Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Child-free and happy

It's probably obvious from my posts so far that I don't have children. All that marathon napping and shoe shopping. All that pootling about, revelling in the slow pace of life with minimal plans and few demands on my time. I doubt many parentscertainly parents with young childrenget to live this kind of life. 

At a work lunch a month or two ago I told a colleague who has a toddler that I was trying to cut back on napping. Needless to say, she thought this unnecessary (if not ludicrous) and encouraged me to continue napping. My commitment to cutting back on day time sleeps did wane somewhat after this conversation. I felt as if I wasn't making the most of one of the greatest benefits of being childfreethe ability to spend my copious free time sleeping

I've never been happier about NOT having kids than I am nownot that I've ever been unhappy about it. There was a time when I wantedor thought I wanted?children, but even then I didn't have much of a maternal urge.  (Before I go further, let me say that I'm not judging anyone who has kids and I don't want to debate who's happier or more selfishparents or non-parents. Each to their own. I'm just talking about my life, and what makes me happy.)

My joy in having no offspring stems mostly from the freedom it gives me to live the kind of life that makes me happy: calm, uncomplicated, quiet. But I've also been reading quite a few articles lately about life with kids that make me appreciate the life I have (particularly because I'm female). 

There's this one, which soundly debunks the (ridiculous) notion that the domestic sphere offers empowerment to women. 
...for many women, domestic work is doing a full day in paid work or caring for children, and then spending an additional 25 hours a week washing dirty clothes, cooking two meals each night (one for the kids and another for their husband because he's training for a marathon and won't eat carbs — or cook for himself), cleaning the vomit and crayon off the walls, ironing for the entire family, shopping for the family, planning the school lunches, booking medical appointments, completing school forms, helping with homework or reading to toddlers, getting up in the night when one of the kids wets the bed, changing the sheets, and then washing the sheets so there is a spare set for the next day.
Ah yes, but that's their choice, I hear you say. But it's not. There is a difference between having alternatives and having choices. There's no element of choice in domestic work. It simply has to be done. And since many men refuse to take equal responsibility for it, the burden falls to women...
A woman might be bone tired from working all day, she might have been up all night with sick children, she might have the flu, she might have gastro, or she might just prefer to spend one night in 15 years doing something different. But that's too bad because mouths need to be fed, dishes need to be washed, clothes need to laundered.
And this one, in which a husband and wife write to each other frankly about how having kids (and some other massive life-changing events) has changed and strained their relationship. 

She writes: I thought having a family would bring us closer together. Five years and two kids later, I sometimes feel like nothing could have driven us further apart.
When I’m wrangling with a trolley laden down with our wilful offspring or scraping diarrhoea off a sheepskin rug, it is easy to resent you for the freedom I imagine you enjoy out there in the world of reasonable adults and measurable goals. The burden of domestic drudgery and the intense pressure of meeting our children’s unending needs and incessant demands often blinds me to the fact that you carry the equal burden of keeping a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs and fishfingers in our oven...

We crouch in the trenches of early parenthood, low-flying tantrums and vomiting bugs whizzing past our ears. Rubbing my sleep-deprived eyes, I mistake you for the enemy and open fire. You retaliate. And so we become locked in combat, tussling endlessly over who is more exhausted, whose turn it is to do bedtime, who is more entitled to slip away for a run, a pint or a quiet cry in a corner. The kids come first and the dog knows he is at the bottom of the pile, but our battle for oneupmanship rages.
He writes: I have a vision of our life as a battle of long trudges interspersed with mortar fire and the occasional ambush, glimpsing my comrade through smoke and dirt and fantasising about the day when we can sit back with a beer together and reflect on it all. The journey will have changed us to the point where we will not be sure if the person we loved is still there. (Interesting how they both use battle metaphors to describe parenting.)

And there's this story about "motherhood regret", and this recent program on Insight about mothers who left their children for various reasons, including the feeling that their life with husband and children was not what they wanted for themselves. The Insight program in particular made me wonder about how many women have children because it's "what you do" rather than what they really want

I'm grateful I didn't have kids back when I thought I wanted them because I think I would have been plodding uncritically along the well-worn marriage/mortgage/kids path without the primal urge to drive me. It's possible I might regret not having children when I'm older (though I doubt it), but I would much rather wish I had had children than regret having had them. 

Oh, there's also this "hilarious note" that a mother of six left for her husband when she went away for a weekend, and pretty much anything written by mother-of-four Constance Hall on Facebook. Both make me dance around the room singing, "Fuck, I I LOVE MY LIFE!" (No, I don't follow her, but I have friends who do).

Now, excuse me, I have to go and nap now. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Nearly 12 weeks in...

My shopping ban is nearly 12 weeks old now. Three months! It doesn't feel as if it has been that long, which is a good thing. 

Only once - as recently a couple of weeks ago - have I really had the urge to shop. I got my hair done at a salon in the city and I had nothing planned for after that. Once I would have wandered around the shops, and I really felt like doing that on this occasion, but I didn't seriously contemplate setting foot in a shop - or even gazing in the windows. (I was also being prickled by hair from my haircut, so I was keener to get home to change my clothes than I was to buy new ones.)

