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Oryoki Bowl

Oryoki Bowl
February 03
Quaker buddhist, kinda quirky, loves cooking and knitting and movies. Dr Who fan, Scandinavian-aquarian and cat lover. Would love to be paid to travel around the world and write about local healing cultures. While eating and drinking and dancing. One day I will have a health cruise in the fjords.


Editor’s Pick
JULY 17, 2012 2:46PM

Friends without Children

Rate: 30 Flag

Somehow, in the last year or so, I have started a new arc in life.  I guess, I have always been on this arc, and didn't know it until the last year or so, and thus "new" to me.  I am now in a childless couple.  

To clarify, my sweetie has children.  He hasn't lived with them in about 10 years, although the eldest moved in with us for about a month this spring while getting on her feet.  They visit regularly, but parenting has not been a big part of his life since the divorce.  Being parents to two teenagers we don't live with mostly involves catching up when they are here, providing food and entertainment and quality time, and dropping them home again.  He texts with the eldest, and occasionally hears from the youngest.  But mostly, not.  

We aren't making babies, after all.  I am aware that this status could change, unexpectedly, but we are not on the baby making track.  Why this is a new part of my life comes down to this being the first time in my life that I wasn't expecting to become a mother some day.  I have shifted from "will we?  when will it happen? how many?" to, "Let's start making more elaborate travel plans".  More importantly, I have to start clearing out the baby making mental clutter that I have accumulated for the last 40 years. 

I look at my friends with children, family members, other people, and watch what they do.  I have been taking notes for years, do this, don't do that, maybe that works, I would never.... and those notes are now becoming irrelevant.  When you talk with your friends who are now facing parent decision making- and as a couple, the vast divide on how to do it- there is the input expected from supportive friend.  As I spend less and less time with people in general- work, life, travel, quiet time- I realize that I will be spending time with fewer children.  I expect maybe one or two more births in my social circle, max.  Family is done, most of my friends are too old.  Or, the committed childless.  

We spent a long weekend up in Flagstaff, visiting family.  My cousin's girlfriend graciously offered us her apartment.  We would have brought the youngest, but she had other commitments and we couldn't change the dates with work.  Our vacation times, outside of national holidays, mostly coincide with when it is convenient for us to take time off with respect to our colleauges, not our family.  I can't take a day off without a few weeks notice.  Instead, a friend of ours joined us about half way through.  She is also childless, as are my younger cousins.  Who also plan to remain childless.  It could change, they are young enough, but they are clear they do not want to be parents.  For them, and their lifestyles, I think that is an excellent choice.  

Another friend was also in town for the weekend, as she has the summer off from teaching, and her parents own a home there.  She spends most of the week with her four year old, and her parents, and sometimes her brother and his kids.  Making plans to meet up was not impossible, but rotated entirely around the mood and schedule of the 4 year old.  I have to admit, this is getting old.  Trying to bring a child into a wine bar to hear music is not okay.  Not because it is a bar, but because the other patrons are there to get away from children.  Sometimes it doesn't matter if it is child friendly or not, small unruly children change the entire dynamic of a meeting.  Accommodating visits becomes a one way street, between the childless and childful.  The childless are always expected to acquiesce space, time, understanding.  

I have noticed this phenomenon time and again, seeing how friendships also change- and relationships with family members.  I certainly don't expect a child to develop free agency, but I do expect the parent to retain some semblance of it.  It is one thing to be limited in availability because of your child, that is normal parenting.  It is another altogether to refuse to acknowledge that your parenting style imposes on everyone else you know.

One of my good friends is moving soon, in about a month.  Aside from our unusual affinity for things I share with only her, like knitting and cooking, our friendship also flourished because of her committed childless status.  She is single, by choice, and spends zero time looking for a man to take care of her or make babies.  This does not mean she has endless free time, it just means that our friendship got to grow in ways more meaningful to me than tips on breastfeeding and diapering.  She, like I, is a loving auntie godmother.  I will miss her, naturally, but I will also be losing a part of my life that I didn't realize I had cultivated.  The childless zone.

