the strength to reproduce

Becoming puppy parents has brought a keener focus on the idea of being human parents.

Over recent weeks we’ve adapted and realised what it is to be a parent of sorts, to have responsibilities, to have a cute little dependant, to no longer be quite so free.

It’s hard not to apply this to thoughts about children. But still we waver indecisively.

Are we capable? Are we strong enough?  Both of us: physically, mentally, financially. Are we selfless enough?  Being child-free until your mid-thirties means you’re comfortable having time, hobbies, relative freedom, being selfish.

Time imposition

I resent the amount of time it takes to do laundry. The monotonous drudgery of sifting clothes, washing, hanging stuff up to dry and putting stuff away: it takes so long it makes me angry. I suspect more advanced civilisations exist where they push material through some kind of tube and it is done in seconds, like a car wash.

Time dedicated to laundry at this point in life would pale in comparison to the amount of time and gargantuan imposition a small human being would bring. (And the added laundry load doesn’t bear contemplating). Would we want our lives changed so drastically forever?

Puppies have immediate rewards in cuteness and plain undiluted joy. As well as a lack of major additional laundry. (Old towels is about it). For all the hard work of training and cleaning up piss and shit and vomit, there is obvious pleasure to be had from early on. They also sleep for a good amount of time, letting you do other things. It is not relentless.

Is this really the case with those alien baby things? No.

[Read: Sorry Sperm]

Health

Of course we might not be able to have children anyway. We’ve never tried. There could be all sorts of health complications. I might not be spunky enough after angrily frittering away my most potent stock over the course of my lonely twenties. She has a number of health complications meaning she takes regular medication. Neither of us are ‘young young’. There are no guarantees.

I also have concerns about her, for which I feel guilty but cannot escape. Is she physically and mentally strong enough for all that? She is easily drained on both counts, quickly fearful of any potential health issues. This is perhaps understandable given the early loss of both her parents. Would motherhood summon a total neurotic meltdown, a tsunami of postnatal depression? Do I deep down believe she is strong enough? A brutally hard and maybe impossible question to answer.

If we did it, would I feel greater financial pressure? Already I feel painfully inadequate about my puny earning power. I am impelled to constantly buy equipment in order to keep up and advance professionally. Whether I actually do or am is a moot point. But this doesn’t help. Even so, we get by ok month to month. We don’t really go without, except holidays and socialising. That doesn’t really happen, partly because we have few friends. But if she’s off work and I’m stumbling along with my few hundred quid here and there way of earning, would that be enough to comfortably support a family? Possibly possible, but not comfortable either financially or mentally.

Feeling even more inadequate and insecure about my earning will help nothing and nobody.  Could I do anything else?  Could I actually get a different job earning a more respectable wage? And if I did would I be totally miserable?

[Read: Pondering Parenthood]

If we don’t

It’s ok if we don’t, of course. That’s the liberated twenty-first century view. You can do what you want. You don’t have to make excuses to anyone and there are plenty of solid rational reasons not to. The biggest fear is probably what older versions of yourself will think. Will 40, 50 or 60 year-old versions of ourselves be wracked with painful regret about a life unlived, or unfair resentment of each other?

Or can you coach yourself into being philosophical about it all? Spend time with nieces and nephews, try and volunteer doing something with young people, without implicating yourself as a pervert.

Even then, will we have enough to keep ourselves occupied? Will there be a gaping hole that can’t be filled which ultimately separates us?  There are far too many unanswerable questions in all this. You can’t ever know, one way or the other. You can overthink it until your head hurts a lot.

Scary clocks are ticking, not yet with major serious urgency, but they are ticking nonetheless.

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Dissolving LTRs and knowing

Well jeez.. I thought, upon listening to my friend tell the latest sad tale in the pub.  I wonder if I’m more messed up from my general dearth of serious long term relationships, or if are they by having them and screwing them up so royally?  Realising this was a self-involved moment happening inside my head, I refocused on what he was saying.

