Monday, October 19, 2009

To Procreate or Not to Procreate: The Great Child Debate

Most people who know me in a real-world, not-voodoo-magical-internet context know that I have long declared my desire to remain childless, but - perhaps inevitably - I have been thinking about babies quite a bit the last couple of years ... okay, let's be honest - it's not been "quite a bit" but something more along the lines of A FREAKING BLOODY TON!!  I say inevitably for several reasons: I'm getting older and know that the amount time I to actually make this choice is quickly dwindling, my family has accepted my childless state and therefore no longer gives me anything to rebel against by remaining so, practically every woman I know is or was recently or is actively trying to be pregnant, I'm making major life choices right now and need to decide if having children is indeed a desire ... you get the picture.  Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I'm pining away on the couch hoping for the pregnancy fairies to fly through the window, it's not even that most of the time I think about the possibility of having children I actually want it to happen; I haven't made any kind of decision here, but rather I'm just thinking about the decision a lot.  Do I or don't I want to have children?  Honestly, most of the time I don't see it happening - not that I don't necessarily want it happen, but I just don't think it will.  There are those times, however, that I seriously want nothing more than to get pregnant right this instant dammit!  Luckily those are few and far between, and after several days of moping, crying in the shower and imagining how beautiful my child could be while she sleeps, I'm infinitely grateful that I'm a really consistent birth-control taker!  There are simply so many reasons not to have kids (in no particular order):

1) Financial: children are really bloody expensive!  And once you have 'em, you're in it for the long haul!  I would want some sort of financial security if I were to have children, and let's face it - that isn't happening anytime soon!  The hubs has at least 4 more years of school, and I have at least 2 more starting next year.  Being two full-time students doesn't equate well to making/having/saving money!  Nor does it leave much time to be a parent, which is my second point.

2) Time: Obviously, as mentioned above, being in school for several more years doesn't leave a lot of time for feedings, sleepless nights, changing poopy diapers ... you know, the general being-a-parent stuff.  At this point neither M nor I are willing to give up school and career goals to raise children.  This issue isn't settled once school is done however; this might sound selfish, but I really like my me-time and our us-time, and I simply don't know if I'm willing to give that up.

3) Environmental: A child brought up in America today will consume a disproportionate amount of the world's finite resources while at the same time creating more non-degradable trash than most people in the world.  This is also tied with Overpopulation (which I'll call 3, subcategory A): America's population continues to increase, making it one of the only (the only?) "developed" country to do so.  Most of Europe has reached replacement population growth (1 child per 1 adult), or negative growth!  Additionally, there are SO many children in the world who need loving homes and parents - can I really justify bringing another life into the world, thereby increasing the population, when there are already so many children?

4) Biological: Everyone is born with a biological history - my child would be born with a fairly substantial history of  severe depression on both sides of the family.  This isn't to say, of course, that they absolutely would inherent this trait or tendency, but the chances are actually pretty good, and do I really want to be responsible for passing that down to a child?  Perhaps a greater deterrent for me is the possibility of postpartum depression and my fear that my child will be raised by a depressed mother.

5) Auntie-hood: I really enjoy being an auntie - I have 3 nephews and 1 niece and feel pretty fulfilled by those children in my life.  I usually don't feel like I'm missing children, because it's easy to go see them if I do, and of course I can give these children back when I'm exhausted or they have a dirty diaper.

Regardless of all these reasons to not have children though, sometimes I really want them!  Chalk it up to an evolutionarily lagging biological clock, societal pressures and personal expectations, and pure damn curiosity, but regardless of how much I go over the reasons to not have kids, I usually picture my future with children in it, I catch myself saying, "when I have kids" and have to qualify it with a "I mean IF," I am occasionally torn in half, rather painfully actually, when I get my period - I'm happy because I know it's not the right time, and also mourn the loss of a child that never existed and have to consul myself with cake ...


I don't expect answers, but I am curious about other people's decisions.  Do you have children?  Are you planning to?  Why or why not?  Is this is a decision made purposefully or did it just seem like the natural thing to do?  

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wait, this isn't real life?!

I hate to admit it – I really do, but in the interest of full disclosure to the masses of strangers that, of course, read my blog religiously, it must be done!!

Here is goes … I have been watching a lot of TV lately … I mean, A LOT!  A couple of clarifying points are needed here: one – I’m technically not watching TV, seeing as how I don’t actually own one; I am, rather, watching – in rapid succession – season after season of Veronica Mars on my computer, courtesy of the network execs who realized that they could make SO much more money if they could get people to buy multiple series on DVD.  Two: I have been working furiously to get an art piece done by last Saturday for my nephew’s birthday gift – the project ended up taking about 100 hours, and exactly two weeks before the party I was only about 40 hours into it; as most of this work is anally repetitive I generally do it with a show playing in the background.  So … yes, a lot of TV watching!

