About this Blog

After banging my head in frustration over the obsession everyone around me had with procreation, I went online to find a community of people who were more like me. I have met some fascinating people along the way, but I have also found that many in the childfree community are quite hostile toward Christianity and a Christian world view. I understand that, unfortunately, many of my Christian sisters and brothers have given them a lot of ammunition (undoubtedly, I have been guilty of this at times too). Not wanting to be perceived as "trolling" for expressing my Christian perspective on other people's forums and blogs, I use my own blog to share my musings on childfree life while at the same time expressing my faith.

My intention is to show support to childfree people, both Christian and non-Christian, but from my own Christian perspective. Questions and constructive comments are welcome; negativity and intolerance are not.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Love Being Married, Hate Being “Mrs.”

In contrast to my longstanding desire to not have children, I always did want to marry. Of course, being the nontraditional gal that I am, I was not planning guest lists, choosing flowers, and designing my wedding gown for a dream wedding, as some girls do from a young age. No, I think I was considering something more long-term, being married as opposed to getting married.

My friends started marrying off when I was about 19, and as I attended their weddings, I became distressed by all of the chaos, the pomp-and-circumstance, and the waste (I just about had a heart attack when one friend told me she was spending $800 on fresh flowers… this was 16 years ago; and don’t even get me started on the $5000 dress that you wear once and then store in a box in the attic for the rest of your life). I don’t like being the center of attention anyway, and all of this wedding stuff seemed too extravagant and tiring. I decided that I wanted something simple, perhaps a cheesy ceremony in Las Vegas with just me and my guy.

Of course, things don’t always go as planned, and when a long-term relationship crumbled, I found myself wondering where my life might be headed next. I was at first frightened but then excited about my newfound freedom, and I rededicated my life to God. Because of the pain I was still feeling, I could not imagine ever being close to someone again. Maybe I didn’t need to marry after all. I met a missionary woman who married for the first time in her late 70s. I could do that! And if I never married, that was OK too.

But again, God looked down and saw a couple of misfits and thought, “These two will be much better off together than they would be apart.” DH (dear husband) and I sometimes joke that it is almost tragic that we found each other because we could have been such shining examples of confident, secure, and happy single people. Be that as it may, I believe God saw fit for us to minister to each other. We play off each others’ strengths; we make up for each others’ weaknesses. And we absolutely love being married.

In case you are wondering when I’m going to cut out the sappy sentimentality and get to my point… cultural expectations of married women drive me nuts. I do not define myself by being married, and yet others sometimes want to define me that way. My very first “bingo” came when I returned to work after my honeymoon. As I was clocking out for the day, a coworker smiled and said to me, “So now you have to go home and make dinner for someone.” Huh? I replied, “No, actually, he is supposed to have dinner waiting for me when I arrive!”

We have an agreement about certain roles in our house. He cooks, I do the laundry. I load the dishwasher, he does the dishes that need to be hand-washed. He makes the phone calls (for insurance quotes, hair appointments, car repairs, etc.), and I make the money. I mow the lawn, he removes spiders from the house.

When we first moved to our current town and began attending church here, people there kept asking me, “So did you move here for DH’s job?” Not, “What brings you to this town?” or “What attracted you to this area?” No, the assumption had to be that I was following DH around and had no aspirations of my own. As I explained over and over that we moved here for my job, no one had any issue with that, but I grew tired of the assumptions and the looks of surprise.

I think this also irritated me because I had looked forward to a teaching career since I was a child, so it was one of the major goals of my life. These incidents brought back bad memories of a guy I dated in high school who said he wanted a good job so that I wouldn’t “have to” work when we were married. I remember being offended and disgusted that he could belittle my ambitions and my calling by implying either that I should not teach or that it would just be my “hobby,” something I did not “have to” do.

At work, despite that I introduce myself to my students as “Professor,” many insist upon calling me Mrs. __, even before I tell them that I am married. Not only do I find this unprofessional, but I kept my family name, so when my students call me Mrs. __, it sounds like they are talking about my stepmother. Meanwhile, they readily call their male instructors “professor.”

This probably adds to the laundry list of reasons that I would not want to have children. Despite that the women in my social circles are highly educated and career-oriented, I have watched their gender roles/disparities become far more pronounced after having children. By cultural expectations or by their own choice, every such woman I know has become shackled with the responsibilities of full-time career and full-time motherhood while dad carries on his life as if little or nothing has changed. And worse, if mom doesn’t continue her career, she is considered a drain to the family financially. And if she doesn’t do all of the right kind of mothering, she is considered a disgrace as a wife and mother. She can’t win.

As my commenters and I have often summarized after my rants about people’s judgment of the childfree, I think all of this boils down to respecting people’s choices and callings in life. Don’t disrespect someone (female or male) for leaving a paying career in favor of a career raising children; don’t act condescendingly to someone who chooses not to have children at all. Don’t treat someone differently because s/he marries; don’t treat someone pitifully because s/he is single. Don’t try to put people into a box that fits your expectations. Yadda yadda yadda.

There is more to me than the ring on my finger.

