Archive for the ‘ Odds and Ends, Bits and Pieces ’ Category

You’re in Love with the Idea (of Me)

The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them. – Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

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Love me again, with passion & romance.

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‘I Don’t Want To Have Kids. Get Over It’ by Yashar Ali from the Current Conscience

I Don’t Want To Have Kids. Get Over It. | The Current Conscience.

[Feel so strongly for this article that I am going to reblog it, hope you don’t mind, Yashar.
It serves as the first dip of toe into analysing my emotions since my partner’s child has come to live with us – and this is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope to make head and tail of it as I am tired of feeling frustrated and confused and lost.]

There is a script in my life that repeats itself over and over again: I tell someone, a friend, colleague, family member, that I don’t want to have kids and with rare exception, I hear the following, “Oh no, you have to have kids, you’d be a great father! You’re just saying that now, but you’ll change your mind.”

I have known from a young age that I wasn’t meant to and didn’t want to have kids–it’s just not part of my life. I understand why people would have given me the advice that I might change my mind when I was 18 years old. But now that I’m 32, I wonder when are these people going to believe me and trust that I know what I want.

Why don’t we trust people when they decide that they don’t want to have kids?

I’m making an assumption here, but the folks who argue that I would be a good dad are basing their idea on what they perceive as my ability to empathize with others and/or on the way I care for my friends–it’s a big compliment. But being empathetic or caring with friends does not mean I would make a good parent. These friends of mine have no clue about my parental abilities; they are making assumptions based on seeing a few minutes of my interaction with kids, or worse yet, on my behavior towards adults.

Some have characterized a person’s lack of interest in parenting as a problem of a missing gene or a chip, “Oh, you don’t have the parental gene.”

The idea that people who choose NOT to have kids are somehow “missing a gene” or are abnormal is a deep part of our social conditioning. There exists this assumption that everyone must want to parent, and if someone doesn’t have that desire, there’s just something strange about this person–that he or she is somehow sad and solitary.

For me, this association between “missing gene” and people who choose not to have kids carries negative and problematic implications. I don’t think anybody’s decision to live a life without kids should register them as “normal,” or not. I’m not “missing” anything, and referring to somebody as missing a gene or being abnormal suggests that having kids is and should be part of everyone’s life.

This piece is not about judging people who do choose to have kids. I emphatically support anyone who chooses to have kids–all the parents I know believe that their children are the greatest gift they’ve been given in life. They wouldn’t give them up for the world. And I think they are generally well-intentioned in pushing the parental role on those who aren’t yet parents, since they hope their friends and family can experience the same joys they feel in having children in their lives.

It goes without saying that being a parent is a life-altering, monumental decision. In talking to others, what I find to be remarkable is the universal nature of the message for having kids, “You’ll change your mind, you would be a great parent, you’re crazy.”

This is a major decision pushed on those who don’t want to have children so casually.

It’s almost as if our loved ones are pushing us to buy a piece of clothing at a department store, “You look so good in it, come on, you gotta get it.”

What’s also remarkable to me is the sadness that comes across the faces of my friends when I tell them I don’t want to have kids. Shouldn’t the answer be, “It’s good to know what you want, especially when it comes to a major responsibility like parenting.”

But whenever I grow frustrated with these conversations, I remember that I have it easy compared to the women who make a definitive choice to refrain from having kids. Obviously, I don’t have the ability to give birth to children, and as a man, I also don’t have to deal with nearly as much societal pressure to have kids.

Despite whatever progress we’ve made, women are still seen as baby makers, and a woman who doesn’t want to have a child is often identified as more than “missing gene” or being an abnormality–she is seen as selfish, cold, lacking any empathy.

Why are people so uncomfortable if a woman is resolute in her decision not to have kids?

This is a question Amanda, 40, has been asking herself. For some time, she has known that having kids wasn’t in the cards for her. A few years ago, Amanda told her sister about her choice, and her sister broke into tears and proclaimed, “That’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever heard you say.”

Her sister went on to explain how she thought Amanda would be a terrific mom and wondered why she would deny herself the unconditional love that comes with having children.

Amanda’s friends, who had children, were equally as confused about her decision. They all worked to find ways to justify her decision, including the fact that she’s been in a long-term relationship with an older man who already has kids of his own.

Amanda is up against a sea of people who are convinced that there must be a logical reason for someone to remain childless, beyond an internal desire to not want kids–and this is something that I have also faced.

People in our lives have to come up with a reason for why we wouldn’t possibly want children. After all, just not wanting kids can’t be enough of an justification. Folks who don’t know me very well often say, “Well, you want to party, to have fun. You’ll get it out of your system.”

Since high school, I’ve been going to bed early and waking up around 5am. But even if I did want to party into the wee hours of the morning, my decision not to have kids is my prerogative–I don’t feel the need to justify it. Other friends, women, often hear, “You haven’t met anyone yet. Once you find the person you love, you’ll want kids.”

