Should I have Kids?

This is a common question these days, and I know I struggled with it. For many people the answer is obvious, for others it is not. I know that when I was trying to make this decision I looked to others to tell me what to do. Obviously that is not the best way to make such a personal choice, but it is easier to just do what you are told than to make a choice, or to be the one held accountable if your decision is not the best. In order to possibly help, I will tell you a bit about how I made my decision.

When I was little, I always wanted company. I lived in a small town with very few children my own age. I always wanted siblings, and I would often pretend that I had them. But I was a very bossy kid, and I found that my imaginary friends didn’t complain, so I usually pretended to be a mother. I remember imagining a line of millions of babies following me around no matter where I went.

In elementary school, most of my friends were several years younger than I was, and I spent my recesses ‘mothering’ them. I taught them some arts and crafts, as well as playground games. But really only a few of them do I really remember, they were the ones who I played with a lot, but it was mostly an ever-changing group of younger kids that were willing to listen. At this time, one of the greatest compliments I ever received was that I would make a great mother.

It may seem odd then that by high school I had decided unequivocally that I would never have children. By this point I had not really spent much time with young kids in several years, the most I had really seen of them is grocery store temper tantrums. All of the anti-teen pregnancy campaigns had worked better on me than intended. I was completely disgusted by anything baby. Pregnancy sounded miserable, and the physical changes like bigger feet and un-losable weight did not seem worth it. All for an outcome that did not sound so great to me; sleepless nights, diapers, burping, feeding, cleaning… I could go on. And the kids themselves seemed like nothing but trouble, at the time I was not a perfect angel, and I knew people who were way worse. The spoiled kids at the store didn’t help either. It all seemed like more trouble than it was worth. I enjoy my freedom, and I did not want to be tied down. That said, I had always known that if for some reason I did end up with kids, I would do the best I could for them, but I was terrified that it would not be good enough.

I kept this attitude until long into my marriage, but it was wearing through a bit. I knew that a lot of what had shaped my opinion was about teen pregnancy, and since that is not where I was in my life anymore it was not a bad thing at that point. My concerns still were there, but the more that I spent time with people my age and older who had good kids, the more my fears about spoiled kids and rule breaking subsided. I was still scared stiff by the idea that I would not be good enough. I spent several years debating whether or not to have kids. I knew my husband wanted kids, and that he would be a great father. He never pressured me, the only time it even came up was when I talked about it, but I did want to give him something special, which might be part of why the idea kept coming up at all.

After awhile of doing a lot of soul searching, internet searching, and pros and cons lists it occurred to me that I would be happy with either outcome. This may not sound like much, but for me it was an epiphany. Still terrified that I may not be good enough, I knew that I would not be as bad as many parents. I also was beginning to form ideas of how kids learn behaviors and the different things that people can do to shape them, so I told myself that I would do whatever I could to make my kids the best they can be, and they would not be the spoiled ones in the store, but rather the (probably more numerous) ones that I had never really noticed because they were so well-behaved.

We stopped trying to avoid getting pregnant. After awhile, a close friend, who was deliberately waiting, got pregnant. I was shocked to discover that I was jealous. I thought that the world had decided that I was not worthy of kids. I was rather surprised at how hurt I was. We did not change anything that we were doing, but this realization helped me to know that the decision that I had made was not a bad one for me.

Soon enough, I did get pregnant, and we had our son. Now we are expecting our second child. I am very glad to have kids, but I would never tell someone that they should. There is one argument in favor of having children that I would like to take this opportunity to dispute. I do not think that they fill any void that I had before. I know that many parents would think that is a horrible thing to say, but in reality my life was complete before I had kids, and it is complete now. Think of it like a pie chart of my family. Each family member has their own slice, but there is not some void represented that a child would fill. Each kid also gets a slice, but before the pie was still at 100%.

I know that some people are not cut out to have kids. I know that some people’s lives would be unsuitable for raising kids. I know that some people cannot afford kids. I know that some people just don’t like kids. I have been there and I respect that. If that is you and you are struggling to decide because you feel pressured by others, stand your ground. Down the line you might change your mind, or not. Either way it is okay. Right now, you come first. It is your happiness that matters. If you think that you could not be happy taking care of children, then don’t let others talk you into doing it. Your unhappiness would affect your kids, if you cannot be happy with it, they will not be happy.

