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. 

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