December 11, 2017

Hanging Out With Moms and Why are Dads Having More Fun?

Dad at Play

I’ve learned some things from hanging out with moms and their kids. As we all know, if you want to spend time with mothers, especially new ones,  you’re going to spend a great deal of time with their kids.

Wading through the feedings,  cleanings, clothes changes and scoldings, I’ve gathered along the way an unedited (if slightly abridged) view of motherhood.

What I’ve learned most of all from spending uncensored time with moms and their kids is that I don’t want their lives or anything remotely resembling them. While I admire them immensely, envy them I do not. Okay, in many ways I’m in awe of them because, frankly,  I’m dumbfounded at how they manage, but I’m sure not interested in giving up the freedoms that they surrender.

On the bright side, I’ve picked up from moms (and some nannies I also got to know) some very helpful kid tips which I pass along to new mothers, who look at me in amazement, wondering how a kid-less woman could know so much about how to calm a colicky baby or the best breast-feeding positions.  I have to talk about something at baby showers after all.  You don’t think the ladies are talking about politics at those events, do you?

I also get a great deal of shock when moms see that I actually know how to hold an infant, and that I’m quite comfortable with them.  Well, I’ve held so many of them, that it has become second nature to me, but don’t mistake my comfort with a longing to hold my own.

By the way, why are their husbands having so much more fun? Oh, they’re often exhausted too, but it seems to me that they’re still willing to play more than their wives.  Is the parental division of labor not as equal as we had expected in this era of sexual equality?

Why, for instance, when guests visit us, are the men usually game for swimming and water sports, while their wives are often content to sit on the shore in case a little body might need drying, a mouth might need water or a nose might need blowing?

“You don’t even want to swim in this heat?” I quiz them. No, they seem to prefer the safety of shore. These are sporty women, women with whom I used to climb trees and party all night. What happened here? Is there some unwritten consent that mothers make not to have any more fun?  Must they always sublimate their family members’ needs over theirs?  Does anyone else out there notice that mom’s don’t seem to be getting much more of a break than in the 1950’s and 60’s?

Now, moms are also expected to earn a solid income and agree to multiple volunteer roles, in addition to being the household chauffeur, cook, doctor and maid (even if she has such employees).

We’ll explore more about all of this later.  Maybe those moms have something to say about the benefits of “surrendering” certain freedoms, and Dads, are you really having more fun than your wives, or do I have the wrong impression here?

Upcoming Posts:

  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel

Am I Selfish For Not Having Kids?

Prince Albert (later King George VI) and his w...

Prince Albert and his Wife Elizabeth with Their Labrador (Image via Wikipedia)

Despite my friend’s frequent reminders of “yet another woman over 40 who has successfully had a healthy baby” stories, I’m not the gambling type.

My friend thumbs through People magazine, identifying the aging celebrities touting their late-in-life offspring.“Look, 50 and a healthy baby,” she beams.

“That one had a surrogate,” I quip.

“Oh, right, she did. But she had twins at forty-two,” she’ll protest.

“And a staff of forty nannies and household servants, and tell me in ten years that she doesn’t get cancer from all those hormone injections,” I counter. She sighs and closes the magazine, failing to put me on the parent track.

The truth is, it isn’t really about my age. It’s a convenient excuse, but if I were in my twenties with all else being equal as it is now, I think I’d still make the same decision not to have children.

Early in my first marriage and in my twenties, before I got a dog I stopped every dog I passed on the streets of New York City.

“Oh, look at that one – soooo cute!  And a yellow lab and a chocolate lab.  I just looove labs.  Can I pet your dog?”  I would coo.

I finally got a yellow lab who became my pride and joy for fourteen years.  She outlasted my first marriage.  Everyone thought I was practicing to be a “real”  mom with her.  When she died she was succeeded not by a ‘real” baby but by an energetic male yellow lab instead.  As it turns out, I was practicing all along only to be a dog mom.  Sorry to disappoint, but I think I’ve done well with those skills.  Does this mean I don’t get to celebrate mother’s day?  Can I be a mom if my dependent happens to be canine?

The same impulse for babies, however, never emerged.  Passing strollers never merited a second glance from me.  That was a strong sign to me to avoid having a baby.

Okay, so not every happy parent started off ogling babies on the street.  Nonetheless, the fact is there is just so much I still want to do with my life that I don’t think even if I were twenty years younger I’d be able to accomplish all that I hope to do.

I’m not just talking about my career. We’re busy people, busy seeing friends and family, busy doing volunteer work, busy working, busy traveling, skiing, biking, hiking, kayaking, waterskiing or windsurfing, in short busy being involved in our community, and in our world.

So, then, why do so many people think I’m selfish for not having kids? Is it selfish to forgo children when you could perhaps raise one successfully, when you have no obvious major impediments to parenthood? Is it selfish for me to want to work on myself, to be the best person, citizen, sibling, wife, daughter that I can be? Could I work on myself and achieve the same goals if I had kids? Knowing me, probably not.

Some people would say it is self-centered to reproduce yourself.  The world is already overpopulated and there are already so many parent-less children who need a good home.  It’s a good point. We’ll have more thoughts on this topic later.  It’s in important one but since this piece is an introduction of one founder’s background and viewpoint, I will save that meaty conversation when I can interview multiple folks on the issue.

