I was hanging out with a teacher friend one afternoon. We talked about our stories, our challenges, and the fact that your struggles aren't always easily apparent. She was a really good listener, and she was super sensitive about my situation, and very much in the vein of "I had no idea you were going through all that to the extent that you were until you broke last year, but it was never apparent to students or coworkers, you just didn't let it ooze out onto us."
Which was lovely, and made me feel good because I tried real hard to make that be the case until I couldn't anymore, but I NEVER took it out on my students.
But then for some reason we got onto fears, and I shared one of my biggest -- that I might die young, either from a gynecological cancer related to the many years of treatment and fiddling with my body, or in a random act of violence. The random act of violence one has been there forever: I am petrified of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and have been known to ask Bryce if we can leave a place because I get an icky feeling. (I'm sure this isn't related to my anxiety at all.) The specificity of the cancer is new, but the weaselly-in-the-brain thought that I might die of an incurable disease? Not so much.
She said she got it, and that for the longest time she thought she was going to die when she was some random age in her mid-thirties. Like, convinced. So much so that when she hit that year the whole 365 days was fairly anxiety-ridden and unpleasant. But it didn't happen, and that was a long time ago.
When does the phrase I simply don't get come in? When she said the dreaded,
"But by the time I was that age, I had children, and so I had no choice -- I COULD NOT DIE, IT SIMPLY WASN'T AN OPTION."
I mean, not that she was PLANNING it or anything, but that the mere idea of dying young when you have children is just not plausible, because you have so much to live for, tiny lives who depend on you.
It's not the first time I've heard this sentiment, that once you have kids, dying is just not an option.
Yet I'm pretty sure there are people who have died who had young children.
And the inverse is incredibly icky.
I GUESS DYING IS TOTALLY AN OPTION FOR ME. I mean, I don't have children to live for. So what's the point?
(This is purely rhetorical of course. Please do not send out the Mobile Crisis Unit for a mental health arrest.)
I really hate that phrase because while I can understand feeling like children give you a reason to live, um, can't other things do that, too? It's fine for your kids to give you a reason to live, but should it be the ONLY reason?
It seems to totally back up that whole "My life just meant more when I had children" thing that people say.
I'd like to think my life means "more" now, even without children.
My husband depends on me.
And if I didn't have a husband, my family, my friends, my cats, my neighbors, my coworkers, my students...I'd like to think that they would all be sad and irrevocably changed if I were to pass away.
This is a far more morbid post than I'd intended, but it begs the question...
Is your death sadder if you have children? Is your life worth more because of it?
I'd like to think no. I'd like to think that every single person would be missed for a variety of reasons, and children are just one. That a life can be just as meaningful and just as much of a loss, and that your life is just as much worth fighting for if you DON'T have children than if you do.
I know I'm not the only one who feels this way, I've seen quite a few posts on what people say about having children that makes the inverse cringe-worthy from Mali, Different Shores, Infertile Phoenix, Loribeth, BentNotBroken, and more.
So why is this such a thing? And why didn't I challenge my teacher friend on it? I thought about it, but I felt maybe we didn't know each other QUITE well enough for me to say, "Well, I guess I can just roll over and die, since I have no children to live for and never will" followed by maniacal laughter. It's possible that might not have gone well.
I wish people would think about the implied (if not always directly) inverse of these statements. Then again, what would I have to write about if so many people suddenly gained this kind of sensitivity? (Cue maniacal laughter.)