Home Alone

When was the last time you spent a night alone in your own home?

Recently, my husband took our three children to visit his mother in New Jersey. I drew up a list of 100 things to do, like clean the playroom, organize the kids' clothes, catch up on e-mail and bills, have coffee with a new friend and get some work done. As they drove away, I felt like cheering. I ran back inside, cleaned up the kitchen and family room (silently chanting and it's gonna stay clean for 48 hours!), put on some jazz music and breathed a huge, decade-long sigh of relief. I realized it had been almost 10 years since I'd spent a night alone in my own home. I'd been away -- on business trips or to visit a relative with a new baby. My husband has spent many nights alone, on business trips or during times I took the kids on vacations he couldn't attend. But since I've been a mom, I've never spent a night alone in my own house.

Time alone: It's an ingredient of having balance in your life. But it's something few moms, working or at-home, ever get. In fact, many moms I know crave being at work because it's a substitute for being alone -- replete with long stretches of relief from incessant requests for another glass of milk, assistance in the bathroom or with homework and the refereeing that is intrinsic to motherhood. And I'll never forget reading a stay-at-home mom's advice in a woman's magazine for keeping her sanity: A few times a year she spends a Friday night at a motel near her house, painting her toenails, watching tv, and talking on the phone (uninterrupted!) with her friends.

What do you do to find time alone? How much solitude do you need to stay balanced?

And here's my ending: After two hours alone, the house felt so quiet and empty and I missed my family so much that I called my husband and asked him to hold up the phone so I could hear my children fighting in the background.

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  October 9, 2006; 7:15 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts
Previous: Choices | Next: No Kids For Me


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zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 8:39 AM

My respites are (1) my commute -- you rarely hear me complain about traffic b/c my commute time is my alone time. No Dan Zanes CD, no Wheels on the Bus, no Where is Thumbkin, just whatever I want to listen to with NO complaining! (2) I also run. It keeps me sane and helps me keep up with my 2 three-year olds. (3) I can't believe I'm typing this, but the grocery is also a respite for me to be by myself, wander the aisles, no squabbling or squealing. I go at night after the kids are in bed and while I don't always like to go b/c I'm often exhausted, it sometimes serves as a bit of "me" time.

Posted by: twin mom | October 9, 2006 9:34 AM

See, this is exactly why I don't think I'll ever be a parent. I can't imagine a worse hell than *never* being able to have any time alone. The idea of having those needy little things crawling all over you all the time and demanding and demanding and demanding ... never being able to have a moment to yourself to sit quietly or read the newspaper or even go to the bathroom.

I don't care how "sweet" it is when they make you a picture at school or say mama for the first time or whatever. Still ... ugh! I don't see how people can stand it.

Posted by: Liz | October 9, 2006 9:39 AM

This is why some of us work. 10 hours a day, no kids.

Posted by: to Liz | October 9, 2006 9:57 AM

This is why some of us work. 10 hours a day, no kids. Helps me deal with the lack of privacy/self-determination when I get home. Don't know how I'd cope if they were nearby 24/7.

Posted by: to Liz | October 9, 2006 9:57 AM

Ahhh, Liz but the rewards DO outweigh the disadvantages but only for some people. If you feel that you aren't cut out to be a parent - more power to you. Not everybody should be parents, and there are too many that are parents that shouldn't be.

But as children get older they do get more independent and once they hit the sleepover and camping stage they will be away at times. My daughter is 10 and I know in a couple of years she won't want to be anywhere near me so I am trying to enjoy this time now that she wants me around.

-E

Posted by: librarianmom | October 9, 2006 9:58 AM

Last year, when me husband asked my what I wanted for my birthday, I said, "A night at home, alone, by myself with a glass of wine, a DVD and a delivered pizza!" He started to laugh and then, seeing the look on my face, said, "You're serious, aren't you?"

Unfortunately, I did not get that gift for my birthday and am still waiting (6 years and counting) for a night alone in my own home. Some would think such a wish means we don't love our families, but that's not the case, at all. Just a little "me" time in my own space would be much appreciated.

The only "alone" time I get is when dear hubby us at work and dear daughter is at school ... but them I'm talking with editors and writing, so I don't think that counts.

If only I could have a little alone time to de-clutter my space -- even if it only stays that way for a day! And I agree with Twin Mom -- the grocery store alone is at least an hour (give or take) when I don't have to parent anyone!

http://punditmom1.blogspot.com

Posted by: PunditMom | October 9, 2006 10:01 AM

To librarianmom:

I want to say something without sounding defensive or rude, but I think it's an important point to make.

When people (not just you ... anyone) say things like "you aren't cut out to be a parent" that, to me, is demeaning.

I get what you're saying to me -- that it's good that I know myself well enough to make a smart decision about parenthood -- and I appreciate it.

But the problem is not that I'm "not cut out to be a parent". That makes it sound like I'm less capable or simply less valuable or "good" than the woman next door with 3 kids. I am certainly capable of parenting if I want to, and I was raised to know that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I just *choose* not to have kids.

I don't think you meant to sound judgemental, but when people use that kind of language it does make me feel judged.

Posted by: to librarianmom | October 9, 2006 10:06 AM

To librarianmom:

I want to say something without sounding defensive or rude, but I think it's an important point to make.

When people (not just you ... anyone) say things like "you aren't cut out to be a parent" that, to me, is demeaning.

I get what you're saying to me -- that it's good that I know myself well enough to make a smart decision about parenthood -- and I appreciate it.

But the problem is not that I'm "not cut out to be a parent". That makes it sound like I'm less capable or simply less valuable or "good" than the woman next door with 3 kids. I am certainly capable of parenting if I want to, and I was raised to know that I can do anything I put my mind to.

I just *choose* not to have kids.

I don't think you meant to sound judgemental, but when people use that kind of language it does make me feel judged.

Posted by: Liz | October 9, 2006 10:07 AM

Sitting in a little rowboat
drifting in the middle of a quiet lake
fishing at 7am
produces a serenity of the mind that is priceless.

Like Leslie, after 2 hours I wonder what the kids are doing, how they're keeping, and check on them. But when I am away from work for 2 hours, even 2 days, I never long for the office, wonder how the staff is doing or check on them. I guess that just tells you where my heart is.

Posted by: TexFisherMAN | October 9, 2006 10:09 AM

Liz-

I think parentless people tend to think that the "negatives" of parenting last a lifetime. The diapering and toddler years are only a small part of a much larger picture. I think this article from Slate describes it well at least for me:

http://www.slate.com/id/2143659/fr/rss/

My husband is very good about giving me alone time when I need it or ask for it. He is very good about accomodating me. I'm extroverted by nature so I don't need as much alone time as an introvert would, but I still like to slip out to get a manicure or just roam the aisles of Target by myself.

Posted by: Cassandra | October 9, 2006 10:11 AM

My son (3) stayed overnight at my mom's house a few weeks ago and I was at first happy to have time to clean up, take a bubble bath, read, etc., but ultimately had a lousy night's sleep because I missed him. I totally understand why you called to hear their voices, Leslie. ;)

Posted by: Meagan | October 9, 2006 10:12 AM

North Korea just tested a nuke, and you're talking about this?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 10:13 AM

Liz, don't you mean you choose not to have "things"?

Posted by: N. Picker | October 9, 2006 10:13 AM

Liz, you think it sounds insulting to say you aren't cut out to be a parent? Well, look at what you wrote in your first post! Such nasty, bitter remarks about "needy little things"! Do you think it sounds like you ARE cut out to be a parent? I certainly don't.

Posted by: to Liz | October 9, 2006 10:17 AM

See, this is exactly why I don't think I'll ever be a parent. I can't imagine a worse hell than *never* being able to have any time alone. The idea of having those needy little things crawling all over you all the time and demanding and demanding and demanding ... never being able to have a moment to yourself to sit quietly or read the newspaper or even go to the bathroom.

I don't care how "sweet" it is when they make you a picture at school or say mama for the first time or whatever. Still ... ugh! I don't see how people can stand it.

you "don't see how people can stand it? " talk about sounding judgemental.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 10:19 AM

No, I don't judge people who have chosen to have children. More power to them! We need all kinds of people in the world, including both parents and non-parents.

I just don't get it ... I don't feel the same way or desire the same thing, and I truly don't understand the impulse. I wish I did ... but when I look at what you get and what you have to give up, it just seems to me that the negative would outweigh the positive.

That's not me being judgmental, it's just a statement of fact of my understanding of the situation.

Posted by: Liz | October 9, 2006 10:25 AM

North Korea just tested a nuke, and you're talking about this?

What can we do about this.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 10:28 AM

Why did I think that today's blog was going to be about balancing home, family and work on those days or hours when your children would be "home alone"? Maybe it's because I worry more about my children having alone time than me having alone time.

FWIW, my lunch time is for me. I occasionally run errands, but most of the time I lunch with a friend. I have made several good friends among my co-workers.

Posted by: just wondering | October 9, 2006 10:29 AM

Liz, when I say "not cut out" it doesn't mean that you wouldn't be perfectly capable of being a parent.

What I do mean is that some people do not have the temperament for parenting. It does not mean that you have a personality flaw. It just means that that are lots of different kinds of people in the world and there is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting kids. It is a huge life-changing decision and the fact that you do understand this gives me great admiration for you.

-E

Posted by: librarianmom | October 9, 2006 10:30 AM

I wouldn't say someone is "not cut out" to parent... it's often hard to know until you are faced with the day-to-day. I would say that if you have absolutely no desire for it, it is good that you recognize that and do what you can to avoid parenthood unless that changes.

Beyond that, it might be wise to reread your posts before you send them if you want to maintain the high ground in regards to judgmentalism. The way you described having "needy little things crawling all over you" does not make you sound like you don't judge the decisions that other people make.

Posted by: to Liz | October 9, 2006 10:30 AM


sounds like "needy little things" is judging the children more than the parents, eh?

Posted by: Simone | October 9, 2006 10:35 AM

"North Korea just tested a nuke, and you're talking about this?"

This isn't the Nuke Blog.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 10:37 AM

sounds like Liz is quite a needy little thing herself. "me! me! me!"

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 10:43 AM

Liz --

I'm a pretty vocal child-free person, but I have to admit that your initial post this morning was unpleasantly provocative. Leslie was asking other moms what they do to find alone time, and your response, in addition to being completely off-topic, was just mean-spirited.

Why kick off the day -- or the week -- that way?

Posted by: pittypat | October 9, 2006 10:44 AM

"The idea of having those needy little things crawling all over you all the time and demanding and demanding and demanding ... never being able to have a moment to yourself to sit quietly or read the newspaper or even go to the bathroom"

Well, when I read this Liz, it made me laugh because as much as I absolutely love my little boy, there are moments when this is exactly how I feel, and that's when I know I am way overdue for some downtime by myself. One of the disadvantages of working from home a lot is I don't have my train commute or lunch hour to myself, so my husband and I have been working on building in some time for me to be alone in the house. And I find ways to grab 15 minutes here or there - when Grandma is over for dinner, and they go to play while I clean the kitchen, when I'm done cleaning I lie on the couch and read until they catch on and come find me. But I am really, really looking forward to a night alone sometime in the future, hopefully not too far away!

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 10:49 AM

Trying to keep on topic...

Years ago (probably 11-12), when I was married to my first husband and had "only" two children, I asked for a night alone in my house for Mothers Day. I got it - he took the kids to his mom's house. An unmarried, childless friend of mine *almost* ruined it by coming to visit that day...I had to be very firm (yet gentle) with her that she could *not* spend the night!

I'm pretty sure that was the last time I was alone in my house overnight, and before that it had been since I was single. So I guess that's one night in 17 years. Woo hoo!!!

Nowadays, I literally have a few minutes a day "alone." My youngest, who does not attend preschool or daycare of any kind, needs very little sleep and it's a rare night where he's asleep before I am. When I get up in the morning at 6:30, he's usually up within 15 minutes or so. Sometimes in the evenings I will retire to my bedroom to read or watch a television show my husband doesn't care for, and occasionally I might not have a child join me.

