No kids = selfish?

I came across this article linked from CNN today called “What’s so wrong with being selfish?”. It’s about childless people (and women, in particular) being judged by parents for choosing to not have kids. I’m sure I won’t be the only suburban SAHM to weigh in on this, but it riled me up enough that I figured I’d give it a go.

What strikes me most about this article is that the author is completely unabashed in reveling in the supposed selfishness people without kids might cite as their reasons to remain kidless. Really? People choose not to have kids because it might impede on their excessive shopping habits? Because they want to stay up all night for reasons not involving poop? Sure, I have no doubt that some people choose not to have kids because at the heart of it they just don’t feel it’s something they want to do, period. But to imply that mothers judge the motherless because they are selfish, and then to include a list of all the wonderful, selfish things they can do sans kids simply perpetuates the problem, doesn’t it?

I don’t really get why some mothers do tend to get so defensive in response to the notion that some people don’t want kids. Some, I’m sure, do miss the freedom life without kids brings. I definitely have moments when I miss all the excessive sitting around and watching movies with my husband, but for me, there were also a lot of moments of “is this it?” For us, having kids was a natural extension of our relationship. We always knew we’d love to have kids, even though we also knew full well it would be at least a temporary end to some of the things we enjoyed doing. It’s not forever, though, you know. If you loved doing XY&Z before kids, you’ll find a way to pick up XY&Z (or at least X and Z) after you have kids.

Another irony in the whole kids vs. no kids argument is that it’s one of those arguments where one side can’t clearly see the other side’s POV. I have no idea what it would be like to be my age right now without kids, or being married, or having done any number of the things I’ve done in life. Kidless people have no real idea what it’s like to have kids. I don’t know why we are so worried about it. I’m a very big “to each his own” kind of person and I’m not offended or threatened by people who don’t choose to have kids. It’s only natural that I also feel they are missing out on something amazing and irreplaceable, but that’s because I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I can’t imagine any feeling that could replace the feeling one gets from raising children, but that’s just another form of selfishness, is it not? We have kids not only because we feel we can give of ourselves to them, but also because it makes us feel good. Like any other altruistic endeavor, it’s not entirely altruistic.

Finally, the article, and the argument, so often leave out people who would love to have children but who are unable to conceive or sometimes, are unable to even adopt (gay people come to mind). I can’t imagine that pain, but we shouldn’t overlook it when we’re having this discussion.

I’m annoyed on behalf of my kidless friends who actually aren’t vapid examples of excess and who lead lives that include a mixture of selfless and selfish activies – just like parents. And I’m annoyed on behalf of mothers who are villified because the more vapid among the kidless set thinks we deem them worthless. I didn’t leave my ability to think beyond my vagina on the delivery table when I had my first kid.

Why facebook is doooomed.

I love facebook. I’ve had an account since the days when you had to be a college student, and your college had to be on the approved list. You had to have a .edu email account, and it was already addicting. By the time I had accumulated 250+ friends (and very casual acquaintances and blasts from the past), it was a daily requirement. And overall, it’s still worthwhile. It’s powerful and extremely useful when it comes to keeping up with people, for reconnecting, networking, so much so that everyone has an account these days.

And therein lies the problem. My brothers all have accounts. My in-laws. My mother, Kurt’s grandmother, various great-relatives and far-flung cousins of various degrees. People from high school and people I took one class with in college. People who wrote in one time when I was the editor of the paper and wound up with me on their gmail lists, which were used to find all their friends in the world on facebook. Hurray! Right?

Well, no. Not so much. I manage to share too much about myself online. It’s my nature. I’m overly familiar way too soon, especially online. I try not to be too over the top, but in an effort to make people feel comfortable, I tend to put myself out there in vulnerable ways to pave the way for others. It doesn’t always work and it doesn’t always translate well online. I have an odd sense of humor and generally find the funny even in the unfunny. I’d say it’s how I cope with the harsh realities of life, but really I think it’s just the way I am. Better to laugh than cry. Blah blah.

