Skip to main content

Bandolier

[Warning label:  A friend suggested that I refrain from blogging about this topic because it isn’t a “Chrome Phase-y” subject.  I think it is, though, because for better or worse, it defines me.  I think said friend was also afraid that it might offend people, but when has that ever stopped me?]

As soon as I graduated college, I was transferred from one demographic (student) to another very different demographic (single woman without a husband or children).  There was no transition period.  I had to learn how to field the questions immediately, on the fly.  “Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”  “Don’t you want to have kids?” “You should date so-and-so, don’t you think he’d make a great husband?”  “Don’t you hate going home to an empty apartment every day?” And my personal favorite, “Are you a lesbian?” (Yes, I guess my lack of a boyfriend and the fact that I had a female roommate when I was 23 years old made people assume I was gay.  In retrospect, it probably would have been a better idea than hanging out with all the cocky pricks that worked at Exchange Place.)

I’ve been answering these questions ever since.  I’ve learned all the stereotypes out there about me, and I am quite skilled at owning up to them.  I even have a variety of answers to the same question depending on the person who is asking.  Sincere vs. snotty vs. judgmental vs. just-making-conversation vs. genuinely curious.  My bandolier is loaded; I’m ready to fire when attacked.

Recently, I posted an article on Facebook (not written by me) that was directed at parents who do not discipline their children, and why unchecked behavior problems are not acceptable in public.  I took this to be a modern commentary on basic good manners and respect for others, and as you probably already know, I am a total stickler for those things.  I was shocked by how much anger, hate, and retaliation it generated!  In a 24 hour time span I saw all of my stereotypes get thrown around in such an aggressive manner.  Some people understood the point of the article, but so many others saw it as an outburst from a thoughtless, self-absorbed ignoramus who hates kids.  Some readers dismissed my opinion entirely, simply because I don’t have kids.  I was seriously hurt that people who know me would think of me like that.  It made me realize that I’m a legitimate minority:  People assume things about me that aren’t true, and then they judge me based on those assumptions.  So, to set the record straight once and for all, I am writing this blog to share with the world (or at least with my 12 faithful readers) what people have been assuming about me for 15 years regarding the topic of kids and parenthood, and what the truth really is.

Assumption #1: “She hates children.”  That’s definitely not true.  I love kids, and I’m very good with them.  I enjoy spending time with my friends’ kids, and the best job I ever had was this past winter when I was babysitting Matthew.  I’d jump in front of a bullet for that child, and his parents knew that they could trust me implicitly.  Hating children is much different from not wanting to have them, and they often do not go hand in hand.  Yes, there are childless folks out there who really do hate children, and they’re entitled to hate.  I’m not a hater.  I just don’t have any kids by choice… for reasons that aren’t anyone’s business but my own.

Assumption #2: “She is selfish.”  That may be true, but that’s an American trait, not just a trait of childless people.  I do not have children because it has always been in my best interests not to have them.  Likewise, a person who has kids made that decision because it was in their best interests to do so.  I think it’s fair to conclude that we’re all equally selfish.

Assumption #3: “She thinks she’s better than everyone else because she doesn’t have kids.”  That’s not true.  I’m not better or worse than anyone.  I’m just different.  People who think they’re better than others are that way for reasons that have nothing to do with children.

Assumption #4: “She, and others like her, are the problem with society today.”  I don’t think that’s true, although I’m sure there are some non-parents out there who are drug dealers, thieves, or wife beaters.  Granted, I’m certainly not Mother Theresa, but I think I’m a pretty good person overall.  I always think of Nazi Germany when I think of this particular stereotype, because the Nazis singled out one specific group of people based on a demographic and decided that they were a menace.  Then they merrily went about their business of exterminating them.  So, really, someone who is judging me based on my childless status could just call me a stupid Jew and it would basically be the same thing.

Assumption #5: “She should avoid crowded places and then she wouldn’t have to worry about kids being around.”  That’s excellent advice.  Why didn’t I think of that?  I never have to go to the grocery store or Target for anything.  And thank goodness they also assumed that I don’t want to see children out in public, because that’s reasonable and realistic, and a great thing to do to raise socially well-adjusted kids.

[Sorry for the extreme sarcasm without warning.  I just can’t relate to that one intelligently.]

Assumption #6: “She doesn’t have kids, so she has no idea what she’s talking about.”  I don’t have a husband either, but I still think it’s wrong for husbands to abuse their wives.  It makes me wonder how a parent would react if another parent approached them in a restaurant bar and told them that their kids should surrender their seats so the adults could enjoy some drinks.  “OH!  Of course!  You have kids too!  What a great idea.  You are so smart, and I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t think of that before!  Here’s my number, text me sometime and you can give me more great ideas!”  (Nope, I’m not buying it either.)

Assumption #7: “She thinks she knows the best way for me to raise my kids.”  I don’t know anything about raising kids, and neither did anybody before they actually started doing it.  Parents learn as they go, and I can only hope that they’re remembering along the way to teach their children to be respectful of others.

Assumption #8: “She will appreciate my reminding her that her biological clock is ticking and that she’ll die sad and alone if she doesn’t start having kids soon.”  Um, no I won’t appreciate that.  But if they seem like they are really trying to help me, I will gently remind them that I don’t need advice on how to live my life any more than a parent needs advice on how to raise their kids.  If they were trying to be funny, I don’t laugh, ‘cause it’s not funny anyway.

Assumption #9: “She doesn’t understand that parenting is the hardest job in the world.”  Actually, I do understand that it’s a hard job, and definitely not a job I want to do, which is why I am choosing not to do it.  Someone who chose that job has my respect, but not my sympathy, because it was a choice.  As for it being the hardest job in the world, I don’t know about that.  I’m pretty sure that many people who took the parent job wouldn’t stand a chance of getting hired as aerospace engineers or brain surgeons.  I wouldn’t either, so I'm in the same boat.  Equality, again.