The above paragraphs sound sort of complaining - they're really not. I have simply changed out of necessity - if I didn't, I would resent my family. Instead of thinking "sheesh, I wish you would just GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE!!" or "go to sleep already!!!", I think "wow, isn't it great to be with this little person who thinks I'm the greatest too?" I'm not a mushy-gushy person at all, either - it's just one of those things I try to be mindful of and turn into a good thing rather than a negative thing.

As far as time to do the things I enjoy - I just do them with my family present. There's no rule that says you have to be completely alone to enjoy a good book. And as far as things you put off to do when you can't be disturbed - just learn to adapt. Declutter your child's bedroom while they're playing with their sibling or enjoying a video or computer game or something that keeps their attention (playdoh works wonders.) Answer your e-mail while they're sitting next to you with a new coloring book. Parenthood is all about adapting and changing. :o)

Posted by: momof4 | October 9, 2006 11:00 AM

I think it is really great that moms today recognize that needing some "me" time does not mean that they don't love their families or can't handle it. My mom was a SAHM and as much as I know she loved being home with me and my sisters, I do think she thought she always had to sacrifice herself and her time for the rest of the family... that definitely took its toll on her at times.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 9, 2006 11:03 AM

I agree with Liz 100%. She has as much right to express her opinion as you procreators do. I live alone with a black cat (four-legged variety). He doesn't do drugs, ask to borrow the car, or expect me to pay for college. I spend as much time in the bathroom as I like. I don't have to cook for anybody but me and most nights it's a quick nuke in the microwave. If I feel like cleaning up, I do. If I don't, then I don't. I watch whatever DVDs I like when I want to watch them. I listen to Julian Lloyd Weber and Jim Brickman instead of some God awful head banging noise people listen to nowadays. My time in my home is my own. Goethe once said "She is happiest, be she queen or peasant, who finds peace in her own home."

I can't imagine enjoying listening to your kids fighting over the phone. How demented is that? My mother would have slapped the living daylights out of us for fighting. Therefore, I never learned to fight. Any form on confrontation sends me scurrying for cover.

Finally, many parents are not cut out to be parents. Look at the miserable wretches they are raising now. You mothers must really be proud of what comes from between your legs and out of your boobs. I'm prouder of the fact I don't have needy little creatures. Choose your priorities and stop whining.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 9, 2006 11:07 AM

Not trying to be provocative, unpleasant, judgemental or any of those other things that people are accusing me of. I'm just trying to be honest.

To me, the idea of constant 24-7 babies around *does* make them seem like "needy little things". That doesn't sound like fun to me. It sounds horrible. Apparently that makes me unlike most other women in this society, but it doesn't make my feelings any less legitimate. And it certainly does not make me selfish or needy. I enjoy quiet time and private time ... that's hardly the same thing as "selfish".

Look at it this way ... I know there are people who don't like cats and dogs, while I happen to enjoy them both and have 2 of each at my house. Some people think that house pets are dirty or too much work and responsibility. I don't think that makes those people selfish, I just think that I like pets and they don't. So good thing that I have them and they don't.

I don't know how to make it any more clear: I do not think that women who dig motherhood are bad in any way, or deserve to be judged, or earn anything except props for their sacrifices.

The only point I'm trying to make ... in response to Leslie's original piece ... is that the lack of private time for mothers is one of the main things that makes me not want to be one.

Posted by: Liz | October 9, 2006 11:08 AM

There is nothing wrong with wanting -- and taking -- "me" time. For me, it was a question of actually taking it. I think I was so entrenched in parenting that I didn't realize how badly I needed some time and space to myself.

My son was 19 months old before I spent more than 4 hours away from home. A dear friend of mine died, and I flew to attend her funeral. I was gone from home for 2 1/2 days. It was on a plane ride home that I realized how much I had enjoyed being by myself (even though I was so sad about the reason). I realized how ridiculous it was that it took the death of a friend to force me away from my family. Since then, I've been much better about getting some time for myself on a regular basis. I am a better parent because I take time away from my kids. I know this for sure.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | October 9, 2006 11:09 AM

Thank you Liz, for proving once more to me why childless-by-choice women really are cold, selfish losers.

Good luck with the whole "my life has had no meaning" crisis you'll start to feel in your 40/50's. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 11:10 AM

Mothers absolutely need to advocate for and take "alone time." But it's equally important for parents to teach children that they can't always have what they want and can't rely on their parents for entertainment and food all the time. Obviously I'm not talking about infants, but I think even toddlers can learn to amuse themselves for awhile. Parents do children no favors allowing them to "climb all over them" constantly, that's for sure. Children who expect their mothers to respond to their every demand, instead of learning to fend for themselves or delay gratification, aren't pleasant for others to be around and won't be very happy adults. Why have so many parents today forgotten this or never learned it?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 11:18 AM

My husband went home this weekend to visit his family one last time before we have our baby in November. I realized last night that this was probably the last time I would spend the night alone in my house for years. Probably the last time alone, period, for at least 2 years.

Of course, I wasn't even really alone last night, but fetal gymnastics aren't nearly as distracting as newborn cries!

Posted by: Brookland | October 9, 2006 11:18 AM

Mothers absolutely need to advocate for and take "alone time." But it's equally important for parents to teach children that they can't always have what they want and can't rely on their parents for entertainment and food all the time. Obviously I'm not talking about infants, but I think even toddlers can learn to amuse themselves for awhile. Parents do children no favors allowing them to "climb all over them" constantly, that's for sure. Children who expect their mothers to respond to their every demand, instead of learning to fend for themselves or delay gratification, aren't pleasant for others to be around and won't be very happy adults. Why have so many parents today forgotten this or never learned it?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 11:18 AM

childless by choice - why do you even read this blog? It is about balancing family not cats and dogs. What's demented is that you would come on here bloviating about your superior single lifestyle and how you run from confrontation and yet that is exactly what you are trying to stir up.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 11:19 AM

Happy Federal-type holiday to everyone.

In our home, I generally try to get my wife to take more time for herself away from the kids. It's a hard sell. My wife really doesn't seek time alone except for rare circumstances. During those times she finds me more then supportive.

My wife and daughter prefer to be around other people, especially my daughter. I'm fairly extroverted, though I do find both my son and I do need time alone to recharge our batteries (so maybe I fail the generic categories test of introvert vs. extrovert).

Overall and judging by our peers, I'd say my wife tned to be throwbacks to a more family oriented lifestyle than is the norm these days. We are old fashioned enough to suppose than when people invite you to something, they pretty much expected you to bring your family. IMHO, too often now children are treated like an annoyance socially, something to be dropped off with sitters or just removed socially from consideration. Needles to say, my wife and I do not share that view.

And though personally I think both a parents or Mom/Dad night out now and then is usefully refreshing when rare, too many folks seem to think that should be the nominal state of affairs, and that they think kids are not smart enough to notice where they stand in the pecking order.

Food for thought, perhaps, on this banking holiday...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 9, 2006 11:29 AM

"Thank you Liz, for proving once more to me why childless-by-choice women really are cold, selfish losers.

Good luck with the whole "my life has had no meaning" crisis you'll start to feel in your 40/50's. ;)"

If this poster truly has that much bile and hate in his/her heart, I'm not the person to be worrying about.

I don't know about the poster called "childless by choice" but I can tell you that I read and comment on this blog because it's an interesting glimpse into a different life from my own. Same reason I read blogs about NASCAR even though I'm not a driver or a superfan.

I certainly don't think that my lifestyle is superior, it's just different. It's right for me, maybe not for others. And BTW, I'm not single. Happily married for 4 years now, and my husband feels the same way I do about children. We are well-matched and live happily among our menagerie.

Posted by: Liz | October 9, 2006 11:30 AM

"I agree with Liz 100%. She has as much right to express her opinion as you procreators do."

Of course she does. But it's an opinion totally out of sync with the blog topic. The question wasn't, "Why did you decide to have or not to have kids?" It was, "How do you find alone time?" So, responding with a rant on why one doesn't want kids makes no sense.

And by the way, Childless by Choice, you don't do the rest of us child-free folks any good by writing such a hate-filled screed. You're not speaking for the majority of us, and frankly you sound a little unbalanced.

As for the anonymous poster who wrote,
"Thank you Liz, for proving once more to me why childless-by-choice women really are cold, selfish losers...Good luck with the whole 'my life has had no meaning' crisis you'll start to feel in your 40/50's. ;)" --

Your generalization is also off base. I'm a child-free 49-year-old, and it's only been in the past 10 or so years that I've begun to "find" the meaning in my life. I don't think my warm and loving husband or any of my friends, family, coworkers, or cats would call me a "cold, selfish loser." That's a strong indictment with no basis in fact, and it suggests that you aren't so secure about your own choices.


Posted by: pittypat | October 9, 2006 11:35 AM

Liz,
Babies are needy and little, but they aren't things, they're people. I realize it probably seems like semantics to you, but you wouldn't like it if I referred to your Mom as thing, right? The difference is that needy "things" are annoying, while needy people demand empathy (within reason).

Anyhow, I think it's important both for parents to take time for themselves, and to teach kids how to behave so they aren't unreasonably taxing to be around (within developmentally appropriate limits of course). Having a fairly early bedtime is key for us.

I'm not a big fan of motels-- I think I've seen too many of those expose shows about how dirty they are, so I don't want to go spend a night there just to be alone. Besides, it's a kind of pricey thing to do-- even Motel 6 is usually $69. I haven't entirely figured out being alone regularly, but I am teaching my kids that sometimes Mommy needs some quiet time during the day.

Posted by: YetAnotherSAHM | October 9, 2006 11:47 AM

I'm childless by choice and I don't have six cats and I have no problem with feeling that my life is "empty", because it's not. I think introverted people thrive more on their inner lives and experiences than extroverts, who need people around or they don't feel lively.

I realized at a young age that I am simply too introverted to tolerate being a 24/7 parent. I need too much time to myself. Living with my husband, who is aware of my need and gives me plenty of space, is about all I can take for a long stretch of time.

If you're not an introvert, you probably can't understand the exhaustion and stress caused by constantly being around people, especially little people calling your name every 10 minutes. I find this topic interesting because I know there are more introverts out there who are parents and who are probably going nuts trying to find down time. I have heard two people talk about it. One was Dennis Quaid, the actor, who after his marriage broke up said something about his deep introversion and how difficult it was to be a celebrity, husband, father, and find time to be alone. Another woman talked about being an introvert mom and how she had to come up with rules for her family such as "When I walk in the house, everyone has to give me 20 minutes alone and interrupted in my room, and then I'll come out and be 'mom' the rest of the evening." I sort of have to do that when I'm with my extended. My mom is also an introvert and looking back I can remember the little ways in which she managed to carve out time alone. We used to go to the beach each February for two weeks, and she basically laid out all day and read books. I would take her a sandwich and tomato juice for lunch, but dad took supervised us the rest of the time. Somehow we just knew that was "mom's time".

Posted by: Joyce | October 9, 2006 11:50 AM

When my kids were both still at the same daycare, if there were time, I would sometimes actually go home for 30-45 minutes, before going back out to pick them up. Just to give me a little time at home alone. Sometimes I would do a few chores that go so much faster without little ones around or sometimes I would just watch a video for a little while.

And a day at home alone is my usual birthday plan. Kids go to daycare, husband goes to work. I stay home, go back to sleep, or read, or watch TV, or whatever I feel like doing. But no chores on my birthday.

It is rare that I'm home alone overnight. I can only think of two occasions in the last four years. Once was a few months ago when my husband landed in the hospital and the kids went to stay with my family for a few days. But that one wasn't much fun. The previous time was while I was pregnant with #2 when my husband took #1 home to visit his parents for a long weekend. It is kind of unfortunate though that faced with a block of uninterrupted time, I tend to mostly want to get chores done that are easier without others around but I do try to have at least some guilt-free me time as well.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | October 9, 2006 11:51 AM

An at-home dad here - and I find that I need far less sleep when the kids are gone for a few days. I will vouch for any parent who says that it's tiring/draining to do it day after day after day. It's a routine, it's a rut, it's busy, it's necessary, and it's tiring. Planning your own day without the pull of anybody else on your agenda is actually hard to do if you don't get to practice at it ;) All parents should get/give time away to the other one as a recognition that a parent's mental health and physical health probably improves with nobody else around (for a little while anyhow).