I don’t care what other people say, you do not need kids to be happy. Lots of people are very happy without kids. This idea comes from the old-fashioned notion that people are supposed to have as many kids as possible. Many religions still encourage large families. I cannot say that is a bad thing, but we do have to put it into a modern context. The reason behind this is so that people would be ensured that someone would be able to take over the family business. Kids were less likely to survive into adulthood, and having more kids increased the odds that some would make it. People also needed the labor to help take care of the land, or produce whatever it was that made the family money. This is not such an issue now either. There are plenty of people already in the world to do this labor.

We are at a point when overpopulation is becoming a problem. For this reason I choose not to have more kids than would replace my husband and I. Two kids, that’s it. That said, with better health care and longer life-expectancies, we are still adding to the total.

Money is another big contributing factor. While at one point having kids made the possibility of earning money easier, today raising kids is a huge financial cost. Even though most everything that my son has is second-hand, mostly gifts, the cost in essentials like diapers and food is noticeable. If you feel the need for your kids to have all-new things and a full nursery you will be feeling the pinch a lot more. That is not to say that my kids are lacking anything, I just have a different idea of what is essential than many people do. I believe that my kids will benefit more from the time and effort that I give them than the money I spend on stuff for them. I would rather save it for experiences and college than to spend it on stuff.

Ultimately the decision is yours. Do not let others make it for you. Notice how you feel in reaction to events in your life that may play a role. Put thought into it. Consider other’s opinions, but know that what is right for some people is not right for others. Make sure that you balance what is important to you with what would be necessary for raising kids. Right now I am putting off a lot of travel I would love to do so that when I do it I can share it with my kids. Right now they are too young to appreciate it, and we are taking the time to establish ourselves so that we can do this when they are older. I realized that my life did not have to end when I had kids, but some things do get put on hold.

Remember kids are a lifelong commitment, if that scares you right now, it might be better to wait. If you are nervous about the commitment, it is healthy. It means that you are taking everything into consideration, and it is a lot. Just think it through and be patient. Not all of the fear will ever go away. I am still terrified that I will not be good enough for what my kids deserve. I am still afraid for the world that they will be inheriting. But I made the commitment, and I am sticking to it. The fear helps motivate me, but it was not that long ago when I was frozen by it.

I am not saying that this is the natural progression that everyone will follow, because it is not. Everyone is different, some people know the answer before they ask the question. I was there for a long time, on both sides. I understand both, and I know that the answers lie within.

 

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Religion

I consider myself to be an Eclectic Atheistic Agnostic Pagan. What the heck does that mean?

It means that I don’t really know what is going on out there, but I do not believe that any one entity is in charge, but rather that we are all connected. I take little bits from lots of different religions and sciences and put them into my beliefs together. I know a lot of people think that religions are not compatible with one another, but I find that most religions, regardless of the details, had one point in common; Be nice to one another.

I do not understand how people have begun associating so many negative things with religions. Bad people will do bad things. They will find an excuse anywhere. There are passages in religious texts that, taken out of context give fuel to people’s hates. This is not to say that religious texts teach hate, because they, as far as I have seen, do not.

In America right now I hear a lot about two religions in particular, Islam and Christianity. The story about Islam from one side is ‘They are out to get us” and the other side says, “we just want to live our lives, we hate the nut jobs who attacked just as much as you do”. The story about Christianity also has two sides, one says “Poor me, I am being attacked!” and the other says “You are the one in power, all anyone asks is to be on par with you.”

Islam is actually very similar to Christianity. In fact the books are so similar that people can’t tell them apart. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zEnWw_lH4tQ

I have gotten into multiple discussions with people where they argue that there is no way that Islam has roots in Christianity (some even claim that Islam is older than Christianity). People talk about how if they are not all out to get us, why are they not standing up to defend their religion? Now I see all over facebook, ‘Blaming all Muslims for ISIS is like blaming all Christians for KKK’ and this is a much more succinct way of saying it, but I would talk about how most people just want to live their lives in peace. Today, in the face of all of this hatred toward Muslims, many are standing up for themselves. I stopped watching the mainstream media long ago, but I doubt that they are covering any of that, since they are guilty of perpetuating the myth.

This is not the only religion that is being marginalized, with all of the hatred coming from Donald Trump, many non-Christians are fearing the worst, like the holocaust kind of worst. But somehow the other big religious battle getting any media coverage right now is the ‘War on Christmas’. I know it is all over the place online right now, but I am going to say it too. There is no war on Christmas. You are allowed to celebrate it all you want. We may get annoyed with the holiday starting two months early, but we can deal with that, and I don’t think that is what they mean.