It seems that there’s a time between the ages of, say, 25 and 35 when shit has to get real in long term relationships (LTRs).  Females invariably take the lead in wanting to reproduce and men get scared.  They either grasp the nettle and realise this woman probably / definitely is the one.  Or they don’t.  Confidence can falter at these crunch decision times; paralysing fear isn’t uncommon.  When one party doesn’t know or has cause to doubt, all the cards can come crashing down.

Over the past few months I’ve learned that two couples who I and most of the world considered to be solid couples of a good number of years, were actually no longer couples at all.  Yes they lived together, maybe even slept in the same bed from time to time and who knows what else, had been going out for around ten years previously; but in their heads at least, they were no longer a couple.

Case One is the captain sensible of our school friendship group, one of these guys who always seemed to glide pretty effortlessly through life, education, a career and love.  As far back as school he was pegged as the guy who could be depended on to get married and settle down first.  They got a mortgage together reasonably early, then nothing else happened.  She was awkward to be around.  Nice enough, but flighty and unpredictable.  “ISSUES” almost imperceptibly stamped above her sunken defensive eyes.  After a year or so living together under the pretence that all was rosy, they’re now fumbling off in separate directions.

Case Two was only revealed to me yesterday in the pub.  He is possibly the most hypersensitive and indecisive guy I know, whilst being handsome, clever, able and acidly funny – happy to dish out but rarely take.  They also got together young: he in his early 20s, her in her mid 20s.  With a couple of years on him, she seemed to care less for marriage but has been crying out for kids for some time.  He has been indecisive, nervous, scared.  In more ways than one it requires a set of balls he’s never demonstrated.  Her clock is now ticking with more urgency.  He has admitted to depression but is only just beginning to seek help.  Now it transpires that in their own heads they too haven’t been a proper couple for several months.  They are, my friend believes, on the cusp of probable separation with tangible consequences.

While the guy of the latter couple never won my sympathy and from my limited experience in recent years I’ve often considered him hugely selfish, these are all fundamentally decent people.  Of all parties, it’s him I fear for the most.  From a privileged background, he’s arguably always been used to a bubble of protection, mollycoddling, mothering and dependency.  Not having the courage of my convictions and giving up too easily is something I loathe myself for, but this guy makes me look like some kind of Richard Branson impresario.

It seems to me that rational, clear-cut decisions need to be taken in LTRs, however difficult they are to make – although I’m clearly no expert in such matters.  Otherwise the festering stench of malaise can become heartbreaking and send people mad.

“How do you ever know?” is a regular question, one memorably discussed with another friend (and represented somewhere in these pages) before he separated from his wife and emigrated to Australia with the female subject of an office affair.  He was more confident of knowing after being intoxicated by everything about a new colleague, than he was when he was obliged to marry his young wife.

*

We parted outside the pub in the early evening, my comparatively happy married friend and I.  His reasoning about knowing was typically pragmatic and well-reasoned:  I knew I never wanted to be apart from her for the rest of my life.  It sounded so simple.

He hadn’t been persuaded to buy a few more minutes by asking his wife to simply pick him up from the pub, steadfast about walking back across town to meet her at the multi-storey car park.  It reflected his easy-going nature and antipathy towards any kind of confrontation: something we’ve sporadically argued hard about over the years.  Maybe his way was best.

We mumbled halfheartedly about dinner sometime, took a brief manly clinch and pushed each other away before fuzzily pacing in opposite directions.

It was a sorry state, those disintegrating relationships, but probably not untypical of people our age.  As our friendship group begins to nibble into the 30s, I came back to my earlier question and wondered at our relative baggage.  Is it harder to be optimistic about domestic life after going through a traumatic failed LTR of nearly a decade, or harder having been alone for more or less that whole time?  Is less baggage more baggage, or is it less baggage?

I was drunk.