Addendum: After reading this over, I have decided that I am
probably a whiny jerk. And should therefore be read as such. I love
my friends: pregnant, parents, and non-parents, and any implication
otherwise is the sole fault of me as a writer and poor communicator.
Also, as a person who is SCARILY good at inadvertently offending people
So, I could pretend like my New Year's Resolutions included something like "don't be afraid to write a post that might possibly, accidentally, inadvertently offend someone" but it's just not true.
I didn't make any New Year's Resolutions at all, except I think that maybe around 3:30am New Year's Day someone might have asked me about resolutions and I may have mumbled something about needing to be more scheduled or follow schedules better or some such nonsense.
I mean, I DO need to do that, but you know. I won't. Probably.
However, I have had this post idea rattling around in my brain for a while but I have held off writing it because I don't want to piss everyone off, and while I have lamentably few natural talents to boast about, I have displayed a stunning capacity to alienate people on both sides of an issue. Yay, me! I'd have been a shoo-in at debate if I could only have learned to shut my mouth before I tore down every argument possible, including my own.
But since I never learned that, and also I am either feeble-minded or naive enough to believe that this post will not be horribly misconstrued, I am pressing on! Forward progress!
(Please don't hate me.)
Okay, so here's the deal. I am about to be 27. Not old, right? I mean, I don't think it's old at all. I think it's actually pretty young, and you know, I am a business owner and have been since the age of 24 and all I ever hear in that aspect of life is OH MY GOODNESS YOU ARE SO YOUNG; A BABY; HOW CAN YOU POSSIBLY BE COMPETENT (well, they don't SAY that as much as convey it in every other possible way), but regardless - 27 is young. Right?
Most of my friends around here are just about that same age, give or take a year or two in either direction. So, following the above logic, we're all young. And most of us are married, and have been for at least a year or two. Myself, I will be celebrating my fourth year of marriage in August. Wow, right? So I was a baby when I got married, according to lots of people and regions and cultures. And so were my married friends. And now, almost every single one of those friends either has or is currently in the process of having a baby. At last announcement (which, conveniently, was this morning) my Pregnant Friend count is 14. FOURTEEN.
I'll give you a minute with that. Yeah.
Remember that year when you got like, eleventy-million wedding invitations? Well, fast-forward a few years later, and you can replace those wedding invites with baby shower invites and you might also want to invest in some Babies "R" Us stock.
All that "young! youth!" talk up there might be confusing you into thinking that I think 27 is too young to have a baby. Not true. Not true at all. In fact, I think all the ages starting with twenty are just FABULOUS ages to have a baby. And 19! And 18! And 35! And 42 (well, that gets sorta scary). What I am trying to say is I don't care about having babies young or late or never or every year, like clockwork. To each her own, I say. If you're ready to have a baby, or if you find yourself in a position where you'd better be ready, whether you like it or not, then great! I mean, that's why you have the nine months to prepare. It's like mental purgatory.
So there's that particular bullet dodged. I don't care how old or young you are when you have a baby. It's all fine by me.
I'm just saying, I don't have a baby, and I am only 26, and that's just fine. Right? Don't you think that's probably just fine and very normal and everything? I mean, you might initially become confused about this, what with 14 of your friends pregnant, and even more of them already with child, but I mean, it IS NORMAL. Okay. It is. I am sticking with that. And of my 14+ friends who are pregnant or already with children or both, not one of them makes me feel like some kind of freak show for not having kids or not being pregnant myself. I mean sure, I get a lot of "okay, Elise, it's your turn!" and "so, when are you guys planning on starting to try?" and "your mom is SO ready to be a grandparent - better not wait much longer!" but no one points and stares or anything.
So here's the thing that bothers me. I get that when you have a baby, when you're pregnant, when you're a parent, your life changes pretty dramatically. I mean, you have someone else to think about before you make ANY decision, starting with how much caffeine is in that tea you're about to drink, moving on to whether or not you really CAN run to Target with naptime looming in the near future, and finishing your day by debating the merits of staying up past 9pm vs. sleeping as much as possible so as to be ready to wake up with a child at 6:30am or whatever godforsaken time they like to get up. I GET THIS. Okay? Parents, friends, lovely women of the world, I GET IT. Your life is totally different than it used to be, and you have this whole other thing going on, this thing that takes all of your time and attention and is wonderful and I'll never understand it until I have one of my own, but trust me, I am using all the brain capacity granted to me to take in all this knowledge and I really feel like I can say, honestly, I UNDERSTAND. And you know what? More power to ya. I think it's great. You are no longer a selfish, childless human, you are a PARENT. And therefore you are better than me. I get it.