But here’s the thing. My particular personality really is lacking when it comes to a censor button online. I’m good at cooling it in person, but I don’t feel like I should have to online. Or at least I don’t wanna. It’s the one semi-public place I can rant and rave and act like an idiot, and facebook is my favorite place to do that. I love poking fun at the stupid quizzes or finding the irony in revealing my stripper name. I like sharing crass websites and making snarky comments about any number of topics. I like to do things that aren’t obnoxious, too, but those things aren’t my problem here.

This is all well and good but it becomes borderline inappropriate when facebook has suddenly become Sunday dinner at the old folks home (no offense to the “old” folks). When you wind up with a mix of family and friends (some of whom you’d never dream of bringing to Sunday dinner), something gets lost. I imagine this is even more salient for the younger, myspace transplants. I wouldn’t want to live out my awkward, weird teenage and young adult years in such a public light, but that’s just the norm now. And now, they get to share their angst and embarrassing moments with Grandma, who will inevitably post something about putting on more clothes on that latest myspace angle profile pic. Because you can’t really deny a friend request from Grandma, and you really don’t even want to, probably.

Here’s what facebook needs to do:

1. Create meaningful, easy-to-understand filters. This works great on livejournal, for instance. You can easily assign posts to various lists you’ve created. On facebook this would mean a button under every single thing you post designating which of your groups can see this particular thing. There would be some freedom in that, and frankly I don’t think Grandma wants to know about your favorite sexual position, anyway.

2. Give the option to put yourself in a filter when you sign up. Again, Grandma doesn’t want to hear about certain things, so let her choose “family member” of whoever when she’s signing up. I know they include this kind of thing in the user info space now, but I’m not sure why. “Family member” designees would automatically go into a filter.

I think it would be that simple. I think if facebook doesn’t do something, the grandmas will take over and the “key demographic” will jump ship and stick to twittering or the next thing to come around the bend. I love having my family on facebook and mostly I don’t bother censoring myself, but I definitely have stopped in my tracks many times when I’ve thought about sharing certain things there.  I’m starting to feel like my very own broadcast network. What’s the best choice for the greater good in my audience? Do I fine myself $5  million dollars if a nipple shows up on my page by accident? What if I start getting angry letters? Who will pay the bills? You get the idea. I’m probably way too worried about this, but the solution would be so simple that I don’t know why they haven’t done it already. They should really hire me on a telecommuting, 6-figure basis. That would solve everything!

And the good old days weren’t always good

And tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems…

Say what you will about Billy Joel and his soft-rock-listening pansie fans, the man can write a song!

Lately we’ve been introducing our 3-year-old to Stuff we Liked When We Were Little, with mixed success. I’m sad to report that a lot of the really fun stuff you loved as a kid was actually pretty much crap. And from my generation of kid stuff, the pickings are slim. My era is the one where product marketing and creative content collided mightily. Hence shows like He-Man, The Smurfs, Jenn & the Holograms, and the Care Bears came to exist either to promote an existing toy line or solely to introduce an upcoming toy line. It was a mixed bag, with a few notable exceptions to what mostly amounted to very poor animation and sloppy or incomplete story lines, or both. When I’m being honest about it, there isn’t a whole lot that came out in the ’80s and early ’90s in terms of TV that I really want to share with my kids.

Now, I have no doubt the generations ahead of me have their share of crap that didn’t transcend time. I don’t know enough about it to really make an educated blanket statement either way, but I suspect the ’80s stands out because TV became so incredibly pervasive during that decade, the cable TV generation.

The thing is, we are unabashed media addicts and while we don’t want to raise tater tots (my term for couch potatoes under 12), we feel there’s value to be had in good television and film (and music, but that’s a whole different post). My son is incredibly creative for a barely 3-year-old, already spending a good deal of his time creating elaborate worlds with complex characters who each have their own, awesome, voices and personalities. He’s a natural born storyteller, that one. So he really gets into a good story, whether it’s in a book or on TV. If we’re going to feed this love of his, we want what goes in to be quality stuff since he’s only going to get so much of it.

