When do you know for sure that you do --or don't-- want children?
A lot of women I know who don't have children make up for it by spending lots of time with their nieces, nephews, and the kids of their good friends. For many of them, it's the best of both worlds: they get to spend time enjoying, teaching, loving them...and then sending them home to their parents. It dawned on me one day that I am not like them.
Life Lesson #6 from my book, The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree is "Know who you really are, not who you wish you were." It's all about the moment when I learned that I am childfree for a reason.
Excerpted from The Spinsterlicious Life: 20 Life Lessons for Living Happily Single and Childfree. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
Life Lesson #6:
Know who you really are, not who you wish you were.
Even though I didn’t want kids, I used to pretend that I would be actively involved with other people’s kids. I was slow to realize that the reason I didn’t want my own is probably the same reason I’m not all that interested in anybody else’s.
The Events That Led To Lesson #6
Sometimes I wish I was more like my friend and fellow spinster, Vita. Actually, I don’t want to be more like her...I just wish I wanted to. She loves other people’s kids. In fact, she more than loves them, she nurtures them, she grooms them, she hangs out with them. She takes them to the movies, out to lunch, out to dinner, has them over for the weekend, lets them spend the week at her house. She’s really into them and it seems to bring her a lot of joy.
I love my friends’ kids, too. I’m always happy to see them and love to hear what they’ve been up to, but that’s pretty much where it ends. I’ve always known I didn’t really want kids of my own, but I used to think I’d be the kind of cool auntie that would have other people’s kids over for pajama parties on the weekend, expose them to cultural events, and just sort of hang out with them and talk about things they didn’t want to discuss with their parents. It turns out I am not that person.
Yet I am always available to babysit. Said another way, on the rare occasion my friends ask me to babysit, I always say “yes” because it is so very clear that if they’re asking me then they’re really desperate. If they’re asking me to babysit, they have exhausted every possible avenue. I agree, because it's an emergency, so I make myself available.
Babysitting exhausts me because it requires actually paying attention to the kids. Each time I agree to this, I envision that I’ll give them a book and some juice and crackers, and they’ll sit happily at the table reading or coloring and enjoying their snack. That has never happened. I always forget that it’s not enough to keep them fed, clean, and safe. I actually have to engage with them...which interferes with my newspaper reading or my nap or my phone call or my quiet time.
One Sunday evening, Felicia left 9-year-old Peter with me while she went off to meet some colleagues for dinner. It was nice. I hadn’t seen Peter in a few years and we had fun just chatting and catching up on what he’d been doing. We probably spent an hour just doing that. He was growing into a nice young man. We killed more time going out for pizza and walking the dog. And then I realized we were about to have a problem. Sex and the City (SATC) was about to come on. Even though I don’t have kids, I read somewhere that a responsible adult does not allow children to watch age-inappropriate shows, especially those with profanity, nudity, and sex. Well, SATC has all those things; that’s why I watched it. And that night was going to be no exception. The problem was: what to do with Peter?