Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Childless in Suburbia

I am 31.  My new husband is nearly 41.  We do not have children and so far are not planning on having them.  But I am realizing that not having children is tougher than it looks and not just for the reasons you are imagining right now (haha!-- You!).

Being childless and specifically choosing to be childless is not the norm. Perhaps we would fit in better in Germany where birth rate is way down or a big city where all the people are career driven and "independent." But, here in suburban America, we are the oddballs, and because we are the odd-couple-out in family oriented Simi Valley, it is highlighted most every day. 

For instance, yesterday was Halloween.  And, up go all the pictures of all the children in their (ridiculously) cute costumes in emails and on facebook.  Scrolling down my fb news feed, I see picture after picture of cute toddlers romping around in cozy costumes.  And, and I can't help but think. "Wow. . . I am living a very different life." 

I don't want this to be misinterpreted as bitter.  It is really much more of an observation about my life, where I live, my relatives and their life spaces.  I realize that I am not experiencing life the way so many couples are living life right now. I am not concerned with the elementary schools in my district, whether there is a dress code, how I am going to afford a child's tuition, nor how I am going to keep them awake and smiling through their drowsy-tantrum time before bed. 

I have to believe I am just as busy and concerned in my daily life, just about other things. But, because I am not experiencing life in the same way as my friends and family members, it is hard to create a feeling of being "in it" together.  I am realizing more and more how friends are born out of enduring the same or similar life challenges. Getting through undergrad or grad school, putting on a performance, competing in the same bowling league.  When you are in it together, you can't help but connect.  The same enemy drives you together whether it be, late night papers, lack of sleep, giving a shouting kid a time out or losing on a 7/10 split to your rival team. 

So, it is hard to hold a conversation about feeling depressed or stressed at work when your poor friend or sister is up to her ears in dirty laundry, a screaming child, dinner burning on the stove and a child coloring the walls.  And, likewise who am I to offer her advice or comfort! 

It creates an unfortunate gap that takes more effort to overcome than I expected.  I will go so far as to say that it takes more effort to maintain a long and established friendship with someone who is currently not "in it" with you than someone new who is "in it".  Being "in it" together makes the here and now relevant for both parties.  

We shall see how things shift as toddlers become children, become adolescents. . . But according to my mom (who is both wise and observant) life with children is always about children. (Perhaps it would be less so if my sister and I didn't call her so regularly through out the week! Love ya Mom!)

I say all this with the full knowledge that I may change my mind and that Dan and I may decide that we will have children.  But, for now the decision and the observation stand, and I am left to wonder who else might be in my life space so we can be "in it" together. 


  1. Re: this post and your last post (multitasking? too lazy to click back?)

    First of all, I totally feel you on feeling under the weather (perhaps because of the weather) mood-wise. It sucks being in a funk and it sucks even more KNOWING you're feeling low, that there's not much you can do besides riding the wave until it passes (I can hear resounding choruses of "this too shall pass"). There's all sorts of "stuff" they teach that can pull you out of depression, but sometimes I find it most helpful to just accept that maybe today I'm feeling depressed and need to step back and take a breather and hope that tomorrow feels better (there's also the old adage "fake it 'til you make it," which may work for some, but I happen to think is kind of illegit because when I've practiced "fake it til you make it," the only place I ever landed was the hospital. I suppose there is something to be said for acting as if and hoping the upswing follows).

    Anyway. I feel like although parenting is hard/time consuming/life consuming, the things you've filled your life with are all those things too. As an educator, you have tons of children (almost a whole department in fact!). I've seen you pour your life into pedagogy just like a parent (although at the end of the day you aren't doing their laundry/cooking them dinner etc.)

    Alright. Now that I've written you a small essay: goodnight. Chin up. And, I miss you.

  2. I am 29, unmarried, still in an apartment, and only in a very new relationship. I have no kids, no "grown up" job, and I CANNOT bake. All of this, except the baking (DAMMIT), is by choice. My friends my age are working career jobs, at the playgrounds with their children, and complaining about not doing what they want to do. I COMPLETELY understand what you are saying and have written many a journal page about the oddness of 30 something friendships. I'm thankful for who YOU are! Because you are being you (who just happens to be fascinating and inspiring). THANK YOU for being cool with your own decisions and even with their possible change.

  3. Wow Beth, that was very insightful! It's true that having children changes your life drastically, but so does getting married or getting a new job. Anything can change your life and you will tend to be drawn towards people in the same situation so you can "lean on each other" during these bleak times. Moving to a new town with a toddler and being a stay-at-home mom was an enlightening experience for me. How do you find friends when you're not working or involved in something in the community? Most SAHM already had their play groups and it's hard to find someone who's also "looking" for someone to connect with. Be thankful you have such a big, loving family that supports you no matter what. And you have your dancing that can take you anywhere. It wasn't until I started selling Avon that I found my group of people. And even those reps within the group that I connect with are those who lives are pretty parallel (sp?) to mine. My husband and I do have a group of friends we have dinner with once a month for the past 8 or so years. There's an older couple who are grandparents, there was us with three kids and at the beginning a single guy, who since then has gotten married and now has twins that are two. We are all at different stages in our lives, but once a month come together and create our own little "family" because we don't have any family nearby. Your blog has made me realize that many people in my life were not here 10 years ago and yet I can't imagine life without them. I'm home for the first time in my life and hope to be here for many years to come. I don't miss my family in California, which is sort of sad. I miss your mom almost more than I miss my own. Your mom is special, a one of a kind, and you and Heather are very lucky and blessed to have the parents you do. I was lucky to be a part of your family during those long winters and I'm so proud of the beautiful, successful women you and Heather have become.

    Not sure if anything I said made any sense. I just wanted you to know that those of with kids can still relate, although we might have to wipe a nose first, or listen about a bad day at school before we can move our attention somewhere else. I love my kids, but knowing now what I know, I can't help but wonder what life would be like if it was just my husband and myself. You're lucky to have that insight and still have the time in case you decide otherwise. Enjoy what you have, really enjoy it! And don't let anyone put any guilt on you for choosing your own pathway. Know yourself and don't apologize for it. I married and had kids because that's what was expected and I didn't know of anything else to do. I wanted to create the happy family life I never had. Now I'm here and I'm still wondering if I did the right thing. I love my kids more than life itself and if it wasn't for them and my husband I may not even be walking on this earth today. I also suffer from depression, even to this day with all the "blessings" as I have, that people point out to me constantly. Maybe someone day I'll be able to appreciate them as much as I should, but right now I just take it one day at a time and be sure to tell my family every day how much I love them.

    I will stop my rambling..maybe I should start my own blog...although where would I find the time!

    Take care of yourself!
    Mary - the babysitter!