And this need for detailed justification is especially pinned on women who reveal their decision to live their lives without children. There is a pattern in our culture where women are forced to publicly defend this decision, as if this choice must be somehow rendered legitimate with good reasons. When it comes to women and their decision to have children, why are they constantly forced to “defend” this life decision?

Ironically, women are always defending their professional and private moves: defending their choice to have kids, or not, defending their choice to enter into professional life, defending their choice to stay at home and raise kids.

This pattern of other people working to change the mind of someone who doesn’t want children spills into familial relationships as well. Families of those who choose to remain childless also put on the pressure/guilt trip in attempts at altering reality.

Even for those folks who want to have kids eventually, the pressure exists to speed up the process. This isn’t news to anyone reading this column–we have all seen the scenario portrayed in popular culture and in our own families. Our parents or parent beg for grandchildren or say, “When is it going to happen?”

It’s usually seen as endearing and sweet. And I get it. Parents just want their children to be happy, and I think that with respect to the reality of life cycles, we are looking at an attempt by our parents to ensure that we are taken care of later in life. But, despite their best intentions, and how endearing people think it is, I think it’s the opposite. This parental pressure is nonetheless a kind of pressure that pushes us to head towards a path that we may not feel comfortable about entering. I only think of the number of people who have had children simply because they feel pressured.

Some may read this and remark that because I’m a feminist writer, I must want all women to go childless (and let’s be frank, become bra-less lesbians). That’s simply wrong and a mis-characterization of what feminism means.

Feminism is about freedom and equality–it’s all inclusive. So it means that a woman who chooses to have kids at 23 has made just as valid of a decision as a woman who never wants to have children. But feminism most definitively refers to the idea that all women (and men) are entitled to choose their life paths, whether that consists of having children (or not), and that these decisions are fully respected by the rest of society.

Despite the progress we’ve made as a culture, we still derive a great deal of comfort from women who fit into a prescribed, gender path. The negative responses women receive when they announce their choice not to have children is symptomatic of what we still expect women to do with their lives.

Why don’t we see a woman who elects to live a life without kids as someone who has carefully made a decision about her future because she’s weighed the import and responsibility of being a parent, with her desire to actually be a parent?

We would never see her as making a thoughtful choice…

Because as we see it, she’s just being thoughtless.

(Some interesting comments from readers:

1. Jens Jen: My only answer is: It seems to me that the single most important quality for a mother to have is a desire to be a mother… I refuse to make future children feel rejected or unwanted just because I am afraid of being lonely, selfish, or that I might have future regrets… I would much prefer to regret not having a child than to regret having one.

2. ieatmodestmouse: i am a 32 year old woman who decided long ago that i didn’t want kids.
it shocks me that people think that NOT having kids is selfish.
if you break it down, having kids is more selfish than not. mainly because the person that wants kids is having them to fulfill their OWN desire and bringing a breathing being into the world. why cant that be considered selfish too?
either way, i dont care if anyone has kids or not, but the judgement is ridiculous. i dont judge others for having kids!

3. LazyL: Hooray for this post! I am a woman heading towards 60, never wanted kids, and never regretted not having kids. I’m also recently married to a man with two young-adult boys, who thankfully for me, have left the home. Step-parenting is worse than parenting from my POV.

I, too, got pressure and askance looks when I declared from a young age that kids weren’t in my plans. Selfish, cold, damaged, lesbian (! as if sexual orientation had anything to do with wanting children), sad, missing the best part, can’t commit, etc. — heard them all. And never, ever regretted my decision.

I’ve been a writer for 40 years, traveled the world, owned horses and cats (talk about long-term commitment: horses live to 30 and never take out the garbage), committed to friends and husband. I’ve got “adopted” nieces and nephews who are close enough stand-ins for kids, thank you. I’m an artist, a gardener, a creator; been a playwright, a poet; lived a pretty free life and enjoyed a lot of experiences my married-with-kids friends never did. And guess what: no one is missing anything! They made their choices, I made mine, and since we knew what we were about, none of us regretted the paths we took. Each of our lives have been rich.

On the other hand, I have former friends who had the kids because that’s what they were “supposed” to do, when they didn’t really want them. Sad for the kids and the parents; too much guilt, anger, feelings of rejection from the kids, feelings of guilt for the parents. All because they didn’t listen to what they each, as individuals, wanted, and did what others told them they should have wanted. Unfortunately, now the kids are born. There’s no going back.