Like making new future plans that don't have to accommodate the care, feeding, educating, and parenting of a child of my own, my social life consists of a variety of friendships.  Two of my four closest friends are single and childless.  I see them the most, because we can.  We can have a glass of wine if we want, or go see a movie last minute, or pick a new restaurant based entirely on our own desire.  That might sound selfish, but it isn't.  Friends with kids can only see you ALONE with advanced planning, and that doesn't always work out.  Usually, they just schlep the kid along and assume you are okay with it.  Sometimes, you really don't want children around.  As a non-parent, I don't understand the all encompassing love that is their affection for the child.  As a parent, they have forgotten what it was like to be a non-parent.  

It has been in this last year that I have recognized the shift within myself to being a potential future parent to an unlikely future parent.  I catch myself thinking of what I would do, realizing I will never have to go through a whole bunch of things I have been mentally preparing for.  Sure, there are extenuating circumstances in which I could become a parent, and I would then have to jump into the role of all encompassing loving parent with enthusiasm I have been giving up.  I know that having a family is not just a lifestyle decision, it is life itself, and everything else falls to the wayside.  

For those of us whose own life is life itself, there is no wayside.  Who I am is who I am, what I do is what I do.  I am now conscienciously choosing to expand my life towards a different trajectory- and want to feel free to leave behind all the baggage that comes with hopeful parenting.  I don't feel envy or sorrow.  I don't want those things anymore, and I don't want to feel bad for not wanting it.  I have sympathy, but I also need some sympathy in return.  I have often joked that having small children should be sufficient birth control, and now I see that watching other people parent while you are childless is a great campaign for population control.  

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Very thoughtful piece. And as one who has long been one of the few childless ones in my circles, I agreed with many of your points.

Sometimes that which we thought we might have turns out to not have been what we should have had all along. And sometimes that takes time to understand.
Oryoki, I also am in a childless couple and for the last years of my life I have been preparing for being a mother, cause this is what we have been taught, that is '' the right way of living''. But if this is not the case for my life, I will still love my husband as thought he is a child, and vice versa. Your work, has so many true and difficult thinkings and issues for all of us, and I want to thank you for giving a true, and strong voice to this. Rated.
Although I came from a somewhat different starting point, I've reached somewhat similar conclusions. I wrote about it last year, and if you're interested in reading that blog, it can be found here.

I'm glad you have come to a comfortable place with regard to this issue. It certainly isn't easy.
ha! big damn ha! :"I certainly don't expect a child to develop free agency, but
I do expect the parent to retain some semblance of it"

what a series of serious philosophical sociological arguments
in that snippet of this wondrous post.
Oryoki bowl.

Perhaps I misinterpreted what you said or meant but this comment sort of surprised me.

"I certainly don't expect a child to develop free agency, but I do expect the parent to retain some semblance of it. It is one thing to be limited in availability because of your child, that is normal parenting. It is another altogether to refuse to acknowledge that your parenting style imposes on everyone else you know."

Parents of young children, and I raised three, have 4 maybe 5 priorities - and the first 4 maybe 5 have to do with raising their children and surviving raising them.

Acknowledging, even having to acknowledge, that my priorities shifted would never even occur to me as a parent and a single parent. It's self evident.

Children are a real object lesson that one can have responsibilities without any authority.

It's not up to the parent to acknowledge anything, the impact on them is plain to see. It is up to the other - the friend, the relative, whatever - to understand and deal with it the best they can.

If I misunderstood, sorry.

Yeah, me and the wifey are childless and though, yes, we would have love to have children, it is now a part of the life that will not happy and to be truthful, looking at the cost of putting a kid through our local high school during a recent project I helped with, YAY TO NO KIDS, THEY EXPENSIVE!! :D
Lew- other people are always making concessions to those with small children. However, the presumption that they should always be the only ones making those concessions because they are childless is too much to ask. In many families, the reply is "it will be your turn when you have children", but if the other person plans to have no children, they don't typically get much sympathy for their own needs. Hearing grownups telling everyone else that they have to capitulate to the demands of a child is not particularly good parenting, and is an imposition. Some restaurants have now banned children because of this very problem.