Posted by: Keith | October 9, 2006 11:53 AM

"No, I don't judge people who have chosen to have children. More power to them! We need all kinds of people in the world, including both parents and non-parents.

I just don't get it ... I don't feel the same way or desire the same thing, and I truly don't understand the impulse. I wish I did ... but when I look at what you get and what you have to give up, it just seems to me that the negative would outweigh the positive.

That's not me being judgmental, it's just a statement of fact of my understanding of the situation."


That means you aren't cut out to be a parent, and that is fine. I am not cut out to be a nurse or teacher because I don't have much patience. That's fine and I admit it.

Posted by: To Liz | October 9, 2006 11:59 AM

"Good luck with the whole "my life has had no meaning" crisis you'll start to feel in your 40/50's. ;)"

Interesting you bring this up thinking childless people will feel this way. My mother was devoted to her children. Her family came before her own needs. As we began to leave the nest she really struggled with her life. What "meaning" was her life going to have if she wasn't raising children. She became depressed. Luckily grandchildren have turned things around for her, but I don't know what would happen if they moved farther away. I also think she may go through a second empty nest as they grow up. I have a very meaningful life without children and because of that will probably do better in my 40s and 50s than my mother did, because I am not relying on children giving me meaning or defining my life.

Posted by: Respecting Choices | October 9, 2006 12:02 PM

Keith, I couldn't agree more. One of the things that has been great about the fact that my husband and I have switched roles (he used to work full time and I was mostly SAHM, now I work full time and he is part-time work partime SAHD) is that we both have a better understanding of the time issues the other faces. I think before we switched, we both felt the other person had it easier. I felt like he had time to himself at work (after all, there was no baby clinging to him all day long and he could go to the bathroom by himself, right?), so when he came home, I desperately wanted him to take over for 20 minutes. He felt like I had time to myself during the day - afterall, I was home, doing things on our own time, with no coworkers or bosses making demands, right? - so he would want some time to decompress when he got home. Now we both understand what the other is experiencing, and are good at taking care of each other, finding time for each of us to decompress etc. It's really nice.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 12:03 PM

Thanks Leslie for this blog.
I can always count on reading very petty sniping by thin-skinned women. Face-to-face, people are curteous and respectful but on this board they really let you know what they think. How ugly!

USE THE FILTER, LESLIE!

Remove the awful posts that aren't relevant, for example the thread about Liz

this is an awful blog.

Posted by: Lurker | October 9, 2006 12:08 PM

"North Korea just tested a nuke, and you're talking about this?"


Many folks on this blog thoroughly enjoy bashing each other. They love the anonymity that hides their true ugliness.


Posted by: To 10:13 | October 9, 2006 12:11 PM

"this is an awful blog."

Then why keep coming back, Lurker?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 12:12 PM

'If you're not an introvert, you probably can't understand the exhaustion and stress caused by constantly being around people, especially little people calling your name every 10 minutes.'

Great post, Joyce! This is me exactly. I think the reason so many of us without children read this blog is to better understand our decisions for not having children and to examine the reasons people DO choose to have children despite the sacrifices it requires. I am honestly in AWE at how people are able to sacrfice personal space for such long periods of time (17 years without a night to oneself!)in order to have children (that is a compliment, not a judgement!). For me, having a lack of personal time is a sacrifice that I KNOW I cannot make. I, like Joyce, am an introvert and require far too much alone time to be around others 24/7/.

Does this make me selfish? No. It's simply recognizing my personality and the amount of time I need alone to re-charge and re-energize myself.

Is it selfish that, because of my personality, I choose not to undertake parenthood because I recognize that it would require losing personal space which, to an introvert like myself, can be akin to oxygen (I feel completely suffocated and lifeless without it)?
"Where did the idea that choosing not to raise children is selfish originate? The sacrifices that parents make to feed, clothe, and raise their children are often seen as rising out of a selfless love for their children. Because the childfree avoid these unselfish sacrifices of time and money, the reasoning goes, they must be selfish. But voluntarily choosing not to have children is NOT the opposite of sacrificing one´s own needs and desires for the sake of a child. The selfish choice, in this case, is to bring children into the world and then neglect, abuse or abandon them. Selfish describes the parent who indulges himself at the expense of his child´s well-being, not the person who has never had a child at all."(http://www.bellaonline.com/ArticlesP/art1235.asp)

Thus, being an introvert, these posts make me seriously consider what a sacrifice of personal time having children can require. Kudos to those of you with kids! I admire your energy and ability to raise children. I am exhausted just reading these posts!

Posted by: WY | October 9, 2006 12:15 PM

Losers are people who live through blogs in a left-wing rag like the Washington Compost. Losers are women who produce children who torture small animals by baking them in an oven, as a couple of teens did in Atlanta. Losers are people who produce children for the welfare system and other taxpayers to support. Losers produce children who use drugs and alcohol before they are teenagers. Losers expect a big house, a Mercedes, trips to Europe, and diamonds in return for sex.

I have supported myself through gainful employment since I left home at 19. I worked two jobs to put myself through night college without a dime from mommy and daddy. I'm proudest of that accomplishment. I own my own home. I do not depend on a male for money although I have a dear friend who provides me companionship and love. He's quite well-known in some circles and his name is in the newspapers today. If you want to hear me 'bloviating' listen to my comparison of marriage to legal prostitution.

I have a work/life balancing act, too. Work full time, gone from the house 13 hours a day. In fact, Friday morning my car wouldn't start. Did I get on my cell phone to hubby and whine about it? No, I called AAA from the house, had it taken care of at the garage, and paid for it myself. How many of you can say the same thing? I also have an elderly (abusive) mother to look after, a yard to mow, outside interests, and I do volunteer work. My life is quite full.

Losers live through their dreadful, ill- mannered children. Yesterday I attended a wine festival. In the demonstration tent, a woman brought her 3 brats in and during the lecture, those brats fought, bickered and punched each other while the mother ignored them. Obviously many people who produce children can't control them.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 9, 2006 12:21 PM

I don't think being an introvert precludes you from being a parent. Perhaps it just means making adjustments to accomodate your personality.

I think it is also good to challenge our inborn temperament. I'm an extrovert, but, being married to an introvert husband, I've had to make some changes to accomodate his personality as he has for mine. For my own personal growth and development, this has been a good thing. I think at some point, I will also have a introverted child. Again, I will have to adjust myself to suit the needs of the child. I don't view this as supression of myself or my needs, but an opportunity to become selfless and grow in character.

Posted by: Cassandra | October 9, 2006 12:23 PM

Thanks for the parade of horribles, Childless by Choice!

Posted by: Cassandra | October 9, 2006 12:25 PM

I can so relate to this. The need for alone time is why I get up at the crack of dawn on weekends and rush home on thursdays for a bath when my husband takes my daughter to gymnastics. I love being a mom and this makes me a better one!

Posted by: momatwork | October 9, 2006 12:35 PM

It's not that being an introvert precludes me from being a parent. It's simply that I've made a choice by examining what in life makes me a happy, functional person who can contribute the most to society, and having a lot of personal space allows me to be the happiest, most functional person I can be. It's recognizing what adjustments I can make, and what adjustments I simply know I cannot make. It's not that I don't like people (I love people and care for them very much! I am a nurse and find that I need a lot of "me" time outside of work in order to be re-energized in order to return to my job). I appreciate that introverts can be good, and happy, parents, and that parenthood can challenge a person and expand one's personality in ways unforeseen. However, knowing how much personal space I require, I know it is not for me. I admire those who don't need as much personal space as I do. However, I know myself WELL, and simply honor my personality and disposition as a person who cannot function and be a happy member of society without a LOT time alone.

I am intrigued by these posts as to how parents find ways to find personal space. I am simply trying to understand how people can manage. I think it is great that people can make that sacrfice. I wonder, however, how many parents really consider what a sacrfice on one's personal space it can be before having children? Good for those who know in advance that they can make that sacrifice!

Posted by: WY | October 9, 2006 12:39 PM

Losers, winners, introverts, extroverts, SAHMs, WOHMs, parents, child-free, etc. --

Why are we so driven to label ourselves and others in this way? It's like everyone out there is trapped in some wacko Myers-Briggs parallel universe.

One problem with labeling is that your identity becomes the thing you're labeled as -- and nothing else. How many SAHMs out there would say that they are ONLY stay-at-home moms? How many introverts would say that their ONLY significant personality attribute is introversion? How many child-free people define their existence ONLY in terms of the absence of kids?

We're all imbued with the potential for infinite variety. We all need to stretch ourselves.

Posted by: pittypat | October 9, 2006 12:47 PM

I am new to motherhood (have 6 month old daughter) and I'm old enough to have been a childless adult for quite a long time. I just don't get why the childless have to keep justifying their decisions here. When my husband and I decided to try to have a child, we knew that the odds weren't spectacular that we would succeed and we were comfortable with our imaginings of life with or without a child. The outcomes were very different, but one was not better than the other. We know several couples and single people in their 50s and 60s who don't have children and their lives are complete and fulfilling. They have more money and time for travel and vacation homes. Our friends and family with children have different priorities and joys, but they are just as satisfied.

Maybe I'm seeing things from my own perspective, but I don't see people with children filling this blog with screeds against childless people. Perhaps someone can give me some good examples of this, though.

As for the topic at hand, no, I don't have much time to myself these days. I manage 14 people at work and we have a lot of collaborative sessions during the workday. At home I am almost always with my baby, but my husband usually will take her so I can go for a run or shop unhindered. I have to admit that I have become fond of my time with the breastpump at work.... my door is shut and locked and no one bothers me for 30 minutes twice a day!

Posted by: MaryB | October 9, 2006 12:53 PM

While I may label myself as an extrovert, I certainly think there are other aspects to myself. Defining terms and labels give common ground to discussions, ya know.

Posted by: Cassandra | October 9, 2006 12:54 PM

"Maybe I'm seeing things from my own perspective, but I don't see people with children filling this blog with screeds against childless people. Perhaps someone can give me some good examples of this, though."

EXAMPLE #1:
Thank you Liz, for proving once more to me why childless-by-choice women really are cold, selfish losers.

Good luck with the whole "my life has had no meaning" crisis you'll start to feel in your 40/50's. ;)

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 1:04 PM

wow, some people must have had a good weekend, eh?

childless by choice: it doesn't sound like you get any "me time" either, do you?

like one of the previous dads posted, i'm always trying to get my wife to take more time to herself, though after a couple hours, she'll usually check in to see what we're up to and how we're doing. you get used to being a family; it's kind of like you're now functioning as a team and it becomes a bit odd when one of the team members is gone for a while. that doesn't mean you always get along with the team members; just that you're more used to having them around than not having them around.

i lean toward the introvert side and need a fair amount of alone time. in general, i probably don't get enough, but i consider my commute (subway or bike usually, so i'm either reading or exercising), time at work, time up after everyone else goes to sleep, and time at home while my son is at school as pretty significant alone time. i haven't spent a night alone in my own house... well, ever. my wife can say the same, but that's because we've only had our own house for 5 years and had a son for 4 and my wife and i enjoy spending time together. if i feel the need, i can at any time, request some alone time or go out somewhere, as can she; although i would say neither of us do this as much as we maybe should. like many dads that i know, i'll do my own thing with my boy around--read while he's taking a bath, e-mail while he's playing with trains or cars or wrestling with the dog, etc. there's many times i give him my full attention and play with him, but there's times when he's told to do his own thing and i'm just around to make sure he doesn't get into trouble or hurt himself. in all honestly, i'd have to say i view work as more of an impediment to me time than family.

most of the "needy little things" i know that are always bugging me are at work ; )

as for the north korean nuke, i'm trying to find some balance so that i can raise a child who hopefully contributes to a more peaceful world. perhaps if kim jong-il had had different parents, he might not be ruffling the international waters.

Posted by: marc | October 9, 2006 1:06 PM

to 1:04:

That is more of a reaction (not a very grown-up one, I agree)than a stand-alone defense of one's life choices.

