Monday, April 29, 2013

Passing Judgment

Everyone judges. Opines. Analyzes. Gossips. Whatever. That's cool. I would just prefer that it happen behind closed doors where I don't have to hear it. Not because my feelings are hurt. But because it's annoying. I don't want to feel like I have to defend my life choices because of someone else's unsolicited commentary. I actually don't feel like I have to defend my choices. I'm 100% confident in pretty much all of the life choices I can think of off the top of my head. But I don't think it's fair that I'm constanly put in the position where the only way to keep conversing with someone standing right there talking to me is to defend my choices. Then it also puts me in the position of being kind of an asshole, giving smart-ass answers.

I feel like I wrote about this already but I couldn't find an entry about it when I quickly scrolled through. I probably feel like that because my decision is called into question so much that it's a constant topic of conversation. Or not even a "conversation", but more of a debate where I've had to hone my skills and one liners to get people off my back.

You would think I'm going to say it's a decision of epic proportion. And for some people it may actually be one. But for me it wasn't and isn't a difficult one in the least. I am one and done. We are one and done. One what? One child. Cue the horror...

I don't know why people think it's okay to tell someone they need to have any children, nevermind add more to their family. When someone tells me they're having a second, third, or fourth, I don't make a face and say- I think you should totally stop having kids. You need to stop. I also don't then list all the reasons why they should stop, make verbal assumptions as to how their kids will turn out being one of many or whatever. Yet, that's pretty much what happens every time I say I have one. Before I can even get another sentence out there is a running commentary- "You're going to have another, right?!", "You should get on that now- you don't want them too far apart!", "It's mean to only have one!", "He's going to be spoiled and weird!", "'ll change your mind!", and the best- "But don't you want another baby to hold- oh! that baby smell....". Um, no.

I'll be totally honest- I don't even notice people's babies unless they're right in front of me- like really in front of me. Not in a stroller- in front of me like, in my eye line, or they're making noise. I don't dislike babies at all. In fact, I love immobile infants. I loved my infant who is now a preschooler. I just don't want another one. Yours is cute but it doesn't make my uterus tingle, it doesn't make me think- "what if?", and it doesn't make me all mushy & longing for the baby days. I can't explain it. I can't make anyone understand it. It's the same as when someone tells me how much they want another one and how their family just doesn't feel complete. Does. Not. Compute. For me.

There are no guarantees in life. You can have six kids and can't be guaranteed that ANY of them will be around to take care of you in your old age. If that's why you had a child or twelve, you did it for the wrong reasons. They don't sign a contract as they come out outlining and detailing duties and responsibilities they're going to take on into and through adulthood. Sometimes bad things happen and sometimes those kids don't make it to adulthood. It can't be just about what you think or see happening in the future. Because all that does is set you up for disappointment. You may be close to all your kids their entire lives- they may even live with you through their adulthood- the way the younger generations are going. But again, there are no guarantees.

Same thing with siblings. I shake my head when people talk about how mean it is not to give my son a sibling. Newsflash! Not all siblings get along, like each other, or even talk. Some are "thick as thieves" and that's great. But no matter how you do it- one and done, or a litter- there is always going to be some issue. Even when siblings are close, that doesn't mean there aren't periods of discord, bigger rifts, long lasting feuds, resentment, or just general apathy. How parents foster relationships within the family both help and hinder but there is still differing personalities with different perceptions of what is going on around them. Trust me, when they're in therapy in 20 years, it won't be over everything you thought you did wrong, it'll be about those handful of things you thought you did right! Because everyone has a different perspective. My son may have a problem with us because we never gave him a sibling, but every family has their cross to bear and we're ok with it being the only child thing.

I cringe when I hear questions to friends of mine or even strangers about when they are planning to have a kid, a second kid, more kids, etc. Because you also don't know what is going on personally with people. I'm one and done by choice. And I have no problem discussing it. I've had people email me and ask how I came to that decision and I've written what I can say are record long responses. Not everyone is that open. I happen to throw all my stuff right out there for all to enjoy. But believe it or not, MANY of my friends are uber-private and would rather have all their toenails pulled out one by one with a tweezer vs talking about their fertility or anything personal with people they know, let alone strangers just deciding they should have kids because they'd be attractive offspring.

In light of last week being National Infertility Awareness Week, I'll say that I know A LOT of women who have struggled and continue to struggle with infertility & miscarriage. Some willingly talk about it because that's their way of coping and getting support. But I can't imagine how difficult it is for those who don't want to discuss it to have to hear how she should have children because they'd be really good looking. I'm pretty sure they'd take an ugly baby if only they could get pregnant or carry a baby to term. I'm told that it feels like a failure on their part- something they're "supposed" to be able to do. Nothing makes someone feel better like rubbing it in their face that they "should" have a child. Not to mention- I don't know if people realize that when they tell someone to start having kids, they're basically telling them they should start having a lot of sex. When you look at it that way, is that the conversation you really want to be having with anyone? Of course Aunt Jennie doesn't realize when she's asking if you if you're trying to have a baby that she's really asking you if you're having a lot of the sex. If you turned it on her and said that you're having sex every day but nothing yet, though- I bet she'd stop asking about your fertility.

