Thursday, July 26, 2007

2nd try

If you noticed this post a couple weeks ago and then came back to find it gone it's because I chickened out and pulled the post. This morning while getting ready for work, Good Morning America covered a similar topic "Couples happy to be Child-free" I may yank the post again actually, but until then here it is a second round. I haven't got to this "comfortable to be child free" so to any of my family reading...this is just a conversation ...think of it as a college discussion or an episode of "coffee talk"

One of the reasons I've hesitated is that this is suppose to be art, fashion and design items but as the year has progressed it obviously has become a personal vehicle for me as well and it's been so lovely sharing information with other women and bloggers out in the world. One of my favorite blogs and I guess an icon for me as personal journals has gone has been Andrea from Superhero Designs - who, when I stumbled on her site was in the midst of a long battle with infertility and being oh so brave about talking about it. I have long admired her honesty for talking about a subject so difficult in a public forum and allowing other women to share in her struggle either literally or just in spirit along side her. [She now has a lovely little boy named Ben]

This may be a multi-part conversation but I decided to talk about it because I'm sure there are other women out there, I know there are actually, that may be having the same conversation in some form or another. And now since I've built it all up here it is...regarding children.

This is sort of a new conversation I've had with some of my women friends lately. I love children and have always believed that I would be a parent at some point. I love babies, I love little kids, mostly I like teenagers - the whole deal. I discover that as I get older though the innocent thoughts of having a baby have been replaced with real life struggles of parents around me. It started about 2 years ago when one of my best friends had her first child and she really talked openingly about the struggles of being pregnant [ I'm convinced now that moms are a cult that don't talk about what really happens during that time], the stress of being a new mom, the guilt but enjoyment of going back to work, the stress of managing a family and working...all of those things. It's been an eye opener really about the truth of what it takes to be a parent. For the first time in my life, I have definite questions for myself if I want to do such a thing. I can fluxuate from hour to hour on what I want. I can wake up at 7am and say Yes! definitely, then by 2pm be absolutely turned to "No Way".

What I've started to do in the past year is watch parents of young and older kids to really observe them. When they say they are happy...are they really? I can think of less than a handful of parents right now that I would describe as happy parents, excited to be with their children. All the others, all I can see is the misery all over their faces and in their actions.

I think, but I don't know for sure [because it's too scary to talk about and I'm not going to ask], is that they had no idea what they were getting into and regret it now even though they love their children very much. I have watched one girlfriend whittle away to nothing and I'm convinced her eating disorder, though it will never be named as such, is a result of her losing control over her life. Eating, or rather not eating is her way of having some sort of order in her world where her children do not always follow her lead.

At 38, this is a continual conversation for me. Often times it's SO emotionally charged that I can't discuss it with family and friends. I am terrified that I won't be able to be a parent if I choose to because my time will run out, and I'm terrified that I will regret the choice to be a parent if I choose to go there. I do know that I would love my child and that I would be a good parent, but would I be happy? I'm glad to have the opportunity at this point in my life to ask myself these questions.

I've had a few enlightening conversations with friends in the past 6 months or so about this. Women who have decided by age or surgical circumstances, some that are really discussing it with their husbands and some who have always known that they did not want to be a mom. I do know this for certain...society doesn't know what to say or do with women who deliberately choose not to be a parent. I have one girlfriend who was on the fence about it and medical conditions forced her hand and she talks about routinely being asked if she's regretted her hysterectomy [by strangers], or still even knowing her story, when she's having a family. They can't believe that she would honestly choose not to. Or another friend when returning home for holidays is put to bed "in the kids room" with her neices who are 1-6yrs old. My friend is 36 and single, yet her family diminishes her to this sort of child-like or non-adult status routinely because they don't know where to put her in their world.

It begs the question... who are we as women when we are not mothers? [either by circumstance or by choice]

When I have asked that this conversation piece be taken off the table...aka "please don't ask me when I'm getting married or having children" which I've had to do with some people that I love: friends and some family, there have been a few that have a difficult time talking to me after I've taken that conversational crutch away. Because it is such an emotionally charged subject for me, I sense they are afraid they'll make a mistake and slip which I understand, but MANY also truly don't know what to say to me after that dialog goes away [that is THE conversation piece of choice for women]. One of my girlfriends who I had to send an email to after she routinely asked me the SAME set of questions every few weeks, barely speaks to me now - as she really doesn't have other topics at the moment to discuss with me [she has two children]. It's TOTALLY ok, I understand it, but it's also very, very interesting to me just in a sociological point of view about how older unwed or child-free women fit or rather don't fit into the mix.

