"Polite" Conversation

Here I go again.

My boyfriend and I were at a cocktail party a little while ago and the subject came up amongst the other couples we were with about having kids. The other couples were married. We are not. My boyfriend and I plan to be together for the long haul. We’re not afraid of marriage. We’re just not sure we want to pay a dime for all of the hoopla. We don’t like planning stuff and I don’t particularly like dressing up. Or sponsoring hundreds of my closest friends and family’s drinking for one night. We’d much rather do something else with our limited funds. Oh, and the funds don’t exist right now for a wedding. It’s going to be a while. Everyone stop holding their breath (unless you’re underwater, then keep holding it.)

When the married couples asked if we were married and we said no, there was no debate, no discussion. That would probably be seen as tacky to reprimand us for not making our living arrangements legal, it’s such a personal decision, no?

Then on the topic of kids, when we said that we do not plan to reproduce there was trouble. First of all, my boyfriend was set adrift like a melting iceberg from the conversation immediately, because I guess since I carry the womb, I carry all the responsiblity for handling this conversation. I was told that I’m young. I’ll change my mind. I was asked how old I am. Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Can’t we talk about money or politics instead? That would be less stressful.

For my boyfriend and I we don’t want children. We know this deep in our hearts. We don’t dislike children. That’s a ridiculous leap to make. Due to our beliefs socio/politically we don’t feel that we two need to reproduce. It’s never been our heart’s desire and we find ourselves more attracted to the adoption option should we ever decide later in life that we would like to contribute to the world by raising a child. We do not believe we need to populate. Now, if you’re like many friends of mine, you so want kids, you just crave it, you always have and you want a family. Amen. Go for it. Since I don’t, I choose to believe that it’s a gene or something in my body and I’m one of the “control” group for the population. I just don’t want them.

I know my biology could change, but my brain will not. And I’m a human being version 9.0 and so I have the power of thought, reason and decision making. Of course, my body has felt like it’s time to reproduce but my brain does not. The things I feel strongest about, vegetarianism, activism, being in show biz and loving Norman Lear sitcoms have been part of my passion since I was 5, I knew at a young age what I was passionate about. I don’t have that passion for child rearing.

I’m not taking a stance to be stubborn or cling to this “I don’t want kids” as part of my identity the way I insisted that I was going to spell Jen, “Jehnn” in high school as a way to identify myself. As my friend said to me, “You can still be cool and have kids. You could buy your baby a Ramones tee-shirt.” Yes. I know that. I am not worried that I’ll lose my cool. I never had it anyway.

I don’t understand why this upsets people, why my morals are called into question. My boyfriend and I believe that our morals shape our decision to not have kids yet we’d never throw that in people’s faces at what is supposed to be a fun cocktail party. I start to see people as “us” and “them” and then I don’t have a good time. My oldest and dearest friends, one who has kids and the other is attempting the task, never, ever say this shit to me. Ever. They could care less that I don’t want kids. And I’m happy that they do have kids. I love it and I’m so happy to see them in this new phase of their life and to see their daughters become all of the ages that me and their moms remember so well.

Maybe it’s a Los Angeles thing, which isn’t fair to say but that’s where I live and that’s where I hear the “you’ll change your mind” mantra over and over. I do get emails from people in other parts of the USA with the same sentiment and usually everyone thinks I’m saying I hate kids.

Let me refer to one of my favorite authors, a hippy, spiritual, environmentalist MOTHER of one, Anne Lamott who writes some of my favorite personal essay books. She said in her latest book Grace Eventually; Further Thoughts on Faith:

“Let me say that not one part of me thinks you need to have children to be complete, to know parts of yourself that cannot be known any other way. People with children like to think this, although if you are not a parent, they hide it – their belief that having a child legitimizes them somehow, validates their psychic parking tickets. They tell pregnant women and couples and one another that those who have chosen not to breed can never know what real love is, what selflessness really means. They like to say that having a child taught them authenticity.

This is a total crock. Many of the most shut-down, narcisstic, selfish people on earth have children. Many of the most evolved, the richest in spirt, the most giving, do not. The exact same chances for awakening, for personal restoration and connection exist for breeders and nonbreeders alike. I had kids because of instinct and all that. As for so many women my body said do it. Yet I always assumed I’d be a mother. Children can connect you to the child inside you, who can still play and be silly and helpless and capable of wonder. This child does not have to be yours of course, however living with a child makes the opportunity more likely.”

I just wish I never had to answer the question, “What do you think is wrong?” again. Nothing is wrong. I’m as normal as someone who wants kids. I was shocked to find when I brought up that a close relative of mine, now in menopause never had kids, the cocktail party clutch said, “Is she okay? What happened?” Nothing ‘happened.’ She didn’t choose to procreate.

I don’t know what about having kids has become so precious with this generation. I know our parent’s generations having kids might have seemed like more of a “to-do” than a miracle and a great way to learn about yourself but let’s all calm down with the way we talk to us non-breeders. It’s very upsetting. You all are acting like monsters.

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5 responses to “"Polite" Conversation

  1. I have a kid and I have to say I agree with you completely. And I live in Los Angeles (and am a vegetarian and love Norman Lear). My friend was struggling with her lack of desire to have kids and I told her this may sound terrible, but I HAVE felt love like I feel for my baby before. Maybe people who don’t open their hearts much think that you will never feel love like you do for your child, or people who have a narcissistic reason for having children feel that way. Like they are seeing parts of themselves so they feel this incredible love (for themselves). Anyway, I always thought I would adopt, but couldn’t afford it so we had our own. And of course I love and adore her. But that doesn’t mean if someone else doesn’t have kids they are lacking. You seem to have a very fulfilling life without kids. This was a long way of just saying what I said at first: I agree with you.

  2. Hi Natasha,
    Thanks for writing. I always forget how expensive adoption is. I must be an optimist that someday I’ll have a disposable $30,000 to pay for another human and then have enough left over to diaper him or her. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just search some nunneries should I ever change my mind.
    Hope your baby is doing well and rock on vegetarian style.
    Love,
    Jen

  3. badasslibrarian

    Hi. 🙂 A friend of mine pointed out this entry to me. If I had the ability, I could have written every word you just said (only replace LA with “The Midwest”). There seems to be two kinds of people – those who think there’s something wrong with not wanting kids, and those who appreciate the fact that you know yourself well enough to NOT have kids if you don’t want them. Luckily, I do know many of the latter – but like you, I’ve had way too many experiences with the former as well.
    Thanks very much for posting your feelings on this. I and my husband are right there with you.

  4. I have this same problem. My best advice is to be vague and change the subject. You don’t owe anyone your reasons for any of the big decisions you make in your life, least of all a bunch of people you just met at a cocktail party.

    If it helps, there was a good debate on this subject over at AskMetafilter. Some weird replies, and some funny ones…you may enjoy taking a look at this.

    http://ask.metafilter.com/46353/Good-answer-for-the-question-When-are-you-going-to-have-children

    Good luck!
    Kristi

  5. you gotta get knocked up. it’s now or never. by …oh…I’d say january 08 or it’s the fiery furnace for you. read the bible

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