Saturday, May 02, 2009

Parents Speak Out About the Childfree

No kidding: The child-free couple allow parents another chance to air their views
A father of three children under 6.. . . pleads: “I wonder if you could stop telling me about your fantastic social life. I know I asked what you’d been up to, but it was purely rhetorical: I don’t actually want to hear that your suite had a plunge pool, or that everybody ended up back at Kate Moss’s, or that the sharks were so close that you could touch them. Show some sensitivity. Please shut up. Last weekend I went to the park four times and saw some tramps.”

It’s a fair point, Mr P, but don’t you see? We are simply trying to fill the void, the chasm of childlessness, with inane chatter, shiny baubles and rodomontade.
Heh. Someone from my H.S. actually posted about meeting Kate Moss this week, but she has kids, and it didn't sound like that much fun. My response (of the list famous people you've met variety) included several Supreme Court Justices, four Senators, and two famous law professors. Party on!

In all seriousness, um, ha! I mean, isn't this part of the trade off? If your friend who teaches third grade has to hear about your first class trip to Rio, you have to hear about how she has all summer off. Choices, eh? Speaking of which, yeah, sometimes I catch the Pontini sisters at Corio, close down a restaurant in the West Village, and then dance to street musicians in Washington Square Park until 3AM with half a bottle of wine in my system. Sometimes I spend Friday night at the Met, watching Ms. Netrebko belt out Lucia di Lammammor. There are also many Saturday nights I sit in my living room with excel spreadsheets working on a client matter, or turn in early after reading a novel.

Part of the point of being childfree is your options are perennially open. At any point you choose a job with higher pay and less free time, or vice versa, you can choose to be a party animal or a homebody. Parenthood is signing up for all your weekends in advance, and I don't see why a little buyer's remorse should make me quiet about what I'm selecting for the evening.
. . .
Still on non-invitations, one of our respondents, a Miss S, a mother of one from Camberwell, complained: “This year alone I’ve had two wedding invitations that specifically excluded children. Who’s next for the ban? Old people? If you think children will ruin your wedding, do you think you should be getting married at all? It’s absolutely ridiculous. It makes my blood boil.”

One marrying couple did complain to us recently that, between the lot of them, their friends had nearly 150 children. That’s the size of a small school, and one can quite see how that might alter a sophisticated metropolitan reception. And the bill. But on the whole, marrying non-parents, we’re slightly ashamed of you on this one.

Um, what? When I had been dating my husband for 1-8 years, we were not engaged nor living together and thus he had no "right" to be invited along with me to weddings, according to proper etiquette. And so it is with children. I never thought that someone celebrating the joining of their life to another human being had any obligation to spend another $100 just so I could bring someone along.

I don't understand where anyone gets off demanding an paid invitation to anyone else's reception. If the bride and groom have an especially close relationship with the child, and are having a child-friendly affair, yes, I might think it odd. But if they don't, what exactly is your cause for complaint? You don't feel like spending a night without your child? Well than that is your decision, and that is what a "no" RSVP is for. And if is because you don't feel like hiring a babysitter, then I'm at a loss for words.

At the end of the day, it is about the bride and groom, and the way they choose to celebrate their love and union. If they want a quiet, sophisticated affair, or they don't feel like inviting along tiny beings they don't know particularly well, that is indeed their choice. That day of all days, shouldn't they be able to decide what is right for them?
Finally, but first in popularity among parents’ all-time gripes: back-seat parenting. This seems to be the one thing that riles all parents and yet who among us is not guilty? “Is he all right playing near that big pond . . .?”; “Should you be eating all that sugar? Should you? Should you?”; “I think that children really enjoy structure to their day. You know, doing stuff, activities . . .”; “Shall we find you a warmer coat? Did Mummy bring you a warmer coat? Did she?”

As Ms V so eloquently writes, “It’s not just the suggestion that the we failed to see the vast pond right in front of us, it’s also the slight implication that we no longer care, have given up, and would, if it was easier, probably raise the child in a motorway service station.”

You can see how that might offend, but what can you do? It takes a village to raise a child . . .
Yes, well, I might be with the parents on this one. Of course, if a child looks like she is in danger, I might speak up. And the second it affects me, I'm entitled to an opinion, within reason (this is when bringing my mum along is handy, she can speak with authority and is even less tolerant of noisy seat-kickers in proper restaurants). Outside of those situations, I'm apt to pipe down.

After all, opting out means I don't have to trouble myself with such things. how delightful.

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Lynn said...

