Lately I've been ping-ponging. Some days I feel like a smart, steady, engaged and engaging woman who knows what she wants, who is completely unafraid of her own life and its trajectory, who is able to be a good partner to a good man. Other days my brain is replaced by the gelatinous, conservative terror that two artists co-habitating and making a go of this thing called life is utterly ridiculous, and at least one of us has to get a job she loathes so the other can make art, because if we don't do life the way the old generation modeled it for us then we'll never be able to do things like have kids, but maybe we don't want to have kids, but it'd be nice to be able to if we want to and with the economy looking as shitty as it does what kind of bright idea is it being a writer in the first place, oh god my parents were right, I'm a total failure.
sigh. crazy, right?
But I've been kind of living there, in Crazyville. My honey and I netflixed (oh, the nouns you can turn into verbs) the first dvd of the first season of Mad Men, and have been watching it, and at the end of every episode I'm seized with a fear that one or both of us is going to make a series of choices that we think will manifest the other's happiness, and that we'll blink and wind up ten years deep in a life we hate, being a person we hate who's married to a person we hate. Thankfully, he's not frightened of this, and able to talk me down from this place. (I can't imagine what I'd feel if we checked out Revolutionary Road; I'm crazy about that time period for all its repressed and tidy beauty, but that shit is just kinda bad for me right now.) But this kind of fear can feel really binding, in terms of what kinds of choices we make now, and how those choices will affect our future. Child rearing isn't something we spend a lot of time talking about these days, but I'm spending more time than I expected thinking about how what I do now will or won't enable me to have theoretical kids in the future.
This weekend, I spent the day in charge of a six year old girl of whom I am ridiculously fond, known as the Only Child. I picked her up at a friend's house and took her to my place where she reunited with my honey. (Incidentally, as soon as she saw me she asked where he was: she wanted her friends, Johnny and Steven, to meet him. Almost as crazy about him as I am.) We did some arts and crafts and watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving--the only kid friendly stuff I have in the house are books, and she read all of them in the car--and then bought her some lunch and took her to a swim class, then home for the remainder of the afternoon.
I have written about my ambivalence about being a child care provider here and here, and I recently crossed it off my list of ways to earn money. But her mother came to me and asked "if I needed to make extra bucks for the wedding" and shit yes, do I, so I took the job, despite it's deplorably bad timing.
I learned something that I never knew about having kids around: when she was there, my honey and I spoke pretty much to her only, and snatched teeny bits of conversation around her. It was like we spent the whole night orbiting her, and would high five or say hello only as we passed each other by. At the end of the night I returned home tired, irritated, and feeling like I hadn't seen my fiance all day, and missing him for his absence. I was surprised by how little I felt like I could be myself, who I am with him, with a kid around too.
"Oh, that's just 'cause it's someone else's kid," he said confidently, "it'll be different with ours."
I'm not so sure. I can say right now that while I'm fencing with the identity question of what it means to be a wife, I haven't at all begun to battle what it means to be a mom, and society wins that fight right now. That child, as much as I love her, made me certain that I can stop, like full-stop STOP, worrying about when and how to have kids and what we'll need to do it. After one day with her I was reminded that one of the biggest reason not to, is because I don't want to share my honey with a child.
Yeah. Okay so looking at that in print, it sounds like a sick reason not to become a mother. But there it is. That's who I am today, and denying it won't change it.