Open Letter to My Friends With Kids

I’m glad you had your babies. I’m glad good people are raising the next generation. Your children are beautiful and special and I enjoy watching them play with you and take their first steps and say profound things at bedtime.

Sometimes I’m annoyed because it seems like some of you have lost your identity and spend all your time posting photos of your children, but then again I’m sure I annoy a lot of people with my endless photos of our cats and our garden — not to mention my #365feministselfie project.

I am often angry at the relentless messages overt and covert that you’re not a true grown-up unless you have a kid, and especially if you’re a woman, since we all know that women are basically walking uteri with no other purpose in life (thanks Ted Cruz!) I’m angry that these messages are directed at me  more now that my partner is a man. I’m angry at the way the GLBT community (especially the “good queers” among us) has assimilated itself into mainstream society because I used to be able to avoid the whole marriage-plus-kids giftstravaganza that the single and childless always pay for and never benefit from. I’m angry that my own struggles and challenges and need for time off from work aren’t considered important because I don’t have kids.

And perhaps most of all, I miss you, friends who never have time to hang out anymore because of your tiny new besties, who really aren’t all that friendly or very good conversationalists. Sure, they love some of the people in our social circle. But those people tend to be other parents, because they’re all on the same time schedule. The older I get, the scarcer my childless (or child-free, if I want to sound obnoxious) friends become. And the more I value them.

For years now I’ve been trying to think of a way to express the complicated feelings that arise as photos of my friends’ children saturate Facebook. I’m 42 and have made the decision not to have children. A variety of factors went into that decision, and most of them are nobody’s business but mine. But let’s just say that I’m doing a major public service by not passing on my genes.

Sometimes I’m really really sad that I’ll never pass through that magic doorway into parenthood. In general, I’m relieved that I get to live in peace and quiet and that most of the poop in our house lands in a litter box or a toilet. As a wise person once pointed out, there is more than one way to fulfill the generative instinct. I’ve chosen to channel most of it into creative endeavors — and, when possible, being a cool auntie.

I often wonder what it’s going to be like for me as I get older and sicker without children of my own to care for me and help me navigate our shitty elder care and health care systems. Congratulations, parent friends. Your children’s college tuition might ruin your chances for retirement, but chances are good you’ll be able to guilt them into looking after you in your old age. I’ll be living in a VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER.

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