Tuesday, April 20, 2010


I need to tell you about my weekends.

Perhaps because I've spent more weekends than usual traveling this year, I've come to value even more the stretch between 5:00pm Friday and about 11pm Sunday, when I don't have a strict to-do list, I'm not in my windowless office and the only person I have to consult with about activities is, oh, my favorite person on the planet.

At this time in my life, the absolute best weekends are the ones that have zero outside obligations: no family gatherings, no weddings, nada. All those activities are fun, usually, but the Saturday that begins when the cat is head-butting me awake because she's out of food and I didn't set an alarm because I didn't need to are the best.

When faced with a wide open Saturday, my hubs and I always come up with some kind of plan. Often that plan involves rearranging some part of our one-bedroom apartment so it feels more open or works more efficiently. I usually try to sneak in a little cleaning, maybe do our laundry (which is a project because we either have to haul it to the basement laundry room - our building has 9 washers for 100 people - or we go mooch off a relative. We used to do laundromats, but they're not very fun) . I usually get some bit of housekeeping accomplished on a weekend, but the motivation isn't usually that I love cleaning, it's that starting Monday with a clean space is pleasant.

This past weekend was just one of those perfect weekends: No schedule. We moved furniture, washed windows, did all the laundry and the dishes, fixed our bikes after a winter in storage. This was over a two-day period: nothing was rushed. We spent just as much time lounging around, surfing the internet, drinking coffee, reading. We watched an action movie we've seen ten times, and we ate pizza. We got some gin, mixed a couple of drinks, admired the new furniture setup. Stayed up late and slept in late.

Our weekends manage to be lazy and efficient at the same time, but though I enjoy that, that's not really the point. Even if we do have hard work to do or we're heading to my in-laws or we have to go to a wedding or baptism or something, I look forward to weekends and the down time we have together.

I like weekends because I like the person (and the cat) with whom I live.

This reflection has come up because a post by Heather Armstrong, aka dooce, just bothered me considerably. Before anyone points out, "uh, Schmei, you know dooce is mentally ill and on a lot of medications, right?" Let me make it clear that I understand that. The post itself was just her being her neurotic self, I thought. Kind of entertaining, a little uncomfortable - her usual writing style.

But her commenters scared the bejeesus out of me.

Dooce's post - it's here - is all about how she hates weekends. Hates them. She can't relax because she can't work, and she gets all anxious without a schedule and starts cleaning everything compulsively. When I read the post, I thought, "I guess I could see that. If I worked from home I'd have trouble shutting it off for two days when my office is right there, too. Not everyone is able to do that..."

But there are two wrinkles. One is that she has two young children, and I know babies are terrible creatures to live with sometimes, and her six-year-old daughter certainly does not sound like a picnic either, so I guess I can understand her anxiety but I always thought weekends with kids could be nice. I guess I just assumed they'd be like weekends are for us now, only with an additional small person who can't eat pizza just yet and needs poopy diapers changed, and then later that small person might be doing something like playing outside when the weather's nice, but that would be fun, right? I love to get outside on weekends. I don't even mind soccer games that much.

Here's the other wrinkle - and this is the thing I should never do on anything besides this blog - I started reading the comments. And every. single. person. agreed with her. Weekends with kids? Suck. Across the board. They are a terrible period of constant suffering. There is no sleeping in, no enjoying coffee, no quiet time, NO FUN. Children with no routine flip out and abuse their parents, needling them constantly. They never shut up. They don't take naps. Things don't even start to pretend to improve until they're at least 10 years old, but then they're pre-teens and we know how awful THOSE are...

I am not kidding when I say those comments made me want to never reproduce in any way. Not even adoption, which, whenever I hear a horror story about childbirth, is my fallback position - "We'll just adopt!" - it's like takeout for babies. Who has time to gestate anymore?

Anyway, that post and those comments made me try to remember what weekends were like when I was growing up. Did I torture my parents when I was a kid? Sundays were fairly routine: church in the morning and then usually breakfast all together, the whole family passing around sections of the newspaper. I would always read the lame kid's joke aloud to Mom because I found her groan entertaining. (Sigh. I still love awful puns. They still make my loved ones groan.) Some Sunday afternoons Dad would go for a hike and take one or two of us along. Sunday dinner was usually something made of chicken, because it was a dinner with my family.

Did my parents hate that? I always thought Sundays were kind of nice.

Saturdays are harder to recall specifically because they were more nebulous. I do remember a time when all three of us were playing soccer, on different teams, at different places sometimes. I'm sure that was stressful, but once they got the transportation figured out it all worked out all right. And besides, that wasn't the whole day, just a couple of hours, usually, and then we'd all go home or hang out with teammates for a while or something.

I remember playing outside in sun or leaves or snow, or reading books. Entertaining myself, or playing superheroes with my brother. Or boardgames with my sister.

How bad was that? Was it that bad? It didn't seem bad, but I was a kid. Are kids that bad? Do they really ruin weekends? Can I never rearrange furniture with my husband again if we have a kid?

I suppose this is bothering me in part because, while I know plenty of women my age who have "baby fever," I don't really have it. What I would like is a child. Like, a seven-year-old, who will later be a twelve-year-old, and then a twenty-two-year old who I can take out to buy a suit for her job interview like my mom did for me. I would enjoy having a son or daughter, or one of each, or hell, two of each, and watch them grow up. It would be interesting to see what combination of traits kids would get, between my husband and me. I hope they get his mechanical smarts, even if that means they disassemble the thermostat. And they'll hopefully get his height, which will be nice for them... and for me, really. Once they're grown, I'll have more than one person I can ask to get things off high shelves. However, I kind of hope they get my hair. Because I am a vain person.

But I'm just not that in to babies. And the more I learn about newborns (my three-week-old niece, for instance, is both beautiful and a relentlessly demanding tyrant all at once), the less I want one of those. And the more I read articles like dooce's post, I find myself worried that the newborn stage never really ends. According to posts like that, newborns just morph in to kids who are potty trained, able to speak, and still just as awful to live with. If not worse.

All of those commenters sounded like my greatest fear about parenthood: they sounded regretful. And I hate that when I think about potentially being a parent some day, one of the questions I ask myself is "which would you regret more, NOT having kids, or having them and not liking them?"

That is a gross question.

I am happy with my life now. I've always kind of thought I'd be happy with kids, but posts like this make me worry that kids would ruin everything I love about my life, and then I couldn't take them back, and my husband and I would be stuck resenting each other and the little monsters we created for the rest of our lives together.

But there has to be a way to train kids to move furniture, right? Maybe that's all we'll need to do.

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