Friday was a good day. My favorite part: a few hours in the afternoon spent with some local kids.
People all over the world have asked me why I don’t have children. Sometimes they ask me if I regret not having any. Most often, it’s people from other cultures who depend on the ‘family unit’ to survive and thrive where people have a difficult time understanding why some goal-driven American women do not want kids.
I have never wanted a child of my own. When I was 24, I was pregnant, and planned to marry the father and have the child. I even wore an engagement ring for several weeks. But deep down, I felt trapped. Thankfully, God had other plans. I had a miscarriage at nearly three months. There was a sense of guilt. Did I do something wrong? Should I have done something different? There was even feelings of loss.
But also, there was a sense of relief that is indescribable. I was off the hook. FREE. I broke off the engagement. I knew I didn’t want children, and so I designed the rest of my life to be child-free. And here I am. In the Philippines with Friday freedom in a pandemic.
Absolutely no regrets. My goal of living my life for me – and early retired budget travel – trumped any leanings toward motherhood. Selfish? Hell no. There’s no mandate for procreation. Life is a series of choices. I chose to enjoy my life for me, and to help people as I can along the way.
All of that said, I do like children… as long as they’re not mine, as the joke goes.
Friday freedom in pandemic
It was a great day for laundry, so I started a hand-washed load. We have been so lucky so far this rainy season. We’ve had two and three days in a row without more than a passing shower – and sometimes not even that.
I went into Caticlan and started payday preparations for the Ati. This always includes a run inside the bank to get small bills. I ordered bread to be picked up tomorrow, shopped for peanuts to put in the snack bags we carry up to hand out with the pay packets.
Chores done. The rest of the day: all mine. Friday freedom in a pandemic. Time to do as I please.
Ironically, that included time with kids.
Beach walk, shell negotiations
I walk the beach from the barangay of Motag through the village neighborhood Balusbus frequently enough that the kids all know me. They keep watch. If one child spots me walking towards them on the beach, they sound the alarm. Then I hear four, five, or maybe eight children screaming my name “Ellen! Ellen!” The adults wave and smile, and the kids come running at me full pace.
One day awhile back, they looked inside my beach bag to see what was in it. Shells. A lot of shells. I told them if they found pristine shells, or big shells, I might be interested in buying some for a few pesos. We’ve been practicing the fine art of negotiation in English over the last couple of months.
For large, perfect shells, I might pay 10 pesos (20 cents). For a bucket of pristine shells – if they’re really good – I might pay a dollar. And then, me and each child declaring “Deal!”, we move on to other topics of conversation.
Today, four of the children walked with me to the point and back. I’m guessing the kids are ages six to 11. We don’t talk about boring stuff like age. We talk about zombies and shipwrecks and TikTok, which is all the rage here. I discouraged dirty dancing, and instead showed them the moonwalk on wet sand at low tide. They’d never heard of it.
These four children know a fair amount of English, and that makes all the difference. We are able to have conversations. They practice speaking to me, and I listen to them. Along the way, they pick up shells and add them to my bag, no charge. Gifts for me.
That’s the thing: it’s not really about money for shells. It’s about time. And friendship.
I’m a foreigner, and so I’m automatically different, novel, maybe even weird to them — with my “bouncy belly” and white skin and backside tattoo. But, I’m also an adult. An adult who listens to them, and spends some time with them, outside their families, which also is probably novel.
So yeah. I don’t have kids. And I don’t want them. Never did. But I do enjoy children, and their wonder at the world.
Plus, you have to admit: there’s something oddly beautiful about a middle-aged American white woman, breastless from cancer, doing the moonwalk on the beach with a bunch of children from a Philippine fishing village during a pandemic.
Thanks for reading, “Friday freedom in pandemic includes children.”
Life is Now.Earth Vagabonds
6 adventures to have in early retired budget travel:
- Incredible Komodo dragon trip with fight video
- Stunning scenery in Ninh Binh, Vietnam
- Hike up Mexico’s Cabo Cross Hill for sweeping panoramas
- Playa Balandra: Earth Vagabonds went before NY Times put it on ‘must-see’ list
- Thrilling waterfall jumps in Bali, Indonesia
- Do not miss the ‘Original’ Casaroro Falls in the Philippines
Earth Vagabonds advocate for travel when international borders reopen. Until worldwide adventure resumes, Tedly, his mom Diane, and Ellen, are helping the Ati people in Malay, Aklan, in the Philippines:
- rebuild a destroyed chicken coop and secure chickens
- improve the drinking water situation
- work towards bringing electricity to the upper Ati village