People make a lot of assumptions about other people’s life choices.
Now, I realize that there is a 100% possibility that that statement right there could be categorized under “Kristina’s assumption of the day”, but I’ve been thinking a lot about a seemingly tiny interaction that I had last week with someone who knows me fairly well, and how her assumptions about me threw me off of my game.
Last Thursday night, a yoga friend caught me after my second class wrapped up and asked, “Where does all of that happy sunny energy come from? You’re always so happy! Is it because you don’t have kids?”
I did this awkward strange laugh, threw on a fake smile (you know the expected-by-others kind you pull out of your pocket when you just don’t feel like saying what you actually feel?), and agreed with her. Yep. Kids. They’ll drain all that right out of you. Dodged that bullet.
But, here’s the kicker: THAT’S ACTUALLY A TOTAL LIE. I lied right to my yoga friend. It’s not what I think at all. That’s a completely fake representation of myself and my thoughts on children and on life.
For a little background knowledge, I have always – in one way or another – known that I didn’t want to have children of my own. Playing with baby dolls as a kid was something that I did because my friends wanted to. Babysitting as I got older was something that I did because people paid me to. Running a kids’ summer camp was fun, but boy was I glad to give those kids back to their parents at the end of the day.
Don’t get me wrong – I love children. I don’t think I would be loving my 17th year of teaching first and second grade if I didn’t constantly relish all of the joy and wonder that I get to absorb from my young students all day long. Kids are awesome and inspiring, and I am in total awe of the incredible parents out there who are fully rocking it – that’s just never been my path.
The first time that I was unequivocally aware that I didn’t want children was in college. I was in a lecture-style Geography 101-type class and the professor was explaining Thomas Malthus’ studies on population growth and available resources. Seeing that unchecked population trend line jump straight up struck a panic chord in me and I had a conversation with myself right then and there about choosing (needing?!) to be a preventative check in this population model. For me, that was enough.
Fast forward through the next 19 years of being asked by all sorts of people when I’m going to have children (“You’re so great with kids! It would be such a shame if you didn’t have any – you’d be such a great mother.”), through moments of being shamed by parents at school who “just can’t understand” why I wouldn’t want my own children (“It’ll be so different when they’re your own – you’ll see! I used to be just like you.”), to last Thursday’s out-of-the-blue question.
Perhaps the little that I’ve been able to describe here is enough to translate that I sit comfortably with my reasons behind my life decision to not have kids. I can discuss said reasons with anyone who politely inquires or even rudely judges. I am also consistently aware that I am fortunate and privileged to be able to stand behind those reasons and truly make my own choice, as I know that other humans on this planet can not.
So… WHY?! Why did I agree with my friend last Thursday? It’s totally not true. That’s not how I view kids and that’s not how I view myself. I do not equate my levels of “happy sunny energy” to my choice to not have kids. I am who I am because of a myriad of perspectives, choices, experiences, relationships, and beliefs, not because kids suck the happy and the sunny right out of you. Geez Louise, that is so not me!
Perhaps it was her tone, that conspiratorially implied “c’mon, admit it, I’m right aren’t I?” tone that was embedded in her question. Perhaps I just didn’t feel like explaining myself to her after teaching a full day of school and then teaching two yoga classes. Perhaps the shades of the “don’t upset anyone else” messages from my own childhood were peeking through so I appeased and threw my own convictions under the bus. Who knows. But I still find it frustratingly fascinating that I agreed. This topic with which I feel secure and certain… why did I buckle?
Can you tell I’ve been thinking about this since Thursday?! I don’t have the answer, clearly, but what I do have is a refreshed sense of awareness around assumptions about other people, and the realization that it’s time to let this one go.
If this friend of mine had stopped at her first question, then this story would have been very different.
What about you? Where does all of YOUR happy and sunny energy come from?