I encourage you as a parent or a woman still deciding to float this article around or just the topic in general and see how much heat comes up in the conversation. I think you'll be surprised about women labeling [self-chosen] non-mothers as "selfish" instead of "honest with themselves" or suspicion about their choices.

So there's the "Coffee Talk" discussion for the day "Tawwwk amongst yourselves" or leave a hate mail I'm not sure which.

stuffed animals via Flickr


J Lee said...

the line that hit me ...
"I'm convinced now that moms are a cult that don't talk about what really happens during that time"

and i agree. i've only been married now for almost a year but during this time and even before the marriage my husband and i have been desparately trying to conceive with no luck. for health reasons i'm assuming as no doc can give us a rational explaination as to why but the fact still remains that we are childless but desparately seeking an answer to how.

i may have time on my side as i'm only 27 yrs old right now but after frustration and envy of seeing all my other girlfriends married with kids start to tumble into a world wind of "this is the norm, what's wrong with you?" attitude i started to think and almost micro watch the families around me who could no longer go out at night, had to lug kids and baggage around all the time, looked tired and worn down, didn't spend time with their significant others but all of course not mentioning this to me. the cult like you had put it is exactly what i call it myself ...

doesn't change the fact that i still desire kids, but i think i've come to a point where i'm now struggling with the idea of being ok with not having kids if that's what's in the books for me and the guilt i feel over feeling this way has been overwhelming.

who are we as women when we are not mothers is simple, we're still women. we are daughters, girlfriends, sisters, lovers ... we are everything we've ever set our mind to me and not being a mother shouldn't make us feel any less of a women.

i applaud you for writing this post and i beg you not to take it down again. it's something i know for a fact helped me to open my eyes and i know it will for others. to each their own but to you richie design ... i am grateful!


Bhavna said...

Richie, i came across your blog and this post via Jenn's design blog - and am so glad that I did. I have so many things to say on this subject and don't know how to best articulate them - you have said them very well. Have just started climbing the 30's ladder, and invariably this conversation or thought is always around, and I wonder (aloud sometime to the horror of family and friends) - 'why is it considered so essential to have kids?' I know of perfectly happy women and couples who don't have kids, and also folks who are happy with one or some kids! I go through exactly the same emotion - loving a baby at some time during the day and thinking of the possibility of having one of my own, and at another hour be SO sure that I do not want a kid!

Well. Glad there are more women out there who are thinking similarly...

Thanks Richie

Richie Designs said...

glad to see I've hit a good spot with the two of you. I was thinking that the mommy brigade was going to jump out at me :)

katiedid said...

I was just going through my blogging friends list, and found you through jlee. And right before jlee I was on Bhavna's blog! Small world!
Well, perhaps I can give you some perspective from someone who has kids, but also has at least five very close friends who have chosen not to have kids.
First of all, let me say, that you are far from being "selfish" as some would say. Just the opposite. You are very introspective and careful in your very important choices and want to be sure of all of the circumstances. If only other parents were so careful, we would not have so many unwanted kids and unprepared parents!
On the flip side, it is very interesting to me that because of this very quality, women such as yourselves would make the best parents: thoughtful, caring, intelligent, usually educated, and self aware. My kidless friends have all of these qualities.

I believe that no one on the face of the earth is truly prepared for parenthood. Expectations are rarely reality. It is an adventure that no one can anticipate. Perhaps that is why you perceive it as a "cult". Everyone experiences it differently, so it is hard to discuss fully.

I am not one who can say that I loved kids or was around them much at all as a young adult. I was into my education and career. I got married and just expected that I would have them. Well I can say now that it is life transforming. It is stressful, tiring, inconvenient, you may lose yourself at times. But I can also say that you will find no greater love,and joy. There are ups and downs. But the ups far outway the downs. Your emotions will be heightened in a way that you cannot understand til you have kids.
Happiness is an attitude. No matter one's circumstance, one can find it. Jlee's comment that she doesn't see happy parents surprised me. If these are parents that hang out together, that may be the reason. It is just like people unhappy in their work or anything else. They have expectations they are not reaching somehow. The trick is to alter your expectations or get out of the trap you set for yourself and alter your environment to one that is more friendly to your personal circumstance. Surround yourself with people and things that support your goal. Having kids is an adventure that is well worth the trip. I must say that from my observation, my friends who do not have kids are no happier or unhappier than my friends with kids.

I do understand it is not for everyone. Some recognize they prefer a different kind of adventure in life. And I think that is so OK. I just hope that you will understand that we women can have it all,just not all at the same time. Enjoy every moment as it comes. There is time for so much. :)

It is one of the biggest decisions of your life and you are doing the right thing to think it through. No matter what you choose, It will be a wonderful adventure! Good luck!:)

Angeleen said...

