Oh yes, I said it. Because I was 22 and stupid as a Bush rock.
And so we lived for the next 13 years barely getting by, making ends *almost* meet, never seeing each other because I had to go serve eggs and coffee to drunk doctors at 6 in the morning and then he had to go serve steak and wine to drunk gangsters until midnight. But we never once put a child in daycare. They were home, with us, being raised by two children who had hardly figured out who they were, let alone who this person that looked like them was trying to be.
And I don't regret a minute of it.
I don't regret that we lived in the wrong neighborhoods, in the crappy apartments, or drove the beat up cars, or ate macaroni and cheese out of a box more times that I'd care to admit. I don't regret that our life was a struggle, that it tore us apart three times, that it was never easy and that we existed singularly, that we were always exhausted, because I had a plan, dammit, and I saw it through. We raised our children, just like we said we were going to.
I gave everything over to being their mom, and I don't know if I did a good job of that or not. Only time will tell. But it was the only thing I knew how to do. I didn't know how to raise children any other way. I didn't know how to be more than one thing at the same time. I was mother, that was it, just like my mother, just like every woman I'd ever known my entire life. I couldn't be wife, too. I couldn't be employee, too. I could only do that one thing, so that's all I did with any amount of zeal.
And then one day they put backpacks on and grabbed lunch-boxes and walked into a big brick building all by themselves with little more than a, "So long, and thanks for all the fish" and it was over.
That's when I started to realize that I'd wasted a lot of time being something they may not have needed me to be. That they ultimately needed more than just a mom. That maybe I'd fucked it all up.
So I drowned myself in a PTA to feel useful, and then I fell head-first into blogging to feel productive (and also to increase my typing wpm, because it was coming close to 'get a damn job' time) (and it totally worked) and right when I started to dream of a career, or at least a goal, I had another baby.
The thing with circular patterns is that they don't have an end, which makes them slightly goddamn impossible to break.
So I had that other baby and I fell right back into my nuthin' but mom mindset for a while. But that other baby was a girl, and I saw something in her eyes that I didn't see in my sons. I saw myself.
Every day with her reminded me a little more how unbelievably perfectly I was perpetuating the cycle that has propelled the women in my family along forever. I started to realize what I was teaching her; the same thing I'd been taught, that being a mother meant being ONLY a mother.
And the question I had to ask myself was this: Do I want these children to live my life? Do I want them to make the same choices and the same sacrifices I did, just to live up to some ideal that I put a whole lot of misplaced devotion into? And why exactly was I continuing to make these choices that I so strongly disagreed with when my mother made them?
I never could understand why my mother didn't just belly up and get a fucking job so that we didn't have to starve. I could never forgive her for just sitting there, waiting for her life to come to her. And yet there I sat, patiently waiting for the same thing. Why? Because I was afraid. I was afraid to fail, I was afraid to try. No matter how difficult something is, the fact that it's familiar covers a multitude of sins. I knew how to be a guardian. I didn't know how to a producer. I knew how to accept less, but I didn't know how to let myself want more. I knew how to dream of being better than I was allowing myself to be, but I had not one fucking clue how to acknowledge that I could be anything at all.
The thing with the women in my family, all of them from my mother to her mother to my sister to my aunts, is that they all exist (or existed) contentedly discontent. They accepted their perception, they succumbed to their imagined limits, and the ones that aren't dead now might as well be. The gave their talents and their dreams and their abilities over to the comforts of complacency. They stopped living the second they yielded.
I am no smarter than any of the women who have come before me. I am less beautiful, less imaginative, less inspired. But I am more determined than any of them ever were to believe in the power of wanting. Where they see (or saw) (and really, let's just lay out that several of them are quite dead by their own self destructions and we'll stop throwing tenses around) themselves genetically tethered to a prophetic destiny, I see something who's ass I can try to kick. I see the lessons I've learned by watching them live and die as a big, rusty old axe that I can use to hack at these chains around my DNA.
Mostly, I just see my daughter, perfect and new, unattached to all that shit, a blank slate that I can scribble my history on or I can write a new one for.
And so I did the thing I was most afraid of. I dreamed that I could be more. I presumed that I had something remotely valuable to offer people who had higher than 5th grade education. I put my daughter in daycare and I got a fucking job.
I didn't just get a job, I worked for a year freelancing in a position that I have not one day of formal training in, doing things that I was completely unqualified to do, faking it every step of the way, mostly scared to death that they'd catch on to the fact that I am one generation out of a dumpster with a high school diploma and a dream, and not much more, and after that year they did figure it out. And they decided that I wasn't just good enough anyway, but that I was great and I was perfect for them and that I should have a job title that starts with Head...and doesn't end with Job.
And so I had a choice to make. I started familiar in the eye and it started back. I could say no thank you, because I have this four year old and she still needs me for one last year before school starts for her. I could put my life on hold again, I could wait for those stars to align, for life to fall into my lap at just the right time, just like all of the women who share my last name do. Or I could admit that I wanted more for myself. I could admit that having a title other than mother mattered to me. I could change everything about the only life that I could ever imagine for myself and accept that what I thought was ultimately important is, in the end, a minor detail. I could concede to the notion that tugs at my heart late at night that it's just as important for my kids to see me aspire as it is for them to see me parent.
And for the first time in my life, what I wanted won.
And only a few weeks into this, I am realizing that it isn't paying someone else to raise my child, it's paying someone to teach her things I don't know and to give her experiences I never thought to and different perceptions of her life, all so that I can let someone pay me to do the exact same thing.