Thursday, April 28, 2011

Summertime (and the living is not easy) - Revisited

Two nights ago, I was hanging out with my friend Sara. We were walking in a park and talking about how summer is almost upon us and how we are so glad to say goodbye to winter.

Sara told me she didn't know what she was going to do with her boys (ages 4 and 8) this summer. I asked her what she meant. She told me last summer they were occupied every day in kindercamp because she was recovering from a surgery and couldn't take care of them, but they aren't able to put them in kindercamp this year.  She is at a loss as to how she will occupy them all summer.

I told her,  "It's summer.  Let them go outside and play in the yard."  She looked at me funny.

Oh, that's right.  It's 2011 and parents of today don't spend any time away from their kids.  All hours and minutes of the day must be structured, highly interactive, and the parent must be involved in every movement they make.

I know I am dating myself and climbing up onto my crotchety podium again, but when I was young, we saw very little of our parents in the summer and I liked it that way. We were out playing with our friends, riding bikes around the neighborhood, climbing trees, making up obstacle courses on the front lawn, catching frogs, playing Charlie's Angels and Bionic Woman and swimming in the public pool.  Where was our mom?  Honestly, I don't remember because I wasn't interested.  My guess is she was doing all those boring adult things that I couldn't have cared less about like shopping, clipping coupons, laundry, cooking, cleaning and working.  She certainly wasn't fretting over what she was going to do with us all summer.  In fact, I recall that her response to me whenever I would whine about how "bored" I was during the summer was, "You need something to do?  I'll find something for you to do".  And she'd hand me a mop.

If my brothers and I hung around inside the house too long, we'd hear, "What are you doing in here? Go outside and play and make sure you're back by dinner time" and she'd kick us out of the house.  And then after dinner, before we were finished swallowing the last bite of our meatloaf and peas, we'd be out the door and wouldn't come home until it got dark.

Those were the glory days of being a kid, when childhood consisted of hours upon hours of discovering, exploring and finding creative ways to entertain ourselves. Now, the culture (or cult?) or parenthood has changed.  Children are no longer simply offpspring - they are a 24 hour/day occupation. 

During the course of our conversation, Sara also lamented that she feels badly that her kids don't have friends and feels it's her fault.  You see, the other neighborhood moms don't care for Sara (probably because she's too nice - so much so that they think she's weird) and therefore, do not set up play dates with her kids. According to Sara, a child's social life is almost competely dependent upon his mother's political savvy in the Mommy/Playdate network and my dear friend has been failing miserably in this regard.  As a result, her kids are bored, lonely, rammy and clamoring for attention. Hence her worries about what she will do with them all summer.

Poor Sara.  On top of all this, she confided that things aren't so great with her husband.  He works, comes home and sits comatose in front of the t.v. every night with little interest in her or in anything else.  So her entire life consists of taking care of kids and little else.  By the time she sees me every other week or so, she is so starved for adult conversation she can barely contain her excitement to see me.  She pours out her soul and I listen with an uneasy combination of pity for my friend and elation and relief that I had the presence of mind to avoid the same awful life.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Crass Yuppy Moms

Has anyone besides me ever noticed that once a person has a baby, she is no longer held to the same standards of behavior as the rest of the population.  Case in point:

This is a photo that I snapped at an upscale French bistro in Philadelphia at lunchtime today.  Notice the baby is barefoot and standing on the table while the ignorant mom supports and encourages her to walk her filthy feet all over the table.  Meanwhile, the equally ignorant friend looks on - actually, now that I am looking at this photo more closely, it appears she is glaring at me for taking their picture.  How rude of me! Why on earth would I want to snap their picture?  What could possibly be the basis of my interest in them?

No adult with even a shred of class or manners would stand on a table barefoot in a restaurant, yet they will encourage their children to do so.  What exactly is this mom teaching her daughter by placing her on the table in bare feet?

What I DIDN'T catch a picture of, and what was even worse, was the same baby SITTING on the table, diaper peeking out of her onesie - her germy ass smudging itself all over the same place where patrons eat.


Lucky for me, just as my temperature was spiking and I was growing more irritable by the moment witnessing this blatant display of crass behavior, my savior arrived:

Baby?  What baby?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Honest Father: Cad or Hero?