Tink- economic forces are making parenting a very dicey situation.
Just last week, as I was scanning another chapter from another book into another pdf for a professor, I was pondering children. Though I will be 50 this year I could still try to have a child. I thought about that and let that thought take a hold of me. It felt good, to know that I could do that if I wanted to.

Thinking a little further, I realized that I don't want that responsibility. I think I could, finally, be a good parent but I would be at least 68 when the child graduated high school. These years where I am looking forward to being free and exploring my world again would be full of a child. I made a conscious decision, then, to let it go.

It was a nice feeling.

P.S. I get the friend thing, too. My whole life has been accommodating parents at work so they can have the holidays off to be with their kids. Single and childless apparently rank far down the line for special on the holidays.
There seems to be two issues being confounded here.

you filling in for parents who won't or can't

"other people are always making concessions to those with small children. However, the presumption that they should always be the only ones making those concessions because they are childless is too much to ask. In many families, the reply is "it will be your turn when you have children", but if the other person plans to have no children, they don't typically get much sympathy for their own needs."

So you are upset about things like maternity leave and other parents needing to be home and leaving work for the others to do.

" Hearing grownups telling everyone else that they have to capitulate to the demands of a child is not particularly good parenting, and is an imposition. Some restaurants have now banned children because of this very problem."

And you are upset about children not being made to behave in public spaces, for example.

Perhaps there is a certain kind of opportuntiy to gain understanding and compassion that one misses by not actually raising children.

Not having children means that those with children see your life as being immeasurably free. They may be wrong but that is up to you to make that clear rather than generalize about how you've been inconvenienced by parent's needs.
Though I agree with, and appreciate, much of what you say, I agree with Traveler on a few points. In particular, the phrase “capitulate to the demands of a child is not particularly good parenting” is inelegant at best, intolerant at worst. When one has a small child in one’s household, giving them the primary focus of your non-work time is not choice, it is the demands of nature. The child is not an object that can be discarded or ignored for a night or a weekend at whim. Yes, friendship with the parent of a small child can be difficult and often not worth the trouble, and I (and many parents) appreciate that. However – and I’m sure this was not your intention – I detected just a hint of a sneer in a few of your sentences.
I am almost to being childless for the first time in 40 years...I take a lot of what you say here and try to grasp how it will feel to finally only be responsible for me. Not that I won't still have my children and still love them with all my heart but for the first time in ever my home will be childless. It is a lot to grasp. I'm glad you wrote this...
I didn't mean for my comment to come off as prickly as it sounded. The 90% of the post that dealt with your personal situation and growth was outstanding, well-thought-out and well-expressed.
As a childless person who has had to make concessions in my life for other people who chose to have children, I would like to add my POV.

You who are parents, for the most part, chose to have your children. Some of you didn't choose to get pregnant but you did choose to keep your children and to raise them. This was your choice.

For whatever reason, I do not have children. Yet my life with friends and at work has been moderated around your children. The aforementioned holidays, for one. You would not believe the guilt trip laid upon young, single, childless women when the holidays roll around and someone is needed to cover a shift at work. And no, you don't always get holiday pay.

I have reconnected with a friend from high school and her only topic of conversation is her daughter. That's it. I know nothing about my friend but I can give you chapter and verse on her daughter. And I've only seen my friend once without the 14 year old child in tow.

I went to a heavy metal head-banger concert in a bar- alcohol included- that was an all ages event. There were women in their underwear and children standing around gazing upon them. Appropriate? Uh, no.