He will watch some of today’s kid stuff – your typical Blue’s Clues/Dora/Wordworld/Sesame Street/Peep fodder. He’s actually learned a lot from these shows and has been spotting “clues” (paw prints) for a couple years now. I think he’s picked up some of his story telling skill from Dora, especially. But outside the educational genre, man, the pickings are slim. Backyardigans is good, and a few others are good but a little too complex although he loves them (Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, Danny Phantom, The Fairly Oddparents), but we hit the jackpot one day when we came across a gem from our childhood, which happened to be a gem from our parents’ childhood, and shoot, maybe THEIR parents’ childhood: Looney Tunes.

Looney Tunes ROCKS. If you’ve forgotten how much it rocks, take another look. I’d gladly while away an afternoon watching Roadrunner escape Wile E. Coyote (Super Genius) or catching sly references and incredibly witty sarcasm dripping from a certain rabbit’s carrot-loving mouth. It is good stuff. I did some reading about Looney Tunes and in a nutshell, it started as Merry Melodies and has always been about introducing kids to classical music. I realized while watching some shorts a few weeks ago that many classical melodies are forever linked in my mind to scenes from Looney Tunes. The animation is great and very impressive considering the age of some of this stuff, the dialog and voice work is outstanding. On the whole I really can’t think of another series that comes close to Looney Tunes. Even the modern stuff is still great.

Here’s a couple of A’s favorites (the first one is actually Tiny Toons):

Our favorite is probably “What’s Opera, Doc?” but it seems to be effectively banned for copyright from youtube. We have it in The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Movie.

So as it turns out, some of the good old days (of TV) were good but the newer old stuff mostly wasn’t so good. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Maybe it will make more sense if you put something illegal in that pipe.

When did I become so snarky?

I used to really enjoy writing humorous essays about everyday life stuff – the kind of bread and butter you read in Magazines of Little Consequence or Redeeming Value. Fluff. It was usually somewhere between Erma Bombeck and Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I had no shame about its fluffiness. For all my sarcastic, rapid-fire one-liners, I am a sentimental, romantic and positive-leaning soul.

Or at least I was.

Lately I’ve been thinking of updating this thing with one of my typical lighthearted takes on something mundane, but everything I start to write takes a turn for the snarky. I try to write a great anecdote about A’s recent foray into the Potty Zone and I wind up making vaguely veiled jabs at know-it-all parents and their better-than-thou advice about potty training. I try to come up with something witty to say about trying to diet and realize it’s really not so funny because I haven’t had success in that area in way too long. So I go with the easy fodder – celebrity stories. But good grief, with the death toll lately I feel like an asshole poking fun, and while I have a whole elaborate theory about the cult of celebrity, it’s not really funny.

Am I getting too old to pretend to be naive enough to laugh off the woes of everyday life? Too jaded? Too PC? Or am I just in a funk? I sincerely hope it’s the latter, because if I can’t be funny anymore, my personality will consist of “grumpy” with a sprinkle of “annoyed with the world” on top. While I’ve all but abandoned the notion that I’d be X,Y, or Z in my life, I never thought I’d have to worry about joining the dark, pissed off legions of repressed housewives. Note that I am not implying or inferring that all housewives are pissed off.

I’m guessing it is just a funk, a culmination of a lot of different threads unraveling at one time. I’m trying to declutter and clean up around here in the hope that a better organized environment will help lead to a clearer head. We’re still getting settled into the house and I’ve changed my mind umpteen times about where things should live, as you do. It’s frustrating and maybe just going with a plan and finishing it will help clear my cluttered brain. There are more, deeper issues at hand but I am just private enough that you won’t get the juicy stuff here ;)

For now I am going to find that playlist of Music that Forces Me into a Good Mood and blast it heartily. Thank god my kids love music as much as I do.

Our Suburban Trajectory, or How I Abandoned My Smug Urban-Renewal Convictions

I graduated college as a “non-traditional” student – in other words, I was old compared to the traditionally aged college student. In fact, I got my BS in 2005, when I was 30. I’ll regale you with tales of what it’s like to quit your job and go back to school full time in your late 20s another time, but my point here is that I became starry-eyed and idealistic much later than most, which means I became cynical about those steadfast convictions at an alarming pace.

