Sunday, June 22, 2008

Another One Bites the Dust

Recently, my husband and I learned that yet another one of our friends is now pregnant. This will make her the third new mother in what used to be our very tight-knit social circle.

I'm still reeling from how quickly all of our friends suddenly decided to have children. I'm 28, which is not exactly a ripe old age to have children for people in New York. Many here don't even marry and settle down until their thirties. So I really was pretty shocked when our friends all suddenly started breeding. We all got married in 2006, and three out of five couples have now procreated, counting the newly expecting one. I never expected it to happen so soon.

I can't even fathom how my friends could want children at this young an age -- or maybe it's just that I can't fathom why they want them at all. I suppose 28 would not be an unreasonable age to have kids, if I were actually planning on having them ever. But the sudden divide between my friends and me has just made it all the more clear to me that my husband and I really are different from them, and that we're choosing something different.

Don't get me wrong -- we've still got plenty of friends with no kids to relate to. Our best friends, the one couple besides us who's held off so far, do plan on having children, but not for a few more years at least. And we've got a bunch of more casual friends with no children yet, some of whom aren't even married. I'm just shocked at how quickly the rest of our friends jumped headfirst into parenthood. One day we thought we had a ton in common with them, and the next day we discovered we now have almost nothing in common.

Oh well... that's the way it goes, I guess.

Happy Birthday To CC...

Childfree Corner is one year old today! Thanks to all who have been reading and continue to do so. Although I don't always respond, please know that it's truly been a great thing for me to read the comments you leave on this blog and know I'm not alone in my thoughts. I hope that reading my posts makes you feel the same way.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Gearing Up for the Annual Family Reunion

Every year, my entire family on my father's side gathers together at my grandparents' lake house in upstate New York. Longtime readers of this blog may remember my post about this last year. We swim, waterski, drink, and build fires and generally have a great time together. However, lately it's also become the time of year when I reflect most on my decision not to have children, and think about it with the most certainty and gratitude.

Not being a fan of kids generally, I don't spend much time around them. But every year at the lake, I interact with my three young cousins, children of my aunt and uncle. They have autistic twin sons who are now 7, and a non-autistic daughter, who is 4.

As terrible as it sounds, my aunt and uncle are my childed cautionary tale. Their children are very sweet, in particular their daughter, who I think is the friendliest, brightest, most well-behaved little girl of her age that I've ever met. And I know they love their kids.

But from the outside looking in, their life looks like hell to me. As my father put it, "they just can't get out from under this crushing burden." My aunt and uncle employ a full-time babysitter for their children, so effectively there are 3 adults to 3 children in their house. Even then, though, they get close to zero time for themselves.

They don't even have time to take care of their own health, which is really important to me. My aunt's never been skinny, but the years have not been good to her -- I was shocked the last time I saw her in a bathing suit. My uncle, too, bemoaned how out of shape he's gotten when I saw him a couple of weeks ago. They feed their kids things like soda and chicken fingers and pretty much seem to eat that way themselves as well whenever I see them eating.

Please understand that I'm not judging them. I understand how tough their lives are, and that circumstances are driving them to this. It's for that exact reason that I'm posting about them here.

No one who has children ever knows if they will end up in a similar situation. My aunt and uncle did not even know until their sons were a few years old that they had special needs. And observing them, I just can't bring myself to take that big a gamble in life.

I feel bad when we see them, because my husband and I live such carefree lives. I feel bad at the lake when we relax as they work their asses off taking care of their children. And I feel bad writing this post about them. But it is what it is. I know my fellow childfrees will understand how I feel.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Finding Purpose Without Children

Some people feel that children give their life more purpose, more meaning. Hats off to them. Truth is, though, we don't need children to do this for us.

I've never really felt that my life lacked meaning. I have a demanding career, wonderful husband, large group of friends, and lots of hobbies and interests to keep me busy. If one is content with enjoying life, one really needn't look for purpose or meaning in it. However, as everyone knows, adding volunteer work to your life is also a great option if you want to do something meaningful with your time.

