Sunday, December 29, 2013

ChildFree: A Teacher's Perspective

I think, this Christmas, I killed my Grandma's spirit.  We were all hanging around the kitchen table, conversing, and I got after her for spoiling my dog (seems silly, but I'd rather he wasn't taught that he could get whatever he wants, whenever he wants, just by begging).  Shortly after, she joined us at the table, still making comments about how I scolded her for spoiling my pooch, when she said it.  She said the one thing that I've never really wanted to talk with her (or any family, really) about.

"I'm sure going to have a hard time not spoiling my great-grandchildren."

I don't remember exactly what I responded with, as my blood was already up and I was getting nervous seeing this comment coming down the pipe about 200 yards away.  I believe my retort was something like "well, they won't be my children, so it shouldn't be a problem".

To which she responded:
"Why don't you want children? You've had such a good life!"

Thank God for my Aunt Julie who stepped to my aid and said, "What does her having a good life have to do with it?!"

That little bit from Julie gave me the time to quickly collect my thoughts and (carefully) respond, "The idea of women needing to have children is a societal expectation that I don't agree with.  Besides, I teach around 150 students a day, 8 hours a day, 4 days a week.......that's enough time for me."

As you are probably well aware, I am an educator.  More specifically, I am a music educator.  More specifically yet, I am a K-8 music educator, and the only one in the school district.  This means that, at some point, I have played a role in the life of every student in my district, all 300+ of them.

And I love my job.  I adore it.  It is the perfect place for me to be at this time in my life. My heart is full with my students, my friends, and my family.

And so is my time.

An average day looks something like this:
Wake up at 5:30am
Walk the dog from 6:30-7:30
Drive in to school and start working at 8am
Leave school at 4pm
Come home, walk Koda (the dog) from 4:15-5:30
Make dinner
Complete Graduate School work
Prepare for school the next day
Talk with friends/read for pleasure/watch a movie (if time allows)
Go to Bed (around 10)

I don't see any space for extra priorities/responsibilities in that time.

But, so far, these are all just external factors that influence part of my rational behind deciding not to have children.

The main reason, honestly, is just that I don't have any desire.  Some might say that I'm just "too selfish" or that "the Mommy feeling" will come soon enough.

I don't think I've ever had that "Mommy feeling".  I don't resent or regret that fact - it simply isn't there.  I love working with kids. I adore teaching them.  I find them inspiring, insightful, and honest.  I believe that they, truly, are going to be the future.  I want to help them become the best individuals they can possibly become.

But, when I go home at night, I want my silence and my peace.

I want to be able to plan things with friends for the weekend and not worry about the timeline.

I want to think about the future and be able to plan trips and excursions - something that is hard (note: not impossible, I'll admit) to do with a child.

I want to be selfish about what happens to my body.  Pregnancy and birth take a lot out of a women's system and do incur permanent changes to her physicality (both positive and negative).

Please don't misunderstand me. I'm not at all ungrateful for what my Mom and Dad have given up and gone through to raise me.  They have made incredible sacrifices, and I am beyond thankful.  But, they both also had an innate desire to want to be parents.  My Mom had my name picked out for me before she had even met my Dad.

I have no such desire. I think listening to one's gut and realizing this lack of desire is really important.

And, honestly, I think I am a better teacher for acknowledging these aspects of my personality.  I appreciate my students so much more, knowing that I won't have a child waiting when I go home.  I become more carefree and creative with them, because I can draw from their energy and personalities.  I laugh more heartily, because I love all of them equally and because they are all so special to me.  They are, honestly, all my children, in a way.  And, I think any mother could agree, 300 children is enough, more may just be excessive.


A (somewhat) recent issue of Time Magazine came out exploring the idea of the "childfree" life.