Posted by Kidfused

A House Without Toys

Photo by Caroline

The other day my cleaning lady told me that a house without toys is sad.

While standing in my toyless house.

My mouth hung open. There were just…no words.

Here’s the thing. I grew up in a house full of toys. Technically, since my parents were divorced, I grew up in two houses full of toys.  And you know what else those houses were full of? Money troubles. Anger. Resentment. Disappointment. Yelling. Fighting. And most of all: loneliness.

I thought about the cleaning lady’s remark after she left and I realized that my house may not be full of toys, but it’s full of love. It’s full of happiness.

What could possibly be sad about that?


Posted by Kidfused

When You’re Ambivalent about Motherhood

One of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, recently told a story about when she was making the kid decision. She wasn’t feeling “the pull” to have children, so she asked one of her mom friends what she should do, and her friend told her, “It’s a hard enough job when you love it. Don’t do it if you’re ambivalent about it.”

It’s such simple advice, but it struck a nerve with me because I am ambivalent about it. A child is not something I want with my whole heart. It’s not something I dream about or desire deeply, and this simple advice helped me see through all of the clutter and confusion and understand that motherhood just might not be the right decision for me. And that that might be okay.

If you’ve ever felt ambivalent about motherhood, you know how comforting these little reassurances can be. If you want even more reassurance, check out this video of Elizabeth and Oprah talking about their decisions to remain childfree (that conversation starts at 5:26). Enjoy!


Posted by Kidfused


Posted by Kidfused

The Selfish Stereotype

The Selfish Among UsOver the years, I’ve been told that not having children is selfish. I’m not sure what motivates people to say this, but I can tell you that I’ve opted out of motherhood thus far in order to pursue a life that is centered around seeing and understanding the world, building a business that will allow me to give back and make a positive difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate, and nourishing the deeply loving relationship I share with my husband. But none of that matters because without children, I’m selfish. Plain and simple. The infuriating irony of this stereotype is that I see plenty of parents engage in actual selfish behaviors with astounding frequency. So frequently that I’ve come to wonder if there’s some sort of postpartum amnesia that occurs that causes new parents to have a mental lapse when it comes to common decency. Case in point? Last Sunday…

Over the past couple of months my husband and I have been really stressed at work (so much so that my skin has been breaking out and I’ve been experiencing both insomnia and anxiety). In an effort to blow off some steam, we decided to schedule a massage. All week I looked forward to those fifty minutes of quiet relaxation, the promise of which helped me endure the challenges I’d been facing. When Sunday finally arrived, I felt a rush of relief when I stepped into the calm, dark massage room. And when the massage therapist began kneading the knots in my shoulders, all of my troubles melted away.

Until I heard a baby crying.

Impossible, I thought. Who in their right mind would bring a baby to a spa? I shook it off, deciding that it must be my imagination somehow morphing the relaxing new age music into the sound of a crying infant. But then the song ended and there it was: the unmistakable sound of a baby wailing. Every muscle fiber tensed. I took a deep breath and tried to ignore it. But it was incessant. I gave the new mother the benefit of the doubt; she was probably just stopping in to buy a gift certificate and would soon be on her way. Surely, the clamor wouldn’t last long. Surely, she would see all of the Ssh! Quiet please! signs posted on EVERY wall and realize that her crying baby wasn’t welcome. And even if she didn’t see the signs, she would know that there were people nearby trying to relax and she would remove her crying baby as quickly as possible. Because that would be the decent thing to do.

But no. None of those things happened. The crying persisted for 15 minutes, a.k.a. one-third of my long-awaited, sorely needed – and not to mention, expensive – massage. The whole time it was happening, I lay there wondering why no one was asking the woman and her crying baby to leave. If I was standing in the hallway screaming at the top of my lungs, someone would’ve surely silenced me. Then, I became infuriated because I realized that if I were to complain about the crying baby, I would be the bad guy – not the person who brought a crying baby to a spa – but the childfree woman who is clearly just selfish.


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Should I Have a Baby? Everyone Else Is.

