Friday, August 04, 2006

(CL x 2)/(SAHM x 10) = Better...

Last night I hosted the group of women, the SAHM's. For me hosting is a little easier, I'm more comfortable in my own environment. I also invited someone new into the group- my friend S3. S3 does not yet have children and may not have children. To me, the dynamic changed just a tad, just enough... S3 is awesome, I overheard her answering a question about her parent-status by saying "No, we don't have kids, we just have lots and lots of earth shattering sex." She cracks me up. Anyway, there is strength in numbers and 2 vs 10 was just enough to shift the balance for me into a more comfortable place.

Now, on to the good advice I'm getting in my comments- to seek out an activity or group that can give me both social opportunities and something worthwhile to do with my time... I know, I know! You're totally right. I'm just having a hard time picking something. Here are some things I've been thinking about:

1. Volunteering. Well, it is true that volunteer work has been a blessing in my life. I spent about 10 or 12 years volunteering at nursing homes, and while it was very rewarding, it was also very hard and it became too much for me emotionally. And I'm not ready to go back. Not yet. One volunteer opportunity I may look more into is something with infants. No, I'm not crazy, I just love to hold and rock the babies...

2. Golf. My husband loves golf, and I always assumed I would take it up when our children had left the nest... So since our nest is going to stay empty why not start early? Well, golf is a sport of... hot, at least this time of the year. I'm not taking it off the list, but I haven't been able to muster more than a mild interest in Golf. It is also a sport of money- Clubs, Shoes, Balls, Cute Outfits, Cart Fees, Lessons (MUCH Needed Lessons...). It all adds up. We may not be able to afford but one golfer in this family.

3. Sewing. I love sewing, but it isn't much of a group activity. I guess it could be, but I don't love dragging my machine all over creation. My group sewing experiences have generally been a bunch of sewers in a common location feverishly working on their own projects with minimal chitchat because we're all desperate to get as much done as we can before getting kicked out. And talking over the whirl of the machines isn't easy, and eye contact is near impossible... So I will continue to sew, but it doesn't help my social needs.

4. Classes at the local Arts Center. We have awesome Art Centers around here, and they offer many classes that make me drool. My problem here is that I become overwhelmed with the choices and indecision keeps me from enrolling until it is too late. I know, I know, I'll get off my ass and enroll in the next session, even if I have to pick the course I will take out of a hat.

5. Gardening. I may look into some gardening clubs in the area. Another activity of hotness, but I need some serious inspiration in my yard. An opportunity to meet people and get something done and learn. I just don't want one of those stuffy gardening clubs...

6. Book Clubs. There are some book clubs available for me to join, but I don't know if I will. I love to read, so it would seem like a no-brainer. Maybe, we'll see.

7. Tennis. But I suck, so no.

I don't know what else to add to the list. I probably shouldn't add anything, just work through these and then see what I'm left with.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Social Calculus

In the beginning childfree felt like an opportunity, but I haven't taken full advantage of it. Sometimes it feels easier to just have kids instead of pursuing the opportunities, Yes, an idiotic reason to have children. There is an effort involved in swimming against the tide, it isn't all joyful and can be quite isolating. Bottom Line: I want to be childfree, but I thought it would be easier. There is strength in numbers and I'm having a hard time finding any numbers. Sometimes it feels that the tide is swimming right past me, I'm not so much swimming against it as clinging to a rock while it rushes past. I need another stream. A stream with fewer childed swimmers.

A conversation with my MIL clarified something for me: the problem isn't the moms I know, and it isn't me. It is just a difference in where we are in life. And this: when I am with a person, in all likelihood we have something in common. And if we also like each other, or if we have nothing in common but like each other, then we'll be OK. But take a roomful of people who all have one thing in common, the one same thing, and throw in one person who has one thing, one different thing, in common with each person... (Like take a room full of people who all are members of the Sherlock Holmes Society and throw in one person who is not. The one person is from the same area as one person, has the same hairdresser as another, has the same kind of pet as a third... and so on.) Bottom line is the majority common interest rules. I need to hang out in a group where the unifying thread is not CHILDREN. It is Social Calculus, I am sure that formulas could be created to predict what ratios will result in what degree of uncomfortable-ness. These moms I hang out with (the ones I keep saying I'm going to stop hanging out with... but really, I may become a complete hermit were it not for the monthly gatherings...) are all good people, they just have a different focus. I am considering turning in my notice for the gatherings. True, there isn't anything else on my dance card, but maybe bowing out of this will give me the much needed kick in the ass to seek out other (better-suited) activities.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

