Another blog that is going to be a challenge to write, but it is something I have been thinking about and talking about with those closest to me for so long, why not send it out into the intranets :) This is going to be a very personal post for me, so please, as always, be gentle.
As a small child, I feel like the only questions I was ever asked were about, what I wanted for Christmas. I am sure there may have been some questions about what I wanted for lunch, or what I wanted to wear, but I feel like more often or not, my Mom decided that for me. I can still remember getting the huge toy catalog that would come each year. I can remember flipping through it for hours, looking to see what I wanted Santa to bring me that year. I had so much fun looking through the catalog and I can remember circling items, folding down pages, etc. It was truly a sad day when I was no longer able to find anything I wanted and equally sad when I was no longer excited to receive the catalog.
As I got older, questions kind of morphed. When I was little there weren't really a right or a wrong answer to the most important questions asked of me. The older I got, the more quickly I realized that answers came with consequences. Whether it be the answer on a test, my response to a friend or a challenge of my parents. I learned that I could be graded, picked on and punished for my answers to questions.
"Did I want to go over", "did I hit my sister", "Did Columbus discover America (who knew how complex this really was, I challenge my answer either way from back in the day)". Answers to each of these had consequences, for better or worse. I soon realized and longed for the Christmas toy catalog. How easy that question was, "What do you want for Christmas, Patty."
Silly of me to think my most difficult questions started during my teenage years. At the time, it honestly felt like those were the worst years ever. I felt so awkward, so uncomfortable, and looking back, was surely stressed and anxious.
As you approach high school, then the questions become, do you want to go to college and if so, where and what do you want to be when you grow up. Both of these questions are also loaded with so many layers of complexities. If and where you want to go to college isn't really the question these days, it is really where can I realistically afford to go to college. As far as what I want to be when I grow up, while I eventually did decide on a major, grad degree and career track, I still don't think that I can answer this question. There are so many questions asked of young adults, that they are expected to know the answer to. Looking back, I almost wish I had traveled and volunteered abroad for a few years before going to college. Looking back on it now, college was one of the most amazing, rewarding and important milestones of my life, but as far as my career, I think it may have helped to wait, explore, grow a bit more and experience a bit more before going to college. I guess, as always, the what ifs fly, but that doesn't mean the questions don't still get asked.
Once you are at college, if you haven't already been asked, you will be asked, what you want to do when you grow up. What you want to major in. Again, still not sure of the answer to this one. I remember being severely stressed out by it. There were certainly things I loved learning about, but I was never sure how to equate them to a career. In the same regard, there were some things I loved doing, but again, not sure how it would be a career for me.
As you begin to hit your early-mid twenties, for women especially, I feel like we start getting the marriage question, if not the kids question. Much of this depends on whether or not you are in a relationship. I feel like this is a generational thing. I feel like there are some folks out there that are totally respectful and don't feel their own biological clock ticking through their child, but there are others that are relentless. I am lucky to say, I never had the pressure about either, and for that I am grateful.
Don't get me wrong, Greg and I have been together for going on 12 years. I have certainly gotten the question more than I hoped, "when are getting married?"Go figure, this question took almost 12 years to answer, but hopefully it will hold off future questions for awhile. I know that people mean well, it is just difficult to answer questions, especially when there are no answers. For a long while, even though Greg and I were talking about marriage, we were not sure when it was going to happen. We were trying to get ourselves stable, settled and comfortable in our careers before joining our crazy lives, officially.
I think that what I have really learned, as I get older, is that not only do the questions get harder as I age, but so do the answers. There are more things to consider, more levels of complexities, it is very rarely as easy as "yes" and "no." Now, obviously, I am not talking about every question, just the big ones. I am definitely someone that makes 89% (if not more) of her decisions at a gut level. I go off my gut for nearly everything. I get a feeling about something one way or another and I just make my decision. I am not really someone that does a lot of research, or compares things before I decide. At the same time, if I don't feel a strong way about something one way or another, I just kind of float and have a terrible time deciding anything. Whether it be what movie we should watch, or what we should have for dinner. It is something I struggle with, when I don't have a "feeling" I am frozen almost. I have told Greg, many times, I really don't have a feeling about it, so can you please just decide. Otherwise, we would sit there all night at the video store.
