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Waxing Philosophical

I posted this in a reply to someone else, and afterwards I figured that I wanted to share it in general.

I was talking with a guy on the weekend about things and he said for a gay man life is just beginning in your 30's, and after I thought about it I had to agree. For a straight man, once he settles down with a partner, it's not long until he stops being "a man" and turns into "a father" and from that point on (for the next 20+ years) his entire existence is about getting the newbie ready for the big, bad world. He stops living his own live and starts helping someone else live theirs.

Gay men don't have to worry about that. A gay man settles down with his partner, and then what? They get another dog? A cat? There life is still their own, and not someone else's. A gay man at 40 has more freedom than a gay man at 20, simply because the maturity has allowed them to grow. A straight man at 40 has a lot less, due to children.



( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 13th, 2007 01:39 pm (UTC)
Yes, but by the same logic, a hetero couple who decides to remain childless has the same kind of maturity and freedom available at advanced ages. No argument, childless men and women, straight or gay, have more freedom and energy to do with as they wish at any age. Since it is such a high price to pay, I truly wish that everyone who decides to be a parent does it fully informed and deliberately. The gay couples I know who chose to be parents are just as saddled with responsibility as the hetero couples I know.
Mar. 14th, 2007 03:30 am (UTC)
True, but there are two major differences.

Firstly the straight couple has to cope with societies expectation that they will have children.

Secondly, it's a lot easier for the straight couple to have unplanned children, while for a gay couple to have children they have to work at it.

As a result the straight heterosexual couple without children is a lot rarer than the gay one, and the gay couple with children is a lot rarer than the straight one.
Mar. 14th, 2007 11:13 am (UTC)
I don't know -- I actually know several gay couples who have children. Maybe that's just a thing where I live, but if I know several there are probably a lot more than that. And I know a lot of hetero couples who have jumped through hoop after hoop to try to have kids (artificial insemination etc.) it didn't just "happen".

I think everyone has to deal with society's expectation they will someday procreate. I think people who choose childlessness face a lot more criticism. I think it might be harder for women -- married or not, people assume you like kids and want children of your own, now or at least some day.
Mar. 17th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
Firstly the straight couple has to cope with societies expectation that they will have children.

Well, when you have the national treasurer tell women to get out there & breed for the good of the country, I don't expect any other attitude to prevail.

I don't think about my own childless case much, but I feel more & more remote from the breeders, my own family included.
Mar. 13th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
Wait a moment here...
I'm almost on the edge of taking offense to this one. Do my children limit me? In some ways yes, but those limiting factors are minimal and can with a little planning be minimized. I don't think I've made many 'life choices' that have sacrificed something I've wanted 'for the good of the children'. (Indeed the more limiting ones I've made have been for the good of my mother.) So to say that for "20+ years you stop living your life and start helping someone else live theirs" is not very accurate, would you say..."well I took on this life partner when I was 30 so now I'll lead a compromised existence until I'm dead?" I'd hope not.
Did I choose not to go away on Australia day weekend because I wanted to be around for my daughter to start big school, sure, was it for her benefit or mine? Most definitely mine! I wanted to be the one to do that, I had offers from others willing to and indeed last year my Mum did it for my son because I was studying, but I wanted the experience, I wanted to know how it felt.
I almost regard my children in the same way as a life partner (except they are only going to be physically needy for about 10 years, have you seen how much 'looking after' some adults need?). They don't take anything away from me, they are my friends and companions and yes for the moment they need some support, but it's not a very big ask and it's one I've chosen. So as I still have choice (and believe it or not I do) I am still free.
One of my 'childed' impacts is that I have to drive a big car, but that is about the number of children, I'd be fine with a small car if I only had one.
I didn't choose my job or my friends or my hobbies or even my bedtime or diet based around what is best for my children. (I still go clubbing, away for weekends, on holidays with friends, out to tea, the movies, hang out on weekends, do dance classes, go to the gym, study, work, drink on school nights, surf the net) Yes sometimes these needs (and timetables) conflict, but there is always a way to minimize the impact and make it happen. As is the case in any relationship occasionally there are little compromises.
I'm considering overseas and interstate jobs, buying investment property, doing a masters, lazing about the house doing what ever I like for a while, lots of different exciting futures. Most of these options would actually be more limited by a life partner than my children.