Thank you to CFVixen for alerting me to this heartfelt and brutally honest article by a married man who resents his kids because they have come between him and his wife.

I have mixed feelings about this article. My first reaction was hurray - a parent who is shattering the parenthood mystique and telling it like it really is!  If more people would put themselves out there and be honest like this, there might not be such a thing as the parenthood mystique because the hard facts would be in everyones' faces, just as much as the fairytale stories of parental bliss that permeate every cell of our culture. He is a brave man - perhaps even a hero.

On the other hand, I want to say to this man: who put a gun to your head and made you have kids? The comments posted to his article are harsh - many unnecessarily so (come on - is it really necessary to make fun of the man's appearance for crying out loud?) but I do agree with the general sentiment that he is a bit of a whiner. After all, he chose the life of parent. He went along with his wife's desire to have more children, even though things were fine with having only one stepdaughter. He even admitted that producing children boosted his masculine ego, yet now he bellyaches that he no longer gets attention from his wife.

What did he expect having children would do to his marriage? Did he really expect that he would still be number one to his wife once kids came along? Is his wife really different than any other married woman with kids? Did he really expect the romantic dinners, long talks, day trips and intimate evenings with his wife would continue once kids came along? If so, why would he think that? Does he not have friends or family members with children? How is it possible to observe other couples with children and not see how they suck the life out of a marriage?

His cutting and honest article lays bare many of the important reasons the childfree make the choice not to have kids. We don't want to end up like this man with the sad eyes - emotionally abandoned, going through the motions in a passionless marriage and just getting by in life, counting the days until our burdensome spawn fly the coop. We don't want to be downgraded from number one in our spouse's life to number two (or three or four). We want to make our partner the top priority in our lives, not the lowly creature who gets thrown the scraps of whatever attention and energy we might have left at the end of our overwhelming and draining day. We want to relish in adventures, explorations and joyful, romantic experiences now while we have the youth, energy and income to fully enjoy them, and not have to delay until retirement because we are tied down by an 18-25 year long commitment that sucks us dry.

To this sad man I regretfully say: you made your bed and now you must lie in it. If you wanted to be the apple of your wife's eye and wanted your freespirited, romantic and joyful relationship to continue undisturbed into old age, you shouldn't have had kids. Now that you have kids, they take top priority. That's just the way it is, and that's why a growing number of us think very carefully and make the important choice not to have them.

One more thing: while I respect your honesty and am grateful that in the big picture you are aiding in dispelling the myth of parental bliss, in the smaller picture I feel sad for your wife and kids who undoubtedly will suffer for your cutting honesty. After all, the internet is forever.


If you'd like to read more from regretful parents, click here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thinky Dink

Ever heard of the term D.I.N.K.?  It's a cutesy acronymn describing childfree people which stands for, "Double Income, No Kids".  There's a related label T.H.I.N.K.E.R. which stands for "Two Healthy Incomes, No Kids, Early Retirement".  Catchy, but I don't care for either of them.  Here's why:

1.  DINK reminds me of DORK.  It has an insulting ring to it.
2.  THINKER sounds better - after all, we pride ourselves on the amount of thought we put into the parenthood decision - and it makes us sound intellectual and all, but...
3.  Both these acronyms promote the tired stereotype of childfree folks as selfish, materialistic hedonists.

Think about it.  When you hear, "Double Income, No Kids", what do you picture?  Two career-hungry jetsetters, clinking their wine glasses together while they pack their suitcases for Bora Bora?  Growing investment accounts? Closets full of designer clothing? A Beamer in the driveway and a gardener in the yard?

When you hear "Two Healthy Incomes, No Kids, Early Retirement" what do you picture? Two shallow, miserly yuppies squirelling away all their money and kicking their feet up at age 35?

I realize there's a bit of truth in this stereotype.  After all, all other things being equal, the childfree DO have more disposible income than their child-encumbered peers.  Parents are faced with a $250,000 price tag to raise each kid to age 18 and that doesn't even include college or weddings!  That's a heck a lot of money that we do not  have to expend.  Our vacations CAN be more exotic and we can travel whatever time of the year we like.  And because we are free of the financial burden of raising children, we CAN sock more of our money away for retirement if we choose to.  Some of the more fortunate (and smart planners) among us can even retire early.