No one is knocking your choice to have children. But our society seems to think that family, with children, is the epitome we should all strive towards and those of us who are childless are expected to cater to your child. Do you really see that as equitable? What if the tables were turned and you were expected to cater to our child-free existence. Would you be okay with that?
Crank, Kate, Phyllis- thanks. I don't sneer, it is frustrating all around. I think Kate summed up a lot. I will be visiting family in Europe, where I will meet three new babies- all less than 2. When I lived there before, children were tended to- but not in the same way that they are here. Mostly they were calm, polite, and women still had a sense of self. Childcare is excellent and supportive, all around. Children are generally very pleasant. Personally, I like children very much and get along well with most of them. I still don't think they should be "the decider" in the bunch. Illness and physical limitation aside, I see being a parent as an excuse for rude behavior. Or just lack of consideration for the time and schedules of others. Phyllis, I hear you. Some people keep doing that well into their kids being in their 20s, and I just say, noooooooo.
This is a wonderful piece, OB. I appreciate your honesty. We have a number of childless friends, and we only had one child. We still hang with a lot of our childless friends because our friends with children now have grandchildren. It is kind of interesting to watch friends with grandchildren, especially having known them when they had children. Sounds like you have a little of the best of both worlds, with a chance to be a good stepmom. RRRRRR
Also, congrats on the EP and cover!!!!!!
Congratulations on being an Editor's pick. I enjoyed your writing and admire your insight. Many of your comments reminded me of my own childless days but I was less insightful. I did have children and realized afterward how difficult it was to understand parenting from the outside. I never intended for my children to be the most important thing in my life; I had a career, friends, outside interests. But in this case biology is destiny. I lost some good friends who never had children or whose children were grown but that is not something I would think to blame on the kids. People change and their interests don't always coincide. parents have some benefits in the work place because society has an investment in continuing to have new citizens. Just think what would happen within 50 years if we all stopped having children. Is it fair? perhaps not, but economics dictate that there must be children.
Kate--it's also a fact that most other countries have economic support in place that allows more freedom to stay home with children. My sibling lives in one such country and it's a great equalizer, giving lesser-income families the same economic ability to make parenting choices. I personally was one of those infamous children of the '70s. I was seven when I started taking care of myself after school. There was a gang of us in the same situation. I do admit it could be a little Lord of the Flies at times but we had some good times and no one died.

For Traveler, this certainly seems to have touched a nerve since he's deployed the people-without-children-are-selfish/less-compassionate/don't-know-the-real meaning-of-love argument. Idi Amin has a boatload of children. By that reasoning that makes him far more capable of love than, say, Mother Theresa? Kris Kardashian Jenner has six of 'em. Having children means squat about what kind of person you are. All it means is that you're fertile and had sex.

