November 06, 2006

Maria

by Guest Contributor: AlphaGirl / WalkerGirl
AlphaGirl’s Blog:
Childfree: Uncut

I am holding a mental image of a photograph. Maria and I are back-to-back, leaning against one another, but facing front and smiling at the camera. It is a metaphor for our relationship: We are distinct opposites, but in synch at the same time.

I’m unapologetically single, childfree, and outspoken. Infants and toddlers are cute in pictures; but irritating in person. I consider myself a realist, a pragmatist. Some might argue I’m a bit of a misanthrope. In the words of a friend’s 13 year- old “Ok, fine, whatev’.” I’m long on compassion when it’s well-deserved, but short on patience when I feel I’m being played.

Maria is a married, loving mom to three grown kids and will most likely embrace any future grand-parenting the way she does anything else in life: With an overflowing heart and open arms.
Her faith in humanity is unshakable. She loves people of all ages, from the red-faced screaming infant in the supermarket to the hung-over frat kid who serves up her coffee. Her patience and compassion are endless, and to that end, she is now a marriage and family therapist. She is also my rock, my surrogate mom (who knew?), voice of reason, advisor and all-around cheerleader. She is the last person I would want to offend or hurt. I value the relationship deeply, and am therefore more protective of it.

We differ on the parenting lifestyle. While she insists she’s fine with the whole childfree thing, I feel the need to hold back, out of profound respect for her life and her choices. I’m very prone to foot-in-mouth disease, to be honest. She has a fleeting familiarity with my brand of For-God’s-sake-stop-breeding-already brand of childfreedom. When she was a young No-Cal (hailing from Northern California) Mom, she practiced a lot of the stuff that I later would dismiss as “Eww. Enough of the Hip Mama/Earth Mother stuff..Gawd!” in one of my unchecked moments. Immediately, I regret my words. I don’t want to hurt her. She took it in stride, but I still felt like a jerk.

Like a protective parent, I want to cradle and shelter this precious relationship; to stop it from darting into the oncoming traffic of sharp words, hurt feelings, and stony silences that can arise from such stark ideological differences. She is curious; she wants to know more about my recently-published letter to the editor that ran in a national magazine. I read it to her, and quickly dismissed it with “I honestly didn’t think they’d run it…seriously.” She wants to know more about the advocacy work I’ve done in the past. She adds that no, really, childfree is OK with her. Honest. Shoot, her son has declared his own childfreedom long ago.

It’s easy to fall back on the old adage that a true relative, friend, etc. will be there and will understand any differences. A truly strong relationship can withstand such strong differences. Live and let live and all of that. She doesn’t inflict parenting on me, and of course, I don’t inflict childfreedom on her. Still, it’s hard not to be wary; I’ve spent time in the past sifting through the wreckage of previous connections gone awry. Could this relationship survive this very profound difference in lifestyle and choice? It barely survived a raise-the-roof-caliber disagreement a few months ago. Losing her would have been like losing a parent. Fortunately, we rebounded and found our way back, but still…..

The sounds of oncoming traffic are louder, more harsh. Fearful, I step forward to embrace and protect.

[Photo: Uploaded to Flickr on March 23, 2006, by code poet]


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7 comments:

karen said...

The Maria post really hits home with me. Having lost a friendship after former friend became a mother and struggled to find common ground with other friends who've become parents, I often find myself walking the fine line between not wanting to alienate others with my CF stance while still politely asserting my decision to would-be "recruiters" to parenting. It can be a difficult balancing act.

AlphaGirl said...

Hi Karen-
Thank you for reading my piece and for your feedback. It's a delicate balance, to be sure. I'm really hoping the piece will serve as a starting point for those parent/non-parent friend/relative pairs who may be struggling a bit.
Thanks again for reading! =)

karen said...

Hi alphagirl,

I noticed on the blog about you that you're training for the LA Marathon. I'm a runner as well; I just run Chicago and am training for the Houston Marathon. Besides fitness, I love the stress relief and adventure that running provides. Good luck with the LA Marathon!

Karen

AlphaGirl said...

Hi Karen-

Thanks for the words of encouragement! I have heard wonderful things about the Chicago Marathon, and I hope to also race that one day. My marathon training is my stress relief; I've added school to my already full plate and the stress level gets a little high if I don't get out and pound out some miles.

Robin said...

I can certainly relate to that...I feel a lot of my friendships haven't been able to withstand the very different directions our lives have gone.

AlphaGirl said...

Hi Robin-
I'm glad you enjoyed the post. It's a tough issue; I'm hoping it will jump-start discussion between friends/relatives who face divergent paths. I had a chance to show the post to Maria, and many tears and a heartfelt chat followed. Worth it's weight in gold =)

I really enjoyed your post about your kitties, BTW. Very sweet!

Teri said...

I was really drawn in by first line on this post. It was written straight from the heart.

Your words bring to mind the all the significant women in my life and how my status and my lifestyle are the hardest thing to talk about with my own family.

So it seems I have turned to perfect strangers and the relative anonymity of cyberspace, which is easier. Yet...

...the women in my life are important to me, and being able to dialogue with them, to enlighten and create understanding with them, with my mothers and sisters, is perhaps my greatest challenge.

This space fortifies me to the task at hand, and I thank you all for helping me on this very personal journey.