So, what is the question I am grappling with most lately, it would be the most obvious next stage of life questions. I have been hearing the "when am I getting married question" forever. The next question, I anticipate hearing, will be the "when are you having kids", question.
This is honestly the question I have been battling with more than any other, up until this point in my life. My entire life I pictured myself with children, at least one, but no more than three. I have had a list of names, possible girls and possible boys, that have evolved over the years, but I still have names. Greg and I have talked about it, talked about names, scenarios, possible timing, etc. I get baby fever sometimes, and I honestly wake up some mornings and cannot wait to have children with Greg. I just love him so much, our babies would be short, stalky red head, dorks--which makes my heart swoon, and I feel like Greg and I would have so much fun being parents. We are such dorks, I can totally see it. I can totally see it, if I could really be the mother I dream of being. I just know that rarely do things go according to plan. I also have so many children in my life that I adore and love dearly and see friends and family so happy with their children.
But, I have to admit that, yes, we still are not sure how to answer this question. To be honest, for the first time ever, I am personally questioning whether or not I even want to have children. I still cannot believe that I am saying this. I need to be honest and say that over the past 3-4 years, I have really been second guessing myself on this. It is such an important question and most likely the most important one I will ever ultimately have an answer for.
I know that whether or not we decide to have children, Greg and I will continue to live a happy and fulfilled life. I know that whatever we decide, we may feel that we miss out on something. There are so many parents out there, I am sure, that cannot imagine how anyone would consider not having children. I know that we would miss out on a lot. At the same time, again, I have no doubt our life would continue to flourish and we would continue to grow, travel, love and challenge one another. I feel like whatever we decide, ultimately, we will be happy. It is really just a tough one.
Why all this sudden uncertainty? Where do I even begin? I am an extremely anxious and nervous person. I am the type of person that cannot sleep at night if I think something is wrong with Greg or Norman. I am up all night and worry all night. I do not want to raise an anxious child. I would hate to pass along anxiety and fear onto my child. I like to think that when I have a child, I will just be able to relax and not be so uptight, but I feel like I know myself well enough to know, that I am going to be an anxious and nervous parent. Now, I am sure there are so many people out there that may say, well duh' of course you will be anxious, you will be a parent. I just am not sure if I am strong enough to deal with that kind of anxiety.
I know everyone says you shouldn't worry about money and logistics, but for the time being, Greg and I are just making it in the city. We make just enough money to pay our rent, bills and have a little left over to go out to eat and go to the movies. I am not sure how it is finacnially possible to even have a child these days, let alone a child in the city. I know people always say you shouldn't worry about the money, you will find a way to make it work. I have no doubt that is possible, but we also need to be able to ensure we can pay for the necessities. My plan would be breast feeding and cloth diapers, but that requires a washer and dryer (which we don't have) and my desire to be home longer than the legally required, what 8 weeks?? Which isn't possible.
There is no way, in hell, we could afford a nanny or daycare, which means we would need to have one of us stay home, which we also cannot afford. I do not want to make this all about money, but we have to be realistic when we think about these things. We need to ensure we can pay our bills and keep a roof over our head, before we bring someone else into our family.
There is also the fact that there is no healthy baby guarantee. I would love our child with my entire heart, mind and soul, regardless of any physical or mental challenges they may have. That being said, we also need to ensure we can afford the possibilities. What would happen if we gave birth to a child that required more special services than most? How could we possible pay for this child and ensure we give them the best life possible? How do we ensure we help our child fulfill their promise, with no spare finances available? Again, there is a chance that we give birth to a totally health baby, that requires no extra supports, but at least 18 years of special services can be extremely expensive. I cannot imagine not being able to provide for my child. Not being able to give them what would be best for them? It would break my heart! How do people cope with this? How do people take this scary plunge?