Frankly, the thought of disseminating my genes multiple times over just scares me.  I like who I am and I’m proud of my family and heritage, but, boy, I think one person like me in the world is really enough. I’m a handful all my own.

The way I see it, I can have an influence on a greater number of kids if I don’t have my own.

My hope is to be the adult who doesn’t treat them like a parent would, to be the person they can ask embarrassing questions, the person they can call in the middle of the night and say, “I need help. Please don’t tell my mom.” I want to be the person who takes them on safaris in Africa, fashion shows in Paris and hang-gliding in Bora Bora. That doesn’t seem selfish to me.

As my cousin’s 8 year old child said of me in the car once while I was driving a heap of kids down a dirt road in the country: “You can talk about it in front of her. She’s not a mom.” That made me feel good. They all nodded in agreement and spoke of a subject that would have been just too embarrassing or dangerous in front of their moms. It was an enlightening moment.

I recently became a CFES high school mentor in our local public school. I help juniors with the process of choosing, applying and gaining acceptance at the colleges of their choice. It’s a great program and if I had children when the majority of my friends did, I’d likely only be thinking about college preparation only for my own kids instead.

Let me be the mentor, friend, aunt, water ski and windsurfing coach to a number of kids.  Most children don’t have enough positive adult influence in their lives outside of their parents.  That’s where I enter.

Upcoming Posts:

  • Wednesday March 16: What I’ve learned From Hanging Out With Moms and Why are The Dads Having More Fun?
  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel
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I’m not infertile. I Just don’t want kids.

Me with my god-daughter and her brother

She slipped a small piece of paper into my hand, closed my fingers around it and allowed her hand to linger on my closed fist.

“I want to recommend someone to you. He can change your life.”

Huh? Why, in the middle of a Northern Westchester Junior League meeting was this woman, whom I hardly knew, handing me some piece of paper that would change my life? I opened my hand and found the answer. It was a card for a fertility doctor.

“Oh, no,” I protested, “I don’t have kids because I don’t want them. I’m not infertile.” Her eyes widened and she looked at me with horror.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, I just figured, since you’re the only one without children…” she stammered.

“No problem. Have you met my husband?” She had not. “If you’d met him, you’d understand. Some people just shouldn’t be replicated.” I added. That silenced her. She never spoke to me again.

I left my husband soon thereafter.

Fast forward thirteen years. I’m now forty-five and live in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain. I have a new husband who’s incredible – with so many qualities worth replicating.

He’s brilliant and beautiful, charming, kind and hilarious and he’s a great teacher (he was one for a living for a long while). He would be an outstanding father. We share the same values, interests and goals. They don’t however include procreation.

We have a great life. We love our friends and family,  our careers, our outdoor lifestyle and our frequent world travels. We’re also at the point in our lives where we are finally financially able to raise children, emotionally equipped, and have a large house full of extra bedrooms and plenty of land for play plus a world of outdoor sports and a healthy community at our doorstep.

Why wouldn’t we have kids? Well, the short and cheeky answer is: Why rock the boat? We have a great life, why mess with the formula? That sums things up pretty well, but, of course there are more complex reasons for our choice to not have children of our own.

Don’t get me wrong, here. I love kids. I probably have more fun with them than most parents, because having fun is all I need to do with them.

We have heaps of kids in our lives.  We spend a good deal of time enjoying our friends’ many children our god-children and our cousins’ multiple offspring.   In our immediate families we have two nephews (11 & 13) from my sister and two nieces (2 and 4) from George’s brother. They are awesome. We’ve loved watching them grow and marveled at their blossoming brains and talents.

Interestingly, if – God forbid – anything happens to our siblings and their spouses, the kids become ours. Do I have a problem with that? No. I would have a big problem with losing our siblings, of course, but would happily raise their children if need be. I would devote myself to being the best second-best mom in the world for them. They are a part of us already.  They always will be.

So, why wouldn’t I want to have my own? For one, we know how our nieces and nephews turned out and we’re happy with the results. Starting from scratch is a much riskier endeavor with all the physical and mental handicap genes floating around in our population, not to mention the heart disease, cancer and depression genes prominent in both of our family gene pools.

Admittedly, we’d all be hard pressed to find a family that doesn’t carry those genes, but with my 45-year-old shriveled eggs and with the myriad health issues that I sometimes battle, what are the odds exactly of my having a healthy, well-adjusted child that won’t need constant attention for the rest of my life? I’m not willing to find out.

Some time ago a gay friend of mine asked me if I would consider being a surrogate mother so that he and his partner could adopt and raise the baby.

I was flattered but delicately told him that I don’t want to be a mother.

He tried to convince me that I didn’t even have to be a mother. Apparently, if I give my baby for someone else to raise that doesn’t qualify me as a” mother.”  Good to know but no just the same.  Good for a woman who can give her child to another to raise when she can’t do it herself, but I could raise one, perhaps successfully.  I just choose not to.

“Well then,” he concluded, “if you and George accidentally get pregnant, would you consider letting us raise the child if you don’t want it?”

Seriously?

Thanks for the vote of confidence in our reproductive skills but I’ll have to get back to you on that…

Upcoming Posts:

  • Monday March 14: Am I Selfish For Not Having Kids?
  • Wednesday March 16: Hanging Out With Moms and Why are Dads Having More Fun?
  • Friday March 18: Forging My Own Kid-less Path
  • Monday March 21: Dog Mom and über Aunt Will Travel