As with feminism, with any -ism, why can’t we just let people be individuals, let them make up their own minds about the paths that are right for them? Whether you want to be supported by a spouse and raise kids, or work your own way, or buy a house, or live in your car, or travel the world, or get to know your backyard really, really well — what’s it to anyone else? As the old song says, “Ain’t no body’s business but my own.” If we could each embrace that, the world would be a much freer place — oh, and valuing each person’s contributions regardless of his or her gender, orientation, race, appearance, or abilities. Let’s face it: none of us is SuperPerson. Everyone counts. Let the non-parents not parent, and the parents parent, and we’ll have a happier world.

4. 3bchick: Funny, I have never considered a friend or acquaintance who chooses not to have kids as thoughtless. In fact, just the opposite – I always look at them as being quite thoughtful – as in filled with thought and consideration. That’s why I usually find myself feeling sad that such a person has chosen not to have kids.

Unfortunately, too many people have children without giving it any thought. They do it because that’s just what people do. Because they’ve always expected to, because it’s expected of them. They do not fully weigh all the implications of procreation and child-rearing. They just barrel headlong into it and hope it turns out ok. And sometimes it does work out – and often it doesn’t . There are a lot of children being raised by people who don’t give parenthood a second thought and it shows.

Someone who thinks about it, who considers the impact and repercussion of bringing children into this world, is exactly the kind of person who I think is likely to raise children with thought, and care and consideration. This is the kind of person who is likely to be a good parent, if they ever embrace even the slightest desire to be one. Unfortunately, this is also the kind of person who is most likely to decide not to have kids.

It’s a little bit sad, that the thoughtless, followers of the world are more likely to procreate and raise future generations than those who are thoughtful and capable of thinking for themselves. Hence the dismay people express when an intelligent, educated, thoughtful person such as yourself makes the statement that they don’t want to have kids.

5. Mirin: Ahh, I feel you, man.

Ever since I got engaged there’s been a lot of pressure from my parents. And when I explain to them that I don’t want children, they give me the same old condescending “Oh, you’ll understand when you get older”. Sigh.

We just really don’t want them.

Neither of us want to share the attention we receive from each other, because we’re both very clingy people. We spend little enough time together on workdays as it is, only about five or six hours.
If a child came between us, that would only decrease it further. We’d no longer have time to focus on each other, because the focus would then shift to the child.

We’re not just a couple. I’m not his decoration, and he’s not my wallet.
We’re best friends. We fully rely on each other for emotional support.
We’re inseparable and we don’t want any other people in our house long term.

We’ll just be each other’s child. 🙂

[I personally like this comment a lot.]

Kill

Why for pretend to be interested when you’re really not. Does it matter?

Loneliness, not Solitude

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2011 koptein 2012

Slipped out of 2011 and into 2012 just like that, like I slipped into Osaka and out of it, just like that. Not even a ripple in the fabric of space-time. From work to the family vacation and back to work with nary a breath in between. If I was an aria singer, I would be renown for holding the longest note, or a diver who can stay underwater for the longest period of time.

What has changed? Are things supposed to change? Last year was yesterday; why is that any different from other yesterdays?

My body trembles with ghosts of fevers and I am afraid that it may be a perpetual haunting.

Radiohead’s Creep plays in my head on its own volition and I wonder if I am the still the teenage creep I used to be or the that I want to be an angel who floats like a feather in a beautiful world.

Where thus has my soul retreated into? Has it crossed the border of verb and noun?

My words press down on me like birds notched on a low sky, keening. I try to understand the fire’s aging and singe my hair. It is now a dark brown, no longer the tawny brilliance of dulled golden coin. I can only be her friend or sister, I have no desire to be her mother.

He is being selfish but I love him. To give up would be to admit and prove that love is selfish. Oh, and I hear that one of his friends and his wife (childless) are going trekking in the mountains of Patagonia for a full month…

The trees outside are spangled with sunlight and dried leaves fizz and pop as the bold breeze egg them along the concrete sidewalk. Sunlight so ethereal and crisp after the previous day’s continuous rain. A beautiful reprieve from the constant thump and pounding of the construction site – it is the eve of a long holiday and silence reigns.

I watch my washing sway in the breeze in the window adjacent to the one where I sit by now and wonder, –

When will the two of me ever live side by side in peace?

WORD: Emotional Reboot

“A man grows most tired while standing still.”–Chinese proverb

It’s becoming a year of zero me-time, or a year of not having the energy for me-time. Slowly inching towards not having time/energy to devote to my partner too.

I’m just constantly tired, even if I sleep. No sleep seems to be enough now – not 8 hours, not 10..not 12.

Yes, sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy. And my chest feels tight and I find it difficult to breathe or I forget to. I find myself taking shallow breaths.

I wish I could nap, but something always stops me; guilt or some other emotion.

{The god-forsaken television!}

Time just flies by. I cannot mention this enough. Mid-November came and went for me. I didn’t even stop to admire the mathematical beauty of 11/11/11.

I’M TIRED OF BEING TIRED.