The purpose of this post is not, however, to reveal my secret shame – no, no my friends – but rather to add my two-cents to a long-standing debate: do the things we watch affect us?  You know the one I’m talking about; it goes something like:

Person one: “I think watching violent movies and playing violent video games makes kids more prone to violence.”

Person two: “I think your stupid face makes me more prone to violence!”

Oh yes, a civil debate if ever there was one.  Perhaps my stance on the matter is obvious from my grossly simplified characterization of the debate itself, but let me take you through my journey of choosing sides …

Like I said, this journey involved a lot of TV watching in a very short period of time: 2.5 seasons in 1.5 weeks … yup, yup, a lot of TV!  I think it is this very circumstance, however, that intensified an effect already taking place – that being that the entertainment that we choose to partake in, perhaps especially the shows/movies/games/etc. that we choose to watch very much effect our everyday lives – but one that is generally subtle enough that we often don’t make the correlation between what’s happening in our own personal lives to the effect entertainment has on us. 

I don’t know how many of your are familiar with the show Veronica Mars – it’s basically about a girl detective who picked up her skills working for her private-investigator father.  She tries to solve the mystery of who killed her best friend, who killed a bus of kids, who raped the girls on campus, etc., lolley-pop licking fluffy-bunny, uplifting topics all, I assure you!  As with all shows aimed at the high school/college crowd, it’s full of high emotion, passion and angst … ahhhh television!  I just recently, within the last couple of days, began to notice a correlation between my mood, emotions and interactions and what was happening on the show – a correlation that at first I denied, then was weirded out by, and finally knocked my on my ass because of the implications.  I have always been a fence-sitter on this “effect of entertainment” debate, not because I haven’t noticed the correlation before, but because it was subtle enough I could easily pass it off as something else, but this experience was so dramatic and obvious that the connection, for me, could no longer be ignored.  I began to notice that if I stopped watching the show when the main character was angry about something – which happens a lot, you have to keep the people coming back to find out what happens! – I was much more likely to be irritable and cranky; if the main character was dealing with the fallout from a particular sexual encounter (which is dealt with throughout the show), I would find myself dragging up issues from a similar, but not exactly the same, encounter that have been dealt with years ago and are really best laid to rest; if she was having problems in her relationships, I would be more irritable with my partner, and alternately if things were going well I would be more understanding and happier.  All of this from a show that, although I find interesting, I barely (consciously) paid attention to – it was noise in the background, a way to keep time; how was I to know that my brain was absorbing the emotions from the show and forcing me to act them out in my own life? 

Like I said earlier, I think this affect was exacerbated by the amount of time I spent watching the show, but I don’t think it was caused by the amount of time spent.  I really have to conclude that all those times in the past when I thought to myself, “hmmm … I don’t understand what’s wrong!  I felt fine an hour ago!” after watching a show is much more than coincidence, but rather my response to what I’m seeing.  I have to believe that this is true for the greater population as well, but – again – the affects are so subtle that it can be difficult to see the relationship.  I have to wonder, as well, about the specific affect on children. 

At 26 I didn’t at first realize what was happening – I accepted my emotions as my own and never questioned if they might be a figment of television.  Imagine, if you will, a pre-teen who has grown up in American society – watching violent television, cartoons, movies, playing violent games.  How is this child supposed to separate her own emotions from the “figment” emotions?  When do those “figment” emotions honestly become his own?  Are our brains actually wired to separate television “reality” from actual reality?  Certainly I have not experienced the violent murder of a best friend, then think her brother/my ex-boyfriend killed her, then realize – when he tries to kill me too – that it was actually the father of my best-friend’s then/my current boyfriend, then experienced the violent murder of a bus full of children which I think is my fault and that someone has a hit out on me, and then experienced multiple attempted/successful rapes all within the span of 3 years, and all the accompanying emotions associate with such experiences … I doubt many people have, but I imagine that if my best friend was going through everything I just detailed – everything that the main character of Veronica Mars, or any other television show experienced – it would affect my life in some of the same ways the show actually did.  Perhaps our brains haven’t evolved to distinguish the difference between entertainment and reality yet, and if this is true, perhaps the loads of money spent on counseling and drugs for violent, troubled, “misbehaved” children is misdirected.  Could it be as simple as turning off the TV?

Image courtesy of this website.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Mathematical melt down

I’d like to say that busyness is the reason for my long silence, but honestly it’s been a motivation issue – as always – that and I wasn’t sure I wanted to share my feelings of being completely overwhelmed with family, friends and strangers alike.  Apparently I’m over that, however, as I am writing it down now.  A disclaimer for the overly offended, however: I am being honest about my feelings and views here and if you – dear reader – are afraid you might have a problem with what is said, stop reading now.  Additionally, I have absolutely nothing against stay-at-home moms and the following characterization is made only of myself and in no way depicts my views of stay-at-parents in general.  Lastly, I think it’s ridiculous this disclaimer is necessary, but I know it is.