As for a person without children at 40 having more freedom and has 'had the chance to grow'...than a person with children at 40. It's not as black and white as all that. In seven years time when I'm forty my children will be 10,11,12,13 years old...will they still need me? Not very much if I've done my job right. Add another five to seven years to that, my plan is to sell the house and go tripping around the world...is 47 too old for me to consider doing that? I hope not, and if my children decide to, who knows where in the world I'll have a couch to crash on and a garage to store my stuff in.

Will I have had less opportunity for maturity to allow me to 'grow'???? I actually do find this concept offensive, your ability to grow is not based only on your environment it is based on your ability for self awareness and determination for self growth. A 40 year old with out children can be just as closed, tied down by life, and narrow minded as a 40 year old with.

Is life just beginning at 30? You know I actually do feel that my life is just beginning at 30...it has more to do with my career, being in a better financial, emotional and social position than I was in my 20's...also in no longer being held down by what I believed was 'the right thing to do'. Not knowing myself, and believing that I had to make big decisions about 'where I was going' were the things that limited me the most. This is a global social change being felt by a lot of people in our culture at the moment, it comes with our generation 'growing up' and working out exactly how to be the 'adults' in the baby boomer world. Deciding exactly what 'grown up' is and how it looks for us.

I'm not quite sure how you could actually say these things in such a socially biased and discriminatory way. I hope I've broadened your perspective a little.
Mar. 14th, 2007 03:26 am (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...
Well there was no intention to offend anyone, so my apologies if I have.

However, my point is simply about a persons focus.

My focus is me. I am single and the only person I live my life for is me. Your focus is broader in that it not only covers yourself, but also your four children. As a result you aren't as free to do what you want as someone who doesn't have children.

I can (and have) decided to go away for a weekend on the Friday afternoon. Can a parent do that? Theoretically yes, but it involves a hell of a lot more organisation and planning that my weekend does.

Another example is a group of friends I have. The group of us (about a dozen of us I think) used to get together about once a week and play games and be social. Then one of the couples had their first child, and we didn't see them for the next 6 months, and afterwards we were lucky to see them once every three months.

Then the next couple had their first child, and they did the same. And then another one found a partner who already had a child, and then he was only available periodically, and then another did the same.

Of the initial dozen of us, there were 4 couples, and we had no problem getting together on a regular basis while none of use had children. Once the children entered the picture things changed. Now we're lucky if we can get four of us together. These people weren't limited by their children, they just chose (rightly, I believe) that their main focus was to be their children and not themselves.

Straight or gay, it doesn't matter. Those who go through life without having children have vastly different lives than those who have children. The main differences between the straight couple and the gay couple are two.

Firstly, the straight couple has to deal with the expectation from society that they will have children.

Secondly, it's a lot easier for the straight couple to have unplanned children, while for a gay couple to have children they have to work at it.

A gay man at 40 has had 40 years of being himself. A straight father at 40 has had 40 years of being himself, and 20 (or so) years of being a father. The father will grow and mature, just the same as the non-father, but the directions will be difference simply due to the change in focus in the last 20 years or so.
Mar. 14th, 2007 05:28 am (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...

I'd say that you have more freedom to do as you want than somebody who doesn't have children, unless what you want to do is have children.

A straight couple does have to deal with the expectation that they will have children (been there, done that, didn't find it a big deal), but I doubt this social pressure is any greater than the expectation that a homosexual couple, or even a single person, will not have children. Avoiding children for an average straight couple is a hell of a lot easier than having children for a gay couple.

I think it would be far more accurate to say that your life is just beginning, because your desires strongly accord with your situation. missedangel's life has probably been just as positive for her, because her ability to have children meshed well with her desire to have children. Her life has not lost value in the process of childrearing, because the process of childrearing, for her, is valuable. A hypothetical different gay person may have had much less chance to grow in ways he or she desires, because he or she desires to have a child. And another straight person might have been held back by an unwanted pregnancy.

In other words, I think you are overgeneralising, and would be wise to bring it down to an examination of individuals.

Mar. 14th, 2007 06:14 am (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...
Thank you Travis :)
Oh and to fill you in a little on my picture, three of my children are not biologicaly mine, and one was concieved by donor. At no stage have I had a partner to consider within my parenting decisions.
Mar. 14th, 2007 06:09 am (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...
You haven't realy gotten me that offended, it just seems like you want to paint everyone with the same brush, generalisations give an inacurate and often incorrect picture of individuals. Gay, hetro, bi, celebate, coupled, childed, childless...all these people have the same potential both to grow and be limited by life.

