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.