Daughter Dream

Recently, my husband had a dream. He went to put something in the back seat of our car, and there was our daughter, sitting in a car seat. (This was a nasty shock, because we don’t have children.) And then she spoke to him. He was stunned, and said as much. I looked back at him from the front seat and said, “Of course she can talk! She’s 4 years old!” (We’ve only been married for two years.)

I’m in my 50’s, and I am child free with absolutely no regrets. Parenthood would have made me miserable, even though I’d have done my best not to mess it up. And it’s blatantly obvious that the planet is crowded enough without any contribution on my part. So, yeah, that dream of his definitely came way out of left field.

But now I can’t help but wonder what our daughter looked like. And what did she say? What did her voice sound like?

I’ll never know. And that feels strange, too.

Onward…

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I Count, Too.

On my commute to work today I saw one of those “Baby on board” placards that people put up in their SUVs so that first responders will understand the urgency of their rescue. Granted, infants need extra care, and are just starting out in life, and heaven knows they should not be punished for their parents’ stupid driving habits. But still…

I know this isn’t exactly politically correct, but…

I am sick and tired of being undervalued because I didn’t procreate.

I want that ambulance driver to feel every bit as much urgency when rescuing me. I want a tax cut by virtue of the fact that I haven’t added to the crowding of an already overcrowded planet. I don’t want to be made to feel guilty for asking for a holiday off simply because I’m the only employee without kids. I want to be able to take family sick leave when my dog needs to be rushed to the vet. I want a gift for putting up with you when you’re pregnant, instead of having to give you one for being pregnant. I want you to keep your screaming child away from my public space. I don’t want to have to constantly justify my choice not to have children.

Most of all, I want my very own placard.

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Walmart Hell

I’ve written a few blog posts about how I hate shopping at Walmart. I feel so strongly about this that I have managed to avoid entering one of these dens of iniquity for nearly 4 years. Seattle makes that easy, because it has yet to allow a Walmart within its city limits. (One more reason to adore the emerald city, as far as I am concerned!)

Unfortunately, I sort of felt forced to bow down to this false God of consumerism last week, because my phone battery is dying. (No, I don’t have a standard smart phone. I have a cheap, pay by the minute tracfone that I bought once upon a time at Walmart.)

Believe me, I attempted to buy a replacement battery on line. When it came in its flimsy package, it was bent, and I could smell the acid fumes. It’s a hazmat situation. I had to get a refund, and the thing is now sitting on my back porch until such time as I can figure out how to properly dispose of it without disfiguring myself. Needless to say, this kind of put me off ordering on line. But my phone is such a weird size, I assumed only Walmart would have the battery in their brick and mortar stores.

Silly me.

So, with a tear in my eye and a knot in my stomach, I went to the Walmart in Renton. After circling around and around and around to look for a parking space, which seems to be a required part of the ritual, I entered the door on a late Sunday afternoon, and my jaw dropped.

I don’t know if it’s just this particular branch, or if the entire franchise has gone downhill in the past 4 years, but this place was nasty. Yes, Walmarts are always crowded with the dregs of humanity, but I remember that the stores themselves used to be clean, at least. I half expected to step over bird poop and cadavers in this one, such was its state of disarray. And the aisles have gotten so narrow that you can barely fit a shopping cart down them. They clearly have been unable to resist the desire to cram in more merchandise, and to hell with consumer comfort.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I walked in the door with my recycled grocery bags over my shoulder, and I was accosted by this greeter who did not speak a word of English. He insisted in putting a sticker on my empty bag. I tried to ask why, but he just babbled at me. Welcome to Walmart indeed.

I headed straight to electronics, because I just wanted to get this over with. But getting there was a trial. I felt like a salmon fighting my way upstream. The aisles were so narrow that whenever someone in front of me decided to stop and examine some cheap thing or another, everyone behind that person had to stop as well, which resulted in a traffic jam of epic proportions. I seriously thought I was going to lose my mind and start screaming. Walmart rage. I bet it happens a lot.

When I finally got back to the proper department, this very helpful employee told me I’d be better off buying a new phone with a new battery. “But I don’t want a new phone,” I said. (Did she seriously think I’d buy a 45 dollar phone to get a 9 dollar battery?)

She then informed me that I’d have to talk to that associate over there, because he was the only one who had a key to the cabinet where replacement batteries were kept. Well, that associate over there looked like a wounded fish in the midst of a shark feeding frenzy.