Of course I can't express all my feeling about being a parent here in this tiny little space, but I'll try to hit on some highlights.

FIRST: I would NEVER hide from anyone the realities of parenthood. It IS the biggest and most important job anyone will ever have.

SECOND: It is NOT a picnic, but for all the diapers and spit-up and lost sleep, to name just a few "hazards" there is also no other relationship like it. It is a continual learning experience because there is NO book with all the tips and tricks for every child in the world. I've always said that an owners manual should pop out right after the baby instead of placenta. I can't USE placenta! Give me a guide book!

THIRD: I think one of the most important things about having children is they make you get "out of yourself." You suddenly find out that you are NOT, in fact, the center of the universe and I think that is a very good thing. You start taking things like caring for another human being, and others in general a lot more personally. Being aware of what you're doing to the planet and your body beyond just politically correct rhetoric.

FOURTH: It is a very empowering realization to know that you could and would, fight off an armed intruder to protect your child(ren). There is NOTHING more fierce than a mom standing up for her babies.

FIFTH: There is nothing more innocent, pure and honest than the love of a child.

SIXTH: Whatever kind of person you are before you have children is the same kind of person you will be with children, only probably better. If you're a stressed-out wiggy who can't take the slightest swing away from your persoanl routines... that is the kind of parent you'll be. But kids can be cool with routines, too.

If you're a completely free-form, spontaneous, can't-stick-to-a-schedule-to-save-your-life kinda gal like me; you'll have kids that will stay up as late as you do and eat at all hours, and fit into your lifestyle.

I know people who put their kids to bed at 7:00 every night because they need a lot of "self" time. The kids are up at 6:00 every morning, which would drive me nuts, but it works for them.

Kids are totally custom, so whatever you want your life to be is up to you. There is some adapting that needs to take place, of course, and sometimes it can be a painful and rude awakening. Panic attacks and crying and ganshing of teeth. BUT, if you're committed to it and recognize how it will open and refresh your perspective of the world and use the experience as an opportunity to blossom and expand as a human being; to make the effort to enjoy and learn from your kids instead of look at them as some societal obligation; to acknowledge that what you put into them when they're young is what you will reap when you're old, you will emerge from the experienced better, wiser, and stronger with a rich life and great stories to tell.

HOWEVER: There is no bigger mistake than to have a child for the wrong reasons. Unless you're ready to commit to a life-long relationship that will test and reward you at every turn, get a dog. They're just as needy, they love you unconditionally and present a much shorter committment. Also, no one will think less of you if you realize you bit off more than you can chew and end up giving 'em to a friend.

I don't know if that helps you at all, Richie, but it was fun to look back at the last nine years of my mommyhood and think of all the twists and turns. Mine is a beautiful life that I wouldn't change for the world. Doesn't mean someone else wouldn't be totally contented without the little rascals, though. There are a lot of wondrful things in the world one can devote thier life to to make the world a better place.

Angeleen said...

I need to qualify part of my earlier comment.

When I said that one thing good about kids is that they force you "out of yourself" and help you realize you aren't the center of the universe... I didn't mean that all people who don't have kids are selfish or that everyone is until they have kids. I mean that, when all you have to worry about is yourself and your partner, it's easy to only focus on stuff you need and want personally. Kids are need machines and teach you how much one can do without and still function and even be happy.

It's kind of like boot camp.

Hope I didn't ruffle too many feathers with that remark.

I also do not mean that you should sacrifice your whole being and identity to your children. It is possible to be a great parent and still be "who you are" and take care of yourself. After all, that's how you teach them to take care of themselves.

I have a close friend who has chosen not to have children and she and her guy seem very happy. They do a lot of traveling and spontaneous stuff that just can't happen with wee ones. Or not until their much older. There are days I do envy her.

But then Gracie crawls into my lap and puckers her little lips into my face awaiting a smooch, hugs my neck really hard and tells me I'm the best mommy in the world. Suddenly, London and Paris don't seem quite as desireable right now. We'll do that when the girls are off persuing their own lives, I suppose.

The main thing to remember is that parenthood is exactly like falling in love. No matter how people try to describe it or give advice about it, there is now way to know how is feels but to experience it.
There is nothing else that compares to it.

But, it's just one great experience in a whole world full of adventures. I dont think anyone has a right to expect what your adventure should be just because the majority choose that one themselves. I wince when my friend's mom makes remarks about her "not giving me grandchildren..." even though she has two from her son! Now who's selfish?

I'm always amused at people who think that when you reach a certain age your life should be in a particular phase. Even if you want a husband and/or children, what if you haven't met the right person?! It's not like you can just go to Stable, Loving, Supportive Guys R Us, grab a husband and a carton of milk and go home to start your family...

