An Unlived Life

I’m sure she means well. But God, to a child this sounds like “you were a mistake and I regret your existence.”

Also, children aren’t a way vicariously to live the life you’ve never had and wish you did. As Klara says, “mommy, you and I are completely different people.”

People constantly ask me how come I haven’t put her in any language classes when I speak a boatload of languages myself but I see no connection. I speak languages but she’ll decide if she wants to. I’m not invested into this in any way.

And one more thing. “Make sure you have a career and travel” is as much of a needless pressure as “make sure you get married.” What if the kid just isn’t into it? Some people – I’d guess most – are really not into living abroad.

27 thoughts on “An Unlived Life

  1. The formula go to college and travel just means don’t get married/have kids BEFORE you get yourself in a position to support them, enjoy life to some extent, etc. — so you don’t resent them.

    My mother wanted to start having kids at 20 but living on what? So she didn’t get to but also didn’t want to go to college, so she got stuck in an unhappy marriage. So she said, finish college and study abroad, so you can attract a richer man than I did. You are supposed to graduate from college, then get a job in New York and start dating men who can put you into the upper middle class at least.

    In the 50s there were tons of educational films about this and we watched them in school in the 60s. They would look at young married couples. Typically there would be one who were high school dropouts with a baby and dead end jobs, in love but frustrated with life and struggling to get the child clothes. There would be one that was using birth control and was in college, and was having a great time. They would be planning for the nicer circumstances in which they would raise their child.

    Still in those films the supposition was that the girl would never have any fun of her own. Thence the idea that you should graduate and travel and get a job first, and only THEN tie yourself to a man. Note: men are NOT fun in this model, you subordinate yourself to them and lose your own life, but you and your children are at least supported comfortably.

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      1. In the 1970s and 80s, some smart folks decided that the way to combat the epidemic of teenage pregnancy was to denigrate parenthood. They produced posters for high schools that featured pictures of sad-eyed teenagers holding babies, with captions like “It’s like being grounded for eighteen years.” It was also common practice to assign girls to carry around some fragile inanimate object (like a raw egg) for a few days, taking it everywhere they went, which was supposed to mimic what it’s like to be responsible for a baby.

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        1. Women are supposed first to poison themselves with hormones for 15 years to avoid pregnancy. Then poison themselves with hormones to try to get pregnant when they are past their prime. This is all very much oriented towards male physiology. Female physiology has to be mangled to follow the male pattern.

          Why don’t we have a definition of female freedom that is different from freedom to be pretend men?

          Liked by 2 people

          1. You just nailed the primary reason I am no longer a feminist. Feminism is inherently misogynist. It tacitly accepts the premise that if men and women are different, then one must be better than the other, and — surprise, surprise — it turns out men are better. Female “progress” is always measured in masculine terms: How many women are in the paid labor force, how much the wage gap between women and men has narrowed, how free women are to neglect and even abandon their own children, how many women are CEOs, how many women hold high political office, etc.

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            1. This is precisely why post-Soviet feminism is so different from the Western feminism. We had abortion as the main contraceptive method in the post-Stalin era and 100% of women in the workforce. And it didn’t bring great happiness. Our feminism, as a result, is about reclaiming our right to be women and not shorter, weaker men. It’s hard for me to find a place among Western feminists because their concerns seem very trivial to me. “Men interrupt me in meetings… Men explain things to me…” So speak up and stop being mousy. It’s not a huge societal problem that you mumble.

              Liked by 1 person

          2. // Female physiology has to be mangled to follow the male pattern.
            Why don’t we have a definition of female freedom that is different from freedom to be pretend men?

            Isn’t it a genderless pattern of modern capitalism which punishes childbirth in 1st world countries?

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            1. Yeah… If a man starts having kids at 35, he can have 11 if he wants. And a woman will be mega-lucky if she can squeeze out one. Doesn’t sound that genderless to me.

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              1. // If a man starts having kids at 35, he can have 11 if he wants.

                Most of them don’t. In addition, most people marry within their class and younger women prefer younger men, in addition to being career-oriented themselves.

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              2. “Most of them don’t”

                That’s not the point, though. They still have the option. Their physiology doesn’t pay a price for it. They are completely free to make any choice they want. And women aren’t. We poison and torture our bodies to give them a chance to mature slowly. And that is presented as somehow hugely liberating to us.

                Like a Russian writer once wrote, she was at an abortion clinic and a very young woman was asking a doctor tearfully, “is it true that there is a chance we won’t be able to have kids in the future if I abort now?” “There’s a chance YOU won’t have kids. He will. It’s you who won’t if something goes wrong. But he’ll be perfectly fine.”

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      2. Yes — it all came to, marriage and parenthood will be awful for YOU, largely because YOU will be joining the suffering poor if you do them. And if not, you will still be relinquishing your life for a socially acceptable image.There was nothing good about it, and in fact many of the married couples one could observe were miserable. Happy people lived alone and weren’t abused, had creative lives.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It is a huge problem in modern life that kids are not being inculcated with the idea that “dating” has an endgame. That the whole point of that exercise is to find a spouse, get married, and raise a family. So now everybody’s just “dating” because… why? Everybody needs a crappy hobby? It poisons the dating pool for people who really do just want to get married and get on with starting a family.

    The person screenshotted in the post clearly does not want grandkids.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. True. My kid will hear the word “dating” years after she heard the word “marriage” and witnessed how great it is.

      Dating absolutely sucks. I did a lot of it and it was horrid.

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  3. Hey, come on, “dating” isn’t so bad if you have no endgame in mind, and keep your eye on the path leading over the next hill and beyond the horizon. Take my word for it, it played out well for several decades.