I don't want to get into all the things not to say to a woman who doesn't have a child, is one and done, or who is dealing with infertility because that's been done a hundred times over. I'm not even going to go into all twelve hundred reasons I'm one and done and happy as a clam with that decision. I'm writing to say that if you need to make small talk, telling people to have children when you have no stake in it is rude, insensitive, and just out and out baffling. It's right up there with telling a pregnant woman she's big, that she has to breastfeed, or asking a mom of two same-gender kids if they're going to go for the third to get the opposite gender. All useless questions that have no bearing on your life. My motto is "Don't ask questions you don't care what the answers are" for a reason. I don't ask someone if they're going to have kids, more kids, etc because I don't care. I actually have about eight million other things I'd rather talk about. Add another one million if it's just small talk and not even a serious conversation. If I don't have to babysit or pay for it, have or don't have- it's up to you. Don't get me wrong- if someone WANTS to talk about their infertility with me- I'm there. I've been there for many friends going through it. If someone wants to discuss their pro and con list with me about having another or wants to ask me my feelings about having one- I'm more than happy to share. I just don't have any weird vested interest in other people's procreation enough to tell them they need to do it.

I just had someone tell me that she'd have enough money for the college fund for the child she isn't having if she had a dollar for everyone who told her "But you'd make such a good mother!". I'm always perplexed by this statement too. When I had E, everything I thought prior just sort of flew out the window. I thought I'd be one way about certain things and I was totally different once he was here. And what's the definition of a "good mother" anyway? What I think is good and what ten other moms think is good are amazingly different things. If that wasn't the case we wouldn't have such tense, sometimes venomous, "Mommy Wars"- working vs staying home, BF vs FF, CIO vs co-sleeping, disposable vs cloth diapers, schedules vs free for on and so forth. So I'd like to know what measuring instrument there is to magically know someone would or wouldn't be a "good mother". And really, if someone knows they don't want kids and they decide that because they are sure of that, they're not going to have any, that may quite possibly be the best mother of all. The non-mother. Hey- makes sense to me. Just because someone is good with kids doesn't make them a candidate to be a "good mother". I guess I'm good with people's dogs. I don't go around kicking puppies. I might even pet yours, let them sit in my lap while getting my hair done (shout-out to Gidget and Otto!), and be a little obsessed with the "Ceasar dog" from the commercial. But that doesn't mean I'd be a good dog mom in any way. I get to leave the dog in the salon & turn off the commercial on tv and forget about it. Catch my drift?

This entry was sort of prompted by a comment I read to a childless acquaintance. It stuck with me since reading sometime last week. I don't know this acquaintance's reason for remaining childless. She's still in a window of child-bearing years where she could theoretically have a baby with no medical intervention. She seems happily married and pretty stable in the outward areas of life you get to see on Facebook. One of her friends said- "I'm just sad that for those who won't know the love of a child. It's the greatest of all things." I'm paraphrasing. But it was something close to that. And I immediately got angry. Because no one needs to be sad for someone about that. If more people were so self-aware and knew their own limitations, there wouldn't be as many abused or neglected kids. Not everyone is cut out to be a parent and the ones who don't want to be parents- shouldn't be. People have kids for all kinds of stupid reasons- to "save" a relationship (which works so well), to have a caretaker later on, because they're not confident they won't regret not doing it, as an accessory (crazy but true), to carry on a name, etc. Well, not wanting one is better than all those put together as a reason NOT to have one. If I tell someone to try a  bite of my macaroni salad and they say they don't want any, that's kind of it. And that's just macaroni salad, not a lifelong commitment.

I don't know this acquaintance's story and whether she does or doesn't plan to have any children. But I just thought about that comment her friend made when I've been inundated with stuff in my FB newsfeed about infertility. Then I thought about how awful it would feel for her if she is indeed dealing with infertility and how she probably wanted to tell this person to take their sadness for her because of their perception that she just doesn't want any (which would be fine too) and shove it up their ass. Someone who doesn't know me very well recently mentioned that I "should" have another but in the same breath talked about how pro she is about a kids program that is highly expensive. I was quiet for a minute and said- "Well, if I had another kid, instead of one in a program, I'd have two doing nothing and I'm not sure how that would be good for anyone since I still need to go to work." Should I have to then delve into my financials with someone I hardly know? Unless she was offering to pay, which in that case, my answer would be- "You have it and pay for it and let me know how that goes."

So you can judge anything you want. I admit, I have opinions on the Duggars. You know, the ones with nineteen or twenty kids. These opinions don't keep me up at night though and unless I'm in a discussion specifically about them, it's not like I just have random daily issue with them. They put their life out in the public eye to be poked, prodded, and discussed. But I also wouldn't write or call Mrs Duggar to give her my unsolicited opinion. Because they're on tv, the opinions are more like water cooler talk. People can't help having opinions. I'm fine with that. You can think it's a tragedy to not give our child a sibling. Judge someone not having any. But realize that with your judgment, you're not changing any minds and it's just not necessary to say out loud. It's not like the recipient of your stellar advice is going to say- "You know what- you're right. I'm going to have another" or "Yeah, I'm trying for the girl after two boys. So if it's another boy I'm going to sell him on eBay because I'll be too disappointed to keep him.". Basically it's just to hear the sound of your own voice when you start these conversations. And know that it's not an innocuous line of questioning or stating when you start telling people what they should do with their reproduction. Be mindful of what the person you're speaking to could be going through. Or possibly, that they just don't give a shit what you think about one kid vs more.

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