Friday, September 23, 2011

Friday Laugh

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Myth that Must DIE

The time has come.

It is time to put an end to the persistent and pervasive myth that will not die - the myth that until a person becomes a parent, s/he doesn't know what love is and doesn't know what it means to be a giving, selfless person.  I am sick to death of hearing this lie from celebrity moms who are on the front lines in spreading this garbage around (and news media outlets who eat it up), and I am equally sick of hearing it from everyday moms who think they are Mother Teresa for pumping out a unit (thanks, George Carlin).  With bags under their eyes, empty wallets, splitting headaches, and husbands who intentionally work long hours just so they can avoid coming home, moms everywhere are heard shouting from the rooftops that motherhood has transformed them from self-centered creatures, to "much better", "much less selfish", "more caring" people who "finally know what real love is".

Do moms love their kids?  Most do, and many love their kids deeply. (Many also resent them and regret having them, but that's another blog post).

Do moms have to sacrifice a great deal of themselves in order to raise children?  Absolutely.

Does being a mom result in a woman giving, giving, giving and giving some more?  Yep.

Does a mom have to give up many of the joys she once enjoyed, like keeping her appearance up, dining out with hubby, working out at the gym, relaxing without interuption, reading, napping, cooking sophisticated meals, shopping for herself...and on and on?  Affirmative.

Do moms have the corner on love? On caring? On sharing?  On selflessness? 

Absolutely not.

IT IS NOT SELFLESS TO MEET ONE'S RESPONSIBILITIES:  If a couple decides to have a child and bring a new life into the world, then that couple is responsible for caring for the child they created.  This caring will take a seemingly infinite number of forms, including feeding, dressing, bathing, changing diapers, wiping noses, bandaging cuts and scapes, doctor visits, expenditures of vast sums of money, teaching, correcting, scolding, praising, prodding, encouraging, cheuffering, PTA meetings, play dates and the list goes on and on and on.  These tasks will eat up most of the parents' life.  Does meeting these responsibilities make a person selfless?  NO.  It makes him responsible and there is a difference.

It is not selfless to bring a new life into the world and then take care of all the responsibilities that are created because of that choice.  A truly selfless person looks around and identifies already-existing people or other creatures who need help or care and then steps up to the plate and gives of themselves to help them. Taking this a step further, I would argue that considering how many truly needy people and creatures there are in the world, and taking into account that the world is already straining under the weight of overpopulation and the destructive and dire effects of global warming, bringing more people into the world is a truly selfish act, and one which should be actively discouraged rather than encouraged, praised and glorified to the point of absurdity the way it is.

PARENTS DO NOT HAVE THE MARKET ON LOVE, CARING AND SELFLESSNESS:  Contrary to the negative stereotypes parents like to hurl around about the childfree, we do not live in a bubble where we exist only for ourselves.  Only in our dreams are we lying around in bed all day, being fed bon-bons and brought tropical drinks by a cabana boy.  We have jobs, and mortgages and bills to pay and most of us are not rolling in dough.  It is not all about me, me, me.  We are spouses.  We are significant others.  We are siblings.  We are sons and daughters. We are grandchildren.  We are friends. We are aunts and uncles.   We are companions to animals.  We are volunteers in our communities.  We are dedicated employees and many of us are teachers, firefighters, EMTs, doctors, therapists and other caring professionals.  There are many roles in life that allow a person to express love, caring and selflessness and being a parent isn't the only role in life that makes that possible.

IN MANY WAYS, PARENTS ARE MORE SELFISH THAN THE CHILDFREE:   Let's face it.  Parents have children for themselves, not for the children.  They want to have a "family".  They want to experience being a parent.  They want someone to carry on their name.  They want to relive their childhood.  They want to have a helpless little being to love and they want to be loved by this little person.  They want a little Mini-Me who can reflect themselves back like a mirror.  They want someone to take care of them in old age.  They want to be a grandparent someday.  They want to fit in and be a validated member of the Parent Club. They want to feel the accomplishment of "having it all".  These are all selfish motivations and are all about me, me, me.  The unborn, non-existent child does not need to be created, so it is ridiculous to argue that having a child is a selfless endeavor.