Oh well, I stand corrected.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 1:11 PM

a question of mere curiosity, why do those of you who have no children read this blog? i think anyone can post/lurk/visit the blog who wants to, but i don't really understand the impetus (aside from those who are reading it as some type of preview on what parenting is like). liz, childless by choice, others? again, i welcome you here, i just don't see the draw. there are a lot of things i've decided not to do or be or have in my life and i have trouble imagining i'd spend time blogging about them (but then i can never find enough time in the day).

Posted by: marc | October 9, 2006 1:12 PM

WY - just to clarify, I said that I had one night in 17 years where I was alone in my own home. :o) I *have* had (not in the last 8-9 years, however) nights where I was alone - mostly when I used to travel for work. I realize that's not your point, but I wanted to make that clear!

Re: introverts - I think there are different kinds of intro/extroverts and don't think that being an introvert necessarily has anything to do with not wanting to be climbed on 24/7 by young children. I could be happy never being around people other than my children and husband, and have become more of an introvert in that way as I get older. My women friends consider Moms Night Outs as the end-all-get-all of release from their captivity as moms...I dread them and would rather just stay home and be with my family. I feel the same way about evening meetings, classes, and other social obligations. But I don't feel overwhelmed in any way by the constant presence of my children and husband. (Not that my older children and husband are around me 24/7, but even if they were I wouldn't feel that way.)

Re: not being able to go to the bathroom by yourself and other related issues - I agree with those who said it's important to teach your children that mommy needs private time. It's not a matter of being selfish, it's a matter of good manners that if someone is in the bathroom with the door closed, you don't go pounding on the door or walk in. Somehow I've managed to raise 4 children who all have different needs and personalities and to know this, so I have some issues with those who say "my child won't leave me alone in the bathroom!!!" Well, TEACH them to leave you alone in the bathroom!!!

Re: "me" time. I agree that it is vital to the well-being of most people. However, I see an awful lot of people take it to a level where it's just ridiculous. A mom who works not because she "has" to for financial reasons but because she "wants" to and/or needs a break from her children should not need to take 6 hours on Saturdays to have "me" time and go out with her girlfriends every Friday night and go away for a weekend retreat 4 times a year and put her kids to bed at 7:00 p.m. every evening so she can have time to herself.

There comes a point where it's just selfish. I'm not saying that people who choose to remain childless are selfish - but if you choose to become a parent, then realize that part of the package is spending time with your children and sacrificing of your formerly personal time for them.

Posted by: momof4 | October 9, 2006 1:16 PM

I forgot to put my name on the above post "to 1:04"... did not mean to reply anonymously.

Posted by: MaryB | October 9, 2006 1:16 PM

When my kids were little, my best "me" time was going for a run in the morning... and especially the 15 minute rest sitting out on the patio that I allowed myself afterwards. It was the one time I totally felt not guilty or responsible for the kids, I could let my husband deal with them for that amount of time by himself. Not that I felt so terrible about being "on call", just that it was a real feeling of relaxation to put the antenna down for that period of time and just bliss out.

On much rarer occasions when I had to travel for work, I gloried in spending a night alone in a bed I didn't have to make, reading a novel if I felt like it. But of course called home to hear their voices and all... I have loved having the kids around me but those times alone were such luxuries too.

Posted by: Catherine | October 9, 2006 1:18 PM

Marc,

This blog is dedicated to the subject of balancing work and life. It's not exclusively a parenting blog -- never has been.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 1:19 PM

"I forgot to put my name on the above post "to 1:04"... did not mean to reply anonymously."

that's ok! I forgot to put my name on the original post!!

Posted by: Rachael | October 9, 2006 1:21 PM

Well, I was a late-to-marry bachelor who married in his late 30's. I have had quite a lifetime of being alone and am much happier being part of a couple. However, I have to say that although I am a extrovert, I still need some alone "me" time to recharge (most people I know do). I am one of those people who rarely says no to any request and periodically after too much of people, too much of doing things for others, I need some "me" time. Fortunately for MomWannaBe and I, we are on slightly different sleep schedules. I usually get a couple of hours of "me" time when she goes to bed and she gets a couple of hours of "me" time before I get up in the morning.

I do remember reading somewhere (maybe a Dear Abby letter or something?) about a SAHM who found her "me" time be regularly agreeing to housesit or pet-sit for friends. So, when she was sitting for someone, she would be home during the days, watching her kids, make dinner, and when DH came home, she would either eat with them, or leave and go out to eat by herself, then go to the friend's home and have me time (I seem to remember that she used the time to catch up on personal projects that she hadn't had time for), go to bed, then get up, go home (she equated it to getting up to "go to work") and repeat. She said that doing this every few months was great for her and made her husband appreciate her and what she does at home all the more. It ended with a comment about their marriage and family being all the better for it.

I've always kept it in the back of my mind as a woman who really knew how to take care of herself.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 9, 2006 1:21 PM

ah, i see--i guess because almost every post involves balancing family life, i just considered it primarily a work/family/personal life balance sort of thing. my question still stands--what do those of you who don't have children get out of this blog or what do you hope to give as it does seem pretty dominated by balancing work life with a personal life that includes children. i suppose we can all learn from one another's experiences, but had i no children, i would not think i had much to learn from this blog. whoever posted to me anonymously, do you get a lot out of this blog?

Posted by: marc | October 9, 2006 1:28 PM

I am in the odd position today of having a day off from work while my son's elementary school is open. I'm having a hard time with this actually, because I feel this pressure that, if I'm not with my child, I should either be at work or be doing home/family chores. It's been hard for me to actually enjoy this rare day and I feel like I'm squandering a lovely opportunity. Anyone else feel similarly?

Posted by: anonymous mom | October 9, 2006 1:34 PM

Marc:

I appreciate your insight as to how you manage to find alone time while being a parent, as it's great to see how people can do it, and be happy, despite needing personal time to themselves. I think you've struck a good balance!

I read this blog because I work a lot with new moms as a nurse. I seek insight into parenting so that I can better understand my clients and what they are going through as new parents. I find it interesting, having made a choice not to have kids, to understand the sacrifices that people who do have kids make every day. It is mind-boggling to me!

I also chose to read, and comment on, this blog in particular, as I have a co-worker with 9 year old twins who recently lost her husband. I have been trying to understand how it must be for her to go home after a full day's work to her children, without the support of her husband, to two children, and still find time to re-energize herself. I, and multiple friends, have offered to help watch her children for her, but I am constantly wondering how she manages. It must be quite hard for people who don't have a spouse to help them find those moments to themselves!

Posted by: WY | October 9, 2006 1:35 PM

Marc,

Well, first, I come to this blog on the assumption that there's no strict definition of "family" and that it can be construed in myriad ways.

Of most interest to me are the discussions on women in the workplace, as many of the issues that concern WOHMs are also problems for women at large. If you check back in the archives, you'll see a number of columns related to this topic.

I also like to hear about how parents are raising their kids, because this impacts me in many ways -- both now and in the long-term.

And the subject of domestic partners (married or otherwise) and how they divide the workload is always interesting. Anyone in a partnership arrangement can learn from that!

So, as you can see, there's quite a bit here for child-free folks. We may construct our families differently, but we have many of the same concerns.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 1:38 PM

Marc,
I am a childless, single 20-something professional who hopes to have children one day. I read this blog for the insights that it offers into what my life might be like in the next 10 years or so. Frankly, some of the issues raised by people on this blog would never have occurred to me. Sometimes I am discouraged by problems that people mention. Sometimes I am reassured by people saying they couldn't imagine their lives any other way. I guess I consider reading other people's perspectives to be part of making an informed decision about what to do in my own life.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 9, 2006 1:41 PM

I have three kids and work full time - my husband works nights, so when I get home from work, it's usually all me! To keep my sanity, I will tell my kids around 8:30 or so that my "MOM" is getting ready to turn off.

They find it HILARIOUS and (at least for now!) get ready for bed without too much fuss. This buys me a little peace at the end of the day.

Posted by: OmahaMom | October 9, 2006 1:44 PM

"childless by choice" seems to be a very troubled person. And I'll leave my comments about his/her post at that.

Liz, what I think you and some of the other non-parents don't realize is that it's not just some "thing" or "somebody" wanting your attention, it's your *child*. I love my child more than I ever thought humanly possible, so there's a world of difference between her asking me for attention vs. a friend or a coworker asking me for attention.

Also, I do wonder why the childless folks have to post all these defensive, mean things about how awful kids are and how great it is to be without them. It all sounds really insecure to me. Why are you so eager to knock our choices and trumpet your own? Who asked you, anyway?

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 1:45 PM

Please don't turn this into a "parents vs. childless people" thing. Not all childless people on here criticize the choice to have kids. Some of us are merely interested observers.

Posted by: Charlottesville | October 9, 2006 1:52 PM

"A mom who works not because she "has" to for financial reasons but because she "wants" to and/or needs a break from her children should not need to take 6 hours on Saturdays to have "me" time"

Momof4, I'm curious if by limiting this to moms who don't "have" to work you really do mean it's only ok for working moms who "have" to work to want some me time on the weekend? Does it count if the couple chose together to have the mother work and the dad SAH, or does she still not "have" to work because she could have her husband work instead? It just seems like such an arbitrary distinction. And while I don't do that every weekend, I do feel the need occasionally to have a break on a weekend for a few hours - my time at work is not the same as true alone time, so I do need it on the weekends sometimes, and it doesn't seem like that would be different if I felt I had the option to not work. If you work at a demanding job, whether or not someone else thinks you "have" to, sometimes you need a break.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 1:53 PM

Well, I for one am glad that "childless by choice" -- is.

Bitter much?

Posted by: Glad | October 9, 2006 1:54 PM

momof4. I wonder about those people, too. It is important to realize that FAR more men than women do this stunt. Except in men it's called workaholicism.

I'm occasionally prone to workaholicism to avoid problems at home myself-- I had a year from hell rooming with a married couple who fought nonstop, which I couldn't do anything much about, even move out at that time.

I suspect that the same subconcious mechanism is at play for those workaholics-- avoidance. Not conscious selfishness. Although when I watch wife swap-- i know it's SUCH a tacky show, but there's a morbid fascination to it-- I see a lot of mothers who have that exact lifestyle and see nothing wrong with having their husbands do most of the work at home.

I can't empathize either. You'd need to drag me kicking and screaming to have a manicure, for one thing.

Thank god the young kid stage only lasts a few years, but you really do need to take the time to pay attention during those years to lay the spadework for the best kids you could possibly dream of.


Posted by: Confused Godmother | October 9, 2006 1:54 PM

thanks to all the childless posters comments about why they visit or like this blog. i think it's great to have different perspectives--i think it's easy as a parent to be a little too dismissive of nonparent issues (and vice versa).

And I meant to add before that my encouraging my wife to get out for some time to herself is only about 80% altruistic and 20% about me getting alone time in the house (which I far prefer to guy time or me time out of the house). We're usually more concerned about alone time as a couple, than as individuals. It's funny how you can spend so much time with someone and not be able to actually talk to them or have a serious discussion when you have children--either because one or both of you needs to attend to the children or there's enought other things to get done in the day.

Posted by: marc | October 9, 2006 1:56 PM

"A mom who works not because she "has" to for financial reasons but because she "wants" to and/or needs a break from her children should not need to take 6 hours on Saturdays to have "me" time"

And neither should a SAHM who's kids are in school all day.

Posted by: Yep | October 9, 2006 1:56 PM

"Also, I do wonder why the childless folks have to post all these defensive, mean things about how awful kids are and how great it is to be without them. It all sounds really insecure to me. Why are you so eager to knock our choices and trumpet your own? Who asked you, anyway?"

See, and I wonder why people feel the need to say things like "you are a selfish loser" and "you'll be having an existential crisis when you're 50, ha ha ha"

I think the insecurity-fueled lashing out comes from both sides.

I don't think kids are awful. Other people's kids are great, I just don't want my own. I actually feel quite secure about that decision.

