Thursday, 30 June 2016

Why I Choose to Remain a Non-Dad for Now — Reflections on Being Childless

During my last year’s trip to Egypt I happened to meet the three children of my close buddy, Ayman. We were by the beach on the North Coast and he had to leave the two elder ones, a girl and a boy, with me for about 40 minutes by the time he got something done. This was a quite an experience. Not because they are 13 and 8 or because I haven’t met the older versions of them before. But because here I was hanging out with my friend’s offspring, alone.

After a few hours spent swimming in the gorgeous Mediterranean sapphire sea and sharing lots of fun stuff with the kids, at some point his middle son looked at me and genuinely said: “You’re like an old man.”

Huh. “Well I AM an old man, li’l fella,” I replied. Even though I’m two years younger than his father, but with much more white on my beard and hair.

By the time we all later went to have dinner, I had already bonded with the kids, especially the two older ones. I was truly enjoying the company of this lovely family. At the end of the night, Ayman was like: 

“With the kids and all, this must be a little too much for you.

I said not too much, but certainly different than my quiet, self-induced solitary life.

Plagued by a philosophical mind, such experiences sure makes one think about topics like life, time, change, the magical beauty of being a child, and, having children. 

Later on that same trip, I met another best friend who had some shocking news for me. By complete chance it was discovered that he had a tumour on his kidney. When he got it removed and it was analysed they found out it was cancerous. Fortunately, because it was discovered early on, he healed and it shouldn’t be growing back. 

He told me: “Imagine I’m a normal guy with a wife, a kid, and a newborn, and in a matter of few days I’m a cancer survivor! It truly changes the way you look at life. I used to have a hectic job and I worried too much. Now I want to enjoy what I’m doing; now I know that life can be so fleeting.” 

Knowing that he had the cleanest past of all of us, the only thing I was capable of saying was that for some, these moments of awakening take years to manifest, while for others it may be a single incident that forever transforms their lives.

Me Brotherman did change jobs and is currently leading a more chilled existence. Ironically, it is through the tests he had to take for his new job that the tumour was detected.

Papa Ayman and The New Generation on the North Coast with the little bugger
on the right who thinks that I'm an
“old man”. Okay fine, Peace.

Fast-forwarding to a couple of days ago in Los Angeles when I reunited with my cousin, Hisham. I had only seen him briefly about two and half years ago, and before that perhaps it’s been six or seven years. Hisham was like a brother and an early teenage accomplice. He’s visiting with his mom, wifey, the two kids, plus a third creation who was just born here in California. 

We spoke on the phone before they passed by at around 2 pm and we went to Santa Monica then back to Venice Beach. This was the first time him and I are together on the Boardwalk since 1996.

Being Sunday, I had the intention of going to the Drum Circle later, but the reunion was so pleasurable that I had no problem to skip it. After a long walk across the Boardwalk, we took the mom and the kids to Abbott Kinney and went to have an early seafood dinner in Santa Monica. Afterwards, we passed by them and headed to their rental house, which happens to be about four minutes by bike from my place. 

I stayed a couple of hours there with the family, sitting on the couch, having tea, taking photos of the baby, catching up and talking about all sort of things. Then at some point my cousin said:

Of course this [the kids, the commotion, the ball, the cartoons on the TV] is very loud and unusual to you.

I said, it is. But I love kids, all kids actually. I just don’t feel like having my own — for now at least.

The next morning, I couldn’t help but once again reflect on the same existential topics: Life, time, change, the magical beauty of being a child, and children. 

The thing with such encounters is that being buddies for such a long time, relating to them or even pondering their lives
— and mine — comes naturally. More or less, I’ve only had six or seven close friends who have been around for at least 20 years, including the three mentioned above. All of them currently got a kid or three; the same goes for more than 85 percent of my cousins.

The next weekend the whole family came with me to the Drum Circle. Being
in my element, I loved having them and introduced them to the whole gang. It certainly was something to see for the sweet Kiddos. The featured photo is from that day. This specific capture actually made me later think that I would make a kool dad... if I wanted to.

Reuniting with papa Hisham on the Boardwalk... 20 years later

Now to the actual reflections.

I hold that if I were leading a different kind of life, like ones most people I grew up with ended up leading, I would have most probably had kids by this age of 38. And by different I mean for instance, my father had some kind of business which I took over.

Another situation would be if I had stayed in the demanding corporate jobs I’ve held for ten years. If I work for all this time for about 10 hours a day, I would like to come back home to find a partner, maybe also a kid or two; even more so if I wasn’t too passionate about what I’m doing
which was the reality in my case — because I’ll be needing a relief, some kind of mental distraction. 

The thing with living in countries like Egypt is that society is still fixated on marriage and children, where they are equated with happiness and fulfilment. The idea of not getting married and not having children is not widely understood.

 And I
m repeatedly reminded by that mentality whenever I have a chit-chat with a cab driver, or with the guy who works at the Egyptian consulate in L.A who renewed my passport, or my ex-nanny of 35 years whos still with the family and whos currently taking care of my 93-year-old grandmother.