Should I have a baby?It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. Nine months, in fact. Coincidence? Yes, totally. No, I don’t have a bundle of joy napping in the other room as I write this. When it comes to the kid decision, I’m still as lost as ever. In the past nine months I’ve decided with 100% certainty that I want kids. I’ve also decided with 100% certainty that I don’t. I’ve gone back and forth on the decision a hundred times. When I see a little girl throw her arms around her mommy’s neck and say “I love you!”, I want kids. When I hear a child crying several aisles away in the grocery store, I don’t. When my nephew curls up next to me on the couch and buries his face into me, I want kids. When he won’t stop kicking me with his sweaty little feet, I don’t. When I hold a peaceful little baby in my arms and she smiles at me, I want kids. When I see a band of sparkly-Ugg-wearing tween girls acting obnoxious at a Lorde concert, I don’t. Should I have a baby? I’ve changed my mind three times since sitting down to write this post.

I realize that over the past nine months I should have been here writing about all of these confusing moments, but the fact is I’m so sick of thinking about the kid decision that I couldn’t bring myself evaluate it any further. I’ve been trying so hard to put it out of my mind but it’s all I can think about. I’ve reached a point where I have a constant knot in my stomach. I’m not kidding. Everyday I feel a little bit sick about it, every moment is underscored with a faint feeling of nausea — and no, it’s not morning sickness. It’s nerves. Nerves because I’ve realized that whether we choose to have kids or not, it will be both the right decision and the wrong decision. Either path we choose will be lined with happiness, regret, and longing for the path not taken. And to me, that feels grim.

If I had one wish, it would be to go back to my early twenties when I was on Round 1 of “The Five Year Plan” and just forget about the whole decision for a while. But I blew threw Round 1 (and Round 2) enjoying life and being blissfully unaware of the torment that lie ahead, confident that one day the answer would become clear. But we’re on Round 3 now and it’s not clear. It couldn’t be less clear. And it’s impossible to forget about the decision for any length of time because A) I’m 33 and my eggs aren’t getting any younger, and B) there’s an inescapable baby boom happening. Everywhere I turn people are having babies: two of my close high school friends just unveiled their cute little bumps on Facebook, another couple just announced that they’re expecting a second child, two different couples just welcomed firstborns into the world, another couple recently welcomed Baby #2, and yet another couple Baby #3. To makes things even crazier, I recently learned that my little sister is pregnant with “the first grandchild” and last month I found out that my other little sister is pregnant with the second.

Really, universe? REALLY?!

I’ve considered selling the house and moving to the mountains to take up life as a hermit, far away from the baby fever that seems to be sweeping the nation, but I know myself well enough to know that I’d be bored after a week. I’ve debated quitting Facebook since my News Feed is constantly brimming with birth announcements, pictures of kids, and status updates about vomit and fevers and poopy diapers, but I use it to promote my business so my hands are tied. I’ve thought about hiding the status updates of all of my Friends who have kids, but then I realized that all I’d be left with are angry status updates from my whiskey-drinking cousin. Plus, every once in a while someone will snap out of the “baby blur” (yes, apparently that’s a thing) and post a really funny comment or interesting article. And I don’t want to miss out on that. For some of my friendships, that’s all I have left! The only other option we have is to find some new childfree friends to balance things out a bit, but as we’ve discovered, childfree couples in their early 30s are about as rare as the Sumatran Rhinoceros. And of the few I have found, I haven’t felt the same deep connection that I once felt with my old friends who have now disappeared into parenthood. What’s a lonely childfree by choice couple to do?

I wish I had an answer. But I don’t. An entire gestation period has passed yet the indecision and isolation continues. And to be honest, it’s gotten pretty depressing. I can’t help but feel that this decision, or rather our state of childfreeness, would be so much easier and more enjoyable if our life was full of childfree friends, if my Facebook feed was packed with photos of other couple’s travel adventures rather than the baby-related experiences we’ve chosen not to have. Sometimes it gets so lonely and uncertain that I consider giving in, having a baby, and hoping for the best. But that can’t be the right to reason to have a baby.

Can it?


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The Quest for Childfree Friends

When I saw the August 12th issue of Time, I immediately picked up a copy and scoured it for answers, validation, and basically anything that might make the kid decision a little easier. What I found is some insight into why this decision has been so hard.

In our 20s, none of our friends had kids. In fact, only a handful of them were married. So our social life was robust. There were parties at the beach. Dinners at nice restaurants. Game nights. Destination vacations. Life was good. And then, one by one, each of them disappeared into parenthood uttering the same famous last words: “Nothing will change.”