I have only been in a clothes shop once or twice with a friend since I stopped buying shoes and clothes (back in July). I picked things up off the rack, I looked and admired, but had no real desire to buy. 

One day recently I was bored and sitting in front of my computer, which is a time when I once would have scrolled idly through the new stock and sales pages of fashion websites. I do kind of miss that sometimes. I went to the ASOS site and started looking at stuff, but after browsing only one page I closed it. I felt I couldn't take the risk of awakening the yearning to buy things.

Strangely, I don't seem to be saving money or making much headway on paying off my credit card. I haven't redirected my spending into other 'allowed' stuff, so I'm not sure why this is. Perhaps I'll have to do one of those tedious logs of every cent I spend to see if I can work out why I'm not much better off. 

I'm no worse off, so I suppose that's something. 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

I am not the full-throttle kind

I was walking along Chapel Street after yoga recently when I saw an advertisement for a watch with the line Live full throttle. I am obviously not the target audience - the ad was in front of a menswear store and hello, I was on my way home from yoga - but I could not be less receptive to this kind of message.

Living life at full throttle sounds stressful, exhausting, and well, pretty one dimensional to me. Perhaps even a bit mindless. I'd rather live life at a slower pace.

The watch in the ad would probably appeal to people whose motto is go hard or go home. Given one of my goals is to nap less, it won't come as a surprise to hear that if anyone told me to go hard or go home, I'd happily go home. I love my couch and my bed.

It's a watch that might be worn by people who write things like "I like to work hard and play even harder" in their online dating profiles. If I had a Tinder profile, it would read, "I like to nap hard and sleep even harder". 

I'd rather pootle, than hurtle. I want to appreciate the scenery as I go through life, stopping to absorb the sights, sounds and smells, and the way things feel. I want to take photos of the wildlife, not run over it. I want to connect with people, not leave them choking on my dust.

I don't want to be one of those people whose stock answer when asked how they are is, "Busy!" Or one of those people who wears their stress like a badge of importance. I don't want to have weekends chock full of appointments and social engagements (as I've said, I'm an introvert - I don't need much social contact). I don't want to have a head full of plans and obligations and goals and grand ambitions. 

And the good news is...I'm not one of those people and I don't have that kind of life. My life is calm, low-stress and only sometimes busy on the four days a week I'm at work. When my time is my own - three days out of seven - my days are usually quiet, with plenty of time to relax, read, rest and do things I enjoy. I have few responsibilities and demands on my time (work, pay bills, pay the rent). I have no plan for where I want to be in my career in five years. I have a job, not a career, and I'm fine with that. I like my job and I strive to do it well, but it's not the core of my identity. 

My ambition is only to lead a small, happy life in a way that it meaningful to me. Living in the moment, being connected to my surroundings, and relishing the small things (refer: Gleeful). Spending time with people who bring me joy and doing things that enrich my life - going on adventures (big and small), being immersed in nature, reading, listening to music, and exercising my creativity with writing and photography.    

I know a small life isn't for everyone. It would be a snorefest for many. I suppose the key is to work out what pace suits you, and try to make it happen. Having a full throttle life when you are best suited to a slower pace must be hell.    

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

The friend question


I took my holiday to Brisbane last week and don't regret spending the money. I had a wonderful time. I loved Brisbane, the weather was summery and I had fun meeting and hanging out with a couple of my long-time online friends. I was not tempted into any of the clothes or shoe shops (they're much the same as we have in Melbourne anyway).

I took a couple of day trips while I was thereone up to Maleny (among other places) to meet Victoria and another to the town of Dayboro with Gillian. Both trips only fuelled my yearning* for a tree change because they are pretty much the kind of places I envisage Luke and I moving tosmall towns, not too far from the coast, set among lots of trees and abundant nature, an easy drive from a big town/city and with cafes catering to gluten-free types like me. (Victoria and I had the best gluten-free melting moment from a cafe in Maleny that offered an almost entirely gluten-free or gluten-free optional menu.)

Near Dayboro

Despite all the downsides, after those two visits, I still really, really wanted to go bush. 

But then I got back to my real life. I went for dinner with friends on Friday night and somehow only then did it really hit me that I won't be able to do that (with my existing friends anyway) if I'm a hundred kilometres away. Duh, Jayne. 

Not that I catch up with friends on a weekly basis (and nor does Luke). I'm an introvert and a homebody and I don't need a lot of  face time with friends to satisfy my need for social interaction. I'm happy just hanging out with Luke (or alone) at home most of the time (although I realise that might not be healthy).  Neither of us has a vast circle of friends, and not all of them live in Melbourne anyway. 

I might not see them often, but I do enjoy the time I spend with friends. I still really, really want to move to the country, but I need to consider whether possibly even less frequent catch ups with my city friends will satisfy my need for social interaction, particularly in the period when I don't have any country friends.   

* Looks like I've replaced my old yearnings for a new yearning, but wanting a new and better life seems more worthy than wanting a new pair of shoes.