I also have a history of mental health challenges in my family. Over the past few years this has become a much greater concern for me. I want to ensure I am healthy enough, physically and mentally, to be a parent. I also am a bit fearful, I have to be honest, of dealing with an extremely difficult child. I am so sensitive, have no ability to discipline (cannot even discipline the cat). I just wonder if I could handle it. I have no doubt that being a parent is one of the most stressful (while rewarding) roles you can ever have. I have no illusions about that. My thinking about this so often, is what makes me worried that I would disappoint myself every day and never be able to be the parent I would want to be.
When I close my eyes I have a very clear vision of the mother I would like to be, the family I would like to have. I can see it when my close my eyes. I just am not sure if I am strong enough or have it in me to be a mom. I would want to be the type of mom that is totally loving, caring, supportive. I want to teach our kids about gratefulness and nature and science. I want to be silly with them and ensure they have no doubt that I love them. I can close my eyes and I can see how I would want to be, I am just so scared that I will be an awful, awful mother. That I will be totally anxious and on-edge all the time, that I will end up being mean and yelling because I am too stressed and that I will do everything I do not want to do. Am I the only one that has these fears, or to those of you that are mothers, were you totally confident in being a mother?
I know I am a good person, it would just kill me if I found out I was an awful mother. At the same time, Greg is so calm and cool and collective. I don't want to be the mean, on-edge, crazy one. I don't want to be the one that just cries all the time when my kids are mean to me. I don't want to stress my kids out. What if I am an awful mom?
What if becoming a mom makes me an awful person? Is this possible? I like to think it will do nothing but make me a better, more caring and kind person, but what if I am wrong?
I also question our having a child because I have no doubt it will change our relationship. It has to. I know you hear about some folks who become closer after being parents together. You also hear from those people who having a child changed everything, and not for the better. I really do love Greg and I's life right now. I love our relative independence and freedom, I love living in the city, I love that we have time for each other. I just really love our life. Does it sound selfish to say, that I love our relationship and that makes me question having children?
Since moving to the city, and hitting 33, I am running into more and more friends who have decided to not have children. Some have spoken with me about their decisions and how they have come to their decisions and I haven't heard any regrets. I also have many close friends who have children and couldn't imagine it any other way, also, while hear stories of hard times, again no regrets.
I have no doubt we will come to a clear decision, some day. I just hope that we make the right decision. I feel like either way, you could regret your decision. I like to think you would never regret deciding to become parents. I just want to ensure Greg and I have no doubts before we take such a big step. Being a parent is the most important job in the world. I wouldn't want to sign-up for something I wouldn't be very good at. I have no doubt my child(ren) will end up in counseling, I just don't want it to change me for the worse. I have no doubt I will change when I become a mother, I would just hope it would be for the better and not the worse.
I am not getting any younger--decision needs to happen in these next few years. I want to be able to run around, and be on the floor with my child(ren). I want to ensure my body is strong enough to handle whatever pregnancy brings my way. But, most importantly, I want to be a steady, calm and dependable mother. I want to provide comfort and ease, not stress and anxiety. I want my child to feel safe with me, not anxious. This, of course, is all assuming we can even have children. Nothing in life is a guarantee.
Is it selfish for me to say that I love my life? Is it selfish for me to think so much about not having children and what that would mean for Greg and I, today, tomorrow and forever. We need to get to the point where we are fairly confident that we will not regret our decision (whatever it be) at 40, 50, 70 or 90. Have no doubt there will be things we "miss out" on, either way. It is a tough one and I am always looking for helpful insight for those who have decided to have children as well as those who have decided not to have children. I know this is a personal choice and decision, please just know, whatever you decided, ultimately, you are not alone.
I know nothing will ever be perfect, I just want to be a good mom......
And that's all she wrote...
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.