My problem with the labels D.I.N.K. and T.H.I.N.K.E.R. is that they shout, "I'm childfree and money defines me!"  And "I'm richer than you - na na na na na!" And "I don't have kids because I'd rather have money!".  For most childfree people having more money is an important and substantial benefit of our lifestyle - but it's not the central motivating factor behind our decision not to have kids.

Ask 100 childfree people why they chose not to have children and most likely, these are the reasons you will hear most frequently:

1.  I like my life the way it is and believe having children would spoil it.
2.  I enjoy my freedom.
3.  The role of parent holds no appeal to me.
4.  I don't like children or I like them, but in small doses.
5.  I have a happy marriage/relationship and I want to keep it that way.
6.  I prefer a calm lifestyle.

While many childfree people will also point out that they are happy not to incur all the expenses of having kids, I doubt many of them would reply, "I decided not to have kids because I'd rather keep my money all to myself!" or "It's more important that I sock all my money away so I can retire early."

Now, are there people for whom money and retirement are central motivating factors in their decision not to reproduce?  Most certainly.  But D.I.N.K. and T.H.I.N.K.E.R. ignore the many other salient reasons we have opted for our awesome lifestyle and lump the entire childfree point of view into one heaping pile of materialism and greed.

As for hubby and I, not a day goes by that we don't look at our friends and family with kids and breathe a collective sigh of relief that we did not opt for that lifestyle.  Among many other things, we see what they spend on groceries, child care, college funds, clothing, medical expenses, utilities, Christmas, and kids' activities and entertainment.  We see how strapped they are - how they no longer get to go on nice vacations or even out to dinner very often.  While hubby and I certainly have our share of expenses and bills, and we're not exactly rolling in dough, our obligations pale in comparison to our child-burdened peers.  We are so grateful that we opted for our childfree lifestyle.  Having said this, money was not thee motivating factor.  Had we wanted kids, I am sure we would have done what everyone else does and found a way to make it work. We would have sacrified our savings, our retirement funds and hard-earned cash at the altar of parenthood, just as everyone else does.  We would have shelled out megabucks to give our children the best, convicing ourselves it's so worth it while we slaved away and worried ourselves sick over whether we would ever be able to afford to retire.

I'm not a big fan of acronyms, but we definitely need a better one than D.I.N.K. and T.H.I.N.K.E.R. - something more all-emcompassing that captures the substance of who the childfree are:


And if you want to throw a word in there that says we're in better financial straights than parents, that's okay too. 

Any ideas?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I Regret Having Kids

Thank you to Facebook friend, Brian, for sending me a link to this humorous article called, The Story About the Baby, Epilogue. We can add it to our list of article by parents who regret having kids.  This article had me laughing out loud.

Because articles and internet posts written by parents who regret having kids (or simply hate being parents) are coming out at such a feverish pace, I decided that this blog post will serve as a central clearing house for such articles.  All of my previous blog posts on the subject are listed below with links and I will continue to update this list as I come across more articles.

Hate Being a Mom - Part 2

Mothers Spilling their Guts

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Secret Confessions of a Mom

More Bitching and a Little Backpedaling

Overwhelmed Parents Dump Their Kids

Kids' Impact on a Marriage - Right from the Mothers' Mouths

Honest Father:  Cad or Hero?

The Latest from the Regretful Moms

Another Installment from the Regretful Moms

More Regretful Moms Let Loose

50 Reasons to Not Have a Baby (written by a mom)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I often write in here about my close friend Sara who has two young boys.  One is 7 and one is 4.

I saw Sara last night and she told me that the 4 year old said something interesting to her when they were out shopping the other day.  He said, "Mommy, not all people have kids."  (Where did that come from?)  Sara replied, "That's right.  Aunt Mandy and Uncle John don't have kids."  He paused for a moment, looking at Sara like she was crazy, and then said, "Yes they do.  They have me and Michael" (his brother)."

It really touched me that in some way, this small child perceives of us as some version of his parents.  Isn't that interesting?  It just goes to show that choosing not to have kids doesn't mean a person will have no impact on children and will not reap any rewards of a relationship with children.

