Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Not having kids means I'm free to be me me me

Let’s talk about the selfish side of not having children. I hesitate to do that because then people will think I didn’t want them. I don’t want to reinforce the false stereotype that all people without children are selfish and immature. They're not. But maybe I fantasized my offspring would be like the dolls I played with as a kid. My dolls sat quietly on a shelf or in a box until I wanted to play with them. The rest of the time I was free to ride my bike, read until my eyes hurt, or eat cookies without anybody grabbing for a bite. I may be confusing children with dogs in that last bit, but you know what I mean. No need to share my food, my stuff or my time unless I wanted to.

When I was  a child, Mom took care of everything while I just had to do my homework and a few easy chores. Once they were done, I was free to do anything I wanted.

As an adult, especially one without a husband, I have my work and more time-consuming chores, but I am still free when they’re done. I spent years with a live-in stepson. I know what it’s like to have to think about the child’s needs in everything you do. Salad for dinner? He won’t eat it. Want to rent a movie? It has to be PG. Let’s go away for the weekend? What about the boy? I didn’t mind most of the time. I was happy to live some semblance of motherhood.

But I do understand why the childless-by-choice crowd choose to be “childfree.” Kids don’t sit quietly in a box. They cry, complain, get sick, need help, need love, need to be fed, cleaned and taken to the orthodontist. You can’t do whatever you want when you’re a parent, at least not until the kids grow up. Then you can buy an RV and tour the country, start a new career or write a novel.

Speaking of which, November is National Novel Writing Month, known as NaNoWriMo. During this month, writers pledge to write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That’s a lot of writing. To devote that kind of time and concentration would be very difficult with children around. I have signed up before but haven’t followed through. This year, I have signed up for NaNonFiWriMo or National Nonfiction Writing Month. I plan to do some marathon writing for the book I'm working on.

There are other month-long challenges, a poem a day, a blog a day, a short story every day. They’re great for producing a lot of work in a short time, but I don’t think I could do any of them and keep up with my regular work if I had kids around.

We spend a lot of time here grieving our lack of children. The grief is real and it never completely goes away, but look at the other side of it. What are we free to do because we don’t have children? Even if you’re still trying to figure out if and how you’ll become a parent, what can you do right now that you couldn’t if you were a mom or a dad? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I am the Keeper of the Family Keepsakes

I sit on a folding chair in my garage surrounded by the leftovers of several people’s lives. This weekend I am holding a garage sale, where I hope to finally get rid of these things and make a little cash. The wares include 200 vinyl records, four cases of CDs, several piles of books, an electric typewriter, two FAX machines, darkroom equipment, Christmas decorations, wine glasses, mugs, and more. I have a basket of refrigerator magnets and knickknacks to give away. Where did it all come from? Some of it was mine, some my late husband’s, but a lot comes from his mother, father and brother, all deceased. All of the things that weren’t taken in the initial rush after they died have ended up with me.

There’s lots more in the house. I’m not ready to sell it, at least not yet, not my mother’s sheet music, my mother-in-law’s china, my grandmother’s tea cups and her rocking chair, boxes and boxes of photographs, slides and movies, more crocheted afghans than I have beds, and some of my husband’s clothing that I can’t let go. I seem to be the inheritor of everything. I give away or sell as much as I can. I distribute things to other family members, but I am still the keeper, the curator, the guardian of what's left that is too precious to sell or give away.

I’m sentimental. I admit it. I can attach significance to the most seemingly insignificant things. The adorable little copper cup in which I keep my paper clips was part of my husband’s shot glass collection. I look at it and remember our antique store expeditions, so many happy days. Reminders of Fred are everywhere in this house, blended with my own cluttered collection of keepsakes.

I know people who would toss it all in a dumpster and forget it about it. Every sign of the lost loved one would disappear. I fear that’s what will happen to my own stuff when I die.

I have written a will and allotted the house, car, money and other big things to my stepchildren, my niece and nephew, and a couple favorite charities, but what will happen to the little things like pictures and jewelry? I suppose it will be thrown away or put out in a yard sale like I’m doing this weekend. I’m the end of my branch of the family tree. As a childless woman, why do I bother keeping photos and souvenirs? Who am I saving it for?

I’m saving it for me. Seeing these things, having these things makes me happy. It would be wonderful to have grown children to step in and take care of things when I’m incapacitated or dead, but I don’t. Still, I don’t see it being much different from what happened to my grandfather’s house and everything in it: dumpster, yard sale, relatives taking home what they wanted. He had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Parent or not, the process ends up being the same. The only difference is who’s doing it and whether it’s a chore or a labor of love.

People who have children always tell me you can’t count on your kids to step in, so make yourself a will, choose an executor (my brother is mine), and make your wishes known as much as you can. Meanwhile, go ahead and save what makes you happy, just for you. Why not?

Have you inherited your loved one’s things? What did you do with them? Do you worry about what will happen to your things if you don’t have children? Let’s talk in the comments.Meanwhile, if you're near South Beach, Oregon on Friday or Saturday, come see me.

Copyright 2014 Sue Fagalde Lick