Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NaBloPoMo Day 23: Being Childfree (Part 2)

In October I solicited topic ideas for this month, and one of the suggestions was that I discuss being childfree. I did discuss it a few years ago (see this post), but I focused more on the origins of my "childfreedom" rather than my current feelings about it. I feel like there is room to finish my thoughts on it, and so this will likely be the last time I talk about it. When it comes to life choices, too much talk can come across as sounding secretly unsure and trying in vain to cover the insecurity. That's why this will be the last of my posts about it.

If you didn't read my first post, this is a brief recap: growing up, my parents seemed to resent being parents and acted like raising kids was a mistake and a burden. My mom told me a few times her life would have been way easier if we/I weren't/wasn't around. Their harsh sentiments combined with their friendships with happy childfree people made a huge impression on me, and I decided in early childhood that I did not want to have children.

I do think it's entirely possible to overcome crappy parenting and I think my siblings and I are good evidence of that fact. We all have decent jobs, no criminal record, we vote, and we are otherwise productive members of society. My brother and his wife just recently had a baby which is awesome. I am so happy to see our family grow and change, since the dynamic has been the same for 24+ years.

I would be lying if I said that holding my niece for the first time didn't make my brain and ovaries go crazy for about a week, but I came out of the new baby fog back to the same old stance: motherhood is not for me.

For starters, I am an absolute wreck after just one bad night of sleep. Anthony and I recently went to Minneapolis for the weekend and despite the fact it wasn't an overly exhausting trip, I still ended up sleeping through my alarm for two hours on Monday morning.

After a few days to a week of bad sleep, I start to experience visual and auditory hallucinations at nighttime. For example, when I was an assistant stage manager for a musical in 2011, I was a little stressed out during "hell week" (the week before the show opens). Hell week involves several exhausting late nights in a row, and by the end of it, I was waking up in the middle night, hallucinating that I was backstage. It continued during the run of the show, with me waking up in the middle of the night and wandering around my room half-asleep, thinking I was backstage. I ended up having to take an afternoon off work to go home and catch up on sleep, as I was a zombie at work. This is just one example of my hallucinations, mind you.

I think about what having a child would be like: possible sleep deprivation for months, if not years on end. Would I even wake up for baby's cries? Would I become so zombie-like that I would potentially do something dangerous while sleep walking? I can't handle even one night of less than 7 hours of sleep. What about months? What about years? And even if I don't do something dangerous while sleepwalking, am I going to be in a compromised state of mind? Functioning on so little sleep, can I still be a good wife, friend, employee?

Some people seem to think that not having children is selfish, like apparently children are a debt you owe to society or something. My parents are well aware of my desire to not be a parent and they don't care. My mom has a granddaughter now and god willing, Anthony's mom will become a grandma in January, so I can wipe my hands clean of any lingering guilt I might have had about not giving them a grandchild. As far as the selfish remark goes, I don't understand how not having a child is selfish, but having a child isn't.  In many instances, children are brought into the world for purely selfish reasons, so I hope the whole "childfree people are selfish" thing dies a quick death.

I do admit that another large part of my desire to remain childfree is that I want to live my life in such a way where I really only need to worry about myself and Anthony. I want to be able to sleep in whenever I want, take naps whenever I want, disappear in a hot bath for hours on end, take an impulsive road trip, go to the bar with friends without needing to find a babysitter. Parents like to tell me that these things are so worth it or that it's different when it's your child, and I'm sure that's true. But looking at it from my perspective, I don't think I'd enjoy parenthood enough to sacrifice so much. I try to imagine a mini me smiling at me for the first time or saying something to me like, "You're my best friend, Mom!", and I feel zero desire to make that a reality. Imagining myself as a parent does not cause any emotions to bubble up in me other than indifference.

Of course, my subconscious loves to play the "imagine Jaime as a parent" game. I often dream about being a parent and I am always lousy at it. I mentioned it in my first post, but I often dream that I have a child and I forget about it for days on end. Someone will ask how my baby is doing and I'll be like, "Oh shit, I left that thing in the closet last week. I should probably go check on it, shouldn't I?" Then I spend the rest of the dream freaking out that I've probably just murdered my own offspring. I wake up sweating from those dreams.

Before I got my driver's license, I frequently dreamt about getting into car accidents. It was one of the reasons I waited until I was 18 to get my beginner's license. I look at the fact I have anxiety about driving and that driving constantly pisses me off, and I wonder if the connection between my parenting nightmares would be the same as my driving nightmares and how much I hate driving.

I think by far the biggest reason I choose not to have children is that I just feel no desire to raise a human being. I like taking care of things/people, but I don't want it to be a full-time job for the rest of my life. I am excited to be present for my niece's and future nephew's journey through life, and I am elated at the idea that I might get to be a part of their development, but I have no desire to be a primary caretaker. I don't feel any need whatsoever to help shape a human being into a happy member of society using my love and guidance. I understand that appeal to others, but there is nothing there for me. As I mentioned above, I imagine myself in various parenting situations (both the happy and the grueling) and I feel nothing. I used to feel disgust and repulsion, but now I just feel content with the idea that I don't need to be a parent. The older I get, the more content with it I feel...and that's all I can really say!

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