This is a late entry for the October 2015 Carnival of Aces on Aromanticsm and the Aromantic Spectrum, which I myself was hosting here on this blog. Sorry for the delay. The full round up will be posted within the hour!
First things first: I must update you loyal readers of my blog. Some of you may remember I identified as wtfromantic. That still accurately describes my feelings toward romantic and platonic “feelings” and “attractions”, even the whole relationships aspect of it… It still describes my place on the aro spectrum pretty accurately, I think. But I’ve slowly started to ease into identifying as aromantic lately. For a lot of reasons. I feel like the more I think about it, the more it’s just easier to embrace being aro ace (meaning “aromantic asexual”) — that my life is playing out that way. I’m aromantic in a practical sense, in the way I live my life, in the way romantic… relationships, feelings, anything — just aren’t a factor anymore. I consider myself both wtfromantic and aromantic, while also being asexual. It felt freeing when I realized I could claim both aromantic & wtfromantic at once, that I didn’t have to choose.
I could write a whole blog post on the subject, but today I want to address another topic. I want to talk about being an aro ace, yet desiring to become a parent.
Allow me to backtrack.
Like many kids raised by a single mother who was abusive, I often felt drawn toward fictional stories about orphans. About children struggling, or even children whose parents abandoned them and made them practical orphans despite their parents being alive. For me and my younger brother, growing up was living in a constant state of fear that Mom would “get mad”. It meant us constantly walking on metaphorical eggshells and my dad commenting that the extreme ease with which something might startle me is because living with my mother made me hypervigilant. I was always hoping that maybe if I was prepared enough, careful enough, etc, I could prevent her rage. I was always hoping that maybe I wouldn’t have to spend hours crying, so many tears running down my face I would wonder if this might be why I’d get dehydration headaches sometimes.
I fantasized about her disappearing, about a life where she didn’t exist, and I didn’t care if it was death or what because it was all so abstract and just focused on me, and my brother, and not needing to live in this environment anymore.
I also fantasized about being a mother one day. I imagined, one day, I’d be a way better parent than my mom ever was. I analyzed how even though my mom’s form of “Strict parenting” was clearly the incorrect way to go about it, it also wasn’t good to let your kids do whatever they wanted, that there was some kind of balance to be attained. I observed with interest how other families worked. When I showed a Lorelai/Rory (Gilmore Girls) fanvideo I made during one of the final sessions I attended of court-ordered therapy, my therapist loved it (being a fan of the show herself) and then that therapist asked if it made me sad, if the show made me wish my mom was more like Lorelai.I was taken aback by the question. Despite how much I related to Rory above Lorelai, I sincerely told her “No, it didn’t”. I… I just loved their bond on the show, it never crossed my mind, and I commented that I guess we all want to be a little like Lorelai when we’re mothers one day, I suppose.
Ironically, a couple of years later I’d made another fanvideo that included Emily/Lorelai as the mother/daughter relationship on Gilmore Girls that sometimes sort of made me think of my relationship with my mother. Maybe I related more to Lorelai than I realized.
But you know… thinking about how awful my own mother was so often, I also always kept in mind how lucky I was, despite everything I did have to deal with when it came to my mother. At least her abuse was mainly verbal/emotional. At least we went to a public school in a really good district. At least I had other adults in my family who loved me, like my dad, even if he made some pretty big parenting mistakes. (If he could live his life over, he would not allow his children to be raised 95% of the time by my mother. He would not spend years living away from her but still trapped in an abusive cycle with her himself because of the way she controlled when our father could see his kids. He would recognize her behaviors as both mentally ill and unacceptable, toxic, abusive behavior earlier on and maybe she would’ve been able to get mental health help before it was too late, before both of her children would sever ties and cut her out of their lives entirely.)
But what about the kids who weren’t as lucky as me? What about kids who are abused, or neglected, so badly they are taken away from their parent(s), the only family in the world with the resources and/or desire to take them in? What about the kids who are less often adopted because they aren’t newborn, or aren’t white, and/or have a chronic illness or disability?
I could adopt an older kid. I could be an amazing adoptive parent, I thought. Or foster parent. Or both. I thought it around when I was 13 years old, a decade before I’d finally understand I wasn’t heterosexual. I had no clue I was aro ace, but I already didn’t really have any hopes or dreams of biological children. And I’ve never stopped thinking that being a foster or adoptive parent would be immensely satisfying to me. The desire to help the world in a small way, to help at least one child’s life in this significant way, has only gotten stronger in me. As I’ve gotten older, as I’ve entered adulthood… I’ve become more worried, or at times even terrified, in an abstract way, of failing miserably when I try, of not being capable of doing it, or of doing it in too selfish of a way. It shouldn’t be about me and my desire to be a parent, after all. It needs to be about the child, and what is best for them. But while I don’t put much stock into Myers-Briggs personality indicators, being an ISFJ is supposed to mean that I put helping others first. It’s just who I am to want this, and I’d be trying my damnedest to not be fostering or adopting in too selfish a mindset. Just because I may not want or be capable of many aspects of “romantic love” does not mean I could not be a very loving kind of parent. The idea that aromantic asexuals are unfeeling “monsters”, “robots”, “aliens”, or just “broken” and therefore practically non-human can be shoved under a rug, thank you very much.