    The women I dated are all happily married grandmothers today — I know that, because years later several of them telephoned me out of the blue to see how I was doing — so it had a happy ending for all of us.

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    1. Spoken like a true extrovert! My sister felt the same way about the dating scene, and more than once earnestly advised me: “You’ve got to get out there and date a LOT of people to find out what you want!” Worked out well enough for her.

      Alas, that advice is radically inappropriate for people like me. And I had the good fortune to know it, even when I was young. I shudder to think what my life would have been like if I’d been determined to “do it right” by her standards, and slog miserably through dating a half-dozen or more people before I met my husband: would have been a dismal waste of my time and theirs.

      For you, dating is a garden of earthly delights. For me, it’s a prolonged state of anxious uncertainty. The nice thing about your experience, is that it’s widely accepted and validated by the culture at large. I have never had that luxury. For my entire adult life, it has been nearly taboo to treat dating as simply a tool for finding a spouse. If you don’t want to sleep with someone by the third date, you’re a prude. For years, when people found out I was single, and that I preferred that to just hooking up with someone “good enough for now”, and that I was totally OK with remaining single forever if no suitable husbands turned up, they’d look at me like I had three heads and had just started speaking Hungarian.

      So it’s nice that the free-and-easy no-commitment dating worked out well for you, but I’m not happy that that approach completely dominates the dating market these days. There needs to be room for other approaches, other personality types, and people with other goals in life. Right now, in the US, unless you were born into an insular religious community (Amish, Hutterites, Orthodox Jews…), that space doesn’t exist. Having introvert sensibilities makes you a pariah in the dating market.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Gosh, I spent years fending off pressure from exclusively female friends on how picky and choosy I was and that I was going to remain single forever. Which, like you, I didn’t mind in the least if I couldn’t find somebody I could love profoundly.

        I was terrified of marriage because all I ever heard was that the good part was going to be over in 6 months tops and then drudgery would ensue. I honestly never heard from anybody that marriage could actually get better with every year, that love deepens, becomes more complex, more total, more accepting, and sweeter. That growing into another person is a fascinating process, both emotionally and intellectually. I had absolutely no idea about it until I was forced to get married by circumstances beyond my control.

        There’s so much terrible, counterproductive conditioning going on. “I’m telling my kid it’s OK not to get married and form a family.” It’s also OK not to have a healthy gastrointestinal tract. People live with it and have good lives. But you don’t try to spoil your kids gut on purpose to prove how accepting you are of different microbiomes. Obviously, I’ll love my kid no matter whether she gets married or not. But my job is to set her up for success in all areas of life, not shoot her down with conditioning her to fail.

        She’s doing a big, complicated art project for school. I don’t hover around her, repeating “it’s ok if you fail. You don’t need to finish the project.” Why plant the seed of the possibility she can fail? This is nothing but sabotage.

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        1. Also, I have an older friend who is like this mom. She keeps telling me how I deserve so much better than living a small-town life and how I should go for year-long travel grants, etc. I just can’t make her hear me when I say that I’m very happy. I’m in love with my small-town life. It’s all good. She’s not my mom, so this doesn’t have much of an impact but it’s a classic projection. She wants me to do what she feels she missed out on. It’s sad, really.

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        2. I know, right?

          There’s a lot to be said for enjoying your own company, knowing what you want, and not settling for less. I can’t see why so many people feel it’s their personal God-given mission in life to stomp on that– from my sister trying to talk me out of dating my husband because I supposedly needed to sleep with other men first to know what I really wanted, to my college roommate deciding that my being a virgin was a kind of leprosy and “we need to get you laid” (eyeroll). Criminy! How was that any of their business? I never asked for their guidance, and I didn’t want to live the way they were living.

          After years of turning down dates because I already knew enough about the guys in question to know that they were not people I could marry and raise kids with… I met my husband. And sure, we “dated” (mostly long-distance) but the understanding from the start was that marriage was the goal, and we were going through the safety checks to make sure it was a good idea and we weren’t just deluding ourselves (eg, do we want kids? How do we each manage money? What priority to in-laws get? What part does religion play in our lives? Where will we live?). We were crazy about each other when we married, but twelve years in, marriage is so much better than it was at the start, it’s hard to even imagine why people think the first year or so is the “honeymoon phase” after which all the magic wears off. It’s been a fantastic twelve years.

          I’m so glad I didn’t listen to all the people who thought they knew my relationship needs better than I did.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. This requires a great strength of character, so I congratulate you on that. Self-awareness is in short demand and a capacity to withstand peer pressure is even rarer.

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  4. ““Make sure you have a career and travel” is as much of a needless pressure”

    Or as I like to put it… some people thrive on dating and others… don’t. Some people like travel, others don’t.
    Figure out which you are (you might not be right with your first guess) and proceed accordingly.

    I hated the whole dating idea, I don’t enjoy ‘travel’ much (except under carefully controlled conditions – a side effect of having had to travel for work months at a time).

    On the other hand I thrive living abroad.

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  5. I suppose it all has to do with whether or not your parent(s) thought they deserved love and meaningful work. My father did, and my mother didn’t. So she only believed in serving/manipulating and escapism. You work at something boring, or serve someone mean, but you get to take drugs and/or vacations sometimes, and you live for that. It’s quite interesting to say/see the clarity of the message: love-meaning-agency-vitality may be for others but they are not for you, you are not worthy of them and would not be capable of handling them.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My mother loved her job and was really good at it. Then she sacrificed it for public opinion and spent the next 30 years trying to guilt-trip my sister and me for working.

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