In the lower socioeconomic classes, starting a family is a sort of moral obligation and a sign of success in life. For a man to show that he can have his own offspring means that he’s a real man, even if it’s not financially feasible for him or for the rest of his family.

For Arab women, usually there is not much freedom of choice. They leave the parent
s home directly to their new home with their husband. Children are often seen as the surest way to keep the husband from running away or to keep the marriage alive.

In case of divorce, the norm is that the woman goes back to the family house.
These patriarchal ideologies allow men to divorce their wives if they cannot conceive. In certain countries in this day and age, it is legal to do so through phone calls, text messages, or e-mails!

As to the possibility for females to remain single and/or childless well into adulthood, this may be seen as a revolutionary act which is usually frowned upon; let alone living by themselves. Though divorcees and widows are in a slightly better category when it comes to being judged, probably due to feelings of empathy towards them and their children, if there are any.

This is how atavistic societies look at those who dare to go against the established norms. 

Generally speaking, being poor and uneducated makes people careless to avoid early pregnancies. And women who start having kids earlier on tend to have more kids. Without proper planning, it also makes people get married and raise families for the wrong reasons. 
Sex is another major component in the equation. In the Arab world, most young people do not freely engage in premarital sex, due to culture and religion and so forth. Neither do they have their own places or privacy. So in addition to the social, religious, culture, and biological pressures, by their early twenties, the only way to have sex as well as gain their own independence is through marriage. Various psychosocial problems are ought to follow, which can
naturally lead to divorce.

When I left Egypt and the Old World, I found more people like myself; people not fixated on the conventional life. So I felt at home, though much more in Venice Beach than in Toronto.
And I believe this progressive mindset is being adopted by more people nowadays.

Studies are now actually showing that the birth-rates in the U.S are the lowest in recorded American history. Despite the fact that single parents with no income get significant welfare and benefits, but the rate of women who remain childless has doubled from 10 to 20 percent since the 1970s. 

Bret, my previous 45-year-old bungalow-mate, is one of those I have spoken to about the subject who have no intention or even desire to have children. He shared:
The word is overpopulated and full of orphans, if my true intention were to give a child a good life, I would adopt a child and wouldn’t care about passing on my own name, blood, or genes.

I like the way he thinks and truly respect it.

See, when people lead happy, fulfilled lives they are less likely to go look for happiness elsewhere — be it in partners or children. However, we find that a significant number of people tend to derive their sense of happiness through their offspring. They consider their children to be some sort of achievement to be proud of. In such a way, the novelty add some excitement to their rather uneventful lives. 

The above certainly does not mean that all parents do this or that they are all essentially unhappy. Some of my friends, acquaintances, and family members are a living proof; and I strongly believe they wouldn’t have it any other way,
perhaps minus the occasional unplanned pregnancy.

But the truth remains, marriage and having children are no walk in the park, especially these days.
For certain adults, it can be a burden, which eventually leads to unhappiness; some simply become good at pretending that theyre happy. Despite this, if you ask around they will probably tell you that its all worth it.

It is of significance to note that my subjects/friends here are considered an educated minority who are living relatively good lives and are not the average.

My own interpretation of the life I chose is that perhaps because I’m deeply connected to the child within me, I don’t feel a need to bring other children into this world. Especially that I’m currently living on the edge and insisting on following my sought-out dream.

Another issue which seems to be a problem for many people who procreate is the fear of being alone. When my uncle and aunt talk about marriage, they often say: One day when you’re old and alone and your knees will hurt, you’ll need to have a wife and kids to help you out.

Well, if that were the case, yes of course I’d love to have people around me if I got sick. But that doesn’t mean I fill my mind with such fear-based ideas and go search for a “family” to create in order to keep me company until that day comes, or not, in the future. 

The reality is, people project their own fears and insecurities on others all the times — often out of concern as it usually happens on the subconscious level. When discussing the above with my close friends I sometimes jovially say that, Mayhap my aunt and uncle are confusing the wife and family combo with a nurse.
Being who I am,
nevertheless, I still love my solitude and I’m certainly not afraid of being alone.   

Uncle Omar teaching kids to be Jesus for the day

These reflections further lead me to a philosophical question which cannot be avoided when contemplating the topic: Would it be a worthy endeavour to bring a child into the world we’re living in, knowing that it
s full of absurdities and uncertainties?

I’m thoroughly fine with the uncertainties I have chosen to live through. But when I ejaculate a baby into being, in a way, I am voluntarily allowing them to go through a certain degree of suffering due to the fact that they will get a taste of the absurdities and uncertainties. 

am, after all, a co-creator and a big part of the process, which is based on my own choice.

Along these lines,
with choice comes responsibility. As good, mature parents should be aware, it is our responsibility to give our children happy, healthy lives. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers. This means consistently putting them first. If am not capable of offering adequate care and attention to my children, I am jeopardising their lives and entire future. As for myself, I may also end up feeling frustrated and unaccomplished because of todays high expectations surrounding parenting.