What bothers me (you know, the '70s kid) is how little faith today's parents seem to have in their children's ability to take care of themselves. And it sometimes seems to come not from their concern for their children, but from their own belief that they couldn't possibly not be of absolutely supreme importance in every single moment of their child's life. But then I was a nanny for upper class Washingtonians and lack of self-worth is not really their problem.
I also note for the record that I hate lazy generalizations like Kate’s. Certainly there are a lot of bad parents around, and America has its healthy share. But most parents that I know are thoughtful and responsible, and blanket statements like hers slander them.
Oh, and a comment on non-American parents. I lived in the south of France when my children were young. Corporal punishment was very common among French parents who punished their children in public often. Support for families and children was much better than it is in the US with free child care for working and non-working parents and free medical care for children. It was much easier and affordable for mothers to work part time. Not so easy here. Children in southern Europe were welcomed in restaurants and bars but this was absolutely verboten in northern European countries. The worst behaved children I have ever encountered were on a flight from Europe to the US and the family was not American or European. The flight attendant had to wake up the father and tell him to help his wife control the 4 children or they would be put off the plane when they landed even though the first stop was not their final destination. Good and bad parents come in all nationalities and ethnicities. In Mexico I have found most children over 5 to be delightful and those under 5 to be hellions.
I agree that this is a very thoughtful, well-crafted piece. I also found it an enjoyable read, I think because you seem to be at peace with this new arc in your life. Best wishes to you and your partner in childless coupledom.
I think what is interesting about this, socially, is not that people don't have children. That has always been the case, that there are those who through social, economic, personal, religious, biological pressures were childless. It has just never been a norm, and usually considered highly suspect- the childless person was a priest, dirt poor, or otherwise defective. Now more people are choosing this, or accepting a life without children of their own, and embracing a life that has never been celebrated. The ratio of childless to childful is changing, and the dynamic of adult life with it. Some start parenting younger, and have a different friend cohort than those who start later. 20 years ago, a first time mother at 40 was unusual, now very common.
I am happy to be a part of the lives of my friends and family who have had the children. I see the struggles they go through, I certainly listen to it, help here and there. I spend all day listening to my patients' lives- joys, struggles, and miseries. That is also not a reciprocal relationship, either. I am sure there are many here, maybe women more than man, but I could be wrong, who get tired of hearing how much they couldn't possibly understand... blah blah blah... and most childless women I know have an incredible expectation placed on them to be endlessly and tirelessly available to their friends and families, because they don't have anyone else to think about. By that logic, it means if I have a kid, I can stop being helpful to anyone else for at least 5 years, maybe even more.
Interesting look at it Oryoki. I'm childless too but hadn't actually planned it that way. When my future ex and i were discussing maybe getting married, I found out then that she couldn't have kids. Then I had to ponder a few days before deciding that even if I were to meet someone else, there were no guarantees that kids would just come naturally.
Interesting post, but I wouldn't give up on all your friends with kids quite so quickly. You've both made choices and they're both valid ones. If you can both recognize that and respect the differences in lifestyle that come with the choices, there are benefits for both of you. One of my best friends is childless and we've successfully navigated that difference for 40 years. It's been well worth it for both of us.
I have found that being childless by choice is a bit of a rebellious choice that I made. I also moved out of my smallish hometown and away from those familial pressures. Nobody has ever really bothered me about it, although I have not been close enough to be taken advantage of either.

The next step you will feel is when the option itself is gone. I held on the option (my uterus) longer than I should have medically. I am fine but, the point is, even for a 45 yr old childless by choice woman, making it a done deal was a bit difficult. But such a relief when I did!

Hopefully your best aged friends and family will still be around when their children start leaving them in empty nests and you can rely on them for company then. And weddings, and babies (Grandkids). I am having fun with them all again and we are all just early 50s :-)
Interesting post. Congratulations on the EP. I have spent sometime parenting. I have three children who are now all in their 20's. I did not have them until I was 35. I was happy to have them, although I never thought I really had time or wanted them until I married my husband. In this relationship, it seemed right for me. He actively took a part in parenting and I also had paid help until they were in grade school. The thing is, once we did have children, we chose to parent them and make them our focus. We did this willingly and by doing this our vacations, our time was spent enriching them and ourselves. We own a business and did at the time too, so we could control a lot of how our time was spent. We also had groups of friends who were having children at the same time, but honestly they were raising their children different than we were. They worked to avoid them and we worked to be with them. As a result our children grew up valued and appreciated, wanting to please us and enjoying doing cool stuff like traveling. I think how the parents parent makes a difference in the behavior of the child. We always notice the behavior of children in public places and how their parents interact with them. Many a time we have commented on how happy we were that this stage of parenting was over for us.

I enjoyed reading this piece, I felt like I understood where you were coming from, even with my own parenting experience.
You know, parents are very important, but they are not actually totally necessary. It's much nicer to have good ones, naturally, but there are plenty of kids who lost their parents or who have had crappy parents but have managed to grow into into good, productive people nonetheless. Many of them write about doing just that here on OS.

In fact, every parent should hope their child would be able get along somehow without them, because the alternative is something I hope no parent would want for their child if they can't finish raising them. Not that any of this has anything to do the issue at hand but Shelia's comment was kind of judgy and rubbed me the wrong way.
Those of us who have grown children and now can do what want when we want have some idea of your life choice. There is a period when children can overtake everything, and often do. Missing that is not so bad at all. There are tradeoffs, either way. We all make them.
Wise, and a well-deserved Cover.

