New York City’s population has swelled by 4.6 percent in the past 10 years (www.nyc.gov). It is the biggest population growth since the 1920s. The largest percent is female, and the majority of them move without employment, money, or housing. That’s a lot of desperate women.
So what the hell are we all running from?
I know what I was running from. The Suburbs. Children. Strip Malls. The fricking Minivan Mafia and PTA meetings that dominated my existence. Yes, it was a lovely place to grow up, but a suffocating prison if one’s aspirations don’t include diaper genies, double strollers, and receiving blankets. I was different. I wanted culture, chaos, conversation, and—most importantly—contraception. I didn’t want babies. I wanted New York. Eight years in the city and that fact hasn’t changed.
I’m not alone or an anomaly. According to the US Census Bureau, greater numbers of women are waiting longer to have children, or not having children at all; approximately 46.5% of the population (Huffington Post).
Elation. #TeamNoBabies is real, and living in New York, I’m surrounded by slaying, bad-ass, fire-starting women who support that choice.
But we can’t stay in the city indefinitely. There are homages to be paid, and besides the obvious holidays, many of them fall in the summer. Smashed between All-White parties, Sunday brunch, free Summer Stage concerts, and Orange Is The New Black binge sessions, there are large chunks of our iCalendars dedicated to family.
From the Fourth of July through Labor Day, there are any number of barbecues, pool parties, baby showers, weddings, and far-too-long family reunions that single/childless women will have to endure. We will get on planes. We will ride trains and busses. We will bump along to our fave Spotify playlists and journey from our city lives to the land of our people. A simpler place. A parent or Big Mama’s house where some humans don’t even know what Spotify is. Or Seamless. Seriously.
In between the potato salad, ribs with Uncle Reggie’s secret sauce, and Auntie Ida’s 7-Up cake, someone is going to ask you dreaded BS questions:
When are you having kids?
When are you going to settle down?
You don’t want kids? Why?
Don’t you think you’re being selfish?
And my favorite isn’t even a question:
Don’t worry. You’ll change your mind.
Like… did I SOUND worried? Now I’ve ruined another family reunion by slapping someone.
How do you combat this? How do you not unceremoniously shove your 7-Up cake in your cousin’s uppity presumptuous face like Ike Turner did to Anna Mae Bullock? How do you not throw your ribs to the ground and start shanking people with the useless little plastic forks that are a prerequisite to every familial outdoor event? How do we enjoy much needed family time without declaring to NEVER come home again after a flurry of archaic, idiotic, yet “well-intentioned” questions?
I don’t have all the answers, but I did just endure an epic family event myself. Like all family events, it sucked. And it rocked. Family is paradoxical like that. And I thought: there’s a right and wrong way to get through these things. At least for me. Here’s some tips for surviving the next family affair as the artist/hippie/millennial/entrepreneur/weirdo/city girl.
1. Come Late.
Yes. Be that heifer. We have to make an appearance at these events, but it doesn’t have to be a timely one. I made the mistake of coming a week early to help prep for a huge family event. It wasn’t a total disaster, but by the time the actual party happened, I was pretty much over it. Make your time count. Find your threshold and honor it. Mine is 3-4 days. I stretched it and regretted it. Next time, if at all possible, I’ll skip prep work, chores, and deeply intrusive conversations about my uterus. Siblings upset you aren’t pulling your weight? Rock out the Clean Up crew. Balance it out. Keep familial politics to a minimum. Pick and choose your battles. But honor your needs first.
2. Be the “Fun” One.
I’m serious about fun, and everyone knows it. From across the country, I strategized an AMAZING Goddess Baby Shower for my sister Mary Elizabeth who is currently pregnant with Baby #3. Complete with belly painting, exotic music, and Mary Elizabeth’s favorite foods, all my friends jumped in to make it the best shower ever. My sister was thrilled. I didn’t stop there. Babysitting. Cleaning. Cooking. All the best presents. All the best stories. I’m helpful, resourceful, and tireless when I visit. There’s a method to the madness. Appreciation fosters respect, for myself and my life choices. I demonstrate that I enjoy the quality of my life, and I’m not simply “waiting for the right guy” to give my life meaning. It’s a strategic life choice that creates the person I am. Being the “fun” one is also because I’m the free one. They may still think I “need” kids, but they cannot say my life is empty without them. Furthermore, when I come into their world, I respect it and thrive in it. I make it clear I expect the same from them when they enter mine. Lastly, staying busy and focusing on fun keeps my mind off homicidal thoughts. I’m going have fun regardless of anyone else’s BS. Fun is a choice. I’ll choose it every time.
3. Bring the BEST of your Tribe.
It’s going to suck, but no one said we have to do it alone. You are surrounded by women just like you who drip with awesome sauce. Bring some of the best awesome sauce with you. Operative word being the BEST. No, NOT Bottomless-Brunch-Brenda who got us both kicked out of Sarabeth’s on a lovely liquid afternoon. Nor Damaged-Daphne who does performance art, is on prescription pain meds, and is living between my couch and her yoga studio. (These women are fictional, but we all know them and they are AWESOME!) I’m talking… The. Best. This means my most supportive, together, loving, balanced, hilarious and single city-dwelling friend. Second best to a boyfriend? The city girlfriend. Back-home friends love her. Mom wants to adopt her. And I automatically have an ally. I am no longer the only electively childless girl in the world. When the questions come, she’s an additional voice to come to my aid. And when I can’t take it anymore, she’s the perfect companion with whom to go ghost for a few hours. She will google the closest karaoke and/or wine bar and sing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” with me. When friends see the pics on IG and write “Super Jells!”, I simply respond with: “Love you guys! #TeamNoBabies.” They’ll hate me, but whatevs.
4. Be Prepared.
First things first: Do you REALLY not want kids? Like really? Chances are if you’re reading this, you’re pretty sure. I know I am. If I can defend that answer to myself, I should be able to defend it in front of my family. No one goes into battle without training. The questions are coming. I already know it. So I have answers ready. Sometimes those answers are specific per person. Even though I hate that I even have to answer BS questions, I’m ready for them. I’m ready for anything. Need specifics? Blogger Suzannah Weiss gives some great comebacks for your arsenal.
Which brings me to my final and most important point:
I fearlessly own my decisions. I fearlessly own my authenticity. I fearlessly love myself. I fearlessly love my family. No family is perfect, and having family to visit on special occasions doesn’t make my life perfect. It does make it blessed. Loud, judge-y, nosy, pedestrian, at times embarrassing, and annoying as they are, they are mine. They are of me and I am of them. So there’s at least a little loud-judge-y-nosy-pedestrian-embarrassing-and-annoying in me too. I can’t be afraid of how much I’m like them.
More importantly, I can’t be afraid of how much I’m not. It is not my job to fit into an idea, category, or shoe that makes my family, church family, or lifelong friends feel more comfortable. It is my job to be authentic, honest, and full of love. I have to stand in my truth and let go of the idea that their words are an attack. I can’t control what they say, but I can choose how I react to it. And I choose not to take it personal. I choose not to let a few questions derail my day or my relationships.
This is my life. I choose to own my choices and love my family at the same time.
No, they may not get me. And that’s okay. They love me. That love may never come with acceptance. But that’s what my own heart is for: a limitless reservoir of unconditional self-love, respect, and acceptance. I know I’m doing the right thing for me. And that’s all that really matters.
So next time you have to visit your insane ass family, laugh to yourself, shake your head, take a deep breath, possibly a shot of tequila, and hug your family real tight. Because family is just like the potato salad. It’s always a little off, but the barbecue (or your life, maybe?) would be weird without it.