I wound up with a BS in Political Science and a minor in Urban & Regional Planning (also known as city planning). More on why and how later, but I was really into the ideals behind urban planning. Evil sprawl, edge cities, mixed use, the “creative class,” planned development, revitalization of the urban core, a return to meaningful public transportation, an earnest hope that we could empower the impoverished in our worst cities if only the proper principles were applied. We could change the world if only people just like us took up residence in our cities and made them better. I still can go off on a mighty tangent about what would be best for Cincinnati, and I mean it sincerely when I say I am willing to put my money where my mouth is.

…in theory, as it turns out.

We had the perfect chance to prove it. We bought our first home this spring and when we started looking, we were sure we’d wind up in the city, and heck, probably in an area that “needed people like us.” Over the Rhine, an infamously bad neighborhood in Cincinnati, has seen an influx of young professionals and families, even amidst some serious crime. Now, I’m not convinced that there are many places in the US that even enter the same plane of existence as some places in the world in terms of crime, but as far as these things go, there’s significant crime there. People are murdered there, and routinely assaulted, mugged, robbed, etc. It’s not like a war zone or a free-for-all, but heck yes it happens.

Still, we had the chance to help change some of that, or at least make a token effort. We could take our money and buy an amazing brownstone and fix it up, and be on the cusp of something…

But then I started thinking back to my childhood, as did Kurt. And while neither of us wanted exactly what we’d had growing up – Kurt’s school wasn’t great, I lived out in the country – there were certain things we definitely wanted for our kids. Being able to play outside without worry. Riding your bike down your own road. Walking over to a friend’s house. And shoot, we wanted to be able to resell the house if need be. Kurt is a newly minted lawyer and while his job seems stable now, this is a whole new career. If we did have to up and leave, we didn’t want to get stuck with trying to resell a home in a transitional neighborhood. We choose a home just outside the city limit 10 miles from downtown in a highly-ranked school system.

And I felt like a sellout at closing, and all along the way I’d throw out things like “well, this is how people wind up flocking to the suburbs,” or “look, I’m not willing to be part of the experiment…” In fact we’d been renting a place in a transitional neighborhood for over a year, and frankly that experience wasn’t helping sell us on the idea of buying in a place like that. Not that we were ever victims of any crime, but we did get homeless people knocking on the door looking for odd jobs, or panhandled getting into the car, etc. I didn’t want that life for my kids. A nice neighborhood in the city was going to be a lot pricier than a nice house in a suburb that was just as close. A whole lot of justification, but at the end of the day, that’s life. I happen to think that as a suburbanite, I still have a lot to gain from our region maintaining a strong urban core. We still do a lot of things in the city, and of course Kurt still pays a lot of money to city taxes. We’re inextricably linked to the city, as well as our new township.

So I’m conflicted about OTR, and about the recent proclamation that it contains the most dangerous area in the country. I’ve lived in a very large city and still feel quite uneasy in OTR, especially with kids. It’s a tricky thing since I want them to grow up realizing life is a LOT bigger than the back yard we’ve chosen for them. I’m hoping I will gain more confidence when we’re past this baby bird stage. Right now they are still so small and I’m all mama bear with them when it comes to stranger danger. I’m past the point of feeling I need to apologize for our choice here, but I guess I’m still feeling a little guilty.

And he’s off…

I’m officially the mom of a pre-schooler and a toddler. D just took off today. He waited until Kurt was home from work, but this financial guy was here setting up our life insurance policies and urging us to get our will in order and so on, so it was kind of surreal. Here we are in the midst of a discussion about who would take over for us if we simultaneously bit it, and suddenly D is careening across the living room like he does this all the time.

It is starting to sink in more and more that little D is going to be the last baby Hunt in our house (until grandkids, and that had better be a good long while). And now my baby is walking. I feel like I should be sadder but I’ve been acclimating to the idea for a while now. Right after we bought the house in March I had a big third kid pang, but it has passed. I love my boys a ridiculous, drunk, reckless amount, but this is enough. There are many parts of this whole mommy thing that I don’t think will ever quite jibe with me, and sometimes it’s a struggle to be as much of an archetypal mom as I feel I should. I know I’d love another baby, and a part of me would like to try for that girl, but ultimately these are not good reasons to add another person to the world and to our family. So it’s just the four of us, and it works. Mind you, I will leave it at 99.9% because there’s no telling what time will bring.