Then again, the absurdities and uncertainties, even the suffering, seem to be integral parts of life and the human condition; they will never vanish. 

So I guess reproducing will always remain a gamble. Still, one must be honest regarding their desire to play along.

I know myself quite well and I cannot accept to bear such a responsibility when I
m not ready. It would simply be wrong, even immoral. Neither can I abandon my child later or leave him or her to their mom and just keep living my life, as some Greek Uber driver once told.

“Just bring the child and it is the mother who usually raise them. I was like you, roaming around and living my life, but everything changed when I had my two children.” 

Well, good for you. And I
m sure your life did change. But why go there in the first place if thats how one looks at it? Not an appealing option if you ask me.

This reminds of another
advice’ I once received from some coworker when I was in my late 20s. At this age, you need to do something. Get married, then you can get divorced. Or have a child. Just do anything.

No thank you.

Having a child just to add another replica of yourself to this Pale Blue Dot, or to abide to the conventional norms and be like everyone else, or so you can dress him in your favourite team’s jersey then go around telling people how much you
re proud of him because he just happens to be cheering for the same team, or just for the hell of it, is a selfish act.

Amusingly, voluntary childlessness is often portrayed as being selfish. For me, though, it remains a conscious and rational decision. This keeps me open to all possibilities as well as prevents me from having an obsession about not having children.
Biologically speaking, I still got time and I can certainly change my mind one of these days.

An additional thing I have learned from these interesting reunions with my buddies is that Egyptian parents can now end up paying about L.E 230,000 per year to put three kids in a decent

“local school. That’s almost a staggering quarter of a million Egyptian Pounds ($25K). And those are not the most expensive schools; others charge L.E 100, 000 per kid ($10K).

You know I have lived 32 years of my life in Egypt and went to the American University in the 90s where the fees where paid in U.S dollars. But these are kids and those digits are utterly pricey.

 The only way to survive is to be making a lot more than that kind of money. And when you think of the current murky, unstable political and economical situation in the country, one must naturally wonder what kind of job or business would be enough to pay for all that. 

But the fact of the matter is, I did not take over my father
s business, neither did I keep the unfulfilling jobs. What I did, however, is that I have left it all behind and chosen to lead a different kind of life; a life inspired by dreams, visions, growth, novelty, arts, adventures... and uncertainty. Currently I simply see myself as a psychonaut who’s mid-writing his first non-fiction book.

My last partner couldn’t really understand my philosophy. She couldn
t relate to how I can lock myself in for days at a time because I’m working on a new piece. She thought there was something wrong with this behaviour and kept feeling rejected. A true partner, however, should be willing to share your dream; they cannot and should not be forced.

As follows, it is thus safe to say that adding a child to such a Bohemian, nomadic lifestyle would be unfair:
For the child, for his mother, and for myself.

Procreating, Ladies and Gentlemen, requires sincere time, effort, dedication, and money. Unless you are willing to sacrifice these things and unless the desire stems from the heart — not because of society, religion, parents, biological clock — you don
’t have to get yourselves into that holy matrimony. Do not feel obliged or pressured to do it, and know that there are other alternatives, lifestyles, and reality tunnels. 

True happiness, you see, is a mindset which essentially stems from within. Getting married and having children and watching them grow could be a sensational experience. It is one of the wonders of life, through which humans spread and propagate their existence.

Though it is
not for everyone and it is certainly not a need as its still widely perceived in some parts of the world. We do not need a partner or children to be happy or to feel whole, remember that. Equally remember that life is fleeting; in one moment it could all be gone. Use your time wisely, my Brethren. 

As Hisham and I agreed yesterday, if we don’t want kids then perhaps there is no point in getting married. That may be one solid truth. We can be in relationships with others without having to get the approval of a legal or religious authority. We are mature adults and we do not need an entity to watch over us and invade our affairs. That’s how I essentially see it. You know I
m rad like that. 
At the end, we can only say that people are doing what they can from their own level of consciousness — their own level of understanding. Each of us has his own journey and mountain top ahead. Indeed, happiness and fulfilment mean different things to different people. This entails that our journeys and mountain tops are also different; this is the beauty of our uniqueness.

Just like most people are adding to the gene pool by reproducing, we do need childless children who are keen on adding chlorine into the pool instead of diving right in it. For now, I
choose to be one of those volunteers who sacrifice themselves for the collective good of mankind.

Looking forwards to more existential encounters with my buddies
’ kiddos.

Childlessly Yours,

Uncle Omar

Gettyfied at the Getty Villa with an Ocean view


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  1. Planet definitely is overpopulated. We don't need any more children. We don't need any more DNA. Stop breeding.

    1. Another problem is that oftentimes it is those who are poor and not educated who have lots of children. Certainly this is not helping the gene pool.

  2. "A true partner, however, should be willing to share your dream; they cannot and should not be forced." That's a great line!

    There are certainly numerous ways to have a full enjoyable life, and having children is not the only way.

    1. Thank you. Indeed, we are all unique after all.