Lately I’ve been plagued by a sort of guilt that is difficult to describe, particularly for someone who hasn’t written a word in several months…but I’ll do my best.
It’s just this: Chris and I have made a lot of effort to be fully responsible for our lot in life. Only on very few occasions have we made rash choices – some we’ve come to rue and others we’ve embraced whole-heartedly – opting primarily for a well-thought-out, rational and reasonable decision-making process. One of those responsible decsisions has been not to have children.
There are a multitude of reasons we made that choice many years ago, and the reaction to it from others has been, in turns, phenomenally judgemental, reasonably understanding, and downright supportive. Sadly, we are too often confronted by people who either feel that this decision goes against nature or that it is a reflection of our personal judgement against their own life choices. The latter simply doesn’t make sense – we’re well aware that somebody’s got to keep making babies. We just don’t think it has to be everybody. As to the former, of course we feel that our decision is completely in tune with nature.
But, in fact, that is all a post for another day. Back to my newfound guilt and its origins. As a person who is childless by choice, there are certain benefits I would have hoped to reap. More spending money, for example. Freedom of movement and a more, shall we say, bohemian lifestyle. Time to devote entirely to a career with which I am deeply in love, time to work late into the evenings and the effortless mornings of a person driven to do whatever it is that they know they do best.
I suppose we must have more spending money than we would have with kids, although we don’t do a whole lot of spending. We don’t go out very often, we live in a very affordable flat in a small town, have no smoking, drinking or drug habits to attend to, and don’t own a car. At the end of the month, it’s more or less all spent on bills and food and a smidgen of a savings account. To address this, we’ve decided to live in a small town where the rent is affordable such that we can start to build a little bit of nest egg. As it’s in France, my job options were to either teach English or, alternatively, to teach English. I opted for both. Call me crazy. Consequently I earn just enough and work quite a lot. This provided the additional result of limiting my freedom of movement, since teachers have to be present in order to teach. I also realized not so very long ago that I quite like waking up well-rested and clear-headed, so la vie boheme was sort of out of the question. That just leaves the whole career thing – here I am working independently, quite often seven days a week and, during the last school year at least, often late into the night. The only problem is…I don’t love what I do. Not at all.
Cue exhasperated sighs and rolled eyes and mutterings of first-world problems, etc. I realize this. I realize that I have an amazing relationship, live in a beautiful little town, eat delicious and healthy food, and am able to earn enough to pay the bills. I realize that we have a nice home and excellent health and a whole lot of support from both of our families. Hence the guilt. And yet…
Choosing not to have children is something I wouldn’t go back on in a million years. It’s the right choice for me. Of that I’m certain. But I also know that I want desperately to have a career that defines me, and I always thought that was the exchange I’d made, fair and square. As a kid in Catholic school I always fancied having a calling – a vocation, they called it. The fact that I’ve spent more than half my life a die-hard agnostic hasn’t lessened the desire to feel compelled to do something because it’s what I was meant to do. I think I’ve kind of always figured it was something anybody could have, if only they listened (to what? Their heart? God/ess/es? Their parents?) hard enough. And I thought I had, and I thought I had this path, but the need for security – particularly in a world that is frightening with the level of change and conflict in which it seems increasingly mired – was overwhelming.
This is clearly a case of wanting my cake and eating it too. And that is just unbecoming as hell for a vegan.
Two and a half years ago, when we started this blog, we had this sort-of clear idea of what the latter part of the sentence “What if…” looked like. I guess we still do, but I’ve lost track of what role I’m supposed to play in all that. I don’t have the time to create or to think deeply, and I suppose that has been a blessing at times, because when I think too long on it, I feel I might burst from the existential burden that is a life without purpose.
This summer I was certain I’d struggle to find students, and so thought it would be a great time to dig deeply, to begin exploring my options and start a creative endeavor or two, hopefully establish enough of a foundation that I could keep focused even during the hellish school months. Blessing and curse – I’ve had several new students start this month and am again bombarded by lesson planning and classes…at least I’m getting a little better at all of it. Maybe I’ll get good enough to find a way back to myself in the hours and minutes in between teaching the past perfect continuous and how to use demonstrative adjectives and pronouns.
What I still don’t get is, how on Earth does anybody find the time to raise kids??? Mad props to everybody making it happen. You guys are amazing.