IN MANY WAYS, THE CHILDFREE ARE MORE SELFLESS THAN PARENTS:   Whereas the majority of a parent's life, energy, time and resources are used up caring for her children and the responsibilities that exist in the insular family bubble she has created, the childfree's resources can be directed outward.  Childfree folks make great spouses and partners because their love, energy and attention is fully focused on the other person.  They are not distracted by needy, draining third parties.  The childfree are helpful to their parents, since their lives are not bogged down with childrearing responsibilities. The childfree make great friends.  They truly listen.  They care.  They are available.  Want to do something, go somewhere, plan something?  They are up for it and will likely have the time and money. Call them on the phone and you will have their full attention the entire phone call.  They are fun to talk to because they are able to stay up on current events and remain interesting conversationalists.   The childfree make great employees.  They can be counted on to arrive on time, well-rested and alert, work their full shift, fully focused on the tasks at hand, and are often available to work overtime when needed.  Finally, by nature of not being overwhelmed with childcare responsibilities, the childfree are able to be more involved in their communities and with volunteer activities to make the world a better place for everyone.

Despite everything mentioned above, parents still get to prance around emblazoned with the Selfless Saint Martyr Medal, while the childfree continue to fight off the barrage of relentless negative judgements and perceptions of us as selfish, immature, materialistic hedonists.  Our only consolation is that our ranks are growing and more and more attention (much of it positive!) is being paid to us in the media.  Through in-person meetups, childfree blogs, discussion forums and online social networking, we are connecting, supporting and providing validation to each other.  We are mirroring each others' feelings, thoughts and observations. 

Most importantly, we are no longer alone.

Monday, September 12, 2011

A Cross we Won't Bear

If you're a childfree person, then you know that the CF life is one of the world's best kept secrets.  The list of awesome benefits of being childfree is seemingly endless.  For countless reasons, every day, I take a huge sigh of relief that I did not choose the parenthood route, and count my many blessings for all the many ways my life is happier, easier and just plain BETTER for making the wise choice to not burden myself with offspring.

This recent clip from the Today Show highlights just ONE reason not to have kids -  and it's a biggie. A person could base their entire decision to forego childbearing on this one issue.  We will never have to struggle with the monumental problem of how to simultaneously save for retirement AND pay for kids' college education.  Talk about a load off our shoulders!!!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Lifetime Honeymoon

At work yesterday we had a small wedding shower for a young woman in the office.  While enjoying the cake and chatting about her upcoming nuptials, I asked the experienced people in the room to comment on marriage - what makes it work, or what they have learned if their marriage didn't work - generally, any insight they can offer the bride to be.  Interestingly, most people did not offer comments, but I had a couple.  My comments were:

1.  It's important to retain your individual identity in a marriage and not become fused into one entity - don't be attached at the hip.  Continue being known as "Mary" and don't fall into the trap of being "Mary and John". Have your own interests, your own viewpoints and don't allow your identity to be swallowed up by the marital unit.

2.  Contrary to what we've been taught, a good marriage is NOT hard work.  If it's too much work, you've married the wrong person.  The right person loves you as you are and doesn't try to change you into something you're not.  The right person makes you MORE of the person you are, and doesn't diminish you. The right person "gets" you and thinks you are the cat's meow.

As soon as I finished expressing this opinion, one of my male colleagues - a young, married guy with 2 small kids - teased:  "Yeah, but you don't have KIDS.  Once a couple has kids, it all goes downhill.  You have all this division of labor and there's constant fighting over who should be doing what."  He looked at me thoughtfully for a moment and then cracked, "For God's sake - Mandy and her husband are on a lifetime honeymoon!!!"

I replied that he is correct:  children have a negative impact on marital satisfaction and in fact, research has borne this out.   People just looked at me like oh, here she goes again.

I know for a fact that my marriage is happy thanks in large part to being childfree.  The stressors that we have avoided in our marriage are too numerous to count.  Just the financial strain alone of trying to raise children in this economy and consumerist culture would be enough to derail any marriage, let alone the many other pressures, demands and stressors that having children puts on a relationship.   Hubby and I are focused on each other - on making each other happy - on creating special memories together - on sharing life's ups and downs and being a devoted support system for each other.  We are not distracted and neglected by nature of having all of our our energy and attention channeled to needy, demanding third parties.  We are not fighting over household tasks.  Gender roles.  Who does more.  We are not stretched to the breaking point - on the verge of physical and psychological exhaustion trying to achieve the "have it all" lifestyle (which we all know in reality is the "do it all badly" lifestyle).  We have all that we need.  Each other.  Our quiet oasis of a home.  The pitter patter of furry little feet whose biggest demand is being cuddled and having a can cracked open twice a day.

Yes, we have jobs, and bills, and a mortgage.  We work hard and time flies by too fast.  And there's more we want to do than we have the money or time to do.  Contrary to childfree stereotypes, our life is not one big lottery win  and it's not Club Med.  But yes, my coworker is right:  put us next to any married couple with kids and our life looks like an all expense paid honeymoon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Laugh

Thank you to reader "Burrito" for a link to this one from Where can I buy one of these decals!! ??