Kickin' discussion/debate. I see virtually all perspectives.

(Full-discloure: Father of two sons ages 22 & 20)

I guess I bottomline this that OBowl's point could be made about other important things in a person's life besides their children.

For example, perhaps some of her friends with children who can quickly get family/babysitters and want to go out to a spontaneous, overnight event are frustrated because OBowl "can't take a day off without a few weeks notice".

Geez, there's that pesky work obligation again. So now insert OBowl's primary criticisms about accommodating/bending to parenting demands and apply them to someone having to accommodate/bend to job/career restrictions. Same types of pros and cons.

Parenting is a job -- as rewarding or frustrating as any profession.

Still, this was an enjoyable and insightful read.
And the work-as-surrogate-child analogy extends further ...

Perhaps OBowl is limited to a certain type of restaurant/outing with a quiet atmosphere because she must have access to a pager/cell as a physician. Or she cannot venture out of __-mile radius of her office/clinic/hospital in case of an emergency.

In this instance (in reality or as a hypothetical), her friends are having a accommodate a compromise in the group's plans for OBowl's profession.

Not really much different than a parent burdended with a child in tow, IMHO.
nice post -

but the fact that this has 25+ uprates is jarring - is Open Salon so densely populated by the childless, who vicarously learn about childrearing through posts like this?
Bravo. These points can't be stated enough. You could write 10 more posts like this and it still wouldn't touch on the enormity of this topic.

Because underneath it all, there's still some discrimination, some outdated stigma surrounding the "childless." Even that term creeps me out. It implies some lack when it often feels like a gain that people are too afraid to admit to. How about "child-free" instead? YES!

Children don't EVER BELONG IN BARS EVER!!! I just had to say that. I resented the F#CK out of some jerk who brought his precious kid to my wine bar a few nights ago, running around, slapping the musician who was playing, hitting glass, and the parents just staring, starry-eyed, isn't he adorable? Yeah, that's cute. Until he breaks the glass and you blame the restaurant undoubtedly.

Okay, enough of that:

"I certainly don't expect a child to develop free agency, but I do expect the parent to retain some semblance of it."

Yes. That's the core. One friend of mine--a VERY DEAR friend--coddles her FIFTEEN year old daughter like she was four. She had to get off the phone with me several times because her daughter was whining in the background. This would sound like a simple annoyance, but I was planning on staying with her for a month because we haven't seen each other in ages...and now, I don't know. That will bother the hell out of me. That kid will rule the house and I will to endure and NO ONE will think about the effect it has on me, the visitor.

And the worst part? That kind of "special" treatment is HORRIBLE for a child. It turns them into monsters. Knowing boundaries, discipline, etc. shapes a child's character. They need it, crave it. Without it, they become hellions forced upon the rest of the CHILD-FREE world.

Just treat like a kid sometimes, parents. Not like the second coming.
You sound like my sister. She and her partner are childless. Both of them are loving caregivers to their friends with children. Their friends without children are fewer than those with children.

I've got four kids and one grandson. In all my life, the most rewarding relationships are those with prospects of growth and this includes parenting or grandparenting/incl steps. It doesn't matter if you or your partner is a parent per se, you're both capable of being parents to others by being role models to children or their parents.