Our 30s find us in social Siberia. As of right now, only 3 childfree couples remain. One is getting married next month and already talking about having a baby, the second is already married and working hard to pull together enough money to start a family, and the third is still dating (but knowing my girlfriend, kids are definitely in her future). Soon we’ll be all alone, it’s only a matter of time.

This article summed up our dilemma perfectly. “It’s toughest in your late 30s and 40s. That’s when social isolation tends to peak among people without kids.” It goes on to say that the real stress point is the “loneliness between when friends have babies and when they become empty nesters.” As one couple puts it, “You build strong relationships and then they change. It’s great for them, but it sucks for you.”

Though Fynn and I are pretty introverted and prefer to exist in our own bubble, we miss the friendships of our 20s. We feel their absence in our lives. There’s one couple in particular, who stands out in my mind. We used to go to concerts and theme parks, we got together for dinner and drinks almost weekly, and we even took a few trips together. We tried archery. And dog sledding. We played darts. And shot pool. We went camping. And canoeing. We even built an igloo one time. When they announced their pregnancy two years ago, they swore that nothing would change. Famous last words.

Of course things changed. All of the fun times are now just distant memories. Whereas our nights used to end somewhere between 2 – 4 a.m., they now conclude at 8 p.m. sharp when, in full attachment parenting style, the three of them go to bed together as a family. More recently, we invited them to go see their favorite band in concert and they told us they’d get back to us. They never did. Despite breaking their promise that things wouldn’t change, we aren’t mad because we knew they’d been kidding themselves all along. But now while they’re off building their family, we’re left to grieve a friendship that was once the source of so much joy.

I guess it all boils down to a simple conclusion: we need new friends. I think we would feel more at ease with our tendency to be childfree if we had other people in our lives that shared our point of view. But where do you find such people? You would think that since childlessness is on the rise, making childfree friends would be an easy undertaking. But it’s not. I’ve found that it’s hard enough to make new friends when “childfree” isn’t a requirement. Add to that the fact that we live in a relatively small, suburban town with good schools and we’re screwed. It’s Mommyville up in here.

That’s why I’ve decided to launch an official quest for childfree friends. It’s going to require us to venture out of our comfort zone and put forth some real effort, but if we ever want to reclaim our social life and stop questioning the kid decision, we have to make some changes. After giving it some thought, I’ve identified 3 things we can do right now to find new friends and improve our social life:

  1. Connect. I just joined the “Childfree Couples 30+” group on Meetup.com. The group is based in the closest major city, which is a little over an hour away, but hopefully the change in scenery will send new people into our lives.
  2. Take a chance. Last year, I met someone professionally who told me that he and his wife will likely remain childfree. He also told me that he is a huge introvert and doesn’t need many friends. Because of that caveat, I never tried to connect with them. But for the sake of the quest, I’m going to reach out and propose dinner.
  3. Savor. I suppose we’re guilty of already writing off those childfree-but-not-for-long friends I mentioned earlier. Sure, our paths may be pulling us in different directions, but for now we’re in the same place and we should take every opportunity to enjoy that.

I’ll be sure to report back on my progress, but in the meantime…do you have any suggestions for how/where to find childfree friends?


Posted by Kidfused

Child-Rearing: Worth the Investment?

Have you seen the recent news report about child-rearing costs? Well, they’ve gone up. It’s estimated that for babies born in 2012, a family will spend an average $241,080 to raise them until they are 18 years old. That’s $301,970 when you adjust for inflation. And no, this doesn’t include college. (Tack on another half a mil for four years at a private university eighteen years from now).

The report went on to say that “for a typical two-parent middle-income family, spending on each child was $12,600 to $14,700 in 2012.” Reports like this make me wonder if people even consider the financial commitment before they start a family? If so, how does anyone deem themselves financially viable enough to have a kid…let alone two, or three, or four? Fynn and I make a very comfortable living, and we live well within our means, but these numbers make us squirm.

In addition to the monetary costs, there are “intangible” costs to think about too, like time, energy, sleep, and sanity. If you could put a price tag on those things, child-rearing would cost exponentially more than $12,600 to $14,700 per year. And when I weigh all of these costs against the parenthood experiences that my friends are having (taking into consideration the good and the bad, the I Love Yous and the public meltdowns, the hugs and the sleepless nights, the pride and the sacrifice), I can’t help but wonder…is child-rearing worth the investment?

