Yesterday I saw a mother pushing her baby in a stroller and felt absolute fear. Having children is no longer a hypothetical thing I may or may not do in the future. It is now something I will be doing soon (assuming all goes well). As that reality creeps closer to my real life the more afraid I become. Fears are bursting into my mind that I didn’t even know I had.
I will be bored and alone. My life will cease to have meaning yet I will feel compelled to never admit that–to pretend that the opposite is true. I will never have fun anymore. I will mess up anyway. I will never be alone again. I will never travel alone again. Enter Dido lyrics, “I want to be a hunter again, I want to see the world alone again….” I will become less attractive, will lose my vitality–and will be forever “mom” and no longer me. I will lose my mystique. I will lose my independence. I will wear mom jeans. My spouse won’t find me interesting or attractive anymore. We will fight about kids and lose our own space as a couple. And on and on.
And this, I am realizing, is inside of me too: I will lose my status as person and become subordinate female. It was that last one, I think, that made me shudder when I saw the woman pushing a stroller. It hurts me that I would even think that about this woman. Is this internalized sexism? Were my positive feelings towards moms more akin to pity? An external You Go Girl and an internal No f—ing way I’m doing that? I didn’t think I had it in me. Or was it a moment of historical fear? As in, is it really safe now to come out and play? We can vote, we have birth control, we have jobs, we have equal relationships–is it REALLY safe now for me to have a child? Or will doing this only make me discover Motherhood Feminism. Motherhood Feminism, a term coined by a Mormon mother, means that women get the benefits of the women’s movement and think everything is awesome…..until they have kids and then BAM! here come the 1950’s. And then there’s the Atlantic article detailing why mothers (parents really) are still hit with the non-choice of choosing real life over career. It is a lot to think about and I will.
Some of my fears can be undone through critical thinking. For example, I already wear mom jeans so I can’t have too much justifiable fear around that. I’ve always preferred comfortable clothes–a trait which will no doubt blossom irrespective of lifestyle. And let’s be honest, I probably never had a mystique so what was never had cannot be lost. Also, I may lose daily independence but that doesn’t mean I won’t be free. Something I forget to do, but must do, is to tackle each thought and bring it to the light of day.
Yet, some fears are rational in the first place. Being a parent will permanently alter my career. This change needn’t be a death but I don’t see any way around it being a change. Even on my own I have struggled to establish career. Adding a family to that already difficult equation is frightening.
But what about today?
I can cave into the fear and I do. I can wallow in it for hours, days and even years and I have. But I already know that fear leads to more fear. Fear never gives birth to hope. It only paralyzes me and makes me sad. It isn’t active. It is tired, sad, lazy and destructive. I have already learned this lesson: that caving into fear doesn’t not bring me closer to myself. Fear pulls me away from my life like a tide.
I went to the zoo a few months ago. Everywhere I looked I saw parents struggling with parenting. The kids were out of control. (American kids have really challenged my desire to be a parent at all). All I saw was exhausted and sometimes angry parents who appeared to be virtually powerless and obnoxious, dissatisfied, whining kids (I want this, I want that, no, yes, no, yes) . I was exhausted just watching them.
And then, towards afternoon I saw something different. A mother with two kids (probably 7 and 9) was having fun. They were talking with each other. They were having fun together. “What is this?” “I don’t know let’s go see!” “Oh how interesting!” “That’s so cool, mom!” They were calm, respectful and loving–all three of them. And I thought, “That is how I want to be.” I remember that mother when I feel scared and I know that if I play my cards right I can be her. She was not half a person. She was not bored and alone. She was not thinking to herself that her life was over. She was at peace, a full person–living life. They were beautiful. Today, that is what comforts me.