An Outsider’s View of the Parental Life

I feel blessed in many walks of my life. One such area that I am particularly fortunate is when it comes to friendship. Robert is a long-time friend. He draws, writes, and sings – a real renaissance man. He also designs Websites on the side. So when I decided to start a website, partially due to his urging, I knew he was the person who would be designing it. I’d like to thank him here for the design and encouragement. As I noted above, he likes to write, so I thought I’d give him some space to express his thoughts.

When Larry asked me to contribute a guest post, I was surprised, then flattered…and then stuck. It’s true, like most of you reading, that I enjoy writing. But that’s where the similarity to most of you ends. You see, I’m not a stay-at-home mom, a mom struggling to balance work and home life, or a single mom. In fact, I’m neither a mom nor a dad, neither a wife nor a husband. Some of you may be wondering what I could possibly be (and maybe at least one of you is thinking out of the box and considering the possibility that I am a cat), so I’ll save you the time in guessing: I am in fact a man—of the unmarried and childless variety.

By telling you this, I realize I’ve placed myself outside the pale of this community. While most of you struggle with poopy diapers and terrible twos, and finding trustworthy babysitters and decent children’s TV shows,  I’m reading novels, taking art classes, running in weekend races, and going out to unhurried dinners with friends.

Usually at this point, people are developing one of two attitudes about me.

There are those, usually male, who envy me or feel some of kind of hostility. Maybe they got into the marriage and/or parent thing due to pressure from society or family or the existential need to leave something behind.  They wistfully look at someone like me who somehow escaped it all and think I’m having as much fun as George Clooney. I’m the guy who threatens their lifestyle choice by not partaking in it, and they question their lifestyle.

Then, there are those who genuinely feel pity towards me. I’m the guy these sympathetic souls invite to holiday dinners because otherwise I’ll be eating Thanksgiving turkey at IHOP, and will live out his last days among well-meaning but clock-watching home attendants.

So though you may have preconceptions, I just wanted to tell you that not all single, childless guys think you are the suckers stuck at home while we drink lattes and work on our next start-up. I can’t speak for the entire Brotherhood, but I can just give you the viewpoint of me and a handful of my ever-diminishing group of single friends.

It’s true that there are moments when we are thankful we are free of the encumbrances of kids, and the loneliness sometimes felt is counterbalanced by the terrors we see around us. MMK’s imagery in a past post of his kids’ missing the toilet bowl when doing number 1 made it difficult to keep my lunch down for days. Then there’s the tantrum-throwing toddler I seem to regularly encounter in aisle 2 at the supermarket whose piercing screams are enough to induce PTSD. And it doesn’t seem to get better, as I observe the rowdy junior high kids turning the bus into a clown car or the sullen and rebellious teenagers plugged into their own iWorlds.

And yet, in spite, or even because, of this, there seems to me to be a kind of heroic effort in having a family. In a world bombarded with images of individual success and achievement, and of a million different distractions and competing value systems, and horror stories of dysfunctional families in the media, devoting one’s time and efforts to bringing new life into this world and caring for it takes real faith that everything will work out. Everyone seems to talk about the importance of family, but when it comes down to it, it seems to me that most peoples’ minds are on other things. MMK and the other family blogs I’ve had a chance to read are about the day-to-day joys and frustrations of actually raising a family, rather than just talking about it.

From this single, childless guy’s viewpoint, that’s inspiring. Even inspiring enough to make me think more about finally jumping to the Other Side. I’m not quite there yet. But who knows, maybe one day, I’ll have my own blog called, “What Did I Get Myself Into?”  If I ever do, I’ll make sure to give Larry and his blogging community some of the credit.


34 thoughts on “An Outsider’s View of the Parental Life

  1. Well said, I remember those days, but I would not go back. I just thinking how much money a would be saving if i did not have children but how empty my life would be. Not to say that, I do not look forward to the empty nest and grandchildren who can be spoiled and then send home.

  2. It’s true, some days I miss those old days, leaving work to meet my hub for a cup of coffee or a late meal or even a movie but then I look at the two us exhausted but happy with our son running around in the house and destroying everything that’s in his way, I’m happier today. I also want to tell Robert; to enjoy his life right now 🙂 and maybe one day he will be the parent with the kids in the aisle 2 of the supermarket!

  3. I was just developing one of two attitudes about him when he graciously helped me define them! Excellent post, and from a perspective we rarely get to hear. Mostly because they’re all too afraid to actually speak their minds, lest we parents eat them alive in our hysteria. 🙂

  4. I don’t feel sorry or envy Robert. As long as he is happy and fulfilled at what he is doing, keep on doing it. Being single is not for everyone. I think it takes a special person with special qualities to enjoy being single. I think…..if I weren’t married…..I might be a nun. 🙂 But then I would miss out on the joys of motherhood. Thanks Robert and Larry for your co-post. 🙂

  5. Excellent guest blog, very well done!! But, apparently, I’m a cliche… I’ve become one of the masses and while his post was awesome, totally topped mine, I’m now suddenly reevaluating my entire existence. Normal is not something to aspire to, it’s something to get away from. Huh. I don’t like being one of the masses… I may have to give up blogging. I’m a bit freaked out now.

