When Everyone Else Is Married with Children
Baby after baby was born. I watched as my friends popped out children left and right. This went on as a relationship I was in slowly disintegrated and I got laid off again. I continued to feel like something was wrong with me, that I was a freak. That my world had moved on without me and I was going to be left behind. I thought that once all my friends had children, they wouldn’t have any desire to spend time with me. That their children would become their world and I wouldn’t be part of it.
Because I wasn’t working at the time, I got to see firsthand what it was like to have a newborn. My friends were home on maternity leave and often needed help. I saw that when you have a new baby, your life no longer belongs to you. Everything is about your child. My friends no longer slept and could not be away from their babies long enough to take a shower. My best friend would often call and beg me to come watch her baby so that she could brush her teeth. I found it all very new and strange.
Selfishly, the more I saw of these situations, the more relieved I felt. Yes, my friends all said it was worth it to have their babies. That having a child gave them a feeling that could be matched by no other. At the time, I didn’t understand this. I still don’t. My highly intelligent, fun, competent friends were reduced to zombie-like, unshowered, sleepwalking, milk dispensers. Their every thought and every move centered around their babies. They could barely function. The more I saw of this kind of life, the less interested I was in having it as my own. From my point of view, it looked pretty terrible.
Their Lives Revolve Around Their Children
This was the start of the era I currently live in. My friends’ lives still revolve completely around their children. The kids have schedules for when they get up, eat, nap, take baths, and go to bed. Some of my friends are loose with these schedules, some are unyieldingly rigid. What this means for me is that my friends can no longer leave their houses after dark. Some of them even think that 5:00 is too late to go out for dinner. The way I see it, their lives have been exchanged for their children’s lives. They are no longer allowed to be the same people. The more I see this happen, the more I like my life as it is.
While this is obviously fine with my friends and they seem to love it, to me, it looks awful. I am able to do whatever I want, whenever I want. My friends are shackled. They can’t do things like go to the Fourth of July fireworks or see a movie. They no longer have interesting stories about things they have done. Instead, they have news about playgroups and new teeth. Everything is about the children, all the time. Their fun and enjoyment of life seems to be only vicarious. If their kid goes to the playground and likes the slide, then it is viewed as fun for the parent. This makes little sense to me.
I want to keep having my own fun. To go down the slide by myself and enjoy it. I want nights filled with deep sleep, not screaming. I want to go to dinner at 7:00 like a normal person. I don’t want to spend all my money on day care. Seeing how other people’s lives completely change when they get married and have children makes me cling to my own life. I appreciate it the way it is – filled with mundane and experiences that belong to me.
My friends did not leave me behind when they got married and had children. I still see them a lot. Now though, I have to go to their houses and wait while they put their children to bed. With some of these friends, I participate in their bedtime rituals – reading books and helping the kids take baths. Instead of an outsider, I feel like part of their family. On the other hand, I have made new friends who do not have children. Some of them are married, some are single. These are friends who can go out after dark, friends who can have direct fun instead of vicarious fun. Friends who can decide to leave the house when and if they feel like it.
I feel lucky to have so many people in my life. Seeing firsthand what it is like to get married and have kids made me see that it’s not the life I want for myself right now. From my point of view, it looks excessively difficult. While there is still societal pressure to want these things, I don’t feel the same sort of pressure to have them. I don’t worry that I’m a freak. Someday I would like to get married, but I’m not sure that I will ever want children. For now, my life is fine the way it is.