Some people shouldn't be parents but that's a separate story.
Joisey- thanks for your comments, and it does raise some other points. It isn't all that nefarious, I am a huge supporter of maternity leave, flex pay, and do what I can to assist my staff or friends who have kids. There might just still be a gender divide about expectation with your free time. Maybe single or childless men don't have the same social obligation to accommodate their friends with kids. I don't think most dads would consider slinging a 1 year onto their back and bringing to a sports bar to watch the game with their buddies. Maybe that has changed, I am actually rarely enough at bars to see and I know that the face of fathering has changed a lot- I am proud to see my family and friends have both dads and moms with both feet in the game.
My post, mostly, was about the desire to have friends with whom you can reciprocate- not about taking vacations or having wine. It is assumed that when you are childless that you have no one else to think about (many of us have step children, parents, partners, friends, interests, groups we care for) and that your time is infinitely malleable. Many people here, and some in private post, have children and similarly get frustrated that their time is not valued as equal. I think all people have an understanding that small children and their parents need accommodation, but parents don't often recognize the many, many ways in which they are accommodated because it is expected- or sometimes just imposed. Do you think that this is a newer attitude, as a social entitlement, right up there with the helicopter or attachment parenting? When everyone had kids, and a whole bunch of them, no one expected special favors. Help, sure, but not special treatment.
As to vacations- I can mostly take them when I want, but I need a lot of planning. There seems to be a belief that childless people can just jet off at the last minute without a thought. I think that is just rich people.
Thoughtful post and great discussion. What always disturbs me in these discussions though, are the generalizations. (Childfree people are selfish, kids in public are always obnoxious, people with kids let the kids run their lives). When you have children they do become a central focus of your life; it is your job to raise them "right" (couples with and without children are quick to judge whether or not we are doing it "right." Don't you all want me to be a responsible parent, or shall I just ignore them?). The reality is, the needs of my child sometimes dictate my schedule - that is a choice I made. But I know many excellent parents who do not allow their children to run their lives, take over the restaurant, or dictate their schedules 24 hours a day. We find balance.

I don't hang around with people who allow their children to misbehave, and I know several childless couples who allow their DOGS to run their lives.

I completely respect the choices of the childfree, but I hope that they respect some of the demands made on me to raise my child responsibly. Neither of us should have to defend our life choices.

I did like the whole part about your shift in perspective. Fascinating to think about, since not having a child would have broken my heart.
I have two daughters, 7 and 11. When I come home after work they jump on me and tickle me and steal my glasses and overwhelm me with cute big-eyes.

I help them write poems which they have read at poetry readings. I swim with them in the apartment pool. We walk around our neighborhood together. I take them to the book store every weekend. I took them to Six Flags over Georgia two weeks ago.

I would not trade any of that for anything.

Some of you make a bizarre accusation that society discriminates against the childless. If we were not working hard to take care of our children, who are small and helpless and do not understand the big, dangerous world, they would easily be killed or badly hurt. My priority is to make sure they can survive and thrive and are happy after I die. We are busy taking care of our responsibility rather than purposely discriminating against the childless.

Without any children the entire human race would simply disappear after the last old person died.
Being a parent is a choice, and I wish more couples would make the choice to not bring anymore children into an already overcrowded world./r
I think what Oryoki Bowl is hinting at but too polite to write directly is some people become parents and they lose themselves. They give up the person they were. They give up activities and talents that once brought them and others joy. They make the child not only the center of their universe, but the totality of their purpose and drive. Who doesn’t have a friend who was once a great conversationalist, only to have a child and then be reduced to redundant, near monosyllabic oaths of fealty and praise of their child? This type of “parenting” is perverse and nothing short of idolatry.

I have many friends and relatives with kids who have balanced lives. They love their children and give them everything they need. But the child isn’t the exclusive center of their lives. I have a few friends who became “mommy-bots.” Every second of their lives are 100% focused on their children. If their child, down for a nap, turns over in their sleep two rooms away, everything has to stop.

It’s not scientific, but obvious in my experience that the children of balanced parents who do their own things, have lives, and don’t place their children on a pedestal are much healthier, active, independent, and creative.

I find that people who think their children are the most important thing in their life, to the exclusion of everything else, failed to live up to their own expectations before having children. In fact, the act of having children, especially later in life, is often about bringing a sense of meaning to one’s life and imposing a built-in excuse so they don’t have to explain why they didn’t achieve more with their life.

-Didn’t you want to go to law school?

“Yeah, I would have loved that, but you know I had kids and they teach me more everyday than I could learn at college.”