      • LOL. There isn’t a therapist that would take me! Seriously though, pass along praise, I loved his post. I’m so very happy single. and I’m so very happy as a mom to a “sullen and rebellious teenagers plugged into their own iWorlds”. so, I have the best of both worlds! 🙂

        • Will do. I agree it was an excellent post.
          Now, how am I to feel when I ask people to write and this is the reaction I get?

          • you should feel good – it means that you picked a great person to contribute because they elicited a response! They created a visceral reaction! That’s what we want, to elicit an emotional response from the audience. 🙂 (How good am I at spinning?!?)

          • You respond by totally ignoring her (Kate) spazzing out and pass-on/accept the well deserved praise of your guest blogger. 🙂

            Seriously – I can totally relate to the desire/feeling the tug of the other side of both positions. As a remarried, once divorced, single mom to step-kids, there are days I long for single life with such craving, I can taste it. Then one of the kids/husband will do something so sweet, I can’t imagine them not being in my life. The pendulum swings so wildly (sometimes all in one day) that it’s enough to make one dizzy!

          • I here you. I think someone who says they never wish for those single days is not being truthful. There are moments that I think it would be awsome to be free of the responsibility. However, I know I would miss what I have right here very much.

  6. Lovely post. I think too many people have kids because they feel they should rather than because they want to and are ready for it. I feel that if you enjoy your life as it is until you really want to start a family it will be so much better because you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. But hey, that’s just me. Anyway, great post.

    • I think you are right on all accounts. However, there are always going to be those wistful moments for the past regardless of how ready you are. It’s natural.

  7. Great post Robert! Love this point of view! Of course we can all relate because we didn’t always have kids…they came along after the unhurried dinners!! Thanks for making me a little jealous…I wish I had time to take an art class!

  8. I think it’s a case of, you don’t know what you haven’t got because you haven’t got it. And for those who are not parents, parenthood looks like poopy diapers and tantrums and sleep deprivation. Well sure, those come with the territory, but they in no way define the experience, or people would not continue to have children.

    On the other hand, I went a long time before having my first child (at 34), so I was often interrogated about my childbearing plans. Most infuriating was when I would tell people that we were planning on having children when the time was right, and their answer was that there was no right time and you couldn’t plan it. UGH! I think that people should have children only if they want them, and only when they think the time is best. That’s not something that can be dictated by others.

    • I agree with you. It is a fantast as well as massive commitment that cant be overstated. This is not even talking about the emotion involved. You need to be as ready as you possibly can and that is something only you can decide.

  9. I got married at 16, he was 19. We had our first child when I was 19 and our second when I was 21. Then at the age of 41, we became the guardians of our granddaughter when her father died. At a time when my career was taking off, our nest was empty, and we were planning a long sojurn working our way around the world, we suddenly had a one year old.
    So, I quit working, grieved for my son, and raised our granddaughter while we worked our way around the world. We just took her with us when she turned three and old enough to travel without diapers etc. It was great.
    I am a mother, grandmother, and soon to be great grandmother. My life has been raising kids and encouraging my husband. And constantly improving me. I do not regret one moment of being a parent to two roudy boys and one little princess. It has been the greatest accomplishment of my life, better than my degrees, better than all I have done and all the travel, raising kids to be faithful, hard working, patriotic, and dedicated men and women is the best thing I have ever done.
    If you take the jump, you will see that all the work, lack of sleep, school projects, and laughing at the dinner table is well worth it. Because that crying baby in aisle two is going to grow up one day, and will take on his world.

  10. Congrats, Larry, on another great guest post. I enjoyed reading your writing, Robert, and appreciate your point of view. While I wouldn’t change a thing and don’t have the energy to do it all again, part of me would love to have my baby making days ahead of me rather than behind. So much joy to look forward to – I had no idea my heart could hold so much love (and my psyche so much frustration and impatience!). Thank you for sharing yourself and good luck as you make these big life decisions!

    • I really enjoyed the post as well. I am sure Robert will appreciate your comments. I’ll make sure he sees them.
      P.S. I hear what you are saying about so much to look forward to and then the other stuff.

  11. Thanks for the great post! Very well presented. As someone on the ‘other side’ I just want to reassure Robert that even as you are devoting time and effort to new life, you can still make time for those pursuits you have enjoyed – writing, art etc. Scheduling is a little more challenging, but it can be done. Also I just want to add, that from the brief introduction we got to Robert here, that his insight and sensitivity shines through and that I believe he will make a wonderful life partner to someone special someday.

    • He actually does have a blog but it is private. He won’t even show me. He can be funny about things. If he ever goes public, I’ll let you know.

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