Now, on with the show!!


“What,” you ask, “can you possibly be feeling overwhelmed about?  You sleep in, feel guilty about not running more regularly, do some art, pet some kitties and play with puppies at the Humane Society.”  I know, it sounds like a cush life, but as I live almost entirely in a head that never shuts up to give me some peace and quiet, how I feel is rarely related to what I’m doing.  These feelings came when I finally broke down and took the GRE practice test to see just how much I had to cram for the test, which is at the end of October.  I did as I expected – well on the verbal part, poorly on the math.  What I didn’t expect, however, was two things: just HOW poorly I did on the math, and how absolutely stupid and incompetent it made me feel.  Granted, I haven’t taken math for 7 years and I have NEVER understood Geometry, at the least these are the things I keep telling myself to try to bolster my fragile, cracking ego, but it doesn’t seem to keep me from spiraling into a downward dream-crushing, life-immobilizing panic.  “Wow!  It’s just math!!” you say, and my more sensible self would agree.  The self that is firmly in control of my emotions and panic button, however, doesn’t.  That self assures me every day that I’m going to get less than 1000 on my GRE, I’ll be exposed as an unintelligent fraud, no school will ever want me and I’ll never have a real job, which will just lead to me being a depressed stay-at-home mom who didn’t choose that life but utterly failed at everything else I tried and is constantly thinking about what could have been, should have been, would have been and then living out my unfulfilled dreams through my thoroughly resentful children.  Oh yes, my friends, a bright future lays before me indeed!

This does, of course, have so much more to do than getting a bad pre-test score on my math GRE; it has to do with the whole process of going to grad school – no, more than that even; it has to do with the position I am in my life currently.  I am on the edge of making a major life decision, which is always stressful anyway, but made even more so when you realize that this is the first major life decision that I have actually MADE!  “You’re 26, married, college educated … obviously you’ve made decisions before.  You must be exaggerating you drama-queen you!”  Oh, I wish I were!  I have never sat myself down, looked at all my options, asked myself what I wanted most, and then made that decision.  I have LET things happen to me my whole life – I have fit myself to circumstance; I haven’t directed and shaped life to fit my wants and goals – I was never quite sure what those were, and I was so worried about disappointing everyone else that I never noticed I was disappointing myself.

Take my numerous years in college, for example.  College was always the next step after high school for me – it was simply what came next, without question or thought.  I had always wanted to move to the East Coast and go to American University, but knew I wouldn’t because I was expected to go to a religious university – one, in particular.  When I got a scholarship that could only be used in state, I kind of talked about going to a state school, but again, I knew I wouldn’t; I did what was expected of me and went to a small, conservative, Christian school; I let life happen rather than directing it.  Again, when I went back to school for post-bacc work it wasn’t because that was what I really wanted to do at the time, but rather I needed something to do while my partner was working in the area.  I wanted to leave, to pick up and move somewhere far away, but rather than taking steps to make that happen, I simply sat back and fit myself into the circumstance I found myself in.

I have been married for 6 years – yes, that means I was 20 when I got married.  20!!!!  This part is tricky to explain well – it’s not at all that I didn’t want to be with my partner, I absolutely did – I wanted to be with him, live with him, travel with him – but I didn’t necessarily want to get married right then. I was 20!!!  There were so many experiences that I’d never had, and now never will, namely living on my own.  In order for us to have the relationship we wanted, however, our families absolutely expected us to get married; it wasn’t about us and our relationship, but conforming to values held by our parents but not necessarily shared by us.  I did it though – I was expected to get married and I did.

I have done what is expected and let life happen to me for far too long.  I want to live my dreams and stop changing them to fit into current circumstance and expectation.  So here I am, about to apply for grad school with two concerns: what if I fail miserably at my first attempt to live my life according to my desires, and how do I truly know this is my desire and not living in circumstance once again?  I feel like there is a lot riding on this decision to go to graduate school, a lot of pressure (mostly from myself) for this to be the right decision.  How do I know the field I’m choosing is the one I want to do forever?  How do I know that the schools I’m applying to are the ones I want to go to and not the ones that are most convenient to my current circumstance?  Like I said, I feel overwhelmed by the entire process; I feel unsure about my decisions, but I’m not entirely sure they are the wrong ones either.  I want to direct my own life, but I don’t know if I’m up to the challenge and am terrified that I’ll make the wrong choices; I don’t know if I’m actually unhappy or if I’m forcing myself to be just to give myself something to do every day.

            So there it is: I failed the math section of the GRE and it paralyzed me, not because of the test itself, but because of all the choices, confusion and frustration that it ultimately represents; it isn’t the confusing mixture of numbers and letters posing as numbers that’s really the problem (although, come on, those really should be kept separate!), but the mixture of dreams and expectations, direction and circumstance, life and … well … life.