I am assuming that your flight leaves after work on Friday afternoon? This decision has probably been made because you have work and have prioritized staying until the end of your shift beyond missing the traffic and getting away on your holiday earlier....(but I am guessing here) My flight for Sydney leaves at 11am Friday, because it gives me plenty of time to avoid the peak hours, and will allow me to have lunch once I'm there....I'm coming home on Monday afternoon.

So which of us is more free? Are we both not equaly free to choose our weekends away or is one of our holidays more valuable than the other becuase I have children living in my home and you do not?

Who says roleplaying removes peoples focus from their children? Once again you are close to offense here, if I choose to take my four children to my friends place and put them to bed in the spair room so that I can roleplay (or watch DVD's and drink cocktails)...how is that damaging to my children?

Every person's life is vastly different to every other persons, whether or not they have children is not what determines that difference, rather it is them themselves that determine how they react to (and feel limited by) their experiences.

Whoooahh!!! Couples and children!!!! Where did that assumption come from? Don't tell me you still think it takes two to have a child. (Oh and FYI as a single hetro female I had to work hard and prove a hell of a lot to a lot of people to choose to have a baby by donor.)

Oh and in this day and age (religious factors and medical miracles, aside) there are very rarely accidental parents. If you choose to have hetro sex, you may fall pregnant, if you fall pregnant you may choose to have the baby, if you choose to give birth you can choose to keep it or give it to another person to raise. There are a lot of points along that path (pre and post conception) where you can choose not to be a parent.

Yes, and all people follow different directions and have different focuses in their lives.
My way is not your way :) but it is no less nor more than yours.
Mar. 14th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...
I'm afraid you have completely missed the point.

At no point did I say that children limit a persons life. What I said was that children change a persons life.

Joe Blogs without children is going to be living a very different life than his Jon Blogs who has two children. Pure and simple. That is all I'm trying to say. Whether the two of them are straight or gay, single or married, or whatever is not part of it. However, a gay man is less likely to have a child so he is more likely going to be in Joe's position than in Jon's position.

In both of your replies, you have made accusations based on information I didn't say.

I did not say that anyone had sacrificed something I've wanted 'for the good of the children'. What I said that people with children make different choices. Not better, not worse, just different.

I'm not going to bother to argue with all of your points, because you are coming from a completely different direction to what I said. You obviously enjoy the life you have chosen (and I mean chosen) otherwise you wouldn't be so happy all the time. However, your life involves four children and all your decisions are made with regard to those four children. My life involves just me, and that's the biggest difference.

While I do have to consider the others in my life (parents, friends, workmates) whenever I do things, I don't have anyone absolutely reliant on me like you have 4 people absolutely reliant on you. That is the big difference. While eventually they will grow up and move out of home and into the big wide world, they are always going to be able to ring up Mum and have a chat, or sit down with Mum over a cup of coffee. You will always be Mum until the end of time. Even when they have children of their own, you are still going to be their Mum and you are still going to be the one they come running to when things go wrong.

The role of a parent is a major task, one that never ends once it is started. That is one role that I, and the vast majority of gay people, are never going to have to worry about, and that means that my life will be much different to anyone who has children.

And finally, yes, I used generalities in what I said. What's wrong with that? The generalities I have used are generally true. If they don't apply to you, that's fine, but for the most part they are true for each of the various groups.

I have seen a number of my friends become parents and on the whole they have changed quite considerably when they became parents and that is what I've based my observations on.
Mar. 14th, 2007 09:42 am (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...
I'd like to understand what you are trying to say but your words have confused me.

"A gay man at 40 has more freedom than a gay man at 20, simply because the maturity has allowed them to grow. A straight man at 40 has a lot less, due to children."

I read this as saying that a gay man at 40 has more freedom than a straight man at 40, due to children. That a straight man at 40 is therefore limited.

"As a result you aren't as free to do what you want as someone who doesn't have children." So you are telling me I'm not free...you are dictating to me how I feel? More so in saying "I'm not free" you are implying that I am traped or limited by my children.

You just described the role of a parent as something "to have to worry about". Worry is negative, worry and fear limit us.

Can you not see the danger in using generalities? Even if "The generalities I have used are generally true", truth can be subjective, statistics can lie.