I approached the mob cautiously, but it was a good 15 minutes before he had dealt with all of them and could focus on me. And when he did, he said that Walmart doesn’t sell phone batteries.

I nearly lost my sh*t at this point. I should have left right then while my sanity was still relatively intact. I really should have.

But no. I decided that if I had to subject myself to this trauma, I may as well accomplish something before I left. So I stupidly decided to do my grocery shopping while there.

Lord love a duck, what a nightmare that was. Again with the traffic jams in every aisle. Only this time, the woman behind me was letting her 5 year old push the cart, and that 5 year old was delighting in ramming the cart into my calves. It was clear that mama knew it was happening, too, but she couldn’t care less. It took everything in me to keep from getting into a slap-fest amongst the canned goods. But I was afraid she would win due to my lack of experience.

Finally, finally, finally I made my way to the cash registers. There were about 35 of them, and they were all overflowing with customers. I chose the only aisle I could reach with my cart, and I soon regretted it.

There were 9 people ahead of me, and the family directly in front contained a mother, a father, and two toddlers. And the two toddlers were throwing strawberries while doing that delighted toddler scream that breaks the freakin’ sound barrier. (And one wonders why I’ve never regretted being child-free?)

To my right was an old woman having some kind of physical fit, and no one was helping her. (I admit I wasn’t, either. She was kind of break dancing, spinning in circles, albeit while remaining upright, and I really didn’t know what to do with that.)

To my left was a man holding a screaming child, who proceeded to vomit down the back of his shirt. It didn’t seem to phase him. He remained in line.

By the time I got close enough to the front of the line to be hemmed in by the candy bars and the tabloid magazines, I began to feel really claustrophobic. And I only feel that way, usually, when I get an MRI. I kept telling myself to breathe. (Through my mouth, so as to avoid the smell of baby barf.) I kept saying to myself, “Do not freak out in front of these people. This is just Walmart. You aren’t gonna die. Consider this blog fodder.” But, dear reader, it was a near thing.

I thought I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel from hell when the strawberry pelting family in front of me started to get checked out. But oh, no. They were paying with some kind of vouchers, so in one grocery cart, they had to do 5 separate transactions, all to the tune of their screaming kids. If I hadn’t been trapped, I’d have walked out, leaving my cart of crap where it was.

They hadn’t even sorted out which food went with which vouchers, so, yeah, there’s that, too. And then she wound up walking out without half her items, which apparently didn’t fit the vouchers in question. (And to add insult to injury, one of the items left behind was the now half-empty plastic container of strawberries!)

So, before the cashier could ring me up, she had to figure out what to do with all the abandoned items on the conveyor belt, and while she was moving some, she accidentally passed them over the bar code reader, so she had to delete those charges before she could proceed.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!

Well, she finally got around to ringing me up, but I had to bag my own groceries, because apparently Walmart is the only place in the entire state of Washington that doesn’t practically shame you if you don’t use recycled bags. In fact, they insist you shut up and use plastic, but that’s something I absolutely refuse to do.

So, when I left, my soul had been sucked out of my body, and I didn’t have the only thing I went there for in the first place, which was the phone battery. And then I realized I had forgotten where I parked my car. I swear to God, if I could have walked home, I would have, such was my desire to get Walmart behind me.

(And yes, I’ve ordered another battery on line, from a different company. I hope this one arrives intact, and before my current one completely dies.)

But the main takeaway from this post is that if you ever hear of me even considering a visit to Walmart ever again, I would like you to slap the eyeballs right out of my head. In fact, I insist upon it. Normally I don’t condone violence, but trust me, you’ll be doing me a favor.

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Pedophobia

Growing up, I was bullied enough to know that children can be extremely cruel. They can also be devious, manipulative, and disingenuous. Even as a child, I avoided them. I spent more time with books and adults. When my mother tried to make me join the Girl Scouts, I looked upon it as punishment and went on strike. Being a Brownie had been humiliating enough.

Needless to say, I never had children of my own. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I can think of nothing worse than being a secretly (or not so secretly) resentful parent.

Don’t get me wrong. There are amazing children out there. My niece and nephew may be adults now, but they were wonderful kids, and I was always happy to see them. My next door neighbor’s son is pretty awesome, too. And babies are fun to hold, as long as they can be handed back eventually.

