Saturday, June 25, 2011

Fun (It's Not Just for Kids)

For about 5 years I have had a fun tradition at work.  On the first day of summer I bring a bunch of ice cream novelties in (creamsicles, ice cream sandwiches, Italian ice, fudge pops) and put them in the freezer in our kitchen.  Then, I leave a general voice mail message for everyone with Mr. Softee music playing in the background (I get this off YouTube) telling everyone it's the First Day of Summer!  Get into the kitchen and enjoy some ice cream in celebration of this wonderful day!

It's a simple thing really, but every year this is a smash hit and everyone gets such a kick out of it, especially the Mr. Softee music because it's so ridiculous and shocking to hear such a thing on the office voice mail.

This year, after I left the message, one of my staff popped her head into my office and said, "I loved your message.  You would make a great mom because you create so much fun!"

I had to laugh because I have been told this so many times.  And every time I am told it, I think to myself, why does fun automatically equal children?

I know that children like to have fun, and children respond well to fun people, but guess what - so do adults (as evidenced by the reactions to my Mr. Softee routine)!  Yet there is this unspoken idea that the purpose of childhood is to have fun, be entertained and enjoy life, whereas the purpose of adulthood is to be responsible and serious, and if any time is left, maybe have some fun - but more importantly - provide fun to children.  For adults, fun is a rare novelty.  For children, it's the purpose of their existence.

In my opinion, there is something wrong with this philosophy.

My view of life is that yes - we must be responsible adults and take care of business - but ultimately, the goal of life is to be joyful, to laugh and love, to thrill and to be thrilled, to take chances, to smile more than frown and to squeeze every drop of enjoyment out of the time we have.  I believe in riding rollercoasters.  I believe in sending love letters.  I believe in riding waves on my boogie board.  I believe in trying new things.  I believe in learning and growing.  I believe in surprising people. I believe in the child within me. I believe in Mr. Softee and a part of me still believes in Santa Claus.

When people tell me I would make a great mom because I am fun, I think to myself ... yeah, well most of the reason I AM fun is because I am NOT a mom.  Or more accurately stated, I wouldn't have as much fun if I was a mom.  My kids would have lots of fun because that would be my top priority, but I'd be too stressed and worn down ensuring their enjoyment of life to have fun myself.

I see this all around me in the parents I know.  Most of them had children because they pictured all the love, joy and fun it would be, but now that they have kids, very few of them actually seem to be having fun, even when they are doing fun things.  For hubby and me, a trip to an amusement park is a full day of fun and laughter - there really is no down side.  For a parent, there's some fun, but for the most part an outing like that is an exhausting chore involving tons of packing, schlepping, coralling, cajoling, monitoring, arguing and expense. 

At our family gatherings, it isn't the parents who are playing fun games with the kids - it's us - the childfree aunt and uncle.  The parents are sitting off in a corner, staring ahead with bloodshot eyes, enjoying a moment of rest, thankful that someone else has taken the burden off their hands for a few minutes.

I also get told all the time, "You're so good with kids.  You'd make a great mom!"  What they don't realize is that most of the reason I am good with kids is the fact that they are novel to me and I am not around them (and being annoyed by them) all day long.  I appreciate them because they are fresh in my eyes.  Every time I see my nieces and nephews, I feel delight and excitement at the things they say and do, no matter how obnoxious.  Hubby and I crack up laughing at their every little move, which of course elicits more noise and antics, much to the dismay of their parents.  But a glance over at their parents reveals that they do not find them at all amusing.  They find them annoying because this is the two-thousandth time they've seen and heard the same stupid antic and probably the hundredth time they've told them enough is enough.

As childfree people, we are bombarded every day with messages that attempt to convince us that parenthood is bliss and we'd make great parents.  My approach has always been to treat those messages with great suspicion and trust my reliable, sturdy inner voice - the voice that tells me I have it really good already.  The voice that tells me that just because I would be good at something, doesn't mean that doing it would be the optimal choice for me. The voice that tells me that if parenthood truly was bliss, I would see substantial evidence of this in the parents around me (I don't).  This wise voice tells me being an aunt is preferable to being a mom and an uncorrupted source of joy.  It tells me there is plenty of fun to be had without kids.  Most importantly, it pats me on the back and tells me I am smarter than the average bear for figuring this all out and refusing to be invalidated and pressured into a life I don't want.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Smiles

Thanks Tabatha for sharing this on Facebook.  TOOOOO funny (and sadly, true for many parents)

Monday, June 20, 2011

GASP! Gen-X Women Have Everything (Except a FAMILY!!!)

