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Book Review: Baby Not on Board: A Celebration of Life without Kids

14 Mar

No I haven’t thrown in the towel just yet.  I decided to look at life a little differently and picked up a copy of Baby Not on Board: A Celebration of Life without Kids, by Jennifer L. Shawne.

While I am not on board with mocking the “breeders ” of  the world (as I am clearly a wannabe),  I do appreciate the author’s perspective on how living without kids can be fulfilling and enjoyable and does not have to be seen as a “lesser” way to live.  I picked up the book to look on the other side (and get away from “Poor Me!  Lucky them!”- thinking). Rather than my usual fixating on why the grass is greener for the mommies of the world, I wanted to appreciate the present with no babies on board and this book does just that.  As the book argues and I agree, there are plenty of reasons to stop the baby-envy and love your life just the way it is.

The book provides in great detail comparisons of life with kids and without kids with wit and humorous drawings.  In one of her best examples she walks through a Saturday with kids and one without.  It reminded me how much I love sleeping in (and sleep in general), uninterrupted romantic time, and having the options to go out at a moment’s notice (yeah for travel, dinner out, fitness classes, and spa time!).  Life is pretty low stress without the responsibilities and costs of parenting and I recognize that I often take it for granted.  Blessings counted? Check!

I was most interested in the last chapter “The Meaning of Life: Making the most of your tot-free days”.   The author writes “Many parents claim that having children gives them a purpose in life”, but for those of us without children, we need to be more creative.  This resonated with me.  I’ve definitely been searching for meaning lately.  Not having a baby has forced me to realize how much I was counting on motherhood to fulfill this unmet desire for meaning in my life.  So along with my miscarriages came an identity crisis that has forced me to re-evaluate my life path and search deeper.  Among the possible paths she suggests working for charity, adopting a child substitute (like a sickly pet), engaging in fulfilling hobbies, and being a cool aunt/uncle.  Check, check, check and check!  She lists some great role models for inspiration as well: Oprah, Julia Childs, Katheryn Hepburn, Georgia O;Keefe, Mother Theresa, Janet Reno, Ralph Nadar, Christopher Walken, Terry Gross and Dr. Seuss.

Now that I am relying a little less on motherhood to fulfill me, I’ve had to come up with other options.  My hope is that by delaying having children I can change course a bit and focus my energy on activities that will put me on a more fulfilling path.   Ideally we can have it all,  BOTH fulfilling lives AND children. 

Baby not on Board does its best to make the reader feel good about their situations and let go of their expectations and insecurities about not being parents.  Ultimately the takeaway for me was life without kids sucks, but it is also a gift.

Pondering being “childfree”

16 Sep

I have lately been very interested in hearing about couples who are “childfree”.   I am not totally comfortable with the expression as it sounds like having children is something to avoid like “sugar free” or “smoke free”.  However “childless” sounds much worse,  like you are lacking and empty, so I am not using that term.  Whether it is for the short term or the long term I recognize that having examples of happy couples without children is just plain healthy.  I have this ridiculous idea that a complete family includes children.  As much as I would like to have one or two immediately, I recognize that it’s still a while away – a min of 10 months or more.

Lately I’ve been hearing about studies on happiness and they all seem to confirm that having children does NOT make people happier.

Daniel Gilbert in his book Stumbling Upon Happiness suggests that having kids actually makes you LESS happy and that parents actually delude themselves into thinking they are happy.  The book reviewer grabs your attention in her review  “Don’t Worry Be Happy ” in Forbes by saying “If you want to be happy, don’t have children.”

On the day to day, I can understand that, because of the demands, but in the larger scheme when you are reflecting on your life and looking back I hear again and again from people that their single greatest joy and satisfaction in life came from raising their child.  So maybe happiness isn’t the right word.  It is more about deriving meaning and a sense of importance.  I don’t see myself being happier by not having kids.  Now that I’ve been at it for almost 3 years it feels like the one thing I need to get back on track and feel normal again.  This whole process of trying to have a baby is hands-down the single most miserable experience I’ve gone through in life- so unfortunately I don’t see being child free as much of a ticket to the easy life.  Perhaps if I was someone who truly didn’t want them and then never tried to have them this is true.

In “All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting” in New York Times magazine they talk specifically about the negatives of parenting and the toll it takes on your life and your marriage.    The author writes “This is the brutal reality about children—they’re such powerful stressors that small perforations in relationships can turn into deep fault lines.”  If anyone quoted either of these stories after I confided to them about my repeat pregnancy losses I think I would slap them, but finding the stories on my own I admit I was slightly fascinated and also frightened that the road ahead is hard on both sides.  Unfortunately, having trouble having kids doesn’t let you off the hook for everything after (although in fairness, it seems like you’ve earned a break somewhere down the line!).  For years I was focused on that and worried about how hard it would be, no idea how hard this first part would be.

So for now we are childfree, not by choice.  On our vacation last week we visited historical homes on Nantucket and occasionally there was an example of a couple  that never had kids.  I was fascinated with what they did with their time.  I think of other famous childfree people like Oprah and Julia Child.  Unfortunately I don’t have quite the same level of career ambition.  If anything I feel a bit guility that I haven’t been using my childfree time to be more productive.  Since I  don’t have an amazing career or a family I admit to feeling a bit lacking.  (Supermoms who have both- I hate you!)  My career is pretty low key and a great fit for a family.  I work from home for a large high tech company doing web marketing.  On the side I am pursuing a Masters degree in counseling psychology and part-time I teach aerobics (got certified last year).    I am interested in any other great examples of childfree people.  I know they are out there.