I just got married in January and before the invitations were sent out people started calling and asking if they could bring their kids! We are a childfree couple and told people it would be a childfree event. We put adult luncheon on the response cards. My husband wanted to put skull and crossbones over a child’s face instead. Which I thought was pretty funny! Of course we opted for the adult luncheon print instead. We paid over a hundred dollars a head for our wedding and they did not give a discount for children. I find it completing insane that someone would expect their children to be invited. If your children are not invited and you are angry… then don’t go! One couple complained to us that they had to take their son to a babysitter and that is why they were walking in at the same time the bride was! They only gave us a check for $50. I think they felt we should have paid their babysitter. My husband was so upset. We only had 57 people at our wedding! The only person who said anything positive about their not being any children in attendance was my 87 year old aunt. She said kids are loud, run around, and destroy everything in their path. Children should be at the park playing not at a formal event! I agree. So do not bitch to me about spending your weekend at the playground. That was your choice…I chose to sleep in!!!!

Anonymous said...

As for weddings--that area where parental types commonly demand control--if I invite someone to witness MY making of a lifetime commitment, it should go without saying that it's MY and MY PARTNER'S choice who we choose to include. Christine, I didn't marry a man in my 20s because of this sort of thing. We didn't want to have alcohol at our wedding, for example, since a number of "gotta invite" family members (whom we would rather not invite) were raging drunks. What kind of family would demand that to be part of its fabulous membership, you'd have to have your wedding day ruined by that? No family I'd want to be part of. I wasn't impressed by how my BF handled it. He expected me to back down and then suck up his family's demands.

My BF and I discussed my and his concerns. We changed the wedding time frame twice. But we made no progress as a couple toward our wedding being as WE wanted it to be. How come? He wouldn't stand up to them. Worse, although he shared my concerns and felt the same way, he put his family's demands before his future wife's...and his own needs and wants. It got ickier and ickier. I got out. It was really hard to face that he was the wrong choice for a life partner for me not because of US but other people. His family simply did not support our marriage as independent adults. I was 25, we'd been engaged two years after dating for three. We were well matched in many ways as people, but when it came to family, he buckled on everything. Today I can't believe that I had the courage then...but I did. I'm so glad I found out that this was the way they and he worked BEFORE we married.

Now I reflect on something else, which is why I've digressed to share this. We had also talked about having kids, sprogging. I wanted none, he was a fence-sitter, and his family DEMANDED them. Their behavior around the wedding planning was in my view even at that early age a taste of things to come in everything. It is so hard to give up a compatible potential mate/relationship to claim one's own spirit and heart. But I am so glad I made that choice. My life would have been the hell of the wedding planning...for keeps. Endable only with divorce. And I could never have been myself except at the center of a maelstrom of disapproval.

It took eight more years to meet the delightful man who was first a dear friend, later a playmate, and now is my husband of many years. Waiting was hard, lonely, and frustrating...and you know what? My husband had pretty much the same experience in relationships before ours as I'd had. It took us a long time to get to the point where we could come to realize that our relationship could be different--the one we'd both always wanted--because we were enough. No kids, no family interference, just two people working for the same things from a similar perspective. Real companionate marriage, not some coercive/enabling relationship fitting codependent with others'.

One more thing. It was a bit hard to join our lives...because we each had grown to the place where we, as individuals, were enough. You know how some say that you find your partner when you stop looking. That independence is the best grounding for a relationship of equals and love, in my/our experience...but it can take some major pain to get to it...and a lot of work to get past it. It's really really hard heart and spirit work.

So this is a space of being and relating and personal growth that most breeders/parents can't understand, because they have devoted their entire lives to approval, not to evolving themselves and their relationships past expectations, demands, display, and whims.

Thank you for listening. I've never told anyone this story but my husband. Sometimes we look back at our lives and are amazed to see what courage we had as young people, with absolutely no support and often active resistance or sabotaging. I hope now that some younger people, or indeed of any age, can read such stories and be heartened to choose what is right for them, in their best, most honest hearts!


Anonymous said...

I'm confused why parents feel the need to tell those of us without kids we should make a monumental lifestyle change and reproduce. These are the same people that complain how they have no money and no time to do anything fun. They whine that we have so much money and no stress in our lives. How am I supposed to feel bad? Nobody held a gun to their heads and made them have kids. My wife and I are only 27 and everyone assumes we'll change our minds about kids. But we've been together for 8 years and one of the first big discussions we had was that we didn't want kids. Life is stressful enough without having to worry about kids. I mean, do people see the world around them? Not to be a pessimist, but is this country a place you would want to raise kids?

Keith, Married 2 years, no kids, sorry mom...