Posted by: Liz | October 9, 2006 2:00 PM

That said, any parent who has raised their kids to age 6 and past definitely can and probably should take a few hours every other weekend for themselves.
6, 7,8 year old kids are becoming old enough to play at others' houses on playdates, play soccer, and so on. They are no longer so much entwined with Mommy and Daddy as a safe base all the time, and ready to be more independent.

That said, it's certainly possible to have just as much fun with kids as with adult friends, often far more fun. That's what those childless people, such as myself, are missing out on.

I have siblings with kids, so I'm interested to know more about the stresses they face.
As a childless adult it is easy to sound oversimplistic about childreading because I really don't get it except through my biased memories of my own childhood. However I am seeing some troubling pressures on my siblings that my parents never went through. Sometimes it's the smallest details like the arsenic hour that helps me understand a little more abouut why my siblings do what they do.



Posted by: Wilbrod | October 9, 2006 2:01 PM

I'm childless and continue to read this blog on the days when the topic is interesting and the discourse reasonably civil. There are good exchanges of ideas here - I seem to recall poster "215" has posted questions that those who already have children have answered. (not to single that poster out, It's just one instance I remember).

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | October 9, 2006 2:02 PM

Let me start by reiterating my apology from Friday. I got snarky about something I perceived as nasty and insulting and made an inappropriate comment about this blog seeming to be for only WOHM's. I'm sorry to those who might have been offended by my unfair generalization.

I post this because I really do think that we need to be more inclusive. This is a blog about balancing work, home and family--whether that family is a couple, couple with children (with hands & feet or paws), couple with relative that requires caretaking, etc. It is for everyone. I think that everyone has to find some sort of balance in their life. I personally will try to learn from my mistakes in recent weeks and comment on those areas that are appropriate to me and to read/lurk and ignore those that are more appropriate to others and not to me (say, breast-feeding issues).

As implied by my nickname, I read this blog because my wife and I are interested in having a child or children, although we are later in life and have some outstanding issues. Both of us are the type that like to do a lot of research before we make decisions and/or commitments and I consider this blog to be part of that research. I like to read about the issues that face other parents (especially F04 as my wife is visually impaired and his experiences as a blind father resonate for us and our future plans). I hope to get some insight before some things happen on how to deal with them. I do understand that there will be daily obstacles that I did not think about, read about, learn about and will have to learn to cope on the fly, but any effort that I can make to minimize this will help.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 9, 2006 2:06 PM

Thanks for posting the Slate article, Cassandra. I'm pregnant with my first, and it's nice to read something that focuses on the joys of parenting, not the litany of horrors. I think some people have a negative view of children/parenting is because people in general love to complain: no matter how blessed/lucky someone may be, we have some sort of social ritual that involves bonding over traded complaints. People who are happy in their jobs like to complain about how much work they have, marathon runners complain about their blisters and aches, singles complain about dating woes, marries complain about their spouses, etc. Parents are no exception. It seems there's almost a social norm against not complaining-- don't want to seem to smug or satistfied with yourself, do you? So we all hear parents carp, but people rarely run around sharing their profound joy and wonder at their kids over the water cooler, you know?

My husband has a sister who is 16 years younger than he, and he spent a lot of time taking care of her when she was little. Unlike most people, he comes toward parenthood having spent significant time as partial care-giver for a baby/young child. He has zero anxiety about parenthood-- whenever I worry about the work, the sleeplessness, the drudgery, he says, "Just wait. When you have a little baby, you love it and you *want* to do all those mundane things for it. Yes, it's work, but it's wonderful having a baby in the house." Of course, his family is particularly loving and functional-- I know some people are turned off of parenthood by having to care for siblings-- but to him the time spent with his sister when she was little was wonderful. Just wanted to share a positive perspective from someone who isn't even a parent yet!

Posted by: JKR | October 9, 2006 2:07 PM

My two bits:

I neither have children nor am I married. However, I am a female professional and would like have both a loving spouse and kids sometime in the future. I read and participate in this blog to learn from others who are already there and get answers to questions I have about balancing work and home. I also want to hear from those who chose not to get married and/or have kids, and about their reasons why. There insights and opinions are just as informative to me.

Posted by: 215 | October 9, 2006 2:10 PM

...and let me apologize for all spelling/gramatical errors! I tend to type fast and automatically post without checking to make sure my fingers put down why I was trying to say! :)

Posted by: 215 | October 9, 2006 2:11 PM

To get back to the question of the day....my alone time is from 8:00 p.m. - midnight, or whenever I turn in. Once the 2 kids are in bed, I'll clean the kitchen, straighten up the house, fold laundry, read, whatever! My husband gets upset that I go to bed so late (he is not able to function on less than 8 hours a day). But, I need that time alone every day. Now that the kids are both in school, (one in Kindergarten and the other 4 hour preschool daily), I'm able to turn in a little earlier since I have my time in the morning. But, on days like today (schools closed), I get a bit cranky without some "quiet time" for myself!

I also have a part-time job, 1 night a week and a few hours on the weekend. That gives me some time to interact with adults, that has nothing to do with my kids. This has really helped me cope with the loss of self that I've had as a SAHM. I highly recommend it to other people who are SAHM but not 100% committed to 100% of time with kids. I'm a strong believer in needing alone/adult time. It gets harder when you stay at home full time, and the small part-time job is helpful.

Posted by: GS | October 9, 2006 2:18 PM

Yikes! New topic.

Looks like it's going to be one of those days around here...

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 9, 2006 2:22 PM

"I'm curious if by limiting this to moms who don't "have" to work you really do mean it's only ok for working moms who "have" to work to want some me time on the weekend? Does it count if the couple chose together to have the mother work and the dad SAH, or does she still not "have" to work because she could have her husband work instead? It just seems like such an arbitrary distinction."

It's not an arbitrary distinction. There are women - a ton here on this blog alone - who vehamently defend their reasons for choosing to work even though they don't have a financial need - "I'm not cut out to be a SAHM" or "I have to have adult time" or "I have to have a life of my own." OK, fine. But then to turn around and demand MORE time away from your children, when you've already taken 40 hours a week to "be a happier person and a better mom" - it's just selfish.

I realize that working is not the same as personal time - believe me, I know. It was one of the bones of contention between my ex-husband and myself - he didn't understand what it was like to have 100% of your time controlled by other people - bosses, co-workers, children - to spend all of your time dealing with the demands and needs of people other than yourself. But I was not in a position of choosing to work - I *had* to work. If I had chosen to work for personal fulfillment, then I would have considered that my "me" time.

You and your husband are in a different situation because while you're choosing to work, you're also choosing to have him decrease his work schedule and SAH part of the time (I assume this is a choice.) You're not choosing to work so you can have time away from your son. (once again, I presume.)

I don't see this - the relentless demand for "me" time - in just working mothers. I see plenty of it in my SAHM friends and in those who work from home part-time. They demand that their husbands take on half of the housework because "this is the 21st century, goshdarnit!!!" They demand not only that they work out 5 times a week at a gym with childcare and go out once a month with their mom's group, but that they take junior to a mom's day out service for 4 hours a week, be "off duty" the minute Dad gets home every weekday, take evening classes 3 nights a week, and go shopping all day on Saturday. They schedule their day off from work on a day that their child has school so they can have "me time." They get a sitter so they can clean their house in peace. They insist that Grandma takes the kids once a week in the afternoon so they can have time to themselves. I know women who do not only one or two of the above, but *all* of them. It just seems like in our quest to be healthy and happy, that we've made it a full time job to schedule "me time."

Posted by: momof4 | October 9, 2006 2:25 PM

I will second running/exercise as a great way to get alone time. I'm pregnant, not a parent quite yet, but often my running has been either my zen/alone time or my time to connect with running buddies not connected to work or family. I know lots of running moms, so I hope I can continue this after the baby is born.

OK, you're going to laugh, but my hubby and I have a "chore chart" whereby we keep track of the chores and ensure that we're more or less contributing evenly to the household upkeep (laugh if you will, but we haven't argued about chores in three years whereas before each of us was constantly convinced we were doing 80% of the work). Now I suppose we'll be adding diaper changes to the chart (um, how many "chore points" do I get for giving birth?). Anyway, you get the idea: planning and tracking works for us. So my question is, do any of you parents out there (if there are any as nerdy as us)have rules/rituals/checklists to ensure each parent has downtime? E.g. every Saturday morning Dad watches baby while Mom is at yoga and every Sunday afternoon Mom watches baby while Dad is biking? Or a "have you gotten your 15 minutes of zen today?" hand-off so each parent can just spend 15 minutes a day laying on the bed, sitting on the porch, standing on their head (whatever works) getting their equilibrium together?

Hmmm, something tells me you parents will post e-chuckles at my naivete in thinking this sort of thing can be checklisted, but I'll post anyway in the off chance someone has done it or thinks it would work.

Posted by: JKR | October 9, 2006 2:25 PM

To anonymous mom, home alone today on the holiday: I know exactly how you feel! If I'm home, well, and husband and kids are in dispose until 5 or so, I start to get this panickly feeling. I feel obligated to do chores, but then think, no, I should go do one of those things...what are they called?...oh, yeah, HOBBIES! Even my stupid hobbies get frustrating, because I feel like I have so little time to work on them that what's the point? I sew primarily as a hobby, and I get so frustrated when I make a mistake because I have to undo the mistake, which takes time, which I don't have!

I'm going away for a work-related conference in a couple of weeks. While I'll be in a hotel room, I'll be by myself for the longest stretch of time since this whole motherhood thing began. We were going to try to arrange it so that my husband could come with--the conference is in an area of the country that interests him--but he, knowing that I need more me time than him, told me to go and enjoy myself. (Well, either that or the thought of leaving the kids alone with my mom for 5 days got to him...)

And all of this aside, I can totally relate to Leslie wanting to hear her kids argue over the phone. :) I'm sure I'll be lonely as hell at my conference--after the first day or two.

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 2:27 PM

I recently was able to go from a job where I worked later hours and had to rush to get to the daycare before it closed to a job where I get out of work 2-3 hours earlier. I also went from 5 days a week to 4 days.

My house is very close to my job, so sometimes I stop at home to get a few minutes to myself before picking up my son.

Our daycare doesn't charge that much less for a 4-day week than for a 5-day week, so we continue to pay for 5 days and if I need to, I can take my son to daycare for a while on my day off. This has been handy for doctor's appointments and other errands I can't do with him, as well as some "me" time.

Posted by: speech girl | October 9, 2006 2:37 PM

JKR, I've always wanted to institute a chore chart! My husband just can't get into it, though. We get into stupid fights about who does more, and I thought maybe it would provide some empirical evidence that we both do plenty. I'm intrigued that it works for you guys! We divide things more broadly; he cooks, I do laundry, and kid chores like diapers get split pretty evenly, with the odd round of "Rock, Paper, Scissors" to sort things out when we each feel it's the other's turn. We've gotten pretty good at just coming out and asking, "Hey, would you mind if I played guitar/went shopping alone this weekend/lay down for an hour?" whenever either of us needs to disappear for a bit.

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 2:40 PM

To JKR - you are not that nerdy! My husband and I have only been married a few months (and we didn't live together before) and the ONLY thing we have fought about is household chores. I came THIS CLOSE to writing up a chore list, but never got around to it. We have basically split things up now even though it isn't on paper. BTW, we live in a ~750sq foot condo and it feels like it never stays clean. After cleaning the place for a couple hours one day and saying to my husband "the whole place is almost clean!" He said, "what are we going to do when we have an actual house?" To which I responded with a blank stare... we'd better get our act together before then. Sorry, slightly off-topic.

Posted by: gradstudent | October 9, 2006 2:41 PM

Well, I am childless by choice - but definitely not child-free, if you count my nieces and nephews who I see quite often. I also read this blog for other points of views, and also to understand what my siblings and friends with kids deal with.
I had never thought about it much, but I guess I am also introverted to an extent...I like spending time with people but get to a point where I just have to be alone...glad we have choices to live the way we need to!

Posted by: Missicat | October 9, 2006 2:48 PM

ME Time? I got me time when I was taking graduate classes--and the coveted night alone at home after class. And yes, I also cherished the 10pm grocery runs each week after class because no little girls were "helping" me shop.

