Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Babies, toddlers, children

Suddenly there are babies and toddlers everywhere. I found out a couple of weeks ago that my brother and his girlfriend are expecting a little one in early spring. A colleague of mine is expecting in April. A friend is hoping for an addition to her family in May.

Two years ago, I hardly knew anyone with small children. Well, of course I did, but it was people I didn't spend a lot of time with. None of my close friends had children. None of my aquaintances either. But the baby bubble has certainly exploded. I meet babies and toddlers on a regular basis now. They're anywhere from five months to two years old.

It makes meeting friends different. Different from what it used to be. It's not bad. I'm not saying that. But it's different. It's about bedtimes. Naptimes. Feeding times. It's a structure - or in some cases non-structure - that wasn't there before. It's about meeting friends who are only partially involved in conversations as they're constantly checking on something, making sure the little one is alright, or keeping track on the baby's every movement or gesture. It's about getting used to not being able to finish the story you're telling as someone needs their diaper changed. It's about getting used to seeing your friends only half of the time you're there. It's about realizing that your friends live in a reality that you're not in.

Don't take me wrong. I don't mind babies or toddlers. I don't mind meeting my friends. And I absolutely understand that life changes for parents. I know babies need attention and care, and I'm not saying I wish my friends would ignore their small ones, or lock them in a closet while I'm visiting... But I wish my brain could hurry up getting used to the new way of spending time with my friends...

Maybe my brain is a bit slow as I'm not in any way striving for that lifestyle myself? If you can call parenting a lifestyle... (I don't know, can you?)

When I was younger, I had names picked out for my future children. Elin. Saga. Liv. Agnes. Lucas. Oscar. Not that I was planning on having six, but those were names I really liked. Names I still find very beautiful. Can't remember how old I was when I picked out these names. Maybe because it wasn't anything really important to me? Some of my friends talked about their future lives as mothers, and I picked some names to be able to participate in the conversations. But I couldn't see beyond that. I never saw myself tucking my children in for sleep at night. I didn't see myself helping my children with their homework. I never saw myself wearing an apron while cooking for my family. The pictures weren't there.

Passing twenty I didn't feel the stress and pressure that some of my friends did. I did have a boyfriend then, but I can't recall ever thinking that we'd start a family together. I wasn't interested. Our relationship not being the most healthy one could have been a heavy weighting factor in that feeling and thinking, but even without the mess, I doubt I'd find the longing for children anywhere inside of me. No matter how deep I looked for it.

Getting closer to 25, I was madly in love with a man who often talked about children. About having a big family. Having enough boys to start a handball team (i.e. seven of them). We had names picked out for all seven. Most of them had a c in them. If we couldn't conceive ourselves, we'd adopt. Or function as a foster family. I guess he was serious about it. At least some of it. But I was sort of just following along. It was easy to talk about, but I never felt it. I still couldn't get the pictures before my eyes.

We never made it. Me and him. For a lot of reasons. But not for reasons connected to issues about having or not having children.

After that relationship was ended, I started to verbally express the feeling, or lack of feeling, that I had always experienced when it came to having children of my own. It wasn't for me. I stopped pretending and when asked about future children I told them I wasn't interested. I told them I didn't want any of my own. I said parenting wasn't for me. Eight times out of ten I was then told that I would change my mind when I met Mr Right. That I was still young and that a lot of women with academic degrees were late starting their families. That I'd soon start hearing the biological clock ticking. I always felt patronized. Diminished. As if I didn't know how the world functioned. Or how my own body and mind worked. I was made feel as if I wasn't normal, as if there was something wrong with me, but that meeting Mr Right would "fix" me.

I was asked if I didn't think I'd regret it if I didn't have children. If I wasn't afraid of feeling lonely when I got older. It was funny, 'cause I hadn't even considered those to be factors to weight in when making the decision. And when starting to think about them I couldn't (and still can't) get over how egoistic and selfish I think those reasons for parenting are. Wouldn't regretting not to have children be more about how I felt than about the person that wasn't created and born? And if I start to feel lonely, wouldn't it be selfish to think that someone else "owed" it to me to keep me company or take care of me?

I've been accused of being selfish when saying I don't want children of my own. I honestly don't know where that comes from. I can't see the selfish aspect of chosing to live child-free. (If you can, please enlight me. I'd like to be able to understand your point of view.) I'm not one of those who chooses not to become a parent becasue I think the world is a rotten place to put children in, I don't use overpopulating the earth as one of my arguments, and I don't try to find anything noble about living child-free. My choice is based on me as a person. As an individual. I don't have that "feeling" or "instinct" or whatever it is. I don't know what children would add to my life that I don't already have. I don't know how they would enrich my everyday life...

And I feel fortunate to have met a man who's not interested in having children with me. After being a couple for nine months we handled the baby talk in less than three minutes. He got a vasectomy a couple of months after the talk. Some thought it was a big step. Others thought it was a huge step. Some, like my mother and sister, just shrugged their shoulders and said that they weren't suprised at all.

I feel good about my life the way it is. Child free. I feel confident in knowing that my decision to not have children is the best for me. And for "the children" - those that never were and those that never will be.


essjay said...

I feel as though I could have written those words! I don't have that many friends that I interact with that have children, so I haven't felt that impact but my husband and I too have decided to be child free. We haven't taken to much slack for it, but there is this greater idea out there that we HAVE to have children. We don't want them, you know why? Because we are lazy and don't want to give that up. Some people may think that is selfish, but I agree with you, this world is a horrible place to bring children into and I have no desire to be a mother - having pets and a husband is enough for me. I know that I'm denying my parents grandchildren but I'm okay with that (and I believe they would be too). I would struggle with expecting a child to take care of me when I'm old.....and how could I expect them to? You have done right by making the decision that is best for you - you have to live your life, no one else does!

Anonymous said...

How dare people try ot make you feel bad about your decision. Children are a huge responsibility, and decision. I have always known I would be a mother, and when I got all the children I wanted I stopped. I may change my mind and adopt later on, but I am happy with hte size of my family, and I know I did what was right for me. And I know that you are choosing the right path for you. I think being strong enough to make the decision that is right for you is great! :kram:

Dilly said...

I spent a lot of time babysitting when I was younger, and while I enjoy children, I prefer them to belong to other people. Motherhood is just not for me. I can't wait to be Auntie Dilly though!

I understood everything you wrote there. It all makes sense to me.


Queen of the froggers said...

Thank you for your comment. What a fab post you have written. I have one child due to some strange broody urge 10 yaers ago! I love him more than anything but I think that I know I never want any more, that gets strange looks too at times! And it has taken a long time for husband to understand.

Brown Berry said...

Hi Anna! I'm doing pretty well lately, thanks for asking and for visiting the blog :)

I really appreciated this genuine and honest "sharing" in this post.

Also LOVE that lacey pattern you posted earlier.