My headspace has been weird (unfamilar, sometimes scary) these days, for number of complex reasons. I think the most notable is that as I take more control over my life and my self, I become more uncomfortable with the disconnect between woman I am, versus the woman I always expected I would be.
I’m at odds with the fact that I don’t want a shiny new baby in the immediate future. Maybe never again. I have been defining myself as a mother since I was old enough to menstruate (just, you know; mother-in-waiting). I wanted to be married and covered in piles of children pretty much as soon as possible. I say without irony or humor that I wanted to be married right out high school.
And I have been seeking that holy grail for a couple years now: sufficiently successful enough for a second child. For a long time I mourned Miles only-child status. I didn’t understand why our committee votes were divided on the topic of a second child. I mean, have you seen me with a baby? I exude motherhood like more fortunate people exude bad-ass:
I mean, I am smack dab in baby nirvana there. And every time Miles plays with a baby doll or asks after baby sister, I swear my uterus softens. Hand my husband a baby? Bitch, both ovaries just dropped eggs at the thought.
The truth is, I’m very maternal. I desperately want a full house; I keep my friends as a very close family unit. (Thankfully, they tolerate that nonsense.) I’m never happier than during busy, messy family visits. Taking care of other people is something I’m good at when I choose to. And being a mother isn’t a choice, not after the initial, “Hey, pump a baby in me,” decision has been made.
I have days where maternal instinct leaves me, but I can’t turn Miles off. Its not like I can call and say, “Sorry, kid, I’m just having a rough day.” My job is to nurture him all the time, to guide him to self-sufficiency, and sometimes I resent that. That he’s as cool a kid he is has a lot more to do with his natural awesome than my ability to parent. I am a loving mother, except when I’m not. But even when I’m not, I love him more than anything else.
The narrative of the mother is so wrapped up in sacrifice, so much that its come full circle; we mock the idea but modify it with things like, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.” We use the concept to make catchy commercials. Because while being a mother is supposed to be a conflict of our individual and parental identities, we’re expected to come to the conclusion that being a mother is fulfilling enough to make up for what we lose.
Now that Miles is almost four, I have a lot more individual autonomy than I did when he was a baby. Some of this is more marked in that I have a pronounced social group, and do more individual things. Some of it is simply that I am more actualized now than I was at 22. (Its a delightful irony that becoming a mother is a significant part of me realizing myself as a woman.) I crave a lot from life. I want a lot of things, many that I’ll never have. (I WILL NEVER BE GYMNAST.<InsideJoke>)
But I do not want another baby. Maybe in five, ten years I’ll change my mind; maybe the committee will vote yes for more babies. Maybe we’ll adopt a five year old. But for now, I want a life that won’t devour me. I want an identity.
I want to be me.