Thank you to Laura Carroll who shared a link to a Daily Mail article entitled, Successful and Childless: The Career Women from Generation X who have it all...Except a Family.  After giving this article a look-over, a rare thing occurred: I was at a loss for words. Well, for a moment at least. My readers will be happy to know that my speechlessness lasted only a minute and then my reaction began to take shape.


Where do I begin?

Let's start at the title of this article which tells us that we are in store for yet more tired stereotyping of childfree women - you know, that we are all self-absorbed, ladder-climbing careerists who willfully and selfishly sacrifice the most important thing in life - children - at the altar of personal ambition. After all, what other reason(s) could a woman possibly have to forego having children - the ultimate path to joy and fulfillment in life and the most important job in the world!? She must be all about me me me.

Note that the title also promotes the equally tired stereotype of childfree woman as "family-less". (Another deep sigh). Let me set the record straight:  the childfree are not without families. We have spouses and partners. We have parents. We have brothers and sisters. We have nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and grandparents. My husband and I started a family the moment we got married. Yes, a family of two - five if you count the moggies.

Once we get past the title, we are then assaulted by three carefully-selected images which further promote the stereotype of childfree women as confused souls torn between the important thing in life (motherhood) and the siren song of career ambition. Photo #1: a career woman with briefcase in one hand and baby in the other, trying to decide between one or the other. "Which road should I take? Do I want the great career or the family? I must pick one because a woman only gets 2 choices: she either wants to be a family woman (i.e. mom) or a career woman. I desperately want both, but only one choice can reign supreme. Which woman should I be?"

It's a tough decision, so let's look at pictures #2 and #3 which perhaps can help us narrow down the choices and give us some insight into which woman she might want to be. Let's see - there's the serious, bookish lawyer-looking woman on the left - obviously depicting the cold, selfish old maid (obviously all business and not having much fun). And then on the right we have the soft, glowing, smiling, content, happy mom who gazes down adoringly at her reason for living. Hm, can we guess who has her priorities straight? Who made the right choice?

Aside from the title and photos, there are many problems with this article, but here they are in a nutshell:

1. News alert!  There are many women - myself included (and I am sure many of my readers) - who do not feel at all torn between career and motherhood. I didn't choose to be childfree because my career is more important than having kids. I choose childfreedom because the lifestyle ROCKS and from my perspective PARENTHOOD SUCKS. Sorry - I am not usually this crass, but dumb-headed articles like this compel me to dispense a good smackdown.

2. There is no such thing as "too many choices".  I live in America where choice is a GOOD thing.  It's a virtue that I stand 100% behind and nobody can convince me I shouldn't.  If being born in 1966 means I am of a generation of choice, then I'll wear the Gen-X title with pride. I am glad that I was born at a time when I actually have the choice to be childfree. I am grateful there is effective birth control. I am lucky nobody can force me to be a parent. And I am glad others have the choice to be parents if it makes them happy. To each her own.

3. If family = kids, then yes - I am a Gen-X woman who has everything...except a family - and guess what? I'm thrilled about it! Don't throw me a pity party. Don't tsk-tsk me, lament that my sad state is the result of "too many choices", and shake your head that I'm too busy with my career to see what's really important in life. I know what's important in life and I'm living it. In fact, from what I can tell, I'm doing a hell of a lot more living than the parents I know who are buried under massive piles of diapers, kindercrap, PTA meetings, screaming matches, play dates, debt and diarrhea blow-outs.

4. I am not "left without a family of my own". I am blessed with a beautiful family who I cherish, the most important members being the ones I have willfully and thoughtfully chosen to share my life and household with. I find it insulting and frankly, irritating that in this day and age when every configuration of people under the sun defines itself as family, I still have to endure the pity and judgemental attitude of people who think a happily married couple sans kids is a sorrowful state of emptiness and lack.  It's a flat out lie, and I am sick to death of articles like this spreading the lie around. I'm here to spread some truth.

Finally, let it be said:  Not all GenX women bought into the myth of:

Husband + House + Career + Kids = Have it All

I have 3 of those things and I know for certain that if I had the fourth, I'd have way less.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

45 Going on 30

Recently I made a new realization about myself concerning my state of childfreedom.

It happened when I was spending the day with my 5 year old niece. It was a full day of one-on-one fun with little Amy who I just love to pieces. I picked her up from my brother's house and we took a day trip to the Jersey shore. We had several hours together on the beach and then we walked the boardwalk. We had a lot of fun.

