To My Friends Without Kids:
I was thinking about you tonight during the hour it took to put my 7-year-old son to bed. It was an hour that involved kicking and screaming — literally — and audiobooks and extra glasses of water and back rubs and relaxation techniques and a truckload of faith to get by, which, by the way, is a reference to Lou Reed.
I don’t subscribe to the cult of motherhood. I never have. I don’t think I’m special because I gave birth, and I don’t need to venerate mothers on Mother’s Day. There are plenty of ways to nurture life and give birth — while all of involve some form of labor, not all of them involve the physical acts of pregnancy and delivery. I didn’t know I wanted a child of my own until roughly the time my own mother died in 2007. The day after her funeral, my grandmother said, “You’re going to get married and have a child.” And I said, “I’m 38. Don’t hold your breath.”
But she was right. And when I met my husband Gordon a few months later, I was ready for something real. And motherhood felt like it might be part of that realness for me.
But even then, it was a question. “How do you feel about kids?” Gordon asked, on what was essentially our first date. “I think I want to have a kid.” And I said, “I think I want to have a kid, too.” That was probably the first time I ever said it out loud. And then I had to get health insurance, which I’d blithely gone without for a decade. So, despite my “advanced material age” (39 at that point), it took a while. There was time to revel in ambivalence. Should we? Shouldn’t we?
It wasn’t until I read Rebecca Walker‘s book Baby Love — which tackles her own ambivalence, and how the choice to become a mother is intimately connected to the experience we had as daughters — that I felt I had permission to fully let myself feel the desire for a child. And even then, I did not feel that that child had to be biologically mine. (As fate would have it, I’m easy to knock up: I got pregnant without much fanfare.) But really, it was a process. A culmination of questions and answers and a partner who , for the first time ever, made me feel safe, that led me to the where I am now. And I’m very, very grateful — although I wasn’t quite prepared for how profoundly it would change me.
I didn’t intend to lose you along the way.
But somehow, lose you I did. We don’t see each other very often. Not as much as I want. Mostly we say it’s no one’s fault, although sometimes you say it is mine. I miss dinner parties (or, let’s be real, you have stopped inviting me). I miss openings. I miss readings. I miss all-day spectacular parties in the park or on rooftops or wherever it is people have those parties these days. I am home every evening with Ben, unless I am working, or being paid to be elsewhere.
My husband and I are both writers. We are both self-employed, and neither of us has figured out how to land that elusive thing called A Regular Paycheck. We have roughly six hours a day to get anything done — that includes teaching, writing, consulting, doctor and dentist and therapy appointments, exercise, school meetings, creative work like readings or rehearsals, and, of course, nights out with friends. Occasionally we’ll take turns going out. But we’re tired. I am no longer available in the way I was before 2010. And it breaks my heart. Right now, my life is an ever-evolving combination of work and motherhood with an occasional date night thrown in.
I miss my friends.
A friend without kids once told me that, in her late 30s, all her friends were swallowed up by motherhood and disappeared. But roughly 15 years later when their kids were more self-sufficient, these friends came back. And she loved them still.
I look forward to coming back.
Don’t forget me. Don’t give up on me. Don’t think it’s because I don’t care, or care less. The sad truth is, by the time my son is asleep, I rarely have the energy for a phone call or the bandwidth for anyone else’s needs. Please try to be patient. Because one day, I really really hope we’re all back together, comparing notes and telling stories, about all the years in which I was tired and cranky and overworked and very possibly missing.