Now that I am not taking classes, I get me time by staying at work until after my usual "quitting time" to do non-work related tasks, and on the weekends we all rest in the afternoon to read books (separately). And since their favorite movie is Sound of Music, I get me time if I let them watch some of it.

Posted by: single mother by choice | October 9, 2006 2:49 PM

Hey, gradstudent: as I mentioned, my husband and I fought about chores a lot--and we DID live together before we got married, so that doesn't necessarily help, in case you were wondering. :) After one horrendous fight on just that topic, we talked about it some, and I think it gets back to exactly the topic today: me time. You're getting used to being part of a unit, and whether that includes a spouse, a kid, four kids, pets, whatever, you're missing a part of yourself that you didn't necessarily have to share in the same way before. We resolved to stop having "keeping score" fights and start thinking about all that both of us did as contributions to the household, which is, after all, a joint project.

And you're wise to think ahead to what happens with more square footage, and kids and their requisite gear, if you decide to go that route. We bought a 1400 square foot house when it was two of us and one dog. Another dog and 2.4 kids later, we had that thing packed to the rafters. Any organizational breakdown was catastrophic. We recently upgraded to 3000 square feet, and the primary benefit is that there is more room to move around the piles of stuff! :) (Okay, we're still moving in...)

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 2:50 PM

I never understood the value of bonding over complaining, JKR. Yes, there is a tendency not to want to brag too much, but I don't think most parents complain about the real problems. I learned the value of focusing on the good as a teenager and that it was more fun than griping over when things don't go my way.

It helps a lot, since I find that "complaining" attitude carries over and it can wreck conversations to just vent so much. Yes, bad news and emotional burdens can be shared.

But I am reminded of one of my favorit Taoist tale. Two monks came to a river, and a rich lady indicated they should carry her over. The elder monk, without a word, picked her up and carried her across the river, wading through the water, set her down. The rich lady didn't thank the monks or anything. The monks walked in silence. Finally the younger monk exploded. "That woman didn't even thank you for carrying her!"
The elder monk said puzzledly. "That was over a hour ago.
...Why are you still carrying her?"

And that is the only way to keep balance in life. Let go of the little stuff, don't carry in your heart.

I think too many of us get into the habit of carrying small complaints in our heart all the time because of "the bonding value", but who wants that baggage throughout a day? I've cleaned up dog vomit first thing in the AM when sick, and then gone on to have a wonderful day, which I wouldn't have if I had chosen to carry the emotion of cleaning dog vomit up with me all day.

Just my 5 cents... Taoism is a philosophy of seeking the balance in life.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 9, 2006 2:53 PM

Niner:

Yes, each person always thinks they're doing more than they are-- we didn't realize how off our perceptions were until we saw it in black and white. But clearly, it only works if you use it, so both people have to be into it.

The reason we didn't just divide general areas is because no one wants to do the gross stuff and each person is convinced they've been the one to clean the bathroom the last 3 out of 5 times. So (now here's where it gets really dorky) we weighted the chores-- so cleaning out the cat box gets more points than say, making the bed. Yes, I know, we are giant nerds (we've now started taking the chore chart off the fridge when friends come over because they laugh at us so much!). But the important thing is, we each feel it's an equitable system and it's a self-mgt tool as much as anything else.

I feel like we could probably manage alone time just by asking for it, too... but I read so many things about parents of young kids getting swallowed up by it that I'm paranoid I won't want to ask for time to myself until I'm so fried that I have meltdown. I remember my aunt, mother of three, saying her biggest fantasy was 2 hours by herself-- I thought to myself, "Um, my grandmother lives next door to you. Drop the kids off and go!" But she was totally in 'my kids need every minute of my time or they'll turn out warped' mode (she eventually got over it). I guess part of getting alone time is remembering you need and have a right to it!

Posted by: JKR | October 9, 2006 2:55 PM

Momof4, I do see where you're coming from, particularly when the parent seems to need constant "me time" - it seems so sad to me somehow that they don't appear to get enjoyment from their kids. And yes, you are right about our family - I don't work to get away from my son, and we did consciously decide that if at all possible, one of us would not work full time in the early years.

I think the reason your argument catches me, though, is that there are so many variables in the decision to have two parents work, and what is a must for one family is a luxury to another - what if they both work so they can have good health insurance? what if they're worried about the instability of relying on one job? what if they want to have a house in certain school district and can only afford it on two incomes? what if they want to have a college fund? and so on. Each of those are reasons I've heard mothers give for working and reasons I've heard SAHMs disparage as unnecessary luxuries (in a very bitter debate on an email listserve). So when you say that a mother who doesn't "have" to work should consider her work as me time, you could be catching all of these people in that category or none of them, and I suppose that's why it makes me uncomfortable. If a woman works, she works, and she'll still need some time to herself regardless of whether she's working to prevent starvation or provide health insurance or ensure that she has enough money to retire on or keep her resume current in case she's on her own someday etc etc. But I agree with you that if it's every night and weekend, there's probably something else going on there and that's unfortunate.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 2:57 PM

Finding time to be alone IS about finding balance. I'm an introvert and I have to have time to myself. I can sometimes find that balance at work, but other times I kick my husband out of the house with the kids so I can take a nap!

http://lawyermama.blogspot.com

Posted by: Lawyer Mama | October 9, 2006 2:59 PM

JKR, my husband and I never negotiated any specific "me" time for either of us, but a routine has evolved: There's a TV program he likes to watch on Sunday mornings, so that's when I take the girls to the park and leave him in peace. Then after we come home, I have my "me" time in the form of a long, hot bath while he gives them lunch. That's pretty much all the me time either of us gets all week, but it's enough.

I also think you were right (I think it was your post) that people love to complain and they make a lot of things sound worse than it is. One of the biggest surprises of motherhood for me (besides how much childbirth really hurts) is how much joy I get from my girls. Not that every minute is a picnic, but overall it's a real joy to be their mom.

Posted by: Glad to be a mom | October 9, 2006 3:01 PM

*Love* the taoist perspective, Wilbrod! Good attitude on opting out of complainer culture.

Posted by: JKR | October 9, 2006 3:02 PM

*Love* the taoist perspective, Wilbrod! Good attitude on opting out of complainer culture. (I say this as a person trying to complain less, not trying to judge those who choose to complain! :-)

Posted by: JKR | October 9, 2006 3:03 PM

Shopping (not grocery shooping)serves as my alone time. Plus my husband is pretty good about taking my son off my hands when I get overwhelmed. I actually long for more time together than time alone. I always feel guilty when spending time away from my son because I feel like the time I spend at work is enough time away even though it doesn't qualify as "me time".

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 9, 2006 3:06 PM

On the childless topic - I never really felt like the mommy type. I didn't coo over people's kids or long to have children. In fact when I was pregnant I was afraid I wouldn't be "mommyish" enough. Having my son just blew me away and gave me emotions I never felt before. Parenthood is such a great joy, such a wonderful joy. Of course we gripe about the responsiblity that comes along with it but I doubt anyone here regrets having children. You really cannot tell how you will feel about kids until you have one of your own.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 9, 2006 3:12 PM

As an adult, the day I don't "need to work" is the day the balance in my retirement accounts generate enough income to support me independently. That day is 20 years away, at best.

My husband has a great job, and I'm sure many people would say I don't "need" to work to support our family given his income. But he's my husband, not my retirement plan so off to work I go!

Posted by: "Needing" to work | October 9, 2006 3:18 PM

Hmm I didn't realize we had another Liz posting. This is the Liz who often talks about how people shouldn't have children until they are very secure and how a great majority of the people in the world should not ever choose to have children at all.

But I'm not the Liz who first started posting today on this. While I also happen to be someone too selfish to give up a full night's sleep and ability to go out whenever I want to take care of a baby- I can definitely understand why some people do and how it is part of what fulfills them as a person.

I think too many people allow their identity to become overwhelmed as a "mom" or "dad" and instead of learning balance, their EVERYTHING becomes about the child. This isn't healthy for the parent OR the child. Learning to make "me time" is a skill that parents should emulate for their children- showing boundaries, learning priorities, respecting people's energy and time...it's a great skill.

Posted by: Liz (not the first Liz) | October 9, 2006 3:19 PM

I felt the same way before having children, fabworkingmom... there were friends' and relatives' children that I appreciated and enjoyed, but I've never been universally nuts about children. I am really enjoying my daughter and find that I am able to enjoy things in the present much more than I did before. Perhaps I just don't have the energy to get all keyed up about will happen next!

Posted by: MaryB | October 9, 2006 3:19 PM

Another angle on today's question: does anyone have rules/feelings on forbidding certain kinds of activities from counting as "me" time? I find laundry relaxing in a sort of getting-caught-up-with-chores way, but I don't necessarily "count" it as me time. Also, like fabworking mom said, I wouldn't count *grocery* shopping as me time, but clothes shopping, yes, that would count. Even though he's alone, I would never consider my husband's time behind the lawnmower "his" time. Someone mentioned very early on that commute time counted as "me" time for them; I wish I could think of it that way--I'd get about an hour more of it a day!--but I just get frustrated about what I *could* be doing at home, alone or otherwise, than forcing my way through a line of traffic. :) Any others that DON'T "count"?

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 3:20 PM

"Thank you Liz, for proving once more to me why childless-by-choice women really are cold, selfish losers.

Good luck with the whole "my life has had no meaning" crisis you'll start to feel in your 40/50's. ;)"

Having children to validate your own life and existence is a horrible reason to have them in the first place.

Why would some parents wish that those without kids have them, when they clearly don't want them? It's like trying to "make" someone love you, in the end it doesn't work, and all that's left is suffering.

Posted by: literarygirl | October 9, 2006 3:22 PM

JKR, I love your chore chart, it cracks me up! We've never really fought about chores so it's not an issue for us, but if it were, I could totally see myself doing that too!

Niner, nice question. I don't count time at work, but I should count the time I spend blogging ;). I used to count my commute but that was on the train so I could read.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 3:25 PM

Ditto, fabworkingmom.

Posted by: Cassandra | October 9, 2006 3:26 PM

I'm the Liz from today ... didn't realize that I was appropriating someone else's identity! That defiintely wasn't on purpose. I guess all the cool kids are named Elizabeth.

Oddly, though, I do agree with most of what she said in describing herself.

Posted by: "Interloper Liz" | October 9, 2006 3:26 PM

"You really cannot tell how you will feel about kids until you have one of your own."

This is a very risky and expensive experiment for people who are pretty darned sure they don't want kids. Sometimes you have to follow your gut instinct -- especially when trying something you're not sure about will result in the birth of a child. You can't change your mind after the deed is done!

Posted by: pittypat | October 9, 2006 3:27 PM

Oh my goodness childless by choice are you the president's mistress? If so, no wonder you are so crabby.

Posted by: hehhe | October 9, 2006 3:28 PM

Megan, good point--I would indeed count *train* commute time as "me" time, just not driving time, I guess. And I was going to throw blogging in there, too, but I forgot. ;)

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 3:29 PM

LOL to Liz: that's the only reason I felt the need to distinguish us because our views seem to be very similar.

As far as rules for "me time"- I live with two of my partners and we keep it simple- if the door to your bedroom is closed, it means you are on "me time" and you have to knock before entering and it should only be for a very serious reason. If the door is open, then you're just hanging and there's no expectation of "me time." You might have to train your partner and younglings on this for awhile, but if you are firm, you can make it stick!

Posted by: Other Liz (Now Liz D) | October 9, 2006 3:31 PM

"This blog is devoted to illuminating the work/family debate through stories from moms about how we juggle work and kids, in whatever portions we've chosen (including none). So welcome, working moms, sort-of working moms and not-working-right-now moms."

That being said, I don't care who posts, but you don't have to be nasty and if you don't want to talk about the issues, why are you on here?