When I was little I thought “Happy Holidays” referred to ‘holiday season’, or Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years. I was pretty clueless about non-Christian anything, so I made it fit with what I knew. As far as I remember, growing up ‘Happy Holidays’, ‘Merry Christmas’ and ‘Feliz Navidad’ were used pretty much interchangeably. (I grew up in New Mexico). I think that if that one store had just quietly switched to ‘Happy Holidays’ no-one would have really noticed. While I whole-heartedly approved of the announcement that it was done with the intention of being more inclusive, and still do, I believe that the announcement itself is what kicked off the whole thing.

I understand that part of the history of Christianity involves persecution, but I also recognize that since the conversion of Constantine, they have largely had the upper hand. Yes, some places not so much, but overall, after that Christian influence has flourished around the world. Aside from some small countries in some parts of the world and a few radicalized individuals, no-one really wants to kill Christians just because they are Christian. The ‘War on Christmas’ in America is really just a bunch of over-entitled people who have been told their whole lives that they are victims (because persecution is still taught like it’s a current issue) throwing a pity party because their entitlement is waning.

All anyone ever wanted out of ‘Happy Holidays’ or making a cup red is making people who celebrate other holidays around the same time feel more accepted. All we want is equality. We are not trying to take away your right to celebrate, we are not trying to minimize your holiday or religion, we just want to be able to celebrate ours with the same freedom.

So this Yule I want to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and Peace to the World.

Christmas in Madrid

I grew up in Whoville. In its heyday Madrid, as a coal mining town, had ready access to electricity at a time when not everyone had it. And they made the most of it.

At that time, airplane pilots would direct passenger’s attention to points of interest, making it like a tour. Madrid was not normally en route, but at Christmas time they would divert flights so that passengers could see the magnificent lights.

Wooden cutouts were illuminated all over town and on the surrounding hills. There is still the square outline of the Bethlehem display on one of the mountains. The adult Jesus cutout consists of five or six panels four feet high, making the cutout 20 plus feet tall. The Christmas tree overlooking the town still stands, although it is not used in displays usually as the wood is original from before the town was abandoned in the 1930s. One year, a man we call Brave Dave did light the tree to everyone’s surprise.

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Bethlehem

One of the most magical things about Madrid at Christmas is that some of these wooden cutouts, angels mostly, were actually strung across the valley and floated across wires by motor. The structures used to hold up the angels were crosses at the tips of the mountains facing town. Some of these still stand as well.

As the story goes, Madrid actually inspired Walt Disney to create DisneyLand. There was a fair at the ballpark each year. The ballpark was the first west of the Mississippi to be lighted, and we had a successful baseball team, the Madrid Miners. But at Christmas the field was filled with lights and rides for the kids.

Madrid was a company town, and when that company decided to shut the town down, everyone left and the town was completely abandoned until the 1970s when some enterprising individuals re-built it as an artist community.

The Christmas displays were stored in a warehouse, which the owners of the town were guaranteed would not burn, but as you may have guessed, it did. All of the magnificent displays were lost.

The new Madroids enjoy this history, and we do a lot to recapture the spirit. Many new, although smaller, cutouts have been created and are used all over town. We have competitions for light displays. The main street of town is home to many galleries, which will often stay open late for the Madrid Open House which lasts most of the month of December. As you walk around sometimes you will find carolers or hot cider.

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House on Main St.

The big event is the annual parade. People who want to be in the parade meet up at the entrance of Backroad. We can have belly dancers, llamas, carriages, trains, politicians, etc. One year I dressed at St. Lucia and got a free ride atop a carriage, another time we had a motorcycle completely made of animal bones.

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Santa and a Yak

I miss home this time of year.

 

*Update – I found some more information about the old Bethlehem display, thanks to Midori Snyder.

Puzzle 2 – Brands

This is many of the brand names that I can see in the office at work.

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I thought this made a good point about how inundated we are with brands on a daily basis.

  • Adobe
  • Bookingcom
  • Canon
  • Choice
  • CokaCola
  • ColonialWilliamsburg
  • ComfortInn
  • Costco
  • Dell
  • Dominos
  • Expedia
  • Google
  • Hammermill
  • HolidayInn
  • Intel
  • LAFitness
  • MarketWax
  • Mitel
  • OfficeImpressions
  • Onity
  • OtisSpunkmeyer
  • Panasonic
  • QualityPark
  • Samsung
  • SilentKnight
  • Snuggle
  • Snyders
  • Sterlite
  • Tide
  • Toshiba
  • TripAdvisor
  • VictoriasSecret
  • Windows
  • Xacto
  • YellowCab
  • Ziploc

Chapter 16 (WIP) – Facing the Past

That night Jessica went to work after an unsuccessful attempt at a nap. Her trainee, an energetic, enthusiastic young man named Justin was quite capable of keeping her awake. He was able to run the shift on his own, so Jessica had very little to do, except show him a few of the things that she did to make sure everybody else was on the ball. Since it had been so long since she was at work there were plenty of errors left to find, even though it had been so quiet.