The realization I made is that I feel young because I am childfree.

I am 45 years old, but despite this fact, I feel about 30. I am frequently told I look about 35. I dress like a 30 year old. I have a good amount of energy. I have a silly sense of humor. I am always up for trying new things - in fact, I constantly seek out new experiences. I am always on the lookout for my next new endeavor - what class might I take next? What skill might I learn? Who's up for an adventure? Anyone want to go skiing? Hiking? Camping? Ice skating? Anyone want to spend the day at an amusement park with me? I'll ride the biggest rollercoasters and I'll share a funnel cake with you.

Many people claim that having kids makes a person feel younger because they are surrounded by youth and "young" things, like kiddie music, kiddie activities, kiddie t.v. shows and so forth. I would like to make the opposite argument. No matter what "young" things I am around, I feel older when I am with children, even the ones I adore and particularly children in my care. Suddenly, I go from feeling like a hip, young, carefree woman to feeling like a school marm. My mental state shifts from fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants spontaneity and anything goes, to hyper alertness, seriousness and concern. This child could die in my care. This child has to be watched. This child could be abducted. This child could choke on something. I can't drift off to sleep under my umbrella on the beach. I can't let my attention wander. I can't suddenly change my mind about a nutritious lunch and feast on cookies instead. I can't ignore the clock. There are curfews to be met and mealtimes not to be missed. There is medication to be dispensed. There must be a bathroom nearby, a ready change of clothes, a full tank of gas and a fully-charged cell phone. I must be 100% plugged in at all times.

The contrast in age and maturity between my little niece and me makes me feel really old. I have a similar experience when walking through the local university campus on my lunch hour. My image of myself of a young woman is blown the second I am surrounded by 19 year olds who are walking to class in belly shirts with pajama pants and flip flops. I am smacked in the face by the fact that I am a mature woman and not a young, poorly-attired, wide-eyed upstart wondering what's on the horizon.

I like pretending I am young and most days I live happily in my state of delusion with little to contradict it. After all, most people my age seem much older (probably because they're parents), so it's easy to masquerade as a 30 year old. They - with their bloodshot, wrinkle-rimmed eyes, unkempt graying hair, lack of mojo and empty wallets - seem a sharp contrast to me, so I imagine I am from the young, hip generation and they are old folks.

It also must be said that part of my feeling of youthfulness comes from the flexibility I am afforded in life, thanks to not having kids. Sure, I am married and own a home - two hallmark achievements of maturity - but I like the fact that if we really wanted to, hubby and I could uproot ourselves and start an entirely new life someplace else without much to stop us. The house can be sold and new jobs can be found (well, maybe not too easy right now, but you get the idea). The point is, we don't have to worry about how a big change would impact the fragile pyche of a developing child. We don't have to worry about school districts or family-friendly neighborhoods. We don't have to worry about whether our child would be able to adapt to his new environment, make new friends, or whether the move would prove to be a disaster. We'd only have to worry about ourselves, and we're old and tough enough to know we can handle it.

There is so much to love about childfreedom and it occurs to me now that I need to talk about this more. Childfreedom is so often seen as a life without something - that the false perception of lack can sometimes overshadow the reality of the fullness, flexibility and vibrancy that we are so gratefully afforded thanks to this one very simple and important life choice. Feeling young is just one small benefit in the very long list of ways we have it so great. There is no gaping void in the life of childfreedom.  There is only precious open space to fill however we like. How do you fill your space?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Childfree Celebrity Spotlight: Marisa Tomei

Actress Marisa Tomei doesn't need children to feel complete and doesn't understand women who crave motherhood.  Read more here.

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, June 4, 2011

Childfree Celebrity Spotlight: Danica Patrick

29 year old IndyCar and NASCAR driver, Danica Patrick, has no desire for the "have it all" lifestyle of career and motherhood.  She recently told a reporter she has no  interest in having kids now or in the future.

“I think it is something which is probably not for me at this point and realistically, I don’t know when that point would ever be.  My focus is on racing and of course I have a lot of outside interests which take up my time.”

“I am not someone who has a strong yearning for kids at all,” she told USA Today. “I see all my friends with kids. I will get up at 10 a.m. and text them and they’ll say ‘Ha, funny. One of my sons was in my room at 5.30 in the morning so I can’t say I slept until 10.’ That’s just their life.

"My sister did her eighth-grade graduation poster on what she wanted to do when she grew up, and it said, 'A mom!' That's definitely not what mine said."

"The only thing I plan long term on are things outside of the car, outside interests or things I want to do with my husband."

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!