A Mother's Love

I just read A Feminist's' comment about my mother's interest in me having a child:

"one thing which struck me as something which needs to be investigated fully is your mother's insistence at your having a child. What is influencing her with this pressure? Why does she think YOU *need* children? Is it that she doesn't think you are/can be happy without them - does she know you better than you know yourself? Or does your mother have issues of her own which haven't been resolved? Is it her that needs a grandchild in all honesty? (As is the motivator for my own mother's kid-centric feelings.) I think you need to look at her behaviour more closely and find out where this is all coming from. Just an idea to consider; apologies if that's presumptuous in any way, it's not meant to be."

First of all, I do not consider it presumptuous, it is a good thought and something that I need to consider.

I have a pretty great relationship with my mother in nearly all areas. In this one area we don't always agree, but to be fair she really doesn't insist we have kids (when I quoted her as saying "You need to have kids", I left out the fact that she was grinning from ear to ear, not actually demanding that we have kids...), she just doesn't want us to take the decision lightly. She loves being a mom and she loved every single thing about raising us. She also loves being a grandmother and would of course welcome more grandchildren. She also is just as human as the rest of us and sometimes conversations with old friends can get her wondering about things. She recently talked to a very good friend after a year or two out of touch and the friend asked if there was any news from me, it probably got my mom thinking, maybe thinking about how good it would feel to say "Yes! She's due in...". I get that, I totally get that. I mean, really, it is just another version of the pressure I get sometimes from people I run into. Old high school friends that I see after years may ask if we have kids, old high school friends of my mom's will ask if she has any new grandchildren. It is just the way it is. My mom has always been supportive of my decisions, but she also sometimes asks the hard questions, just because she knows how bad it sucks to make a mistake simply because no one asked the hard questions. When she married very young no one asked any hard questions, and she did it simply because she thought it was the thing to do when your father had just passed away and your mother is grieving and your sister has moved away and had 2 babies and she just didn't want to be alone. So when I got engaged she asked "Are you certain?" enough and in enough ways to make others think that maybe she wasn't entirely on board. She was, but she didn't want a few years to pass and me to realize that I had done it for the wrong reasons. She also has seen me with kids, and she saw me grow up as one of those girls who mothered everything that came my way, living or not. You could not convince the 7 year old me that my stuffed animals and baby dolls were not alive and completely dependent on me for their care... Maybe she does know me better than I know myself.

So, to recap, Mom loves me a ton, she has had much joy in her life from us kids and wants to make sure we have thought about this a lot before we don't pursue something that has been without a doubt one of the top 2 most delightful things in her life (the other being marriage to my father, not the one she married too young and for the wrong reasons, but the one she married later for the right reasons...) Also, when I told her that we had thought about this (not having children) a lot and weren't taking it lightly she said "Fine, just wanted to make sure this wasn't a decision made out of fear or lack of finances or something like that." So I feel good about my mom's intent, what gives me trouble is the feelings that got stirred up when I was asked to think about life without children.

I guess what it boils down to is I am good with not having children- I am about 74% childfree. Sometimes though I feel lonely (like my mother did when when she got married for the wrong reasons, I would guess) because my husband has been traveling a lot, and I work from home, so there are days when I don't see anyone until my husband walks in the door at night. And when he's gone for 5 days... I get a little lonely and the 26% gets louder... And my mother's questions and my loneliness collided last week.

I have realized a few things in the interim:

1. Last week I was thinking of this question as a Pass/Fail final exam that won't be graded until I check out of this life, but this week I remembered that it is just one subpart of the Essay Question of Life, a question that I will be answering until I check out of this life.

2. I need to make an appointment with my doctor to discuss other birth control options, this pill has me cycling through 3 moods every 4 weeks and that just ain't cool. There have to be other options that can keep me a little more emotionally stable. I didn't have this trouble when I wasn't on the pill...

3. I have managed to meet someone FINALLY in the statistical freak zone of the country who has infertility in their past. She is the mother of a 10 year old and we talked a long time about what it is like to be infertile, the stupid things people say, etc. Turns out the stupid things don't always stop after you have a child-- she is still getting versions of the same questions I get.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What is Roosh Like?

Does anyone else hear voices in their head? I'm sure I'm not the only one. It isn't really just a voice, it is my voice, and sometimes when my thoughts are wandering I will hear the voice clearly asking "What is Roosh like?" It is like sometimes I'm not even defined enough for myself to know who I am...