So back to that life insurance business. It makes me feel imminently doomed and not quite as secure as one might imagine. Who would take the kids if we died? Yikes. And if we set up a trust, how much money do they get when? How do you account for the difficult upbringing they’d endure after we’d just orphaned them? Would we want to stipulate in the will not to tell them about the money until the time comes? Just yikes all around. Now, most likely we aren’t going to die simultaneously. But a will is definitely in order and you’d think Mr. Lawyer would have already drafted one, but I think it freaks him out, too. At least the life insurance is in place (including the surprise blood test Saturday morning), and we finally have committed to a substantial monthly chunk going into an IRA for retirement. I do feel good about that.

Well, off to do the things I always do between 8:13 and 8:46 p.m. I’ll leave you to ponder what those things might entail.

Mommy Is Trying to Type Something

Of this 87 billion blogs available at this very second, why should you read this one? What wisdom do you have to glean from your average American SAHM (aka “housewife”)? Turns out, the list is endless! Endless! But here are 10, um 5, … Here are some theories I’d like to explore in these pages:

1. The New Mom Honeymoon Myth – while the honeymoon length will vary from mom to mom, one thing is for certain: it will end. The person you were before kids is still in there, for better or worse, and sooner or later she will reemerge. Maybe she will find you in the cereal aisle while you’re shushing the 2-year-old screaming “Shit!” at the top of his lungs, or maybe you’ll realize you’re never going to outgrow poop jokes. The sooner you accept it, the happier you’ll be. The myth is that there was ever a honeymoon in the first place – I don’t remember scrubbing baby poop out of my favorite shirt on my real honeymoon.

2. Screw All the Theories Theory – Every “theory” on parenthood/mommydom in every form is based on 1 of 2 things: guilt, or self-indulgence. You’re doing too much, or too little. You’re doing it wrong. You can do no wrong. My theory is much more clear cut (and, as an added bonus, combative): All the Theories Can Bite Me.

3. Humility Comes at 3 a.m. (between the midnight Breastmilk Buffet and 5 a.m. Shriek-Induced Cardiac Episode). You do suck at this. Everybody sucks at this.

4. Dads Are Totally Screwed. Devoted, involved dads get little respect. So little is expected, performance wise, that they are often patted on the head if they make it home with the kids and no one is on fire. At the same time, we expect a 50-50 deal when it comes to discipline, chores, education, and 90% of the “guy work” is still expected from them. An ongoing, unexpressed battle in our house that we both try to fight with little success. One more example of everyone in this culture trying to be everything for everybody. Where are the lines? Where should they even be drawn? The answer has to lie somewhere between June Cleaver and Jon & Kate Plus 8 but damned if I’ve found it.

5. That screaming you hear is my inner non-mommy trying to get out. I believe and embrace the idea that moms harbor some resentment no matter how well-adjusted they seem. It’s natural, and it’s a challenge to overcome. I think it takes several years to give yourself completely over to the idea of motherhood, and that the older you are when you become a first time mom, the longer it takes to accept your new reality. I’ve been doing this, and not much else, for 3 years now, and only now do I feel like I’m “me” again (and “me” has come to mean something new).

6. Pros/Cons lists are an elaborate self-manipulation with a predictable result: justification. And I’m OK with that. In fact, the older I get, the more OK I am with just about anything that results in relative peace.

7. The paradox of living in an extremely conservative neighborhood as hippie, atheist liberals. Why “Mrs. Hunt” (aka “Kurt’s wife”) doesn’t go to church and how on earth we came up with morals anyway.

8. Other non-theoretical, non-psuedo-philosophical, non-parenting, non-kid-related rantings. Reviews about local things. Tales from the road. Notes from my surely comical attempt at freelance magazine writing. Maybe even a recipe or two. Smug musings about how much better life is now that we aren’t living a college existence. Rants about friends and family with careful changes to slightly mask true identities. Funny stuff I find online. Music you should hear and media you should watch. A lot of needless cursing. Stuff about my cats. Pictures. Bad knock-knock jokes. Other stuff.

I am Sarah. Read all about it.

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