June 18, 2015

Childfree Series: Identity, Culture, Home

This is the third and final installment of the Childfree series. I hope I don't feel the need to blog about this topic again for at least a decade.

The previous installment (Childfree: 15 Things They've Said) concluded with the line:

Your home is your sacred place, and it's up to you to make your sacred place a happy one. Whether you decide to fill it with people or things or as little as possible - your home will be what you make it!

The most content people in the world have all arrived at the same place. They are comfortable and secure in their identity. They know who they are and how to be that person. Happy people can be found across the entire personality spectrum because being comfortable in one's own skin is an achievable target for anyone.

You have your own individual identity, then you also have an identity for each of your relationships. If your identity is still in process, your decisions are probably influenced by people with a stronger sense of personal identity. Your personal identity and the identity of your relationship with whomever you live with are the key factors in the culture and home life you will create and maintain.

What is our identity as a married couple?

We were best friends after one week of working together, dating after one month of long-distance phone calls, engaged six months after we met, and married the following summer. Rest assured, when we know what we want to do, we usually get it done.

We are us.
When curve balls come our way - job changes, financial issues, moving, whatever - we just do our best to catch what life throws at us. We cherish our flexibility and adaptability. Of course, we'd love to buy our dream condo someday on the south coast of Spain. It's not about avoiding "settling down;" it's much more about having the freedom to "up and go" at any given moment. Spontaneous adventures for one or two people are a lot cheaper and logistically more realistic than for four or six!

What kind of culture and traditions are we creating?

"Our culture" is weird. We've melted our American attitudes with French habits and styles. Some things about us are super American (we are always early and we love to communicate and express ourselves) and in some ways we are very European (we prefer walking over driving and enjoy our quarterly vacation time way too much). I don't think it's quite like a TCK (third-culture-kid) because our cultural changes have been our own choices, not something someone else has chosen for us.

We have learned that we will not fit in certain cultures. Rural and suburban areas, no matter where in the world, tend to be more conservative and family-centered. In rural France this past year, our global perspective of work and travel was very misunderstood and strange to the locals. We may consider ourselves to be generally conservative, but we fit in better in Westernized urban areas where lifestyle diversity is the norm.

Our culture and traditions are also adult-centric. We do not actively seek out time to be around children. We work with kids; we want our down time to be with adults. We really feel a two-hour maximum (the typical length of a sports practice) when we're around little kids. We can make special exceptions for the kids of our best friends, and we'll probably make exceptions for the kids of our family members someday, too. But we are mentally and emotionally prepared to spend time with these children because we haven't burned ourselves out!

What do we want our home life to look like?

We want our home to be quiet. We want our home to be clean. We want our home to be small. We want our home to be there when we need it, but we also don't want to have to be home all of the time. We don't want a yard or a garden or 3 bedrooms. We don't want a dog or a cat or a child or even a fish or a plant - or anything that technically needs us to be around consistently.

We want our home life to be cost-effective and low maintenance.

We are actually excited to be the unconventional uncle and aunt who live in interesting places and who have the freedom and flexibility to "take in the kids" for a week or so. My mom's Uncle Jim and Aunt Wanda never had their own children, and they were always so generous with their time and love to all of us because they had that time and energy saved up!

And hopefully someday that interesting place is on the beach in Spain!
We understand that we are not like a lot of traditional couples. A lot of couples get married in order to have children. We don't proclaim to have found "the only way," but instead that we have found the right way for us.

Know your individual identity, and bring that into your relationship in a positive manner. It's always best to talk openly about your expectations and the future before even getting engaged, and definitely before getting married! Be honest and communicate with your partner to create your identity and culture together. Make your home a place you love to be because, in the end, it's you (and not everyone else who wants this or that) who has to return to it everyday!