I am tiring of myself. Like when I tire of my house because of all the clutter- I am tired of the clutter in my head and I need to have a good spring/summer/fall cleaning up there.

One thing I'm looking to send to Good Will or maybe just the dump is my cynicism. It is out of control, useless. A burden. I find that the people I have the most admiration for are the least cynical, the most positive and open... For example, I do not know Karen but I adore her- I can lose myself in her blog for hours even though I've read many of the posts before. I love her photographs and I love that she takes the time to do something so beautiful. She seems so happy. It only helps my assessment of her life that she lives in the Caribbean, that her husband is such a cutie and that they seem so perfect for each other, and that their daughter, Alex, is possibly the most adorable child to ever walk the earth. But beyond all of that, she seems happy and at peace. I admire that- and while I realize that the reality of life means that there are likely days that she is cranky or uncertain or moody or cluttered in the head like me - I would imagine to a lesser degree on all counts, the self-portraits show a woman who has a peace that I am currently lacking.

Anyway, I think that I need to just do some good spring cleaning up in my head. I think that while I'm there I may uncover keys to the big questions in my life. But, like any good spring cleaning, I'm expecting to create more mess temporarily while sort through everything up there. Maybe I'll find the answer to the question "What is Roosh like?"...

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Exploring Our Decision

Well, I guess I'm going to start back in the beginning of our decision to not have kids- I feel a little bit like I am detangling yarn- and not for the first time- like it is yarn that I keep with me and in the beginning it was nice and neat, but over time it got tangled and so I straightened it out and now it has gotten tangled again...

When I was diagnosed with cancer my main question for my doctors was "OK, yes, cancer, but when can we start trying to get pregnant again?" Most of them looked at me like "OK, you must not have heard me--- CANCER." Eventually it sunk in and we decided to not even discuss the trying again until we had been 1 year past treatment and had gotten the 1 year test results back. We really put it out of our minds at that point-- I recovered from the surgery in time to feel like crap from the treatments, so that ate up a couple of months. And then we just knew it wasn't an option and we did other things- took trips, went to concerts... I don't know, just got on with life without thinking much about it- we finally were living in the present instead of the future, for the first time in years- maybe in our entire marriage. Every house we had lived in had a room we called the nursery, but in this house we started calling it the office instead... I don't know why or when. I remember for my birthday, about 9 months after my treatment, we were on our way home from dinner and I asked if he still wanted to have children. I half way wanted him to say "Yes, of course." so that I could put the question mark in my mind away for good, and half way wanted him to say "No." But instead he said "I will be happy either way." He seemed to be as uncertain as I was-

It was around that time that I started searching for information on the internet about life without children and came across the term Childfree and various Childfree groups. Some of it made me feel less alone, some of it was much more anti-child than I felt. I wanted to know if there was happy life without children and what I found proved there was that possibility. During this time I started testing my feeling: I would stare at babies and children in stores and pretend they were mine. How would I feel if they were mine? I felt tired imagining it. I would stare at the ads in the Sunday flyers to see if there was the familiar longing that I had felt for years, and there wasn't.

I'm not sure that DH ever had the conflicted feelings that I had. I had started to feel really excited about the possibility of a life without children, but I hadn't said anything more to DH. One night on the way to dinner I told him about the information I had found on the internet, testing the waters. He didn't say much, but he doesn't usually anyway and he didn't sound opposed to it and so I asked if he thought that might be for us. "Fine with me, if you would be happy with that- I have a hard time picturing myself as a father anyway." I couldn't believe it! He was on board! Ahhh!

At that point it was very much like a honeymoon- not just for our marriage, but our feelings about the decision to not have children were in a honeymoon phase. I 'came out' to a few select friends, I started exploring all kinds of things- the possibilities seemed endless- travel, more education, creativity, taking up golf... Who knew where this road could lead?

In hindsight, perhaps making decisions or gauging emotions in the wake of a cancer diagnosis isn't wise. Maybe I was in one of the stages of dealing with a major life event that makes people do things like climb mountains or jump out of planes. Maybe the lack of desire to have children was more just a general numbness due to all the shit we were trying to adjust to.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Defending The Decision

My mom has been really good for the past year or so about not even asking about our plans, not even blinking when we say we aren't going to be parents, but today she broke her silence-- I don't remember what we were talking about, but somehow children were involved and she just blurted out "You need to have some!"

She has gone now, but I'm still thinking about it. The problem is, she had good points, points that I sometimes consider.