(By the way, we did marry in Las Vegas. The wedding cost $120.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If Something Really Is Worth It, It Goes Without Saying

Of course, that is just my personal opinion. I’m sure there are others who would disagree. I mean, this cliché is used not only in reference to parenthood, but even the most mundane of activities…
“The concert tickets cost $150 per person, but it was so worth it!”
“It takes forever to mow my 2-acre front lawn, but it’s so worth it!”

(And I’m really referring to the “bitch and backpedal” use of that phrase. What seems to be different about the parenthood references is that they occur over and over and over. No one feels the need to tell you ad nauseam how worth it the concert or the big yard is.)

Personally, I try to avoid the cliché altogether, partly because I don’t feel the need to justify my choices to the world and partly because I believe that it should be self-evident when something is worth it. When I think about the things in my life that have meaning, or the things that have been my greatest challenges, or obstacles I have overcome, I cannot recall ever feeling the need to say that it was all worth it -- nor has anyone asked me if it was all worth it.

I think of graduate school. College had always been “easy” for me, so the challenge of graduate school was unexpected. I had to learn how to study and how to expend mental energy in ways I had never done before. I tell people about how difficult it was, how much stress and anxiety I was constantly under. I tell them how I awoke every morning feeling as if I were going to throw up. No one asks if it was worth it. The way in which my life has been positively impacted is abundantly clear.

I think about my animals and how they can be messy or annoying at times. It can be stressful to find someone to watch them when I travel. Veterinary care isn’t cheap, and most animal health insurance does not provide enough benefit for me to justify the cost. But I never feel the need to complain about any of that, so people never have to ask if it is worth it.

I think of home ownership… new roof, new furnace, backed-up pipes flooding the basement, painting, maintaining, repairing. Even when homeowners sit around comparing horror stories about collapsed ceilings or carpenter ant infestations, no one ever justifies home ownership to me with “but it’s all worth it.” It goes without saying that owning a house is what some people want, and it has its opportunity costs. You accept it for what it is, or you choose not to buy a house.

The list could go on about jobs/careers, marriages or other close relationships, charity work, feats of physical endurance, living a Christian life, etc.

On the other hand, I will be the first to say that something is not worth it if I believe that information will save someone time, money, energy, or grief. At the very least, I am willing to question whether something is worth the costs and to share my knowledge with others, not to coerce them into joining me but to educate them so that they can make an informed choice.

I love my job, but it definitely has its stresses and frustrations. I am willing to share those with others, and I am willing to admit that a teaching career is not for everyone. During the times that the rewards outweigh the difficulties, I find the desire to continue. But when times are bad, I make it no secret that I am considering my other career options.

For many years I have fostered animals for the humane society. There are times of fun and joy, and times of sadness, suffering, and death. Having to break the attachment when the foster service is over is always extremely difficult. I frequently ask myself why I do this over and over, and without hesitation I will share that sentiment with other people. I do feel as if I am making a difference, and I do know that I have saved lives… or at least soothed suffering. Is it “worth it”? I cannot say. I always leave it to the listener to decide.

Obviously, the major difference between these two examples and parenthood is that I can always change careers and I can always stop fostering animals. But what I think they should have in common is the absence of the cliché “but it’s all worth it.” Just tell the truth, and let the evidence speak for itself. Then leave it for those around us to decide for themselves.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Lies We Tell Ourselves

I’m terrified of most spiders. For as long as I can remember, the mere sight of a spider would induce panic, and spiders have been the subject of many a nightmare. A spider bite 10 years ago that has left me with a dime-sized scar has not helped my phobia either.

Particularly in the summer in my region, yard work needs to be done. And indeed, I actually enjoy weeding, tending to flowers, and raking leaves. Unfortunately, with gardens come spiders; and what’s worse, spiders are beneficial to the garden and should thus not be driven away. I am learning to coexist with them through the systematic desensitization of working side-by-side with them, but most of the time I just lie to myself.
“There are no spiders here.”
“That was not a spider web that I just walked through. And if it was, there is no spider dangling from me.”
“There are no spiders here.”
I keep repeating it.
I see a spider. “Well, that was the only one, and he has run away. There are no more spiders here.”
I lie to myself so that I can cope with the fear and discomfort of what lurks behind every shrub. I lie to myself so that I can function well enough to complete the work that needs to be done. I lie often enough so that I can behave as if I really believe it.

So when I recently heard the infamous “Bitch and Backpedal” it’s-all-worth-it speech yet again, it struck me at a much deeper level than it had before… is this self-talk the exact same coping mechanism I am using in my garden? Merely a lie so that one can endure the task at hand?

That idea is nothing new to me or to anyone else. Years ago, Wanda Sykes did a hilarious stand-up routine about it (watch here). Even I have blogged about related issues and potential regret in the past. What was new to me, I suppose, was an ability to empathize. Though I have always been puzzled and skeptical about “it’s all worth it” (because I never felt the need to justify anything in my own life in that way), I have only recently realized that I was doing essentially the same thing when it came to coping with my fear in the garden.

I think I finally understand.