The first time I had inklings of childfree feelings (literally, my first dance at my wedding with my new husband), it was barely a whisper I allowed myself to hear. Slowly, I turned over these thoughts in my own head: "What if..." "Why do I have to..."

Eventually, I turned to the internet. When I found the sort of community I did - the welling up of women's voices saying "Guess what??! There IS a choice!!" - my fears and insecurities all just started to melt away.

A few places online came to be sanctuaries. Safehavens where I could pore over others' experiences, all resonating my own. The validation was a godsend.

This is one of those places. So yes, please do keep singin' it, sister.

After all, you're absolutely right - our version of being "different" IS the best kept secret IN THE WORLD.

Here's to letting the world know we knew it first. =)

Ire said...

Where I live in Spain there is no so much of a thing as a pro-natalist enforcement. Spaniards have children very late in life not because of lack of desire, but postponement, so at 31 I don't really feel too much pressure to breed. Even so, most people think it's something you just do it sooner or later, even if it's at 40.
I don't really care about what other people think, I've never followed the herd mentality and I'm already seen as a freak for being a vegan. Telling people you won't eat that piece of ham because you're against animal cruelty is even more shocking than telling them you prefer your freedom over children.