Mr E Man and I had The Talk very early on - within the first six months of our relationship. Luckily we are on the same page, for many reasons. In no particular order:
- Being parents is incredibly hard (conclusion reached through years of observation of friends and family who are parents, and the occasional verbal verification from one of them).
- We have enough trouble looking after ourselves (we run out of milk and bread and clean towels all the time).
- We're selfish and like our lives the way they are (I recently told two different friends that sure, if you're going up to Whistler at short notice on a weekend, call me! 5 am, whatever! I can grab my skis, my gear and a granola bar and be ready to leave in less than an hour).
- Kids would inevitably increase our environmental impact, no matter how hard we tried to minimize their effect (plus, I believe that the planet needs extra people like I need, um, lice, or some other non-fatal parasite. I know Ruchi disagrees... but if we ever change our minds about having kids, adoption would be our first choice).
- We're lazy and like our sleep way too much (did I mention that we're selfish?)
- Childcare is ridiculously expensive and hard to find in Vancouver (I know two new mothers here on postdoc work permits who may have to leave the country, because they can't find affordable childcare, and therefore can't go back to work, and therefore can't renew their status in Canada).
- I don't want to give up sushi for 9 months (yes, this is a valid reason. One of my friends really, really struggled with the lack of sushi. No booze, no caffeine, no problem - but no raw fish? Screw that. Another argument for adoption, in my book).
- We'd truly, honestly, rather have a boat (did I mention that we're selfish?)
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. The majority of our friends and family just seem to assume that we'll be having kids soon, given that we got married a whole year ago and all. And it's incredible (but no longer surprising) exactly how many people will try and talk us out of our decision. Sometimes this manifests itself as a simple "when?" question, and then surprise at our answer ("really? But, but, but, are you sure?") And sometimes it get much more irritating and intrusive than that.
I would never, ever, give someone a hard time for choosing to have kids. So why do so many people fail to see that not having kids is a personal choice that we've actually thought through and discussed, rather than a personal insult directed at them or their lifestyle?
For example, at Thanksgiving in October we were at my mother-in-law's house. I was sitting around the dining table with my MIL (who has 5 kids), her eldest daughter (2 kids), and my brother-in-law's hilarious (not so new) girlfriend (1 kid + 2 stepkids). Mr E Man was washing the dishes in the kitchen while the rest of us shared some wine and chatted about various benign subjects. But then, with no warning, the two younger women unleashed a shock and awe pro-kids campaign on me. (BIL's H(NSN)G told me the next day that this had been planned over drinks the night before. She also apologised and said "that was incredibly rude, wasn't it?". I concurred). They both told me that we should totally have children, and will come around to the "right" point of view soon enough. Like, after we have all those kids that we should be having! The youngest child in the family is now almost 6, and it's selfish for us not to have children when everyone so badly wants a new baby to play with! My MIL, an incredibly sweet lady who I adore, chipped in at this point with "I'd really like another granddaughter, [name] is all grown up and there are so many boys in this family".
I could sense, even from behind a half-wall, that Mr E Man was getting really pissed off. His family, his argument - so while I made polite noises about "I'm sorry but having kids isn't for us, you're really not going to change my mind", he quietly seethed for a while before snapping "not gonna happen, now leave us alone!" They did, and hopefully they won't be trying that approach again.
In a few weeks we'll be heading to the UK for Christmas. We have yet to have the "no grandchildren for you!" conversation with my parents, although my sister knows the situation. It's coming... and honesty is definitely the best policy, despite the temptation to use Mr E Man's idea of saying "that's a hard subject for us [sob], we've been trying for years and nothing works [sniffle], there's this incredible clinic in Cuba but we'd need to go for at least a couple of weeks and we can't afford it... [pleading look]"
It's not going to go down too well, I don't have a big family and my parents looooove kids. Hopefully they'll be happy to be an extra set of grandparents to my cousins' kids (the aforementioned cousinoids, who they see a couple of times a year). And I can place some hope in the following conversation, reported to me by
Dad: "When are you going to give me some grandchildren?"
Sis: "But Dad! I don't even have a boyfriend!"
Dad: "Well don't let that stop you."
Sis: "Oh, yeah, you'd love that. Anyway, why don't you go and bother Cath instead? She's at least living with someone!"
Dad: "I don't want Canadian grandchildren".
I hope that this was said for more than comic effect - but I suspect not!
Wish me luck... and please do share any of your own coping strategies!