So… I think I could do it. Be a foster and maybe later, adoptive parent. I really do. I think I could be a Foster Parent who successfully is a safe, comforting, structured guardian that they need for a temporary amount of time, even if I then had to let them go. Even if they were being returned to the same parent(s) they were taken away from, etc. I could put these other people first. I could be supportive, to even hope for that outcome, because it should ideally mean the parent(s) have worked hard on fixing their life so that the kid can return. Someone needs to do the temporary job of caring for children in the meantime, after all. So why not me?
I’ve even researched what would be involved in my current state of Maryland should I choose to stay living here, all the classes required before being licensed, etc. They have a lot of pages on their website about myths and truths about the whole process. I read it years ago and looking again now, nothing significant has changed. I’m allowed to be single (unmarried), and I’m already well over the minimum age of 21. I just need to get more stable employment and I’d be ready to start really looking into it.
But I’m an aromantic asexual. When I go to local ace meetup groups, there’s almost an unspoken assumption that aces don’t want kids, especially if they’re also aromantic. This might be pretty specific to my local ace community, except I feel like I notice it online, too. And it’s not always unspoken, not either place. The assumption gets voiced, eventually. And when it happens, I’m fascinated by how no one feels the way I do, and I enjoy learning about how the others in my community do feel. But I also find myself wishing this wouldn’t keep happening, where all asexuals I meet feel this way.
I try to be as supportive as possible of people wanting to be childfree, people who know even when young that kids aren’t wanted in their future and they make the choice to live permanently childfree. I think certain sections of society place way too much emphasis on one path for a life to follow, too many parents “Expect” grandchildren, etc.
In one way I even relate to Childfree people, because I don’t want to go through a pregnancy, don’t want biological children at all.
But the assumption that we’re all the same, and the lack of finding others like me the vast majority of places… well it makes me feel a bit isolated, sometimes.
I can play a game and pretend I don’t care about ever fostering or adopting. I can imagine what would make me happy. I think what would make me happy is to never date anyone again, to never have one single close partner (like a lot of people’s ideas of queerplatonic partners nowadays), etc. I don’t think I need that. I can have a group of friends and friendly acquaintances whom I enjoy the company of, where different friends provide different things for me. They can change or fluctuate over time, as some move away, or we grow apart for other reasons, although some will be long-distance. This is how my life already is, and if I can find a way to sustain it, that would make me happy. I don’t require a lot of time with someone to feel loved and close to them. I can see them only once every two years, and as long as they are still genuinely interested in me and my life, I’m genuinely interested in theirs. I can feel close to people I only know online, even. Ideally, I’d be able to remain close to (most of) my family and extended family throughout my life. Including those members who haven’t been born — or even conceived — yet. I am happy at the moment. I don’t need more than that.
Except… I’m young enough that this happiness is probably contingent upon an ideal future still happening where I get to become a non-biological parent of some kind. I’m 25 years old at the moment, and even if it took 20 years before it came true, at least I could look forward to it. I can’t imagine a day when almost everyone else in my life has kids and me being happy being childfree, or at that age feeling at home in a community of other childfree adults. I will feel some degree of like I missed out on my plan for my own life, at least if I… if I didn’t even try.
So I need to try. I can’t just look forward to it in an abstract way. I want to be properly prepared and maybe not put it off quite so long.
Even though single people are allowed to foster children, I can’t help but consider: Do I actually want that life for myself? When I was younger and deciding the only kids I’d have were ones I fostered or adopted, I didn’t imagine doing it as a struggling single parent. (I didn’t imagine it very practically at all. It was more abstract. So I didn’t have a partner in my imagination either. That aspect of it didn’t cross my mind.)
A decade ago, I didn’t imagine diving into such a huge challenge without a partner to help me along the way, someone else with the same basic goals and same basic commitment to the child(ren). I can’t help but think now about how I would really love to find a person who wants the same thing I want, who preferably lives somewhere nearby to where I already live so that I could stay at least relatively near my family and when this new hypothetical co-parent and I take in a child, my extended family could be somewhat involved in the child’s life too, or at least get to know them a little, get to know the new person (people, if I have a co-parenting partner now) who is such a huge part of my life.
