I'm the first one to admit that I had kids and settled down pretty early.
My first was born when I was 21 and my second when I was 25. I got married before my friends, did the baby thing before my friends, and I never thought it would change our relationship.
Here's what I wish I'd told them.
Dear Single, Childless (By Choice) Friends:
It's not you, it's me.
Well, actually it's both of us, but let's pretend I'm the one to blame here. It seems to work best that way.
When we speak on the phone, please don't tell me that "kids are loud," or "kids are annoying," or "ugh, they're just so ... loud, can't you stop them?" I'm aware that kids are loud, obnoxious, and annoying, but I love the shit out of them.
When I agree with you that "kids are loud, obnoxious, and annoying," I don't mean that to be an open invitation for you to tell me why you don't want to have children. I get it -- you don't want kids. You don't like kids. I respect that. So please, show me an ounce of respect for my choice TO have kids.
When I ask how things are going by you, I do want an answer -- I'd love some contact with the outside world, which, with three kids, I don't often get. It's interesting to me to hear about the things you do. When I ask this, I am actually looking for an answer. I am not:
- Trying to tell you to get married
- Trying to tell you to pop out kids
- Begging you to tell me why your life is better than mine
While we're on the topic, I need to reinforce that I do not actually care if you have kids. I do not care if you do not like children and I do not care if you get married, buy a house, get fat, and pop out a couple kids. I appreciate and respect that you like the single life.
In return, however, I'd like to ask that you show some respect for my choices. Certainly (as I am told time and again), you do not wish to go down the road I am traveling -- that is fine. But, I have also chosen to not complain about the road you're on. I've not once implied that you should have kids, that marriage is (always) awesome, or that living in the suburbs is all that one can ever dream to achieve.
Marriage is hard work, sometimes so hard I can barely form the words to explain it. Raising children, while they are the tiny loves of my life, isn't always particularly rewarding. And the suburbs may have oodles of parking, but it's also boring here. I think it's something in the water.
Actually, I would like to be able to tell you about all that I do. I'm a writer now (far cry from the medical student I was, eh?) and I run a non-profit organization to reduce the stigmas of rape, trauma, mental illness, child loss, and other dark things. I'm pretty proud of what I do, even if the results of my efforts involve sweet kind emails rather than raises and company parties.
When I tell you that I "can't meet you at the bar in the city -- an hour away -- at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night," it's not because I don't want to see you. In fact, it has so little to do with you that it's almost absurd. By 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, even if I've managed a power nap and haven't done any major house chores, I'm tired. No, that's not right -- I'm EXHAUSTED.
There will come a day when this isn't the case, but I have three kids, 10 and under, who require a lot of, well, work. Trust me, I'd love more than anything to see you and hang out. I just ... I can't.
Aunt Becky (your boring breeder friend)