 


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Royal Confusion

Over the past few months, Fynn and I have been trying to embrace the fact that we probably won’t have children. We haven’t told our families – mainly because we’re not ready to face their tears, objections, and disappointment – but every day we check in with each other to see where we stand:

Me: “Do you want kids today?”

Him: “Nope. You?”

Me: “No.”

We’ve been keeping a daily tally of our desire for children and we had racked up a dozen straight NOs…and then the royal baby was born.

That day we both said YES.

My YES was the result of a lot of things: the happiness on Kate Middleton’s face when she presented baby George to the world, the loving way Prince William scooped him out of her arms and held him proudly, the new dad buckling his son into his car seat, the family driving off to begin their new life together. There was a cohesion between them, a profound love that I could feel from thousands of miles away. For a moment, it was as if happily ever after might actually exist.

That day I dreamed about having my own baby, the happiness on our parents’ faces, and the closeness Fynn and I would share over the new life we’d created. It filled me with warmth to imagine kissing newborn skin, cuddling a tiny body, reading bedtime stories, having little hands help me make dinner, hearing the sound of small feet running across our hardwood floors. It was a day of what ifs.

We haven’t seen the Duke of Cambridge since he left the hospital, and now that he’s out of sight the needle on our barometer has returned to NO. When we try to imagine what’s been going on behind the walls of Kensington Palace – or wherever they’re staying – we picture an exhausted Will changing “nappies”, an unshowered Kate wondering if she’ll ever get her figure back, incessant wails from the royal nursery, and all of them wondering what in the bloody hell they’ve gotten themselves intoImagining how much their charmed lives have changed makes it easy to add another NO to the tally. But we can’t help but wonder what happened on July 22nd that made us change our minds completely? Were those feelings – those desires for our own happily ever after – real…or did we get caught up in a fairy tale?


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What the Facebook Photos Don’t Show

I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I last saw my best friend from high school. Two years? Maybe three? Though we promised it never would, life has pulled us in completely different directions. She has three children and a military husband – a life that couldn’t be more different from my own – and she’s not usually in the same place for very long. Meeting up for dinner is a rare occurrence, but last week the stars aligned and brought us together.

As we ate, I inquired about her children, expecting to hearing glowing tales about her life as a mother. After all, my friend knew she wanted to have kids before she was even old enough to drive. Over the years, I’ve watched her kids grow up through the photos she posts on Facebook. From afar, her family looks idyllic. The photos show her cross-country skiing with her little ones in tow, family camping trips, birthday parties, beach fun. Laughter. But at our dinner, I learned that her pictures are only telling part of the story. Her eight year-old daughter is writing poems about loneliness, trading her unique interests for those of her unoriginal friends, and quitting every sport, activity, and musical instrument she tries. Her six year-old daughter is unemotional, detached, and acting out. And her husband is eager to get the kids raised so they can get back to being married.

I left dinner feeling more scared than ever. If this can happen to someone who’s longed for children since she was a child herself, what chance do I have?

Furthermore, all this time I’ve been worried about how a baby would turn my life upside down, but I haven’t given any thought to raising an adolescent or teenager. I worry about how I’d handle the lack of sleep and constant crying, but I never give much thought to the complicated situations that parents have to deal with in the years that follow. Depression. Peer pressure. Body image issues. Bullying. Drugs. Sex. The list goes on and on, and I can’t help but wonder if I’m cut out to help a child navigate that emotional minefield. To be honest, I can’t help but wonder if anybody is.


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Baby Tears

Today I was supposed to meet my friend at the local hospital for lunch. She works there, and eating at the hospital cafeteria is easier than trying to squeeze in an off-campus rendezvous. It was my first time inside this particular hospital and after a few minutes waiting in the lobby, a woman in a wheelchair appeared next to me with an “It’s a Boy” balloon floating beside her. In one arm she held a vase of flowers, in the other, a car seat with a baby boy who was no bigger than a loaf of bread. He was bundled in blankets to protect him from the cold March wind, and she couldn’t take her eyes off of him as they waited for Daddy to get the car.

A few minutes later, Daddy walked through the door and they headed off towards their new life. As they walked away, I could feel their happiness, and as the glass door closed behind them a strange thing happened: my eyes filled with tears. Burning hot, inexplicable tears. It took all of my strength to blink them away before my friend showed up, but in that moment all I wanted to do was sob.

I’m still trying to figure out what happened today. What did those tears mean?