I just never know what to say to kids, and that makes me uncomfortable. I feel pressure to entertain them, and I don’t think of myself as an exceptionally demonstrative individual. When they cry, I feel both helpless and irritated. They seem like bottomless pits of need. And I hate the thought of inadvertently screwing one up for life, you know? It’s a huge responsibility, influencing young minds.

So, yeah, being trapped in a room with a young person is not my idea of a good time. But at least I know this about myself. Beware of those who feel that way and are in denial about it.

I do enjoy watching kids grow up and turn into unique and wonderful human beings. I’ve been proud of more than one over the years. But, all things being equal, I prefer to observe from a safe distance.

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A Maternal Instinct for Benign Neglect

I really have to hand it to my mother. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I was exposed to the idea that parents were capable of disliking their children. Ma never gave me that impression, so the concept never occurred to me.

When I was in my early 20’s, my mother admitted to me that she had never really wanted kids. She wasn’t saying this to hurt me. The subject came up simply because I had told her that I never intended to have any of my own. (And, in fact, I never did.)

For my mother’s generation, the question was never if you would have children, but when. It was just what a woman was expected to do. And so that’s what she did.

Recently I read an article in the Atlantic from 2012 entitled, “Not Wanting Kids Is Entirely Normal” by Jessica Valenti. It even made this diehard child-free woman blink. (And very few things make me blink.)

It turns out that a lot of mothers, I mean, a LOT, say that if they had it to do over, they wouldn’t have had children. And yet that pervasive idea that we all have this maternal clock that’s tick, tick, ticking away is still expressed throughout the land. Most people seem to think that every woman’s primary desire is to have children.

I, personally, am relieved to be in my 50’s because finally, FINALLY there’s not this overwhelming societal pressure for me to procreate. If I had a dollar for every time someone smiled at me and said, “You’ll change your mind,” regarding motherhood, I’d be a millionaire. The truth is, I’m actually more the rule than the exception. As the article points out, “most women spend the majority of their lives trying not to get pregnant.” It went on to assert that half the pregnancies in the US are unintended, and the mothers of unintended children treat them much differently (as in, worse) than they treat planned children.

I’m quite certain I was not a planned child. My parents were divorced 3 months after I was born, and I never met my father. He also never paid a penny of child support.

Looking back, I’d have to say that my mother’s parenting style was one of benign neglect. Basically, she let me run wild. I never felt disliked. But I did feel as though she didn’t want to be bothered. She seemed to be in a constant state of depression. She set no boundaries for me, and I therefore never felt safe or confident.

She would bury herself in library books and so would I. She didn’t tell me she loved me until I was 12 years old and my older sister forced her to do so. I had food and shelter and clothing and health care and an education, but I also had the sense that if I pissed her off, she’d stop loving me. She looked the other way when I was experiencing abuse. That, too, is abuse. But I didn’t know any better.

My mother did what was expected of her. Society didn’t care if she liked it or not. And that’s where society got it wrong.

I’m grateful for all the sacrifices my mother made so I could go on to live the life I chose to live, the one that she never had a chance to live. But perhaps we should stop telling women that they’ll change their mind. Perhaps we should congratulate those women who know themselves well enough not to make a mistake that could have psychological repercussions for generations to come. Just sayin’.

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Child-Free and No Regrets

I was talking to a 30 year old woman who does not want to have kids, and she was venting about the societal pressures that are placed upon her. Boy, could I relate. She said she got very sick of hearing… and we said it simultaneously… “You’ll change your mind.”

Now that I’m 50, people have finally stopped saying that to me. Obviously, definitively, I can be trusted to know my own mind, and if I haven’t changed it by now, the world can simply resign itself to the fact that I never will. Whew! That’s a load off my shoulders. I can’t tell you how annoying it has been to have to go through life defending my decision.

The thing I could never understand, and still don’t, is why it was so bloody important to people that I join the procreation club. It was as if their personal experience was somehow lessened if I didn’t jump on the bandwagon with them. Why is my lifestyle anyone’s business but my own?

Even more annoying is the general concept that if I don’t want children there must be something wrong with me; something that I need to get over or be cured of. People treat the lack of desire for rug rats as if it is some form of brain damage.