I continue to maintain that being an uncle or aunt (whether by blood, or by title only) is the perfect role when it comes to a relationship with children.  It's an even better role than grandparent, since grandparents have more expectations and obligations foisted on them.  Aunts and Uncles, however, get all of the fun and love without the burden or sacrifice.  It's gratifying to be the cat's meow in a child's eyes, being able to get them riled up, tumble on floor with them, give and receive hugs and kisses and hear "I love you Aunt Mandy", take them places, spoil them and enjoy all the fun and fulfilling aspects of "parenthood" and then, at the end of the day when both they and you are thoroughly wrung out, hand them back to mom and dad and go back to your quiet, peaceful life.

The other thing I love about being the aunt, as opposed to mom, is I don't have to be a disciplinarian or be consistent with what I permit them to do or not do.  When they are with us, it is about FUN.  It is not about "you don't get dessert until you eat your vegetables", or "no, you can't have another piece of cake", "stop singing so loudly" or anything restrictive.   They get to say "bad" words around us like "stupid" (yes, it's true.  Their mother forbids them to use the word "stupid") and it's cute because when they say the "bad" words, I see them looking at us out of the corners of their little eyes to see if we will correct them, but we don't and this makes their day.  We give them extra ice cream. We let them belch - and we laugh. We let them play hubby's drums as loudly as they want.  They get to be free. And we don't have to be an example.  They are well aware that their parents set the rules and are the example they are required to follow.  We are the fun machine and anything goes.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Childfree Celebrity Spotlight: Shirley Manson

Thank you to my Facebook friend Flavia for informing me that rock star Shirley Manson of the band Garbage is decidely childfree by choice.

"I just missed that whole baby calling. I feel a lot of women think you're a freak if you feel like that, and maybe I am strange," she laughs, "but I never got that feeling."

"In some ways I wish I had had that urge, because I adore children. What sickens me are the people who have children because they want someone to look after them in their old age, or because they're scared of being lonely, and I don't think that's right, because if you have children, your duty as a parent is to ensure that your child can learn to live without you. And so I feel I can live quite happily with my decision."

Read more

This is my favorite Garbage song:

Want to see what other celebrities are childfree by choice? Check out my list and be sure to let me know if you learn of others so I can be sure to add them!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Snappy Comebacks

I love this article! It's funny but gives us great ideas for snappy comebacks to inappropriate questions people are all too fond of asking (I mean, interrogating) childfree people. My favorite snappy comeback which made me almost fall off my chair:

Questioner: "So are you trying?" (i.e. to get pregnant)

Me: “When was the last time you gave your husband a blow job?”

Questioner: *shocked look and/or gasp*

Me: “Oh, I thought we were asking each other detailed questions about our sex lives. Aren’t we?”

Monday, April 4, 2011

The No-Baby Boom

Thank you to CFVixen for alerting me to an article in Details entitled The No-Baby Boom: A Growing Number of Couples are Choosing to Live Child-Free. And You Might be Joining Their Ranks. The author of this article writes from the point of the male half of a married couple who caved into the decision to have children (even though they were at best indifferent) and then changed their mind after a miscarriage and now embrace the childfree life. Lots of statistics and information you and I already know, but still a good read nonetheless.

Friday, April 1, 2011

My tongue - set free

Well, I figured it had to happen. My tongue-biting could only last so long. In this case, only 5 days.

Yesterday, one of the baby-loving hens I wrote about in this post ran into my office to ask if I had seen this adorable video of twin babies "talking" that's been making its way around the internet. I told her yes, and we talked about how hilarious and cute the video is. She started talking again about how adorable babies are.

I happen to know (because she's been complaining about it a lot in earshot of everyone in the office) that she is going through a really difficult time with her teenaged son right now. He's skipping school a lot, he's suffering with behavior problems and she recently confided in me that she's seriously considering sending him to live with his father because she is no longer able to effectively discipline him and is at wit's end. I've seen her in tears more than once over the last week.

Keeping this all in mind, when she started up about how adorable babies are, I replied, "Yeah, it's too bad they don't stay babies." She nodded enthusiastically and started bellyaching again about all the troubles with her son, at which time I replied, "I hope you are telling Cindy all these things and not just trying to talk her into having a baby." Right away she got defensive. "I wasn't trying to talk her into having a baby. I tell her everything..the good and the bad."

Yeah I bet. I bet all of the negative stories she tells Cindy about her son end the same way:

"But it's so worth it."

A Giggle