This partner would need to be someone I’m compatible enough with that we think parenting together would work. I highly doubt their gender would be a factor in whether or not they were compatible with me. We wouldn’t have to agree on everything, of course, but enough in terms of broad philosophies on life, I would assume. This person would undoubtedly need to first become a pretty close and trusted friend before I felt comfortable actually diving in to parenting with them. I would certainly not be opposed to even more than one of such people entering my life, although it’s hard enough to find even one, so idk how I’d find two.
Honestly, I’m pretty committed to helping out my own country’s children, but I’m willing to move all the way across the expansive USA if it means I find this kind of co-parenting partner, even though I’d rather not be so far from all of my family members. I’m not looking for falling in love, since I’m no longer very convinced that’s possible for me. I’m not even looking to find someone to call a best friend. I have friends already, I will make more friends along the way in my life, and I wouldn’t want to purposely set out to replace any of them, or find one who is even better and closer (in an emotionally intimate kind of way) to me, not really.
I’m not looking for someone who would necessarily be Aro Ace like me, although of course they could be. On the other hand, they could still be my partner in parenting while dating someone else, and/or having a sex life sometimes. A co-parenting partner I find might be a best friend, or they might just be one of multiple friends I feel very close to, or someone who I don’t even consider exactly a friend, but more like… family, partner in life, etc. I’m simply looking for a person (or two) who I’m compatible enough with to be able to comfortably co-parent with them. Whatever happens on that search is still a surprise. Who knows who I might find, or how I might feel when I find them.
It often feels like a ridiculous goal, especially since legally we wouldn’t be tied to one another. We can’t both be the legal or foster parents of the same child if we’re not two married people, could we? We can’t even be parents together if we weren’t at least once, in the past, “together” in that way society knows all parents are — romantically, sexually, probably married, ESPECIALLY if the type of kid(s) we had were one(s) obtained through such a legal process. I don’t know what aspects of this would even be allowed or possible, legally speaking.
(I also worry that if I’m honest with a social worker interviewing me prior to becoming a licensed foster parent about being asexual, there may be some type of discrimination against me. Same goes for my atheism. But I can’t imagine lying if asked.)
Finding co-parenting help is a goal I still have, and I’m not quite ready to give it up and dive into figuring out if single-foster-parenting is what I need to plan for for my future.
In this sense, I definitely relate to the aromantic-spectrum people who say they’re looking for a queerplatonic partner, despite the many other people I see in the ace blogosphere and hear in my local asexual meetup group, aromantic-spectrum and not, who say that doesn’t even make sense, that queerplatonic partners aren’t a kind of relationship you seek out, they just… happen. Sure, they “just happen” for some people, a super close friend you already have is “your person” and people might even say some of what you do is “Romantically coded”. But I don’t think that’s the only way it can work. I think the kind of friend I want to seek out is a very unusual, nontraditional kind of friendship – a friend I’m hoping to parent with, a friend where I have this set purpose in mind. I think that’s “Queering” traditional “platonic” friendships. I know some people have issues with terms like queerplatonic, both the queer and the platonic aspect of it, but I apologize. For now I’m still pretty happy with the term. If I live with a partner or two of this type, if I ever get even somewhat close to my goal, I’ll be in a pretty “Queer” (unusual) type of relationship, that is for sure.
I just… I think one of the issues a lot of aromantic people have, especially aro aces, is a fear of ending up alone, or, conversely, a need to justify that they can still be happy even if they’re technically “alone”… or to try to fit in in a world that doesn’t recognize the in betweens, and all the ways to not be “Alone” despite not experiencing romantic attraction, like queerplatonic partners, having a network of friendships and family relationships, having a roommate, or even dating people in some cases, perhaps a lot of cases, because there is a difference between feelings and behaviors, and there are many reasons to date someone other than romantic attraction. The truth is, a lot of single people have a lot of the same issues regardless of their romantic and sexual orientations.
I feel like this topic is a huge one that I probably didn’t do justice on above. I don’t know how my thoughts and feelings toward it might change in the future. I don’t know if anyone else has written on these topics, or can relate to me at all. I feel like I’m making a commitment to embark on a journey through uncharted territory, even if I suspect it may have been trekked before — because I don’t think any of those people made a map after their journeys.
Let me know in the comments what your thoughts and opinions are on what I’ve written.
I really hope I didn’t write anything offensive or alienating to anyone. I felt a bit out of my depth while writing this, another reason why this entry into the carnival of aces was… um… slightly late. I kept putting it off. (I also worried maybe it doesn’t have enough to do with my topic I chose for the month, aromanticsm & the asexual spectrum.)