Ahem. That was tongue-in-cheek. You got that, right? Sarcasm. Just checking. Don't want a herd of angry mommies beating down my door! Although that would never happen because they would all have to coordinate with each other about naptimes and bedtimes and bathtimes and then someone's kid would be sick and someone else's would MAYBE be about to pee in the potty and so they can't leave right now, and let's re-schedule for next week, I mean, THEY'RE BUSY BECAUSE THEY HAVE BABIES, GEEZ.
Or not, because that's really the gist of the post. The whole "I can't attend Activity X to which you have invited me, because I have a baby" thing. Which, again, I get it. I really do. I am not offended or upset about my friends not coming over to hang out, or going to watch an unscheduled movie, or doing any of the things we used to do before they had kids. I really, truly am not. You know why? Because I GET IT. They have all these other things to think about before they go anywhere, and if it were me, and I was having to pick between, say, watching a random basketball game with friends or grabbing a precious minute of quiet while my child napped, I'm probably going for the quiet. So I am in your camp, mommies and daddies! I feel ya. I'd be making the same choices, because for me, not wanting to kill myself because of sleep-deprivation fuels a lot of my decision-making ALREADY.
So when I ask a parent-friend, or even a pregnant-friend to do something, and they don't want to do it/can't do it because of the kid, all they have to say is "I can't! I have Baby X!" and I say, "Okay! Maybe next time!" and we all go on our way. That's the way it is everywhere. Parenting, while I know it has its pitfalls, is like the World's Best Built-In Excuse. Don't think I don't know it. And don't think I won't abuse it as well, once I'm a parent. I mean, it's positively GOLDEN. No one can question you when your reason for non-attendance is "THE CHILDREN! CAN'T WE THINK ABOUT THE CHILDREN??"
The thing that's not fair is that I want an iron-clad excuse. I need something for the next time I am, for example, invited to the park to watch five kids of various ages run through the shooting-water thingies and to sit with the moms of the five children and try (pointlessly) to participate in conversations ABOUT these five children and what they ate, or didn't eat, and what their poop looked like yesterday. I need an excuse for this. And I don't know, but I just don't feel like saying "Oh, I can't go! I don't have kids!" will go over as well as it should. And I say "it should" because IT SHOULD. If the opposite applies, that all parents, all over the world, can just turn down any and everything by saying "I can't! I have a kid! I don't feel comfortable with it!" and everyone has to understand, nay, APPLAUD this honorable parenting, then I need something too.
So what can I say? Do I need to get more technical ("I'd love to come, but as of right now, my oocyte hasn't met up with my husband's spermatozoon in order to start the whole fertilization process. Thanks for the invite though!")? Would a more emotional technique work better ("Oh, I WISH I could come over for baby-food making tips! But I would (sniff) feel SO left out and (sob) it would be REALLY HARD for me")? Perhaps a straight-forward plea for reason ("Well, you see, the prospect of three hours of chasing imaginary animals around the yard with a kid who is not mine sounds as good to me as bringing your kid, without any alternative forms of entertainment, along for a wild night in Vegas probably sounds to you")?
Because I get it. I know that the things I think are fun might seem just horrible to you, now that you've got a kiddo in tow. So why am I suddenly supposed to have developed in interest in all things Playskool? Or, barring that, a rich appreciation for early nights in, bedtimes that start at 8pm, and quiet evenings full of leftovers and the evening news?
It's not me, baby, just like nights out on the town until 2:30am isn't you. And you know what? We're all okay for it. It's a different life stage, and soon enough the only time I'll see late night tv is when I'm up lamenting another 3am feeding. But for now, that's not what I've got going. And I don't feel like making a hundred and fifty different excuses for it. I want one, I want it to be a good one, and I want it to be taken as valid.