Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder & violence every single day should be avoided entirely..."

I can’t remember why I thought I wanted to read either Maybe Baby or Susan Cheever’s As Good as I Could Be.

Seriously. No recollection. And for the sake of my blood pressure, I kinda wish I hadn’t bothered.

Maybe Baby is a collection of essays by famous and semi-famous writers debating the merits of having children - or not. I didn’t mind the truly thoughtful, introspective essays – I do believe some people just don’t ever experience a maternal urge or their ticking biological clock, and I am fine with that. (Some days I wish I’d ignored mine.) I understand that children take up a lot of time and resources that many people are not willing to surrender. But is it necessary to be belligerent and rude about MY choice to bear children? I do realize there are parents who have no right having kids, but my boys are sweet and mostly well-behaved, and I try very hard to be a good parent, instilling in my children (I hope) thoughtfulness, consideration for others, the importance of family, and a decent work ethic. H and I work hard for our money and act responsibly with it, and if we choose to spend it on children, that is our prerogative, isn’t it? Why must you be so aggressive and downright venomous about our choice? I don’t care that you have chosen NOT to have children. Yes, there are days when I am exhausted and fed-up, but I love my boys, and I can’t imagine life without them. It might be neater, quieter, wealthier, and less hectic, but it wouldn’t be my life. So, you know, BACK OFF.

As for Ms Cheever – let me put on my Judgmental Hat for one moment now – she married three times, had a child each by her second and third husbands, and then spends several chapters decrying the horror of divorce and the terrible anxiety it inflicted on her son and daughter. She wonders, My kids--a daughter who is now a Freshman at Princeton, and a ten-year-old son--didn't have many of the things that kids are supposed to have--family stability, money, consistency--yet they are fabulous, wonderful children. In thinking about how that happened--what it was they did have that helped them so much -- I began to think about writing this book..

Well, my solution for divorce-scarred children is simplicity itself – don’t do it. I understand the reality of marriages and divorces – sometimes totally necessary – but there comes a point at which it’s just careless to marry/divorce again and I venture to say that three is my magic number. If your spouse dies, or runs off, or abuse is involved, I get it – but to just decide, “You know, we just don’t LOVE each other anymore.” Well, guess what, maybe you should have thought of that before you procreated together.

I realize I am probably in the minority in my views on this, but I am unapologetically a huge believer in staying together for the children. H and I would not still be married if it weren’t for the kids; I love him now, but five years ago, we were ready to not only go our separate ways but as fast as possible in completely opposite directions with nary a backward look. However, this desire was complicated by a couple of little guys, and neither of us could bear the thought of not seeing Primo and Seg every single day, not kissing them goodnight, not waking up to them - in essence, not parenting them, together. We kicked around several ideas and ultimately decided that we would live in our big house as roommates. We hashed out a care schedule so each of us would have a few evenings free, and figured out the money situation, and proceeded to be *very civil* roommates, until H recovered from his premature midlife crisis, and I got my head screwed back on straight, and we tentatively proffered olive branches and slowly returned to the other. And now things are, if not idyllic, good. Happy. Solid. Mostly. We disagree about things, and we fight, and there are days when I could cheerfully clobber him, but I love him. We have history. No one knows me as well as he does. And our boys still have two parents every day, under the same roof, and I would not have it any other way. It hurts my heart to think of my children having to figure out where their bathing suit or stuffed bear or lunch box is – Mommy’s house or Daddy’s house? So I chose to do what was best for my kids, and fortunately in the long run best for me as well, and I am still married to their dad. And I find I have little patience for Ms. Cheever’s selfishness and subsequent cluelessness.

So, here you have it. My eloquent (ha!) review of two “parenting” books I probably should have skipped.

*************

*Phyllis Diller

10 comments:

Poppy Buxom said...

Thank you for saying that. And for giving me two more books to add to my "won't bother to read" list. Which gives me permission to finish reading The Next-to-Nothing House.

Sinda said...

I COMPLETELY agree with you. I don't think I would have before I was married, or even before I have kids, but now I really think the only reaosn I would (personally) sanction divorce is in cases of abuse. Not that I would inflict my opinion on anyone else. When I see families go through the pains of separation and divorce, it just seems better all around to buck up, live with the things you don't like, and enjoy the great things you have. Plus, as in your story - things change, and people change, so don't do anything rash! It sounds puritanical (to me) and unlike my general world view to hold this belief, but I firmly do.

For the record, I love my husband dearly and this has never some up for us, thank goodness, but I hope if it ever did we'd both be sane and raitonal adults.

Badger said...

Dude. I less than three you.

Velma said...

Me too! I less than three you, too!

I'm on the "divorce is the easy way out" side of the fence, but as with all things, the older I grow the more sure I am that I know nothing.

Katya said...

A few years ago I fully intended on leaving my husband -- I had a job interview in a different state and everything and also my kids aren't as young as yours. But I didn't leave, probably out of laziness and the unwillingness to inflict life without her father on my tween daughter, and things changed. We still fight, we still argue, but we also talk and have fun together too -- we weren't doing that then. I think I understand both sides of the issue though -- the stay together for the children side and the leave because you're unhappy side. I'm just glad I didn't choose the second one.

sueeeus said...

I'm so glad that you've both come through those rocky times, to the place of family and love where you are now. :) That's so good to hear!

Joke said...

Whoa.

We're agreeing on a point of ideology?

Can Judgment Day* be far behind?

-J.

P.S. Thanks for not using the word "hopefully" in an incorrect way.

* "Dogs and cats, living together...mass hysteria!"

Liz said...

Interesting. I think my husband and his siblings would have been better off if his parents had divorced much sooner, but in that case there were NOT two parents who were equally committed to putting their own stuff aside for the sake of a good home environment. I don't think it can work if only one parent is on board. That said, each situation is different and the way you and H made it work is really admirable.

And I'm glad you stayed together... you make such cute babies. ;)

Sarah Louise said...

As a non-married, non-mom, I am grateful for the example (yes, you) offer. I less than three you and yours too.

xo,

SL

MsCellania said...

I not only agree with you 2000%, I will add a caveat that if parents are so selfish as to decide divorce is the solution, then the CHILDREN GET THE HOUSE. That's right, you and your ex get to rent cheap studio apartments and those children STAY IN THEIR HOME, furnished exactly as it was while you were married. The 2 of you get to commute back and forth, while the children's lives are left intact.