Posted by: marc's partly right | October 9, 2006 3:31 PM

"While I also happen to be someone too selfish to give up a full night's sleep"

Liz2 --

Please, please don't use the word "selfish" on behalf of other child-free people. It's hard enough to convince people with kids that we aren't a bunch of "cold, selfish losers" (as one poster so eloquently put it earlier) without one of our own offering up proof to the contrary.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 3:34 PM

to 3:34... I think we'd all see each other in a better light if we'd realize that all of our decisions are in some way selfish. I didn't have a baby to do that baby a favor - I did it to be a mother, something I wanted to do. If I didn't want to be a mother, I would, in my own self interest, remain childless. If someone accidentally has children, perhaps that's different, but I think most of the parents on this blog came to this life purposefully.

Posted by: MaryB | October 9, 2006 3:38 PM

I agree pittpat, if you're dead set against having kids then don't. But if you want kids but are just not sure you're the mommy/daddy type, don't let fear or anxiety keep you from experiencing one of the greatest relationships you can have with another person.

Posted by: fabworkingmom | October 9, 2006 3:41 PM

Liz wrote "I think too many people allow their identity to become overwhelmed as a "mom" or "dad" and instead of learning balance, their EVERYTHING becomes about the child. This isn't healthy for the parent OR the child. Learning to make "me time" is a skill that parents should emulate for their children- showing boundaries, learning priorities, respecting people's energy and time...it's a great skill."

For a person without any kids you sure think you know a lot about being a parent and what's right and wrong. You're handing out advice to parents based on having ZERO experience with being a parent? Puh-leeze. Stick to writing about the "great skills" required to take care of your cat, or something else you actually know about.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 3:41 PM

MaryB, very nicely said. Also, I think anyone who really believes that childless people are selfish is unlikely to swayed one way or the other by either Liz's choice of words.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 3:42 PM

Thanks MaryB! Depending on how you look at it, it can be considered selfish to have or not have children!

As someone who is childless, I enjoy reading this blog as it sometimes addresses things that I have no experience with (and thereby learn from), it has opened my mind a bit to understand the different choices that people make (the idea of being a SAHM is SO unappealing to me) and it also addresses issues outside of children - life balances, changes of life when you have children, etc.

Also, depending on the day or the topic some labeled group is accused of being sensitive, judgemental, etc. but some days everyone's nice! :)

Posted by: Betty | October 9, 2006 3:44 PM

I don't think I'm a cold and selfish loser, but I absolutely make the choice to not have children based on a need for my own self. I don't want to put my time and energy into creating and raising another person.

Granted, most parents make the choice to have children to fulfill their own selfish desires also.

Making a choice because of self isn't a bad thing at all. I know so many bemoan the problems of the "me generation" but really, we're the only ones who can decide what's right for ourselves and we need to stand strong in those choices.

I hear what you are saying, and lord knows I get enough social pressure to become pregnant and that I'm somehow confused because I don't feel the urge to procreate (or worse- that I just haven't been hit with the 'baby arrow' yet) and am as tired as anyone of the idea that moms = superior humans to non-moms.

But I stand by that my choice to not procreate as a selfish one- I'm proud of making the right choice for myself, and honestly I think if more people made this choice we'd have a lot less worries over how to "balance" lives because people would be making choices which were already in balance with who they are.

Posted by: Liz D | October 9, 2006 3:44 PM

To the 3:41 post, I think that people without children can often have great insight based on a more objective observation. I've certainly gotten some very good food for thought from a good friend who is not a parent but has watched me and other loved ones in their relationships.

And sometimes the advice you get from other parents is useless because it's based on their experience with their own child, who could be very different from your child.

Parents don't have a monopoly on wisdom about relationships and mental health - both parents and child-free people can give great advice or horrible advice.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 3:45 PM

to 3:41 poster:

Yup, I'm one of those uppity people who dare to give parenting and life advice when I'm not a parent. You can discount everything I say if you want to, that's your choice.

But the question is- was I wrong? Is learning how to prioritize time, show respect for other people's energy and time, and enforcing boundaries a good skill for parent's to emulate to their children?

The hubris that only parents can give life and parenting advice is really so pointless. No one can deny that life experience is important in forming and giving opinions, but to simply discount them out of hand because I haven't procreated is just about the most immature way to handle a discussion board I can think of.

Posted by: Liz D | October 9, 2006 3:50 PM

Umm You could not take 2 hours of solitude. You do realize that your children will leave home some day and it is a high probability that you will outlive your spouse. Do you intend that the children make you the center of their universe as you have made them the center of yours? Please get a life. Having a job could help.

Posted by: havealife | October 9, 2006 3:54 PM

Mumof4 with her rant about women who don't need to work not therefore needing me time is an example of a frightening trend that I see amongst the parents of my kids' friends, too. It's not just parents who need "me" time -- I believe my kids need non-parent time just as much. Of course, perhaps I come from and am raising the next generation of a long line of introverts. However, my husband, very much an extrovert, agrees that our kids should be left to their own devices far more than we see other parents of our acquaintance do. I'm just suggesting that in our baby boomer quest for perfecting every square inch of the world, maybe we should all just back off and let our children grow up without feeling like we need to be there with them every second. To borrow a phrase from Liz earlier, maybe they're secretly wishing those big things would stop crawling all over them.

Posted by: momof2 | October 9, 2006 3:56 PM

As a SAHM, I really struggle with "me" time because I feel guilty if I am not doing something useful during the day. I don't want to be seen as the bon-bon eating, soap opera watching SAHM stereotype so seldom sit during the day. By the time the kids are in bed, I am totally exhausted, yet yearning for some time to read so I end up staying up way too late. I justify my time at the gym by saying, "well, I ate lunch standing up and cooked dinner during naptime." My husband tells me I am crazy, but I suppose all those years of working has instilled a feeling that because I don't get paid now, I don't deserve to have any down time.

Posted by: 1+2 mom | October 9, 2006 3:57 PM

My mother, a SAHM, suffered immensely after her children "left the nest." She too is very excited to have her first grandchild; sometimes, too excited! It works out great for me though; she's been a real help with baby clothes and necessities.

For the poster commenting on the life without meaning crisis at 40&50s is forgetting that a mother is a mother for life (a father too). And her life will always have meaning, in mine, in my siblings, and now in her grandchild's! Parenthood is alot about giving, so much that it hurts.

Posted by: momtobe | October 9, 2006 3:57 PM

Niner - thanks for the post. I never thought about the fact that we ALREADY would need me time and that might be the root of our "chores" fights. Thanks for the insight and I think you are right! My husband just mentioned today that he might have to work late and I felt bad cause I was kind of hoping he will so I have time to get the house straightened up after the weekend (weekends can go either way for us as far as accomplishing more/less organization). I guess I shouldn't feel bad about needing that time to get things back together. I'm def. the kind of person who feels more relaxed once things are organized. As far as splitting the chores, I was getting too focused on how much I do versus he does, but we've found that there are tasks that each of us REALLY hates and that's where the other person comes in, for instance I hate doing the dishes. He does them all the time and even though I probably end up doing more cleaning in particular task I don't have to worry about makes a huge difference.

I've also found that pointing out that he isn't helping in a humorous way, as opposed to complaining, gets a lot more accomplished. He fixes whatever it is, but does it with a smile instead of a scowl. : ) I'm hoping we have worked all the household chores stuff out for good, before we any children, but I'm afraid that might be wishful thinking!

Posted by: gradstudent | October 9, 2006 4:05 PM

JKR--my husband and I fight about chores all the time, and I'd love to hear more about your chore chart. Did one of you come up with it? If so, how did you present it to the other (I'd be afraid as coming across as a nag)? Can you get specific about how it works? We need help!

Posted by: To JKR | October 9, 2006 4:06 PM

"Mumof4 with her rant about women who don't need to work not therefore needing me time is an example of a frightening trend that I see amongst the parents of my kids' friends, too. It's not just parents who need "me" time -- I believe my kids need non-parent time just as much."

I believe you are *completely* missing my point.

Did I ever say that parents don't need time away from their kids? Nope. What I said was that there needs to be BALANCE between finding time for yourself and time for your family, and that in many cases, parents take it so far the other direction that they end up never spending time with their families. My comments about parents who "don't need to work" was specifically about those who choose to work simply to have time away from their children. Not those who work to have a bigger house or retirement or to afford private school. To have, well, ME TIME. Let's just strike the phrase "don't need to work" from my posts and assume that's what I meant, so I don't get attacked by the "how dare you judge what my needs are" crowd.

I'm not sure what age of children you're talking about with this "frightening trend", but the majority of children in this country go to school and automatically have parent-free time. Even younger children have parent-free time because the majority of them go to preschool and/or daycare for at least a portion of each week. And in the rare cases of a child like my youngest - who is with me the majority of the time - it's not like I'm "crawling all over him" - he's an independent child who plays on his own and with his siblings for a good portion of the day. It is up to HIM, not ME, how much time he spends in physical contact with me.


Posted by: momof4 | October 9, 2006 4:12 PM

You wouldn't think Leslie's blog today would provoke such animosity, but all it takes here is one person to post the "wrong" thing and off it goes.

To respond to one of the Liz's note that "Granted, most parents make the choice to have children to fulfill their own selfish desires also." I really don't think that's true. I think the parent who tries to live through their child is the exception, not the rule. Personally, I had a desire to give and love and nurture. Is that a "selfish" reason for wanting to be a mother? Hm.

And I was just thinking, so what if it's true? Suppose my own mother had me because of some "selfish" desire? Either way I've been given a great gift: LIFE! I don't care *why* she gave me life so much as I'm just grateful she *did* give me life.

I liked the post above about not complaining so much. Leslie should devote one day of this blog to positive stories only. The best, the funniest, the most surprising thing that's ever happened to you as a parent (or non-parent, as the case may be).

Then again, I have been told I'm a little bit of a pollyanna so I'm guessing someone here is going to make fun of me for saying these kinds of things.

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | October 9, 2006 4:13 PM

to confused godmother: Or golf. (replying to what dads do on weekends.)

Posted by: parttimer | October 9, 2006 4:18 PM

"Liz wrote "I think too many people allow their identity to become overwhelmed as a "mom" or "dad" and instead of learning balance, their EVERYTHING becomes about the child. This isn't healthy for the parent OR the child."

Liz, I don't care how many kids you don't have, this is excellent advice that all parents should heed. :) If children see their primary caregiver(s) as completely and utterly focussed on them, they'll expect the world to treat them the same way. However, if kids begin to recognize their parents as human beings who have their own needs and interests--for which they need me time--it seems to me that they'll turn into more compassionate human beings with an understanding that their needs aren't always the most important.

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 4:18 PM

P.S. to "1+2 mom" -- I justify my time at the gym by saying, "well, I ate lunch standing up and cooked dinner during naptime."

You're not alone! I see myself in that description too (though I am a working mom, not SAHM). Like if you're not working at maximum multitasking productivity you're an unworthy slacker. I suffer from that affliction too, and it's a tough one to beat. I'm pretty energetic in general, so I'm not super stressed overall, but I do wish I could be a *little* more forgiving of myself and learn to just go lay down in a while and leave the chores and stuff be for half an hour.

Posted by: 2Preschoolers | October 9, 2006 4:21 PM

Ah, the eternal quest for some alone time. I found it to be an evolution. When my first child was born, I loved having 30 minutes in a bath after he went to bed. I was completely alone and always felt recharged. That has always been the time and activity that my family has respected - leave mom alone when she is in the tub. No one even knocks on the door!

As my children have gotten older, my friends have organized girls get away weekends. They are good escapes - another city, dinner out at a nice restaurants, probably more drinking than we would do at home. Alone time has evolved into 2 nights away about 3 times a year. Unfortunately, these seem to be times that the people I am with choose to discuss how horrible their husbands are, how unbalanced their lives are, and how difficult it is to control their children. Much like this blog, people with common situations have very different ways of coping and dealing.

These get aways usually make me long for sweet goodnight hugs from the kids, a kiss from my husband, and a long bubble bath.
The alone time is the perfect way to remember why the kids and spouse are so important.

Posted by: Former NoVa Mom | October 9, 2006 4:35 PM

To gradstudent: "I'm hoping we have worked all the household chores stuff out for good, before we any children, but I'm afraid that might be wishful thinking!"

