40(ish) and Single Sans the Ankle Biters. . .


As I have stated many many times in these posts, I often fantasize about being a single person without children.  It’s like a little game I play.  I’m not out scoping out other men or anything like that at all.  I’m pretending to be carefree, having no place in particular I am required to be, and that my cell phone isn’t being constantly barraged with texts and voicemails that read: “Hey…where are you?”; “When will you be home?”; “Can you bring home a posterboard?”; and “What’s for supper?”.  In my dream world, I don’t have to acknowledge any of these texts, because I am bound to no one.  I can window shop for eternity, if that’s what I want to do.  These excursions are short-lived and infrequent, but they feed my soul.

This also feeds my soul.

I had lunch with a friend from high school this week.  He’s the same guy that came home from Iraq recently…he’d been working for a private contractor over there for nearly a year.  Out of that time came a 300+ page manuscript that he’s hoping to turn  into a book.  He asked me to give it a look-see and give him any thoughts.  (His writing style and sense of humor are right up my alley, by the way, so this is going to be a fun assignment).  Anyway, the conversation over lunch and the situation that he’s currently in left me thinking…would I REALLY want to be single and childless at this point in my life?  Good question.  Let’s explore.

Hmmmmm.....

Since about the time I hit 30, I’ve noticed something “amiss” with my single/childless friends.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it’s something they all have in common, no matter how different they are.  It puts a wall up in the middle of almost every conversation that has anything to do with something other than high school, when we had more in common than we realized at the time. 

This morning it was as though a light when off in my head.  I realized what it was.  When you get married, and have children, something begins to happen to you.  You can no longer continue to feed your idiosyncrasies and quirks.  Your focus begins to seep out of your pores and indelibly transfer onto your spouse and your children.  There are mini-mes walking around and their personalities are partially derived from your own.  The parts of your character and personality that most benefits those of the people around you get stronger, and the ones that don’t, you pray, fade away.  Every weakness or character flaw that you allow to remain become AMPLIFIED  in your children.  If you are lucky enough to be self-aware about these things, then you do your best to stomp them out cold.  If you are too selfish to lose them completely, then you live your life in fear that your decision will ruin your child’s life in some way, and you will be the one to blame.   You are forced to model respect, good manners and honesty, if you do, in fact, expect your children to do the same.  Parenthood changes you.  Permanently.  I think that the best parents are less concerned with maintaining whatever persona or hobbies or other things that they believe “define” them, and happily move over into their new roles: Teachers, spiritual guides, and nurturers.   True joy is then derived from the accomplishments and, more importantly, happiness, of their children.  I’m not talking about buying your kid everything they want, and living vicariously through them, but rather on a deeper level.  True happiness.  As in, they are happy with who they are and satisfied with what they have.   You can’t helped but be changed by kids.  Because if you are like me, you suck at most of the above, and so your life becomes about striving for these things.  Failing at some, and winning at others.  But changed, in either case. 

Singles, on the other hand, have nothing constant but their inner selves to transform them as they age.   No spouse to subtly prompt them to be kinder, no children to teach manners to, no daily concern with the welfare of a helpless infant or toddler or teenager…how can they NOT become self-absorbed.  Their struggle is the opposite of the parents:  Instead of losing their identity,their idiosyncrasies become AMPLIFIED, running amok for so long.   Without having raised kids, I think it must be very difficult to learn how to forgive, to recognize that character flaws are sometimes inherited and not there by one’s choice.   Without constantly keeping this in check, they run the risk of living a very myopic life when it comes to other human beings and the ability to identify the tender differences in each of them.

After considering all of this, I decided that it’s okay for me to fantasize about the good parts of being single sans the ankle biters, in short spurts, but that really I’m right where I want to be. 

By the way, I don’t feel this way about my friend that I had lunch with this week.  He seems like he genuinely cares about many people who he remains close with.  His eyes are wide open and looking out, he really sees the world around him.  He is doing some soul searching right now about where he wants his life to take him.   My sincerest hope is that he finds a non-neurotic girl (if any do, in fact, exist), settles down and makes a couple of babies with her.  But if he continues to trek all over the world, filling his days with reading and writing and drinking and music. . .then I know that he’ll continue to make the world a better place just by being in it.  

And to be clear, I’m not saying that being parents or married makes people any better than single people.  I’m saying that each life situation brings with it it’s own tendencies.  Not every parent is a nurturer, and not every single person is self-absorbed. 

I guess my whole point is that I could only IMAGINE how NEUROTIC I would be if I didn’t have all these kids and this schedule to keep me grounded.  Would I be self-absorbed?  You bet your ass I would.  And I’d be really good at it, too. 

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About zohrbak

Zohrbak is an old email username I had a while back...it's a made-up twist on two characters from Spaceghost. Zorak and Brak. I'm a geek. I am a married, working mother of 4 children, ages 4-15. I also have interests outside of my children, but I can never remember what they are.
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6 Responses to 40(ish) and Single Sans the Ankle Biters. . .

  1. Being a twenty-two year old mom, I have an abundance of childless friends (I, myself, fall into the single category). I’ve completely changed. I don’t see my friends like I use to. I don’t have much time to myself (I’m really okay with that… never liked being alone). I haven’t bought a new pair of shoes since Gabe made his grand entrance. Unlike my friends, my life is situated around what circumstances may or may not arise with Gabe. Sometimes I stand in awe just watching my those friends of mine… trying to remember what it’s like to get a night’s rest without having little feet kick me in the gut. But then, Gabe does something incredible… and I’m right back to loving every minute of my hectic, over-filled life. I’ve traded in my high heels & beer bottle for Sperry’s & a sippy cup. Hey, at least I don’t run the risk of getting beat down at McDonalds at 2 o’clock on a Saturday morning anymore. And that, alone, makes me happy.

    Of course, all this might change in the future when Gabe & his sibling(s) are yelling at screaming at each other. Maybe then I’ll be more inclined to sit & dream of a quieter life. 😉

  2. There is a name for what you are describing. It’s called maturity.
    While having children can be a darn good way of accelerating the maturing process, it is only one of many.
    For instance, your friend has matured because of the hell that is war and his obligations to his country and his fellow soldiers.
    Volunteer or service work also has a way of growing people up quickly.
    Significant loss or hardship are other experiences that can drop-kick a person into a whole new level of compassion and “adultness” in a hurry.
    While any of these situations can provide the ingredients for increased maturity, there is also an element of choice involved. We can learn and grow through these circumstances, or refuse to let them develop our characters.
    In other words, live and learn. Or not.
    Jodi

  3. YaYa says:

    All I can say is AWESOME!! Love this one, reads so well and touches the heart… I too sometimes image my life single but I can’t wait to get home and just hug my kids and smell my sweet little man, while he still smells sweet. My family has made me such a better person, I’m thankful everyday!

  4. Zohrsis says:

    LOVE THIS!!!!

  5. Zohrmom says:

    As most of you know by now, I tried to be both single and have children at the same time, not necessarily in that order or with the same degree of acceptance at any given time. I now know that the thing that kept me anywhere near sane was the realization that, like it or not, I was responsible for two human beings other than myself.
    There is something very grounding to realize this. It really doesn’t matter what happened to me as long as I knew my girls would be okay at the end of the day.
    Had I been single with no kids, I am pretty darn sure I would not even be here (or anywhere for that matter).
    I wish single people the best and all the fulfillment they need to get through.

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