This was the least busy time of the year, and after the robbery some long-term guests left in a panic, repeat guests decided to find somewhere else, and unsurprisingly it had made it to the reviews online. With so few guests, that review was still at the top of the list.

Jessica found herself a little jumpy at work, especially since she was so used to being there alone. Justin was very friendly and more than willing to fill Jessica in on what had been going on in her absence. As she had suspected, the lobby had been roped off for a few days while the police took their time investigating the scene. This meant that employees were using their own tablets to run the hotel and one of the rooms had been re-labeled “Lobby” for awhile. From the decline in business, it was clear that all of this fooled no-one, but it was not clear who had leaked the actual event to the reviewer. Justin seemed to be under the impression that the reviewer was the shooter and no-one would know the differance since he had never been in the lobby at night.

“How else would he know about the safe?” he said.

Jessica remembered Kenzie opening the safe, as if it was a gift for the boy. She remembered Kenzie waving at around as if it was meaningless. Jessica closed her eyes to try and block out the images, but they just got brighter as she remembered the scuffle and the shot. She opened her eyes and shuttered as it echoed through her mind. She could not bring herself to tell Justin how the boy really got the money from the safe.

It did not take long before Justin realized that Jessica probably did not want to hear more about the robbery. “I’m sorry, I forgot, they said that you were there. I won’t talk about it anymore if you don’t want me to.”

“It’s alright, I’m probably overreacting. You filled in all the blanks I had been curious about. I know I will have to face it at some point anyway. If they catch the guy I may have to go to court and tell a bunch of strangers about it. But I would like to put some more time between it and me before I do. Thank you.” And nothing more was said on the subject for the rest of the night.

After work Jessica needed a jump start since the car had been sitting in the parking lot for so long. Justin did not even seem to notice that he had been up all night and gave her a hand. He even sat outside with her as she let the car to charge up the battery. Jessica decided she had better get home and let Ashley know nothing crazy had happened. She wished Justin good luck and told him that if he needed help when he started his own shift to give her a call. Jessica drove home looking behind her just to make sure she wasn’t being followed. Of course she was not, but she felt it better to be safe than sorry.

When she got home Ashley was ready for work and anxious to head out the door.  “Hey Jess! I just wanted to see how you were doing before I left.”

“I’m fine, the battery was dead so now I have to sit here for a few before I can go to sleep.”

“I wish I could join you but I gotta run. Glad everything is okay.” Ashley gave Jessica a hug before she jumped in the waiting sedan that belonged to her co-worker.

Jessica sat reading in the car until she could not stay awake. She turned off the engine and went inside. A bowl of cereal sufficed as dinner before she crawled upstairs to bed.

She had been there lust long enough to change and lay down when the phone rang. She considered letting her mother leave a message until she realized that it was not her mother.

“Hello?”

“Can I speak to Jessica McGuire please?” Said a gruff voice on the other end of the line.

“This is her.”

“Hello this is Detective Haskell. I spoke to you in the hospital.”

“Yeah, how can I help you?”

“I just wanted to let you know that we have picked up some scumbag trying to use your credit card. We would like you to come in to ID him.”

“I just got off work and I really need to sleep now, can I do that this afternoon?” Jessica asked, knowing that she would probably not be able to make it to the station in one piece.

“We can only hold him for so long, but this afternoon should be fine. We will have your co-worker come by as well.”

“Sounds good, thank you.”

Jessica found herself sitting awake, wondering if this was the guy. Was she ready to face him? The detective did not know it, but she had been called in to ID a suspect before. She knowingly identified the wrong man. She told herself that this time she would not be intimidated, no matter what. Justice would prevail. This time, she would do the right thing.

Chapter 17 – Where Do We Go From Here?

Choice in Health Care

This is a really big topic, and the center of a lot of debate at the moment.

When I was pregnant with my son, we spent a lot of time looking over all of the information about the different tests and things that were available to us. We decided not to do any tests that we could not do anything about. What that means is that if the result of a test would tell us something, but we could not do anything to change the outcome then there is no point. One of these tests would tell us that our child would likely have down syndrome. Because there would be no way to lessen the probability following the test, we decided not to do it. Additionally the risks associated with the test were far more likely to cause problems than the likelihood that it would find anything. I have worked with down syndrome kids and we knew that if anything were to happen we would deal with it.

