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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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.

Growing Up Madrid

For the people who know me, they know I talk a lot about the little town where I grew up. The truth is I do this because the little town of Madrid, NM helped me become who I am today.

A little background (I will post my full paper on it at some point.) The town was founded at the height of the railroad age to take advantage of the confluence of two types of coal. The town was home to 3000 plus miners and their families. Because the town was company owned all inhabitants had to use endorsed services. For instance, when they bought a car of the wrong brand, the car was thrown into the arroyo. (Dry riverbed that takes the bulk of the annual floods.)

In the 1930’s, the town was abandoned. The cheap wooden homes were left to dry out in the desert. Following this the town sat empty until the 1970’s. Several times over the years the entire town was up for sale from a low of $250,000 up to $1,000,000 at its height. When my family moved from the Midwest in the 1970’s they convinced the owner to subdivide the town. Within a few weeks the whole town was sold. Many of the new inhabitants were Vietnam veterans, artists, or people who felt like society had abandoned them.

The town has grown to about 300-400 people. Main St. is the only paved road in town. It is full of galleries, but there are three restaurants, a museum, and a bar as well. My grandparents run the largest gallery in the southwest, The Johnsons of Madrid. Here I grew up surrounded by fine art and got to meet artists of all kinds. My grandfather taught at The Art Institute of Chicago as well as Texas Tech University. He is an architect and painter. He has also done some sculpture. My grandmother shares his teaching experience, her expertise is in fashion design.

Much of my time was also spent in The Engine House Theater. My mother did a lot of acting with them as I grew up, and my first show was when I was four years old. Most of the time, these shows were mostly Victorian style Melodramas. The story that I always remember being told is that while my mother rehearsed her role as Lucy in Dracula, I sat in a crib in the back of the theater while she had the blood of children running down her white lace dress. I still have the dress, and it is one of my favorites. The red dye never same out, so people often think I am dressed as a zombie when I wear it.

The theater is located in the Old Coal Mine Museum. This open-air museum has been changed a lot since the owners took over, but I will talk about it as it was while I was growing up. The most memorable part of the whole place is the 769 train engine. It is parked right at the entrance to the Engine Repair Garage, which is now the theater. Often in the melodramas the sliding doors would open to reveal the train, usually as it runs over the villain and saves the day. The engine is (was?) open to visitors. The kids always loved to ring the bell, which was always kept in working order. You could also see the stove where the coal would be shoveled into to keep the train running. My friends and I, since we spent so much time here did not always stay in areas open to the public, and would climb into the coal car behind as well.

There were several buildings full of relics from the mining days, including the boxes from the mail room, vehicles, and tools. My favorite part of these are the bats that live in the rafters. After the mines closed, many caved in, and the bats had to find a new place to call home.

One of my favorite things to explore in the museum was the recreated coal mine. You could walk down into it as it gradually got shorter and shorter and tighter and tighter. There was a gate so you could not go too far, but the whole way down you could see the coal seams that had not yet been tapped.

Another unique experience is the jail cell. It really mostly functioned as a drunk tank. You could go inside and sit in the tiny one-room jail. The door was permanently propped open. Inside always smelled rather dank and odd. Obviously the room does not have great ventilation.

Every time I spent time in the museum I ended up with a phenomenon we know as ‘Madrid Black Foot’. This can happen anywhere in town, just because there is so much coal dust everywhere, but especially in the museum. This coal dust really affects everything in town. The water in town, while technically drinkable is very unappetizing. Most homes are older and do not have a quality filter system. As a result, the water can come out of the tap black. Even with a good filter system, the water still smells like sulfur, which unfortunately resembles rotten eggs. Just finding that water was a huge obstacle. In the mining days all water was brought in by train. It was not until the rebirth of the town and many many tries were they able to tap a well. This town is also in a desert, and with the long-term drought that was going on most of the time that I was growing up, there is always the risk of draining the aquifer. The neighboring town did end up having to truck in their water one summer. I remember one of the restaurants felt the need to explain why they did not provide water to guests before requested. They had taken a water bottle and filled it up from their tap. When it sat for awhile there was a layer of black silt in the bottom. They kept this on the counter with a sign.

For many reasons, Madrid has a reputation in the area as a ‘hippie’ town. The town was reborn at the height of the hippie age. The town is largely populated by people who are very conscientious about the environment. My population estimates include all of the “Madroids” as we call ourselves, including the ones who don’t live in town. Many of these live off the grid. As with anywhere, there is also a sector of the population that self-medicates. Because the town is unincorporated, we do not have our own police force and rely on the state troopers, who largely ignore the area. Citizens, law abiding or not, appreciate their privacy. There have been a few times I can recall when police were called out, but on the whole Madrid is a very peaceful community that lives in harmony.

My mother taught me how to sew at a very young age. One of my first toys I remember was homemade sewing cards. Before I was ten I worked in my grandparent’s gallery replacing the dried out elastic in the clothing. When I would do performances, I very much enjoyed making, or altering my costumes. I never got much inspiration from modern clothing, but the shows that I saw and participated in showed me that there is something inspiring out there. I grew up in a town that incorporated bits and pieces of many different eras. This probably helped to give me my love of history.

Because Madrid is so small, there is no school in town. For elementary school we had to go halfway to Santa Fe, for Middle and High School, we had to go the full half hour to the city. On a school bus that took an hour to an hour and a half. I was always a little out of place in school. The things that I spent my time doing were foreign to my peers, and the things that they did I did not do. In my house we chose not to have television, and I did not touch a gaming system until probably Middle School. My friends played, and I would watch, but it did not really intrigue me.