Recently I've been seriously considering volunteering for the Samaritans of New York, a suicide prevention hotline. Although my husband and I are in a majorly busy phase of life right now (we're moving, and don't have a lot of extra time), I would really like to make time to begin doing this sometime in the next few months, perhaps in the beginning of 2009.

The job is demanding. The Samaritans make clear that their organization is a professional crisis counseling hotline, and that volunteers need to make a serious commitment: 60+ hours of training, followed by a 6-month commitment to 3 5-hour shifts per month plus one weekday (Sun-Thurs) overnight shift per month. I work a normal Monday-Friday day job with pretty long hours as it is, so that's a lot for me. But I really want to do it because it seems like it would be very rewarding, and I think I would be good at it.

To me, making the time for something like this in my life would have way more meaning than making the time to raise some kid. Raising kids, in my mind, is not giving back to the community. This is. And need I even say that I wouldn't have time to do this if I had a baby to take care of?

Just some musings. If you've ever done something similar, I'd love to hear from you, as well as hear about any other volunteer work you do.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Memo to Moms: Don't Take My Work Away

It's finally happened. For the first time, I have been personally affected by bias against the childfree in the workplace. But not in the way you might think.

Usually, the childfree complain that they get stuck with all the work, because moms and dads are trotting out early to go to their kids' soccer games, missing work when their kids get sick, or getting off weekend duty scot-free. However, in this case, my colleague and I are actually having work taken away from us.

Let me explain. I am, as I've posted before, a lawyer. I specialize in trademark law, but my firm as a whole does mostly patent litigation. Patent litigations are very intense and require long hours over many months and years of work.

Trademark work, while not necessarily easier, is more contained. It's easier to regulate one's hours, and easier to customize for a person who wants to, say, work only part-time, or be assured of going home at 5 pm.

That's not why I do this work; I do it because I love it, and so does the one other associate here who specializes in trademark. But you see where this is going, right? Certain mommies on the patent side have now looked over at what we have and decided that they want it.

So a huge new trademark client just came in for us. Of course I can't reveal the name of the client, but it's an extremely well known brand whose work we will now be handling. This work should have been split between me and my other trademark colleague.

But instead, while I'll get a small chunk of it, the lion's share of this work is going to a mommy on the patent side who wants off of her litigations. She's a patent litigator, and came to the firm as one. But that work doesn't fit a family lifestyle. So she's taking ours. As I said, I'll get a small chunk. My colleague will be left out in the cold completely.

Unfair? You bet. I'm hopping mad. But this is the way it works in childfree life.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Sex Factor

Last night I finally got to see the "Sex and the City" movie. Yes, I loved it. As a longtime fan and New Yorker, I was in heaven. But on a more serious note, it got me thinking about one of the major reasons I have decided to remain childfree: sex. I suppose this contains spoilers.

In the movie, Miranda and Steve are having a series of problems because, what with the kid, their full-time jobs, and Steve's mother being in a home, they haven't had sex for six months. Yes, you read that right. As a childfree person, I cannot comprehend this. I wanted to know: was this really what having kids led to? My curiosity led me to do some research on the Internet when I got home.

Apparently, Miranda and Steve's predicament isn't all that uncommon. I learned via my Google search that 15 to 20 percent of all married couples today are in "sexless marriages," defined by the experts as those where sex occurs 10 or fewer times per year. Per year?! For those keeping score at home, that's less than once a month. The average among the rest of married couples is 68.5 times per year, a little more than once a week. Not surprisingly, I'm sure, to readers of this blog, many of those in "sexless marriages" attribute their failures to having had children.

This really put things in perspective for me. My husband and I average about twice a week lately, and I'd still like that number to be a little bit higher. I get upset if we haven't had sex for a week or two. How do people survive going one to two whole months?

I don't think I ever want to find out.