One thing I’ve been noticing more and more as I’ve gotten older is the divide between people who raise children and people who don’t. (This is absolutely no judgement or commentary on the value or worth of either group or their choices)
People not raising children seem to have this odd (to me) glamor attached to them and how they live. Many of them spend their free time doing fun things or romantic things or admirable things like vacations, road trips, going on dates, engaging in hobbies and charity work. It’s nice and fun to read about but its mostly a foreign thing for those of us raising children not because we can’t or don’t do those things but because we can’t or don’t structure our lives around those things. Our priorities are obviously different, as they should be. But what I’ve noticed more and more is a sort of shiny happiness that comes from the confidence of being kid-free. People who raise children are constantly questioning themselves, those around them and their purpose. People who raise children spend an enormous amount of energy just trying to believe they are “doing the right thing” which kid-free folks don’t have to spend even a nano-second worrying about. Not to say kid-free folks don’t have anxieties and worries and self-doubt, of course they do that’s the human condition, but people who raise children often mire themselves in the self-doubt of epic cultural proportions.
If you are kid-free and you feel unconfident, you worry about yourself, your image, your social standing -whatever metric you use to gauge your internal worth. You don’t spend any (or much, I guess) time worrying about any of those issues on behalf of another person. You do not wonder if people are judging you based on how you spoke to your best friend the other day. How your co-worker is dressed does not make you particularly embarrassed as a reflection upon your work ethic. Nothing that others do (with some exception for SigOths) really makes you lose sleep worrying about how YOU will be judged. Your self-doubt and recrimination revolves solely around your own actions and your own decisions on behalf of… you. Because of this, it seems as if kid-free folks spend far less time grinding away at the most mundane tasks of life with as much grim determination as people who raise children. We can both decide not ot clean our bathroom floor and it might bother you for a moment or two here or there, but you made your decision to do other things besides clean your bathroom floor and you go about your life. If I choose not to clean my bathroom floor it generally isn’t a matter of opting for something more fulfilling or interesting – it usually is a dire choice I make fully aware that I end up looking bad and will be judged by someone somewhere for being bad at a host of other aspects of my life: my parenting, my housekeeping and my dedication to being an adult in general. If a kid-free person forgets to pay the electric bill, that’s considered pretty flakey and roommates may be pretty ticked about it becuase its a huge inconvenience. If I forget to pay the electric bill, I could be investigated for being neglectful of my children’s needs.
This difference in emphasis puts the perspective of each class towards a very different schema in life. If I want to go to a party, or do some purely “grown-up fun” kind of thing, there’s planning, scheduling, and many avenues for guilt, anxiety and worry- not over the planning of the thing itself but of whether one is WORTHY of doing such a thing. Kid-free people rarely have to decide if going to do something fun is “okay” they generally have to decide if they can afford it with their time and money and maybe energy. Social standing, personal esteem do not really enter the picture.
For this reason, kid-free folks who embark on some minor event of frivolity often have a glow of absolute unfettered freedom that comes with recreational enjoyment being “the norm” rather than an unsual event one has earned the right to do. Because there is little to no social or cultural price to pay, kid-free folk seem to be enjoying life far more and more often than people raising children. This is not a bad thing, but it does create a divide between the two groups. Watching documentation of my kid-free friends traipsing off to yet another fun grown-up gathering full of adventure and self-actualization means I feel a gulf between us as basic citizens. They smile for the camera in a way I don’t think I’m even capable of without heavy planning and inebriants. The look of total immersion in their enjoyment is a look I doubt I will have for a very long time. And as a person who raises children, I do not bemoan that fact – I do raise children and thus everything I do in life, at least right now, has an impact on other people who are less capable of dealing with the ramifications of my decisions. Pictures of myself enjoying life sans kids are always more guarded, more careful and yet more desperate than pictures of kid-free folks.