Essays

More Advice To A Parent (from a Continued Non-Parent)

Dear Parent,

So, here we are again.

This letter is going to be different. I’m in the strange position of writing to someone new, someone I never thought I’d have to write to. In my last letter, the addressee(s) were people who had previous children or who I suspect would always have children deep down. This time, I’m writing to you — one of my oldest, closest friends — who revealed their State of Family in a social media way. Apparently, I was the only person shocked because again, I don’t have the Social Media Big Three and immediately people began expressing what a good parent you would make. “They’re so loving!” our mutuals decried. “So patient and kind! So good with kids, too! Can’t wait to see what theirs turn out like!”

That gave me pause.

Let me start off like the last letter and say, congratulations! This time, thank you for reproducing without sharing the details of your sex life or your partner’s genitals with me. Although, it HAS been a while since we talked — there could have been times that you reached out to me to tell me something. When did you change your mind about having kids? Was it around the time I had my tubes out? Before? After? At anytime you could have reached out to say, “hey, we’re expecting a baby! Thought you should know!”

Not that it’s any of my business but…aren’t we friends?

Like I said in my last letter, fewer people are bugging me about having children. Now that I’m in my mid-30’s, no one cares. Also, the older you get, the easier it is to accept (and enjoy!) that the world does not revolve around you. Whether it’s having children, buying a house, having a career, or getting married, the mile markers in our Millennial lives are now in flux due to lack of money, lack of resources, or lack of interest. We don’t have the capacity to do what our Boomer parents did and it’s freeing! We can choose our choices! We can ignore social norms! Tradition is over; long live chaos and disorder!

I digress.

I’m writing to you because I’m surprised. Shocked, even. You were a friend who told me they did not want children. We used to talk a lot back in the day about how much children annoyed you. I would say, “It’s not that they annoy me, it’s just that I don’t feel any need to have them.” And you said, “No, I straight up hate them!” They’re messy. Loud. Expensive. They take up time that you’d rather have with your spouse. Pets, you said, are better. Cars, you said, were better. Close friends and family, you said, were better.

What changed?

I’m reminded of that absolutely terrible, nihilistic movie Friends with Kids starring absolutely wonderful actors Adam Scott and Jennifer Westfeldt. In the film, Jason (Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt) are friends who, despite no romantic interest in each other, decide to have a child together “to get it out of the way” as they see their friends coupling off and starting families. Was this your thought process, too? Did you think, hell, might as well just get it out of the way to fit in with our couple-friends? What about that scene in How to be Single, where Leslie Mann looks into a baby’s eyes for thirty seconds, and despite having a great career, a great apartment, and seemingly plenty of freetime, decides to give that all up for a baby. Did you see that movie and think, gosh, I haven’t looked at the right toddler just yet. Maybe I need to. Did you run a few new calculations in Excel formulas and the numbers turned out lower than you expected? Did you and the other half sit in one of those baby-predicting photo booths in the mall, get a picture you hated, and think nah, we can do better?

Or, did you simply…change your mind?

I’m sorry. I’m being an asshole. I don’t like when people question my choice to not have children, so bombarding you with questions about why you changed your mind is hypocritical of me. Tacky, too — childrearing is the default status in the world. It’s not wrong to want children anymore than it’s wrong for me to not want them. What’s wrong is judgement, and I’m guilty of that right now.

I’m also sad. I’ve lost you.

The three most difficult transition periods in one’s lifetime are the following: singlehood to married life; couplehood to childrearing; and living until…well, death. All of my transition periods have been far out of sync from everyone elses. I got married young, so while my friends were out partying and looking to hookup, I was home with my spouse living a fairly domesticated life early on. Then my single friends got married (and divorced and married again) and most moved away. Of the married ones I’ve stayed in contact with, almost all of them have gone on to have children and turned their focus on raising their families. Now, I have one less friend to talk to on Friday nights, or person I can text out of the blue for random bullshit.

So next up: death, right?

Ugh, I am making this all about me and my depression again. But I knew the consequences of not having children, just like you knew the consequences of having them, right? We knew this would be an end to our fun — yes, end, not change. Let’s not sugarcoat this because it is what it is. I’ve had other friends with kids assure me (themselves) that our fun lives would not change because they had kids! We would still have girls’ nights! We would go out and they would get a babysitter! GUESS WHAT HAPPENED? NONE OF THAT. Our lives as we know it are going to end. Are we still friends? Of course! Just, not the way we were. And that’s why I’m miserable and lonely and miss you all over again.

Fuck. All about me again. Let’s talk about you.

You are going to be a great parent. Despite of what you said about hating kids, (I will not let you live that down) you’re going to be so loving and fun. You’re going to be a “cool” parent who changes their kid on the floor and doesn’t fuck around with butt-wipe warmers. You’re also going to understand parenting in a way that most people do not. That is, you’re going to play games and encourage all sorts of good behaviors in your kid. If this kid wants to play an instrument, you’ll let them. If the kid wants to paint or sculpt, you’ll let them. If the kid thinks that slapping together a couple of handfuls of M&Ms and Rice Krispies and marshmallows makes a great treat, you’re going to say, “Hey, this is a good start! How ’bout we try something else next time?” And the kid won’t get discouraged, they’ll just add chocolate on the next go and call it a trail mix.

I wish you all the best in this new adventure. There is no tragedy in you having children, my friend. I do not mourn your exercising your bodily autonomy. I only mourn the loss of our friendship, which I was not prepared for nor was I expecting. And while neither of us are going anywhere and we’re both very much alive, it feels like we’re leaving something behind. I’ll be here when you need me. Just remember my advice from last time.

Now. I’m going to do whatever I want because I don’t have kids.

Author & Bi-Feminist-Killjoy. Occasionally has something interesting to say. The importance is debatable. Your mileage may vary. Books: "Icarus" and "A Bitter Spring"