I loved to explore my town. Because Madrid had the coal to provide it, electricity was adopted early. In Madrid’s heyday it was famous for its huge Christmas celebrations. There was even a full amusement park that would come out of storage once a year. There were displays all around town made of wooden cutouts. I love a photo in my grandparent’s gallery of the Jesus cutout. In the photo you can see the separations between the individual 5 foot sections making up the towering figure. There is a clear square on one of the mountains that was once the Bethlehem scene. At the tip of another peak is a cross that used to be one of the ends of an angels flight across town. There is also a giant wooden tree on one mountain. It was never lit until I was in high school. At that point a man known as Brave Dave decided to climb it. (Many people have this type of nickname in Madrid). New Madrid loves the traditions, and Christmas is still a huge event, even for someone like me, who does not identify as Christian.

On the edge of town there was the ball park. During the mining days, this park was one of the first to have electric lights. Today the ball park is used for little league games and the various music festivals held during the summer. These festivals help to fund the Madrid Landowner’s Association. Which is a democratic group that makes the decisions for the town. On July 4th, and on a Saturday in December we also host parades. In the mining days they did the same. To celebrate this, one year on July 4th my grandfather walked down main street playing a drum. This is the way we conduct our parades to this day. Now we set up a time, and if you want to be in it, you line up at the wide opening to Backroad. (Yes, that is the actual name of the road.) The parades end at the ball park and celebrations ensue. While I was growing up, the grandstands were falling apart. There was a cupola that some daredevils would climb into. The cat that I had growing up was born under the grandstands, which is where I found him. As it turns out the grandstands were also a breeding area for rattlesnakes. This means that my amazing cat knew how to, and did, kill rattlesnakes. The last time that I was there the grandstands were in the middle of renovations. The roof had been replaced, but the seats were missing.

Outside of town there were more adventures to be had. There are caves, petro glyphs, rock cutouts, junkyards, tunnels, mesas, mountains, a former golf course (in those days no-one expected them to be green and manicured), and huge open desert to explore. I loved exploring these caves. Sometimes I would imagine that they were connected to the caverns in Carlsbad by an Area 51 type research facility. One of the other unique, but secret, attractions is the petro glyphs. There only form of preservation is the secret. But there are some ‘modern petro glyphs’ aka graffiti. The ridge that these carved rocks are on is like the ridged back of a stegosaurus. The rocks follow the ridge in a nearly straight line. Just the environment provided so much to explore around Madrid. I could tell many stories of my friends and I getting into trouble. Leaving the actual stories aside, I realize that many of the ones worth telling have a theme. Someone got hurt. Never seriously, but it was certainly a valuable learning experience.

After my parents divorced, my father spent several years renting a space on a friend’s property. He lived in a small cab over trailer. Many people find it strange that anyone my age has ever used an actual outhouse, but there was a very nice one on this property. On the property there was one permanent building with a kitchen and shower. This building had running water from a huge underground storage tank. My father was in charge of hauling the water in. One of the most remarkable things about this 100 acre plot of land was that in order to access it you had to drive through an arroyo. This meant that during flash flood season we often had to tow out people who got stuck in the mud. One time I remember stopping on one side on the arroyo to look for something that my dad had lost. As we looked he stopped and had me listen. There was a low, growing roar. Less than a minute later, there was a ten foot high wall of water roaring down the arroyo in front of us. Once the water had established its presence, it ran slowly, and only a foot or so deep. Even that did not last long.

When my mother bought the property that she later built our home on, the house that was on the property had burned down. I even wrote a poem when I was about five about the ‘Burnt Up House’ as we called it. The original homes in Madrid were hauled in on the railroad. They were very minimalist. Because they were made only of wood, they are now tinder boxes. If one of these homes catches fire, the heat alone can catch the next. We are VERY cautious about open flames in Madrid.

Because water is at a premium, when my grandparents chose to rent out part of their home, they were left without a bathroom. We took baths in a big plastic tub with water we heated up on the stove. They had a port-a-potty out back.

I hope that this gives some insight into who I am, and how I got that way. I believe that the experiences I had growing up are invaluable. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to live out of time and place. I believe that everyone should have the opportunity to explore the natural world as well as the historical one.

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About Me

I have always been an odd bird, and believe me I take that as a compliment. I am so interested in the next thing that I have a difficult time sticking to things. (I intend this blog to be as eclectic as I am, so that should keep me going.) This short attention span is very well suited for some things. I do very well with theatre, just about the time I start getting bored with the show, the run is over. Same thing with school. I love learning, and spending about a semester doing something is a good length of time for me.
Luckily I have a lot of interests. I am a historian, but when people ask what period I focus on, I cannot say. I go through phases. In first grade I was practically obsessed with ancient Egypt, by middle school it was Civil War. When I was young I did melodrama, as a result I focused on the Victorian Era, now I am in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) so I lean towards medieval.
I am very interested in new technologies, cutting edge research, and neuroscience, but also ancient cultures and technology. I will write about the failings of society and my thoughts on improvement, but also things that I love about the world and wouldn’t change for anything. Sometimes I may do nothing more than post a review of an old movie, but I will also post my books chapter by chapter.
I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say, I would like to create a lively discourse with readers and other writers.
Take Pride in Your Insanity!

KZISNBK

So one night, I was trying to set up some online account or another, when for the first time I found that the username I usually use was taken! I racked my brain to find something to try. I tried some old nicknames, all were taken, unsurprising since they were not unusual. Finally I tried KZ, and it was too short. That was different, so I thoughtfully pursued this line of inquiry by extending it. I happened to be watching Natural Born Killers at the time, and KZ is the name of my most schizophrenic ‘alter ego’. I found it appropriate, and KZisNBK was born!