Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Children

In my life, I am often swept along by whatever is going on around me.  The desires of others, the circumstances that simply appear, opportunities that pop up and I can't resist.  It has been perhaps a little rare that I truly sit down and make a conscious decision about choices that make my life shift dramatically.  When I do, I often find myself in paralysis, unable to move forward because I like to keep options open as long as possible just to see what turns up.

Over the last several months, I have been deeply considering my life.  What is it right now?  How I am contributing to the world?  Where do I seem to be going, and do I like it?  Who do I surround myself with, and how do I fit best with all of these beings?  It has been a time of profound insight, and hasn't always been very pretty to look at.

One of the decisions that has been particularly hard to come by has been the one surrounding children.  Do I have them or not?  When should that happen?  What would it mean to me and my life?  How about Derek?  And, perhaps most importantly, do I even want kids?

This life-altering and life-creating decision has been fraught with anxiety for me.  I feel the longing of my husband for children, and I have felt scared because I have not been ready to have them.  I hear my grandparents asking about great grandchildren, and Derek's mother telling us that a psychic told her we'd have two kids some day.  All around me my friends are having babies, babies are showing up at work even though they shouldn't be, and I have felt completely confused in my reactions to all of these events.

I was starting to get annoyed with people making the comment that there is never a good time to have a kid.  I took it as a suggestion that I am procrastinating too much and making excuses to not have children that hold no weight with anybody else.  Even Derek has used this phrase with me while we discussed children, when I was expressing how I didn't feel I could be a mom and run my studio at the same time right now.

A large river seemed to spring up in my head between my business and artistic pursuits on the one bank, and a family with kids running around on the other.  I could see how it would be nice to be old and have children and grandchildren to share life with, and in some ways really would like that.  I also in no way could imagine having children as I am right now and still be able to put my energies into my work, which is really important to me and enjoyable.

I fear in many respects that I would resent a child for taking me away from tattooing, from the studio I worked so hard with others to create.  I fear choosing a child's well being over my own (and I know I would choose that), and watching as my involvement in the business I have created slips away, and I become irrelevant.   I fear wanting to travel or go anyplace and hearing shrieking children instead of peace and quiet.  And I simultaneously fear becoming old without laughing at a dinner table with kids of my own, or sharing the outdoors with them, instead only having my paintings and tattoos on other people to share or be a legacy of my instant on the planet.

This is tough stuff!  I have been on the fence about children from the beginning.  And as I grow older, I know that I only have another decade or so in which I could have my own kid.  Derek already worries about being too old to keep up with a child as they grow up, too.  My being digs in and says NO, don't have kids, you don't really want them right now.  And I argue with it and say, but what about Derek, who would be such a great dad?  What about if I get too old and can't have them anymore and I miss this opportunity?

If I listen to my deepest self, I come to the conclusion that I really do not want to be a parent.  At this time, which is the only time I have control over or access to, I do not want to get pregnant or raise a kid.  And so, it's OK to make that choice, to not have a child instead of continually acting as though maybe someday I will change my mind, probably next year, because it is always next year that I will change my mind. . . and then I never do.  I feel badly that I have been saying "maybe" and "probably yes next year" for eight years or so now.  Even as I say no, I say yes for later, and it is causing more pain than simply accepting that I don't actually want children.  I can see how the yes is my way of delaying the choice until I can't make it anymore and will sigh in relief and blame my withered body for not being able to have children instead of my own spirit consciously choosing not to.  In my fear, I figure if my body fails I am blameless, but if I choose actively to remain a non-parent then I may be judged unworthy, or foolish, or selfish.  But really, choosing to not choose is cowardly.  It means really I choose no, but am tricking everyone including myself into believing that very soon I could say yes.  It's exhausting and awful.

So I had the discussion with Derek to let him know that my initial response of not wanting children is still primary.  I really love my life.  I like what I am doing.  I love the people I spend time with.  I love him.  I am enjoying filling my life with my work, with art, with reading and philosophy.  I am enjoying spending time out in nature, going to the zoo, seeing art at auctions with him or at galleries and museums.  I don't have a void where children would live.  My life feels full already.  I don't feel a need to have children, and I don't want them.  I apologized for always telling him this with the caveat of, but in a couple of years, that might all change, and actually, we could flip everything upside down with my work and once it takes off properly it can function without me and then I could have kids. . .  I can see how this is creating false hope in him that I actually do want kids and simply don't have the means to have them now because work isn't really solid.  The truth is, it isn't work that is the limiting factor.  That's an excuse.  It is me.

And he is quite sad accepting my words.  And I am, too.  Even having chosen not to have children, I feel a loss.  I feel that I have crossed that river and am clearly on one side of it now.  My time of swimming in it, and keeping both options open is ending.  I feel sad for the life story I am losing of having descendants and going to music recitals and graduations and teaching someone how to drive.  Part of me wants to jump back in the river and stay in the middle, where those things are still possible on one shore.  But most of me is just sad, but happy to finally get out of the damn water and move on with my life.  The sadness will pass.  It's not the end of the world.  In fact, it might even be the beginning of one.

As with all major decisions that forever impact the rest of one's life, I am scared of choosing wrong.  Scared because once the decision is made, I'll never know what my life would have been like if I chose the other way.  But, the only way to really make a great life for oneself, I believe, is to really throw one's spirit in wholeheartedly into the life they actually have.  I need to stop swimming around and get out of the river, and start to build my life knowing that the longer I wait to get started on living, the less time I will have to enjoy it.

Another great point that was made to me is that decisions can be changed.  It is just important to make them in the first place.  Otherwise nothing can happen.  So here I am, with a decision.  I feel a little bit empty.  I am not sure what to do now.  But it is a lot less anxious than the indecision.  I'm sure plenty of opportunities will arrive to fill in the emptiness.  Something must fill up the space where all those unchosen opportunities resided.  I'm looking forward to seeing what turns up.

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