(Settle in, this is going to be a long, long one.)
Where will you be in five years?
Question on everyone’s mind, I’m sure, regardless of age or class. In our case, we haven’t the slightest. We can re-up on Hawaii, assuming there’s money in the office budget for Tom to continue doing what he does. We can live abroad, assuming there are positions open for which Tom is qualified. We can move back to DC, assuming I lose my battle against the inevitable–we do have to go back eventually if Tom is to advance up the office ladder past a certain point, but I’m hoping to stave that off as long as I can. (I feel awful, but the list of places that I absolutely, positively, never want to take up residence are places that Tom loves, has sentimental connections to, or where both our parents live. Our parents are all delightful but an August in Florida would end my marriage. Tom is a saintly man but even he has his breaking point, and I think a Florida summer with me suffering permanent heatstroke-in-high-bitch-mode would do it.) Hopefully we can put off moving back to the mid-Atlantic for a couple tours, assuming there’s something else available. And assuming there are domestic spots open, we could move to Texas or Georgia.
I don’t know if you’ve been keeping score, but that’s a lot of making an ASS-of-U-and-ME-ing going on. The world is our oyster, but much depends on what’s available and where.
It’s a weird position, for sure. Since moving to Hawaii I’ve started to break the habit of constantly daydreaming about where we’re going next. We’re happy here, we don’t want to move, whereas in DC Tom was ready for a change of scenery and I was ready to get the hell out of Dodge before I graduated from AU. We’re trying to take everything we can out of living here; it’s like three years of study abroad. You don’t live going through the motions when you know the party could end in a few years.
There’s one drawback to living here, though: we are SURROUNDED by children. Specifically, couples our age with children: newborns, toddlers, elementary school age. And for the first time since we’ve been married, we’ve had the question put to us with a lot of insistency: “When are you going to have kids of your own?”
Well, in DC we didn’t have friends with kids. None. But we wanted babies. We talked about when to be having them, we followed my sister’s pregnancy with almost unseemly curiosity. We had names picked. We agreed they could be raised to be bigger Phillies fans than Red Sox fans as long as they never once wore Eagles green during football season.
Here, all of our friends have kids. And observing them, now I’m starting to think we were very, very wrong. After a lifetime of professing to like children, I’ve discovered that…I don’t. I love my cousins, I adore them. I love babies, newborns. My nephew pukes petunias and spits sunshine, as far as I’m concerned. But I don’t like kids. I’m too controlling, too impatient, and I hate explaining myself. I don’t accept that “because I said so” is good enough rationale for a kid but I already have a job and it doesn’t involve teaching anyone to use the potty or why sticking your head in an oven is a bad idea.
Tom’s in a similar boat. We like the “idea” of being parents–touching Christmas moments, teaching the sprat to ski or throw a curveball–but the actual day-to-day of raising children? We really, really like our lives just the way they are. And we don’t want to screw it up. “It’s different when it’s yours, you’ll love it and blah blah…” That’s what people say when I voice my concerns. That’s not good enough for me, because it isn’t true. And I’m not talking about abuse or abandonment. I’ve seen enough to know that parents don’t always bond to their kids–they feed them, and clothe them, and care for them, but it’s a job that they’d rather quit. I don’t think that would be us, but I think it happens often enough that my concern can’t be dismissed with a hand wave and a dismissive “It’s different when it’s your kid.” It isn’t, not for some people. Indifference can be a type of abuse too. If I do this I want to do it 100%, and right now I don’t think we want it badly enough to make that commitment.
In the best of all worlds, and may we be so lucky, there’s still time to decide about babies. We may even figure out where we’re going to live while we raise them. But this whole life we’ve chosen for ourselves is so alien to the environments we were raised in. You get married, you pick a place you want to live for 25 or so years, you buy a house, and somewhere along the line you have babies. Now, us, on the other hand…We’ll always rent, because we’ll always be on the move, we’re not picking a place to stay. Our kids, should we have them, will have to adapt to bouncing around. Maybe someday when we retire we’ll settle in one spot. Maybe.
It’s hard to explain why that life–the 3 bedroom house, the PTA, weekends at Home Depot–is fine for those who want it, but not for us, without sounding like a judgmental jerk. But it’s not what we want for ourselves. And until we moved here I’ve never been pressed to defend our choices. So that’s why I’m writing this down–I need to organize my thoughts into a set of talking points for the next neighborhood barbecue. This whole thing sounds so defensive, but as I’ve said, I’m not accustomed to explaining myself. I’ve never particularly cared about anyone’s disapproval. Curiosity, schmuriosity–being curious about someone’s plans does not automatically extend the right to pry into someone’s personal life. (Everyone I’ve ever been friends with just threw their hands up and called me a nosy hypocrite. Sorry, I know, I’m working on it.) But saying to a well-meaning neighbor “Unless you plan to pay for the baby, it’s none of your f-ing business” seems a tad drastic–I don’t want to start a war with the only people I’ve met here just because they don’t consider that question to be as rude as I consider it to be.
So where will we be in five years? Not a clue. But we like where we are now. Just me, Tom, our weekly sushi date, and the basil plant we haven’t yet killed.