Assumption #10: "People who don't have kids may be in the minority, but they're not ignorant.  They are active and important contributors to this society and to the world, and I should respect them just as they respect me."  This is one I haven't heard yet, but I can't wait for the day that I do.  

Comments

  1. Great post. I can't remember if I commented on that original article you posted, but I do recall seeing it posted in many places. I've seen how you are with Nathan, I KNOW you don't hate kids and you are a good person. You posting that article didn't bother me a bit.

    Some people posting it that I know less well did make me question their motives and did elicit some of a "they don't get it response." What bothers me about that article is that I feel like it gives people who DON'T understand it the right to judge me, my child or my parenting. Like everyone and everything, there are goods and bads. My kid is basically a good kid, but he has bad days - he's not feeling great, he didn't sleep well, he's just crabby for no reason. Or because he's 4 and didn't get his way. And if you couple any of that with a mom who is in the same boat it's a recipe for disaster.

    Sometimes staying home when everyone's cranky isn't an option. Sometimes we have to go out in public and just hope it doesn't turn into meltdown city.

    And unfortunately, it's hard to teach a kid how not to behave until he's done it and learned the boundary of acceptable and not acceptable. Sometimes my child acts badly on purpose - just to annoy me, to see what he can get away with or because I specifically asked him not to. Sometimes he's egged on by a partner in crime.

    Sometimes Mommy does some good public discipline and sometimes Mommy just needs to keep her mouth shut and get the kid home because saying just one word is going to open a floodgate of tears or yelling or Mommy-tantrum that is just as inappropriate as the thing the kid did.

    I don't mean to sound like I'm defending myself because I know you didn't accuse me. But sometimes the judgmental stares, glances or unsolicited advice on how to keep my kid in line are unfair. Not all kids that act up are bad, and not all kids that act up have inattentive parents. Kids are human and make mistakes. Just because no one sees me tell my kid his actions are wrong doesn't mean I didn't.

    I think I got off track again - that article makes it sound (in my opinion) that all of us are ok with raising monsters and we're not. I think all of us, in all circumstances, would do well to stop judging the life and daily choices of others. It's a struggle, to be sure.

    Your post was great though and I wish I could say maybe it will stop someday. People want you to be happy - unfortunately they forget that you probably know what will make you happy more than they do.
    <3

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good one, Dana! We females are a minority the moment we are born. My daughter waited until she was almost 40 before she had a child. She got a career, a doctorate and husband first. I will be reading your blog and hoping you continue to grow. Best, your Mom's cousin, Gail.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very good blog. As one of the "childless by choice and happy about it", I totally understand. Some people assume there is something totally wrong with me because I don't want children, but I don't see it that way. Children take alot of time, energy, and money, and I just never had an urge to make such sacrifices in my life. I don't see that as selfish. I just see it as my choice. Just like everyone has to decide a career path for themselves, whether it be white collar or blue collar. Some people are just best suited for one or the other.
    When I was in my 20s, people would always tell me I would change my mind. But the time I hit my 30s, they didn't bring up the subject anymore. It's hard to explain to people who have children why I don't feel the need to have any.
    I'm just so sick of people who have children thinking that I shouldn't have an opinion. Oh I certainly have an opinion, I just don't say it very often. Bottom line is that alot of adults have a total lack of respect for others and unfortunately keep passing their bad manners down the line. If they can't control their kids in their younger years, do they expect to keep any type of control when they are teenagers? Sometimes they need to take a hard line when they are younger and teach them some manners. Most parents think they are just perfect and they're children are angels and that's what makes me angry.
    Thanks for listening to me vent. I always love your blogs.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

This will always be my New York.

This was a skyline that represented so much to so many people.  It was my New York.  I photographed it as I saw it every day, many times a day, for three years.  This view was as common to me as my own reflection in a mirror, and, at least in my perception, a million times more beautiful.  Often I would walk or drive by it and completely ignore it.  On nice days, I would sit on the pier at lunch with my work friends, eating folded slices of Telly’s pizza, chatting with the women and flirting with the men, paying no mind to the city behind me.  But while I was in the city, it was my playground.  I didn't waste a moment as soon as I stepped off the subway.  Everyone has their own New York.  That was my New York.

Like my reflection, the skyline was something with which I could peacefully coexist, met most often with casual indifference, and encountering only the occasional frustration.  The moments of glory were the most memorable; like my reflection dressed up for a special event, th…

Just Another Day

At 3:15 I get on the bus and take my seat. I dread the next half hour, as usual, but today I also feel kind of numb. I know as soon as Frank gets on the bus, he will kick my shins or smack my forehead on his way through the aisle. I can’t stop thinking about about Callie, though. Or her empty seat on the bus.

The morning started out badly. Callie was absent, so Frank decided to pick on those of us in the front of the bus. He stole my flute and carried it to the back, tossing it to one of his friends, an older boy. He threw it back to me as we got to school, and it hit my face. I was glad Frank didn't take it to his locker, or worse, throw it in the dumpster. That happened to another kid on our bus.

My friends who ride different buses get along fine with the 8th graders. They have fun on the way home. They always do homework or write notes or talk to each other. If I did homework on the bus, it would definitely get stolen. If I wrote a note, Frank would take it and read it in a mocki…

Cement Shoes

"So?" "Got the McLaren. It's at the warehouse." "I don't care about the car. The ring is worth twice as much." "There's a little problem. It's still on his finger." "No you didn't..." "Had to." "Where did you put him?" "East River."