Okay. I probably need to shut up now.

If you don't want to publish any of this, Richie, I'll understand.

Richie Designs said...

thanks for everyone's comments it's a great discussion.

what I know for myself is that I have so have not been in control of my life - the master plan that I can't see has apparently been written because everytime I force a square peg into a round hole it doesn't work. I'm sure it will all work out how it's suppose to.


kalki said...

Hi, I clicked on a comment of yours over at Superhero Journal.

I think you are right-on about society not knowing how to handle women who choose not to have children. My husband and I aren't sure - we know we're definitely not ready now, and there' s a good chance we'll never want children. But people around us are SO not okay with this, and I have become increasingly frustrated with the expectation that society has for me as a woman, and for us as a married couple. I actually have two posts about this on my main page right now.

I would think people would appreciate that a couple is thinking twice before entering into the biggest decision of their lives. So many people have children who, quite honestly, shouldn't. But with few exceptions, people just don't get it.

And the thing is, even if folks don't agree with our approach, remind me again how it's any of their business?

Angelina said...

This is a great discussion. I think the main reason most mothers aren't willing to tell the gory truth is because it's completely taboo. Also, most mothers I've known have developed the ability to completely bleep out the bad stuff after it happens-like how so many women are ready to kill their men while in labor and experiencing the worst pain they've ever experienced and then twelve hours after giving birth they are telling everyone how it "wasn't that bad".

I don't have this filter, unfortunately. I spent many years on the fence about having kids. I felt the biological urge to do it, my body ached for a baby but I knew I wasn't the best candidate for motherhood. In the end I went for it. I have one kid. I will tell you the honest truth, the most private thing I've ever said outloud and totally risk getting lynched for it: I should have chosen to live a child free life.

I do love my son the way all mother's describe-I would do anything to keep him healthy, I want to inhale him every day. He is amazing and awesome. But, this one little being (now 6 1/2 years old) has stretched my sanity, patience, and energy to the absolute limits. No amount of love for another human being can make up for the fact that caring for another human being is an enormous responsibility and comes with a whole lot of heart ache and pain and can be demoralizing and frightening. Your child will probably uncover the best parts of you but will simultaneously reveal the worst aspects of you too.

There are good parts to parenthood, and I think if you are a flexible person who doesn't need a lot of alone time (or has family close by who loves to babysit-not my experience), who can recover from adversity quickly, and don't mind having your life hijacked, then you are as ready as you'll ever be.

I think it's more selfish to have children than to not have children in our current global situation. I wouldn't dream of ever suggesting a person go childless who desires children-because it's the most natural thing to desire- but likewise, I applaud everyone who chooses not to as well because there is a lot more to contribute of ourselves to this world than more mouths to feed.

It's so individual, I have an especially hard time being a mom, I don't think I was ever the kind of person meant for it. Do I regret it? Sometimes I do. I could never unwish my child though, I love him and he's here and one thing I do know, I don't think there's another woman alive who could handle being this particular guy's mom.

I better shut up now before I say anything else.

Richie Designs said...

Angelina...thank you for your honesty...

it takes amazing strength and courage to be a parent, and even more so to telll the truth about it.


Jodi said...

Chapter 1. I had a baby daughter when I was 26. Completely consuming, completely compelling, completely wonderful outcome. Far outweighing any of the negative moments (children puking in the night, crying over bad boys and mean girls) is the pervasive joy of sharing this unbreakable, fierce connection with another human being, unlike any other. Chapter 2. Uh-oh. Pregnant at age 45. My firstborn hated me with a vengeance for a year (she was a senior in high school at the time, admittedly a horrific time for your mother to make this kind of announcement). But we made it. Chapter 3. Exhausted, overworked (I am a freelance writer), living in chaos, that second surprise, at 3, captivates me every moment that I stare into those pouting eyes. Every time I bark that she must go "think about it" and every time I think I will surely jump off a bridge if I must sing the Chipmunk song once more, I stop for a memory from last year. My now college senior spent a semester studying abroad in South America. I went to visit her after 5 long months apart. Fifteen hours later, I found myself wading through a sea of thousands (none speaking English) in that insane airport. I searched vanely for a cab driver waving a sign bearing my name. I scanned some more. And then, I heard a faint, exhuberant cry and instantly turned. "MaMA! MaMA!" It was her voice. And when I caught a glimpse of her golden hair fighting through the crowd to reach me (she'd ridden 3 subways and a bus to get there), I broke into sobs of joy. A blithering idiot. A mother, reunited with her child. And I am renewed and filled with grateful happiness at the realization that yes, I get to do it once more. Good luck. Best in whatever your destiny. I would have bought the invitations in a heartbeat. Best, Jodi