The truth is I don't know if we're making the right decision.
The truth is I don't know that we won't regret it.

I of course like any good CFer pointed out that there was no guarantee that I wouldn't regret it if we did have children either... She said "I've never heard of anyone regretting it!" and I answered "OH Please! Look around! There are mothers beating their children, abandoning them, treating them like crap. You think they don't regret it?" But she pointed out, and she's right, that she may know of these women, but she doesn't know them. And both of us find it highly unlikely that I would become that kind of mother...

She had me on the verge of tears when she talked about the joys she experienced raising us, reading in bed during our afternoon naps, going to the beach every summer... I was a terrible teenager, but she pointed out that we have a wonderful relationship now and I wouldn't get that (Yes, I pointed out that having children was no guarantee of a good relationship with them as adults...). Then she played her trump card: "Can you imagine what your father's life would be like without you?" He and I are very close and enjoy each other a lot... That was a hard one to consider, and had the added weight of the guilt I sometimes feel that I may be depriving my husband of something that could be so good.

She offered money for treatment, but I keep telling her that it isn't even remotely about the money, and it isn't.

At one point, I told her that if we decided to have kids we would really try to have kids, but as long as we stayed with the decision not to have kids, we weren't going to be taking any chances, reproductively speaking... (I think she had said something about leaving it in God's hands...) I just wanted her to know that we weren't going to just 'see what happens'. But she grabbed hold of the 'really try' part and said "Well, I'm glad to hear that you will REALLY TRY." I couldn't help myself, I had to point out that we had "REALLY TRIED" before, our efforts had not been half-hearted.

The truth is, conversations like this leave me a little emotionally exhausted. I know that we have made the decision not because of a lack of money or because of the taxing treatments or even because of the terrible disappointments. But I feel like I've lost my footing, and while I can still tell you factors that did not influence our decision not to have children, I have a harder time putting my finger on the factors that did influence our decision. Other than it just felt right at the time.

I have alluded to my epiphany when I was diagnosed with cancer and that it was like there was a voice and a gentle hand steering me away from motherhood and whispering in my ear "No, I have a different plan for you. Don't make me tell you again." And sometimes I use that as my crutch- it wasn't my decision, it was ordained by GOD. But was it? And even if it was, was it a permanent thing or temporary? Should I be checking in with him periodically to see if the plan has changed?

But back to the crutch- it is hard to argue with a message from God-- when I tell people that this is a decision that I was led to, that it was like a voice in my ear, I'm not lying. But I haven't heard that voice in a while, and really I usually bring it up because I can't come up with any decent reasons on my own. None that pass muster with the masses, anyway.

I asked my DH the other day "What would you say if L (a friend of his who had recently told me that he thought it was high time we expanded our family. I told him we weren't going to have children, but didn't elaborate.) asked why we weren't going to have children?" He said he would just say that we're happy as we are, just the 2 of us." Pretty simplistic answer, but doesn't hold water if you ask me. Who's to say would wouldn't be happy as 3? Or 4? Or more? I don't know why, but giving that answer makes me feel selfish, although I don't guess it should.

The truth is, after that debate with my mother, I feel the need to explore our reasons for not having children. And what it may mean for our future. (... to be continued in another post.)

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Community of Women

Well, in her comment Rose really said what I've been feeling: "I find that one of the things I miss more than motherhood itself is a community of women, and motherhood seems to me (from the outside at least), an instant community."

I have really been missing this community of women, it hit me like a ton of bricks as soon as I read her comment. I don't think I realized it until now, but that is part of what I'm mourning- the belonging. And it is part of what stings when I get questions about our plans for parenthood-- I feel excluded. I know in my heart that when people ask questions upon meeting they are merely trying to find out more about me and make a little connection, but I usually end up feeling very different and excluded. When we planned on having children, I must admit that I saw this as one of the benefits- instant membership in a group of women. I've never really felt that, and the truth is I'm not positive it would have lived up to my expectations. But I still get the feeling that I don't know the secret handshake when I'm with Mothers. Well, actually the ones my age are the ones I feel out of step with, the older mothers I seem to relate to better. The Empty Nesters... (My friend S1 and I went on a tour of homes recently, and one of the realtors something along the lines of "Well, this neighborhood wouldn't be for you, it isn't great for kids and is more aimed at Empty Nesters..." I told S1 later "I think that is how I'm going to start describing myself: as an Empty Nester!" My nest isn't any less empty just because it has always been empty, right?)