That if you start to think (and speak) that way then you can't defend yourself from statements like "Gay men are selfish", "Gays are a drain on our society because they do not breed", "You can't have children because you are gay, and we all know gay men are perverted". Each one is evil, untrue and wrong! However by your logic if narrow minded people choose to believe that these statements are gennerally true then they must be.

(I've known people who are selfish and perverted who also happen to be gay men, indeed I've known more of them than kind giving gay men, like yourself...should I base my observations on this?)

As for this holy grail of white culture 'mother' you describe, it's not the case. They have had one 'mother' and one 'father' walk out when they couldn't cope. I may become ill, I may decide that it is better for them to live with someone else, I am not the only person that they are reliant on. There are lots of people in their lives just as important as me, this is a good thing. I hope that they are able to run to the person best equiped to help them when things go wrong, and hopefully I'm able to equip them to help themselves for most situations.

P.S. (I love that you are out here discussing parenting, and the way it relates to your life. So many non parents wouldn't bother or think about it. *hugs*)
Mar. 14th, 2007 12:58 pm (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...
Your life is very different from most parents that I know. Due to a combination of organisation, money, attitude and support you have much more freedom than most parents I know. Most parents I know either can not or do not go clubbing or leave the children to go interstate for the weekend. Most parents I know do have a restricted social life. I'm not going to go into what is good, bad or preferable but the truth is, you are an exception to the rule and sometimes generalisations are useful in conveying a general idea. I think that the generalisation refered to here is mostly correct. There are always exceptions to the rule, and that should definitely be recognised, but if you can't say anything in general you can't say much at all. I can say, in general vegans care about the welfare of animals. There are exceptions to that but it's generally true. If we stated every exception to a rule every time we said something we would never get anything said. Everyone has their own obligations to take into consideration, children or not. Children are an obligation and yes, you can limit their impact on your life and you can walk away from them, as with any obligation, but it is still an obligation you have accepted and it does have an impact on your life. The impact that the obligation of children have on most people's lives can be looked at in a general manner, it can also be dealt with in specific ways to change that general impact. To walk away from that obligation would also have an impact on you and them and that's something else that can be looked at in general terms in relation to outcomes. In general a mother is a mother for life, whether she is absent or present she still has an impact, the same is true of a father, or of multiple parents or parental figures.
Mar. 14th, 2007 03:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Wait a moment here...

In both of your replies, you have made accusations based on information I didn't say.

You did say that a gay man in his 30s has more freedom than a straight person, and that's where I came in.

And finally, yes, I used generalities in what I said. What's wrong with that?

Nothing, unless you care for your statements to be accurate. If you had said, "Many gay men in their 30s have great freedom to pursue the lifestyle they desire," we wouldn't be having this conversation. We'd all just nod our heads and move on. But if you use unqualified generalities, you've really got to expect somebody to correct you every now and then.

Mar. 14th, 2007 08:55 am (UTC)
Are you trying to say that a straight man at 40 has less freedom because, having supposedly had children, he becomes responsible?

Or perhaps, that as a gay man, on reaching the same age, you reserve the right to be irresponsible, unfettered by the same perceived social constraints?
Mar. 15th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
Freedom is a choice, right? If one chooses to be a parent, one can also choose to see one's life as restricted, or as free.

Is it restrictive having children? Sure - there are a lot of adjustments that need to be made. As there are with, say, a job, or a pet, or a house, or even a committed relationship.

My children wake me up in the morning when I'd rather sleep. My cat demands to be fed when I'm up to a really good bit in my book. My damn students expect me to mark their papers (and I gotta say, the life of a tutor is considerably less free than that of a parent, sometimes). I don't have to do any of these things - I could choose to walk away. (Societal expectations be damned - I'm a bisexual witch, for goodness' sake, do I care?)

Being gay, single, or a particular age has nothing to do with it. It's about what you choose to do. I choose to be a parent, and - as much as I despise cost-benefit analysis when it comes to my personal life - the gains far outweigh the sacrifices.

I can understand the need to celebrate one's lifestyle - to embrace the freedoms you gain. You perceive the single, gay older male state as empowering and liberating, which is fantastic. But there's a fine line between choosing to celebrate your own life, and running down someone else's. I'm guessing you didn't mean to do that - I just wonder why you felt it was necessary to draw such a sharp delineation between lifestyles.

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