Ah, but then you have all of the KID-related chores to work out! ;) But seriously, you guys will be fine. Especially important is recognizing, as you have, that there are some things the other just doesn't do. Inevitably, this is the one thing that drives you nuts. I can't turn off a light when I leave a room to save my life. My husband leaves socks under the kitchen table-disgusting, I know. I often comment--humorously, as you do--something to the effect of, "Oh, yeah, Gold Toe! This is the brand of socks that magically propel *themselves* into the hamper!"

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 4:40 PM

The level of vitriol on this blog gives me some insight into why I have trouble freely enjoying a day off from child, home, and work responsibilities. It seems everyone has an opinion as to whether a parent deserves to have any free time, and if he/she is deemed to have that right, how much free time is appropriate. The level of hostility here makes it hard for a person to raise issues or seek support unless he/she is feeling particularly brave.

Posted by: Anonymous mom | October 9, 2006 4:43 PM

Rereading my post, it sounds passive aggressive, and I didn't mean to do that. Thanks to niner for the empathetic post. It's just that the general tone of discourse is very confrontational, and so many people seem to have an opinion as to whether others are making "proper" choices with regard to having free time. I think this reflects a very judgemental bent in our society, thus contributing to the pressure so many of us (needlessly) feel. It's sad.

Posted by: anonymous mom | October 9, 2006 4:54 PM

the things people post on here are so funny. It always goes back to animals for childless people, it kills me. Oh well, at least no one is ganging up on people that bad today.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 4:56 PM

To Anonymous Mom: it actually has been a pretty good day, believe it or not! Leslie made a good point last week: people feel strongly about parenting, and those strong feelings tend to come out. And while the negativity occasionally gets me down--somedays, I look at the topic and think, oh, man, I'm not even going to look today--I keep coming back because I know that for every troll, there's a regular poster who will give me some insight on some aspect of my life that's vexing me. And today, I even had the pleasant experience of giving out some advice that was well-received! :)

Posted by: niner | October 9, 2006 4:59 PM

To 2preschoolers:

I think the parent who tries to live through their child is the exception, not the rule. Personally, I had a desire to give and love and nurture. Is that a "selfish" reason for wanting to be a mother? Hm.
***
I didn't say that the selfish reason most people have children is to live through their child.

I said that they have children due to selfish reasons. You are included here. YOU had the desire to nurture and give and love in this way. YOU chose to give YOURSELF that experience.

Yes, it is a selfish reason, it's YOUR desires that YOU wanted fulfilled in a very particular way.

And that's not a bad thing at all.

Posted by: Liz D | October 9, 2006 5:21 PM

Momof4:

Bravo. Eloquent posts. You captured what I was trying to say better than I did. Everyone agress we all need some time alone now and then. It just anecdotally seems a good number of folks take it to extremes these days.

My wife and I were beginning to think that we were the only folks that saw it that way. Maybe it's also partly a parental age/generational thing.

Posted by: Texas Dad of 2 | October 9, 2006 5:44 PM

We all need "me time" but sometimes it just isn't possible or we have to settle for "sort of me time." Sometimes there's so many chores to do in that short period of time once the kids are in bed but before going to bed ourselves. I can't "waste" time just watching a video but I'm legitimized if I fold laundry while doing it or pay bills. A little pseudo me time until I can do better.

Another way that my husband and I get a little kid-free time is a little strange. But, on Sunday mornings, since we belong to different churches, he'll take the kids with him to an early service and then later they'll go to church with me. Of course, he gets the better end of this deal since I'm usually gone twice as long.

Posted by: Rockville Mom | October 9, 2006 5:44 PM

I agree that the level of vitriol is a bit much here.

Since Rockville Mom already confessed I'll second her. I started going to church because they had a nursery and I could leave baby there for the service. Some weeks I felt like it was my one time to sit in peace.

EXCEPT that then the church got my name and I got called and signed up to do nursery duty. I spent the next 17 years teaching Sunday School on Sunday mornings. By that time my kids were too big to go to the nursery and we'd leave after Sunday school because the prospect of sitting through the service with them was not that wonderful.

That's not to say that I didn't enjoy it, but it's a long way from a peaceful spirtual experience.

If any pastors read this take note about why your church might not be so full of young couples!

Posted by: RoseG | October 9, 2006 6:12 PM

Anonymous mom, I feel for you, both your first and last two posts. I think the division of parenting and parents into schools and groups is enormously sad - it seems no matter what choice you make you will be judged by someone for it, so best to just do what's best for you and ignore other's criticism.

I try to remember that most often the eyes I feel judging me are my own, and lay off a bit. And seek out the moms who also feel like they're just doing the best they can to get by!

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 6:23 PM

To everyone who wrote about chores, work and running being glorious "me" time -- I'm right there with you, and it cracks me up that the stuff I used to dread is now what I look forward to. So hard to explain to people without kids, because it makes parenthood sounds awful, when it's really pretty funny and oddly wonderful.

Posted by: Leslie | October 9, 2006 6:38 PM

To Hehhe: You're closer than you think, but my lover has 2 Masters degrees. The Prez squeaked by on a C average.

For those trumpetting about procreating: It is not normal for a man to want children. They do not want them. Repeat after me ..... Men do NOT want children. My lover was a frequent visitor when his wife was pregnant and more so after she had her baby. So if you want to keep your husband home and happy, don't have kids.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 9, 2006 7:40 PM

For those trumpetting about procreating: It is not normal for a man to want children. They do not want them. Repeat after me ..... Men do NOT want children. My lover was a frequent visitor when his wife was pregnant and more so after she had her baby. So if you want to keep your husband home and happy, don't have kids.

oh, I get it now, you are a cheat. Great, cheats don't need kids anyway. And, "her baby" sorry he had to help her out there, so it's their baby. God, I feel so sorry for you. You probably cry and say, "you promised you'd leave her."

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 7:45 PM

JKR - one thing my husband and I have done is that he takes our son to a parent-tot class Saturday mornings and I take him out Saturday afternoons; those things ensure a little bit of downtime for each of us at home, and it's pretty easy to keep even.

That seems to work for us. We do each sometimes need more downtime (I prefer that term to 'me' time) and try to step in if one of us is overwhelmed. I like my blog-reading time here and there and he likes to game, and we both like to putter. But while our son's in his baby-toddler years, mostly our hobby is - baby. :) Which is fun because it's walks together and playgrounds and lying on the floor exploring blocks falling down and things.

Just a caveat - I'm not sure parenting can be even on a weekly basis because one week your kid's only into mummy and the next it's daddy, or one parent's better at soothing during a tummy ache, or whatever.

Posted by: Shandra | October 9, 2006 8:44 PM

"what do those of you who don't have children get out of this blog or what do you hope to give as it does seem pretty dominated by balancing work life with a personal life that includes children. i suppose we can all learn from one another's experiences, but had i no children, i would not think i had much to learn from this blog. whoever posted to me anonymously, do you get a lot out of this blog?" posted by marc

I just got around to reading Marc's comment and I would like to answer from my point of view. I am retired and my children are both grown up so that I am no longer involved in balancing work and family. I read the blog because it interests me to see how young parents (and non-parents) today think.

By the way, I hate it when people use the expression "working mom". All moms work, but some have a paid job as well as an unpaid job.

Posted by: Older Mom | October 9, 2006 9:10 PM

"Just a caveat - I'm not sure parenting can be even on a weekly basis because one week your kid's only into mummy and the next it's daddy, or one parent's better at soothing during a tummy ache, or whatever"

Really good point, Shandra. Babies seem to go through phases, short and long, where they need certain things from certain parents, and sometimes you have to roll with it. And knowing your particular strengths and figuring out how they complement each other can help a lot too - it's much easier for me to wake up in the morning, but I crash late afternoon - working on that schedule instead of trying to make sure we each get to sleep in on the same number of days works a lot better for us all.

Posted by: Megan | October 9, 2006 9:30 PM

JKR, you're welcome. I also tended to find myself "carrying things" for far too long.
Some people can complain nonstop and then 4 minutes later, they'll say 'oh that? You're still thinking about that?", but I'm not one of those people, so literally I have to stop carrying things around, whether I complain or not.

It just seems to me that complaining to get attention always intensifies my negative self-image for me, and leads to more complaints to myself even if I don't voice them.

I realized I was happier if I didn't dwell on things and often did improve and do better much more than if I dwelt on my/others' mistakes.

It's not about being "a nicer companion" or others, it's about deciding to be happy.

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 9, 2006 11:16 PM

"My lover was a frequent visitor when his wife was pregnant and more so after she had her baby."

What a great guy. You must be so proud.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 9, 2006 11:37 PM

For those trumpetting about procreating: It is not normal for a man to want children. They do not want them. Repeat after me ..... Men do NOT want children. My lover was a frequent visitor when his wife was pregnant and more so after she had her baby. So if you want to keep your husband home and happy, don't have kids.

Posted by: Childless by Choice | October 9, 2006 07:40 PM

=====

What a load of tripe. As one of many men who want children, I don't believe that you know men very well. In fact, I want children more than my wife does. However, before we were married, we talked about this and I mentioned that this was very important to me and that if children were not in her future, then we needed to go our separate ways and find other partners. She thought about it and agreed to have children before we were engaged. I would not have proposed had she not been on the same page. She had never wanted to have children, but once she thought about it long and hard (for several months), she found the things about having children that meant a lot to her.

I went to college at a former all men's university and the few women that I went to college were fairly anti-children back then. And lo, and behold, many of them changed their minds later in life when they met partners who valued children and many of them now have children. Most of the women from college that I still keep in touch with have partners who wanted children more than they did.

Posted by: DadWannaBe | October 10, 2006 1:31 AM

I get "me" time by waking up at a rediculusly early time in the morning. Probably due to anxiety.

Posted by: Father of 4 | October 10, 2006 4:23 AM

I've only recently started reading this blog, but I have to agree with Marc that I don't understand why some of the people who seem to regularly read and post here even bother. Or if they do, then why snipe against the lifestyle choices made by other people? (i.e. whether or not one has chosen to be, or not be, a parent)? It's kind of sad.

I am currently a SAHM of a 2 year old. Wasn't always so - I worked until we moved to Vienna when she was a year old. It was a very difficult change for me, as I'd been a professional working person for 10 years. Since this shift, however, I have found it very important to keep some space and time to myself.

I've been able to do it by having a babysitter come twice a week for a few hours at a time - in the beginning, the rationale was to have someone watch my daughter while I was taking German class. Then I realized it was an opportunity for me to just get a bit of a break, and I started having the sitter stay a bit longer so I could go to museums, go swimming, meet my husband for lunch, or a friend in a cafe.

These precious hours have been so important to me, and being able to take this time to myself during the week has meant that I can spend the evenings and weekends more focused on my family and doing things all together.

Posted by: Vienna mom | October 10, 2006 9:04 AM

Childless by Choice is a very troubled and unhappy woman. It is best to ignore her rantings.

Posted by: Rockville | October 10, 2006 10:35 AM

How do I find time alone? Boy Scouts and Church youth group lock ins!!!! They rock.... I also have a very generous family that gives me a break now and then........

Posted by: hopewellmom | October 10, 2006 12:40 PM

I'd like to add "to each his own". But it seems like there are many adults who seem to think they were just born grown. Each and every one of us was once a needy child. Better for all of us to have had attentive parent(s).

Posted by: Letetia | October 13, 2006 9:42 AM

Wow! This is a hot topic. As the parent of two teenage daughters(16 15)....I can safely say my husband and I are gleefully looking forward to "us" time very soon. As a working mom, in school, community work, minsitry....etc, "me" time is a necessity!

If you are truly parenting then you know it is a job. And I truly believe not everyone is meant to be a parent just as not all are cut out to be married. To each it's own. I would recommend to a "husband and wife" considering children to think long and hard about it. They are indeed a joy and yes they grow and go through many life altering changes along the way. I truly didn't grow up until my daughters hit their pre-teens! SHOCK TO THE SYSTEM....what our children face in today's world. All in all I put them first and nurture and instill all I have to give....But I am not going to be mad when they leave...miss them..yes, but not mad!

Posted by: sonel | October 20, 2006 2:40 PM

Well done!
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Posted by: Lena | November 2, 2006 2:03 AM

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