That said I was seeing many different doctors within the practice so that I would have met any of the ones who might end up delivering the baby. One of these doctors (luckily they were no longer employed there by the time I went into labor) was very indignant that we opted not to do this test. I understand that doctors have their own personal beliefs, and that they are supposed to do no harm. We were very upset that she refused to respect our choice, especially since that choice, according to the statistics, the science, was the less damaging. The doctor agreed that there was nothing that could be done about the results, and understood our risk/benefit analysis. Unfortunately the doctor’s personal preference to know took precedence and made us very uncomfortable.

This is something that is the patient’s choice. It has no effect on anyone else’s life. Us knowing in advance would change nothing except potentially adding problems because of the test.

Some people choose to have the test because if the child is more than likely going to have down syndrome, they would terminate the pregnancy. This would be considered a medical reason and is subject to different rules than if the parents chose abortion for a healthy child. I respect that choice. Having children is a huge responsibility, children with special needs more than doubly so. Although I do believe that every person has worth I know that many people would not be able to handle the care that these children require.

Abortion is a choice that does affect other’s lives, mostly the parents and the child’s. That choice should be about what is best for those people. If the parents, specifically the mother, know that the child would not be well off growing up in that household or situation, they have the options of adoption or abortion. It is the responsibility of those involved to make the decision about what is best. Just being alive is not always the better option. I used to say that having a child would end my life, not in a literal sense, but in a figurative one. When I was younger I would not be able to devote the time to improving my situation if I were to care for a child. The child would come first, and unfortunately would not be able to be brought up in the way I would like if I did not have a job and an education.

So what about the other big debate right now? Vaccines. I believe in free choice. I do not like it when the government imposes things we have to do. As far as I am concerned wearing a seat belt should be a personal choice. The statistics are out there, it is undoubtedly safer with a seat belt, but the only life lost would be your own, yes other lives are affected by this as well. In a perfect society I would say that people need to take that into consideration as they weigh the risks and benefits (?) of not wearing a seat-belt. I know however that people tend to be self-centered and not consider that others would be affected by their passing.

What does this have to with vaccines? I believe that people should be allowed to make their own choices. However people are not very good at weighing the data, or considering others. I really feel silly for repeating some of this, but the original study used to back the argument that vaccines cause autism has been retracted, and the author discredited. The other risks that are often cited are concerns about the inefficacy or side effects of the vaccines themselves. If the vaccine is ineffective, you are no worse off than if you did not have it, so I believe there is no more to be said about that. As far as side effects, these are usually minimal, a little soreness, but come on, you stuck a needle there, why wouldn’t it be sore? Yes, some people are allergic to certain elements of the vaccines. The chances of this are extremely remote. Those who are too young, do have a bad reaction, or find that the vaccine is ineffective are those who have to count on herd immunity. As a culture we have had this type of immunity for long enough that some people forget what the risks really are, which makes a real risk/reward analysis skewed. It can also allow people to forget that their decisions can affect others.

This is an article about a child who was exposed to measles. And this is the response from an anti-vaccine advocate. One of the points made in the response is that the man who carried the infection had been vaccinated. This means that he is just as much of a victim of the shrinking herd immunity as the child. Yes, I have problems with the pharmaceutical industry, but that is about them charging too much for things. They have something of value and a monopoly on it. They are taking advantage, and not realizing who that might hurt, but I do not believe they are evil. If you look at some of her links you can see that the evidence does not all fit. The risks associated with the vaccine are stated, but it is clearly stated that those risks apply to the people who should be counting on herd immunity. Her link about the court case has a headline reading “Merck Whistleblower Suit A Boon to Vaccine Foes Even As It Stresses Importance of Vaccines”.

I do believe in free choice, but I am an idealist and think that people should have the ability to make informed decisions when they are given the information. I have a problem when what I believe should be the case is not the case. In the case of vaccines, I am tempted to say that the government should take away people’s right to choose, for other’s protection. But if I do that, am I any different than those who want to take away women’s right to make decisions about abortion? Am I any different than those who advocate taking guns away because some might be used to kill? Am I any different than those who are trying to take away our right to choose our leaders? If I choose to limit people’s right to spread misinformation I am not different than anyone who tries to limit my speech against corporations or governments. These are rights I believe in, and I refuse to participate in setting a precedent that would assist taking away these rights, and others. I can only hope that giving people the information and teaching them how to use it (including reforming our current school system) is the best way. I am not willing to risk the future of our democracy in order to combat one ill-informed decision. A functional democracy depends on having an informed populace. That is what we need.