And the more extreme critics like to say that child-free people are selfish. I actually think it’s more selfish to bring a child into the world when you have no desire or ability or preparation to be a parent. If you are going to be abusive, or foist the care of your child off on the state, or are simply indifferent to the process to the point that it will negatively impact the child, then that’s what’s truly selfish. And it’s not as if there aren’t plenty of people on the planet to maintain an adequate gene pool. If anything, one more human is the last thing this earth needs. The diaper waste alone is unbelievable.

I’m sure this will shock people, but here I am at age 50, looking back at my child-free life, and I can say without hesitation that I have no regrets. I’m glad I made the choices I made. I’m quite content with the fact that I never changed my mind. So next time you talk to an independent woman (or man, for that matter) who expresses this desire, maybe rather than try and talk her out of it, you might want to consider what a pompous ass you will sound like if you do.

[Image Credit: thesocietypages.org]
[Image Credit: thesocietypages.org]

They Love me in Bulgaria

I must confess that I’m quite obsessed with the statistics page that WordPress so kindly provides us bloggers. I was thrilled a few weeks ago to get the 10,000th view of my blog! Woo hoo!

The stats page reveals not only how many people have checked out my blog, but also what countries they’re from, how they found me, and which of my links they’ve clicked on.

Recently I got an upsurge of viewers from Bulgaria, which, while extremely gratifying, was also somewhat befuddling. I mean, I would like to say Поздрави (greetings) to all my Bulgarian friends, but also ask Защо си тук? (Why are you here?)

On closer examination of my statistics page, I discovered that they were coming to me from a Bulgarian blog on blogspot.com. With the help of Google Translate, I learned that this blogger enjoyed one of my entries, “Why I am Child Free”, so much that she went to the trouble of translating it into Bulgarian and posting it on her blog. Can you imagine how flattered I was?

And as a side note, I was really amused when I copied her entry and pasted it into Google Translate to get it back to English. The changes from what I had originally written were hysterical. I am sure that has nothing to do with her translating skills and everything to do with Google’s, but still…priceless.

It just goes to show that you never know how far your words will travel!

Юнак Паликлечко_ Защо нямам и не искам деца - 2013-09-26_22.15.39

Why I am Child Free

At the moment I’m taking care of a child. I love him to pieces, but I swear there are moments when I’d like to dump him on his parent’s front porch like a flaming bag of dog poo, ring the doorbell and drive away quickly.

Blond Boy Crying

He whines. He complains. He doesn’t listen. He gets cranky. Various liquids flow from every orifice. I have to clean up after him, feed him, and wash his clothes. He often won’t eat what I put on his plate, and he for sure insists on drinking things that aren’t good for him, rather than the healthy alternatives that I suggest. He won’t go to bed when he should, and he wants to sleep when he should be doing something else. You’d think I was water boarding him when it’s time to take medicine. When we have to go somewhere, getting him moving is like pushing a train up a mountainside, and he usually makes me late. Lord knows he makes me cancel plans on a regular basis. Strangulation looks more and more attractive to me with each passing day.

This child that I’m taking care of just happens to be my 56 year old boyfriend who is sick with the flu, but my mantra for the past few days has been “Thank GOD I got my tubes tied.” He is my reminder that, aside from my dogs, I do not have a maternal bone in my body.

Now, before I get a s***storm of hostile comments about how SELFISH I am by not being a parent, or how INSENSITIVE I am for even talking about this subject when there are so many people out there who can’t have children who desperately want them, or how I’ll someday change my mind, let me say that a) It’s much more selfish to have a child that you didn’t want in the first place, b) I’m not against other people being parents except when they let their child throw tantrums in the checkout line at Walmart or when I’m trying to watch a movie, and c) I’m 48, and I haven’t changed my mind yet, not even for a second.

Another comment I always hear is “The Bible says we should be fruitful and multiply.” My response to that is that the next part of that sentence is “…and replenish the earth,” and the earth seems to be replenished enough without my help, thank you very much.

I’m convinced that not all of us are cut out for parenthood, and it’s better to embrace that than to do what society expects and be miserable. Oh, I think I would have been a great parent. I would do everything to make a child feel loved and safe and nurtured, because he or she didn’t ask to be put into this situation, and every child deserves not to be emotionally crushed like a bug, in spite of the fact that most children wind up crushing their parents at least once in their lifetime. The fact is, I’d have been unhappy deep down, and therefore I chose not to have children.

I could go on about this for pages and pages, because I’ve certainly been expected to defend my choice every step of the way, but my boyfriend is calling me from his death bed, begging for lime sherbet, so I’ve got to go.