Don’t you just love unsolicited advice from perfect strangers? Have you noticed that people who know very little about you seem to come right out with surprisingly personal words of wisdom? And these little nuggets sometimes come when you’re having a weak moment, when you’re questioning yourself and major life decisions you’ve made.
Some recent life advice I’ve been given:
Move to another island.
Don’t ever leave the island.
Vote for Hillary.
Don’t get another dog.
Do more yoga.
Do not get back into corporate America.
Network your way to a flexible job in corporate America.
Of all the pointers I’ve been given, one stands out above the rest, probably because it is, in my opinion, the most personal and most impactful of all choices an individual can make in her entire life.
Here’s a typical conversation that I have approximately three to four times a week:
Advice giver/ stranger: So you and your husband just picked up and moved to an island?
Me: Yes, that’s right. First we had to sell our home and quit our corporate America jobs, but yes, we decided it would be a fun adventure for our family.
Advice giver/ stranger: So let me guess… You don’t have children, right?
Me: Well, we don’t have human children, but we have two dogs.
Advice giver/ stranger: I figured. That makes sense. Good for you. You’re smart. Do it before you have kids.
Do it before you have kids. Hmmm, ok. ‘Why is that,’ I think and often ask the stranger who offers this intimately private advice.
It never surprises me to learn that the person is, in fact, someone with one or more children. To take it a step further, the person is usually up to their eyeballs in “kid stuff”- nannies and babysitter dilemmas, public school vs. private school discussions, rezoning of said school district, saving for college, and in general, stressing over the commitments that come with a marriage, a career, and a life trying to raise good kids in the world.
I get it. Well, that’s not entirely true. I think I kind of get it. I think I could imagine how stressful that would all be. I imagine I would be a freaking basket case. I think I would question every decision I made.
As a friend of mine recently shared, women who work from home are judged. Women who work outside the home are judged. Women who only have one child are judged. Women who choose to adopt, or not to adopt, are judged. Women who terminate a pregnancy are judged.
And I’m here to tell you, as a woman without a child, I feel like there’s a lot of judgement.
So sometimes I second guess my decisions. I wonder if I’m robbing myself, my husband, and our families of a lifetime of joy and happiness.
Then I look at our life. And I look at our precious boys. I think about our choice to live on a beautiful Caribbean island. I think about our boat trips and our impromptu dinners with friends and our vacations.
I think about our sleep and my energy level that, admittedly, can be a bit over the top, but hey, that’s a well-rested Ashley. I think about all the time and effort I can put into, well, anything I want to put it into.
I think about the endless possibilities and how life is short and I want to soak it all up and have many experiences that, if I’m honest with myself, I fear I’d be too scared to go for with kids in tow.
Do it before you have kids. That little statement alone implies so many things. Those six words seem to suggest “once you have kids the fun is over.”
While I know in my heart that this is not entirely true, and many families with children are happy and fulfilled, for me, right now, not having a baby is a major blessing.
But still it begs the question: why does the universe keeps sending strangers into my life to advise me on the “children” issue?
Do it before you have kids. I’ve started to wonder what exactly “it” is. Is “it” living abroad or starting a new business that involves lots of travel? Is “it” being able give to others in bigger ways than before?
I have no idea what “it” is, but if I should do “it” before I have kids, I may never actually get around to having these kids!
Ashley Cates, St John USVI Blogger