-What happened to the trip you planned to see the great museums of Europe?”

“After Hunter & Zoe were born we just couldn’t justify the expense of something like that. When they’re older we plan to take a trip to Disneyland.”

-I thought you were really good at your job, why didn’t you advance?

“I would have, but everyone was against me because I’m a mother. They didn’t understand I couldn’t be there to work on long projects because my children needed me. I couldn’t stay late or come early. They should have held up projects while I was away for maternity leave. It shouldn’t matter if they needed someone reliable for a multiple year project and I might have another child in the middle of it and not be able to travel or work for months during that time. They don’t understand how valuable I am because I learned so much from my three year old.”
Oryoki-- I am so sorry your good friend is leaving town. It is so difficult to make connections and for all your complaining about parents and the nature of parenting (whether good parenting or bad parenting) parents aren't really available to be friends with you the way childless/childfree people can be. One day, as those children grow up and out, those parents you used to be better connected with will have more time and availability to spend time with you on your terms, if those friendships survive the intervening years. I lost a few of my "childfree" friends once I had my kids, I am maintaining the best connection I can with a few others-- and the need for patience with the other is mutual (although it may seem one-sided to you). My friendships with other parents have deepened for obvious reasons. I tried to read your essay without feeling my own sense of defensiveness rise, and it was difficult.
For what it is worth-- for all of the commenters who believe European toddlers are raised better-- I do remember visiting Italian cousins in a small mountain town in Italy many years ago-- they were parenting a five and three year old boy at the time (strappingly handsome college students now). Very adorable children, the three year old had THE MOST STINKING ADORABLE FOOT STOMPING TANTRUMS IN ITALIAN. The memory never fails to bring a smile.
I think you have the wrong friends with children. I wouldn't assume someone had nothing else in their lives because they didn't have children, in fact I would think the direct opposite. Does there have to be such a divide? I feel oppositional when I read this, just as if I had posted a semi rant about folks who choose not to have children then have to validate it all the time with those who do.. who really cares to that degree? Friends help when they can, they respond when they are able. My single friends would no more be expected to deal with my kids than the man on the moon, (at the time). I had my son young, no one else had kids and I felt like the burden so i stayed home or found things for us to do.My friends constantly encouraged me to come along when it was appropriate. When they need someone to watch their dogs or take them to the airport, or the hospital, I was their for them also. I admire your thoughtfulness as with every post, you do a thorough job of bringing your ideas forward.
Jennifer- I love the idea of those little italian tantrums, I will see some in danish at the end of the summer. And truly, little children can be wonders as much as they can be terrors. I didn't realize until my friend told me she was moving, for real, this time, how much it meant to me that she and I were not mothers. Loving aunties and godmothers, we spend plenty of time talking about and doing for our own beloved "borrowed" children. My friends aren't horrible, either, though I think the world in general could stop with the "you can't understand until you have your own children". It has nothing to do with parenting. Maybe it's the modern need to make parenting such a special thing, such a special status. Kind of like for those who aren't married, either, who get the shaft from many friends who delve into the world of coupledom. I do my best to keep my friendships going regardless of "status", unless I find those friendships in and of themselves toxic.

Rita- I appreciate that you read and didn't get too hackled, but maybe just because you "know me" well enough. I actually had a single friend, divorced, childless, who had three dogs who were more like children than some people's children. I think she became a similar kind of parent, in some ways, just to animals instead of people. I didn't let go of her friendship because she had dogs, or loved them more than humans, though. I let if fall by the wayside because she had very little sympathy for people in general.
I think this is a lovely article and I totally get it. I have friends with kids and I am 28 years old. Its not always desirable to bring them along and everything MUST rotate around them. I don't have children, I am not planning them in near future and I don't have a partner. I am happy building my career but the social circle of friends is getting smaller and smaller. I am not viewed as one of them. I am not invited to social occasions because I don't have a kid or a boyfriend. Perhaps it's time to look for new friends. I really liked your article thou:))