Cracking the Egg.

Via on Jan 17, 2013

It’s a bomb waiting to go off and the clock is ticking.

This biology of mine is messing with my mind.

Yesterday, I was at the gym and I saw the guppy league getting ready to swim their laps—20 or so kindergarteners in floaties and neon swimsuits catapulted themselves into the water. They screamed with delight while their parents stood poolside, snapping pictures with their phones and laughing.

I stood there, on the other side of the pool window, for a few minutes. Then, one of the parents turned toward me, looked me up and down, and moved a few feet closer to his swimming child. I suppose I looked slightly creepy, ogling the scene like I was. I wanted to tell this father that I was just as creeped out as he was. Times 10.

I’m a happily unmarried, childless woman in my mid-thirties. It’s a choice, not a destination I reached by making wrong turns or being too picky. This is the life I planned for myself, one of birth control pills, expendable income, and eight full hours of sleep a night. I’m living this life intentionally and happily, for the most part.

There seems to be, however, a coup going on inside me; I’m being overthrown by my body.

It’s moments like the swim class, moments that I used to walk right by without feeling anything but relief that it wasn’t me overexposing my child on Facebook, that are getting to me. I find myself wondering what I’m giving up by not having children, by not being poolside. I, myself, have always wanted to be the one in the pool.

Some of my friends tell me that having children transformed them into real adults. They tell me that the minute they came home from the hospital with this shiny new person, they switched off their desires for adventure and spontaneous Tuesday nights at the bar. They grew past all that in an instant. They wanted to get out of the water and watch from the sidelines…it was someone else’s turn to dive into life with abandon.

Along with getting to come up with a groovy name for your child (Virginia Dare Lovelace), this is the greatest temptation of parenthood—that it will raise you up to be a proper adult. It will bring you clarity, focus, and a purpose beyond all the chaotic crap of life.

It’s the same reason that some people practice yoga; they believe that it will release them of their bad habits and dirty deeds and desires, and give them a meaningful life.

I can’t speak for parenthood, but I know that yoga has given me structure and responsibility. It also opened my heart up. It was the kind of spiritual surgery I needed after a childhood that made me desperate to get away from my family and not create a new one. The word family, I thought, was synonymous with trapped. A shingle-sided prison with Shake-and-Bake chicken dinners every Tuesday and Thursday.

See, the little girl me stood on the sidelines a lot. I was self-conscious and anxious and none too pleased with my body. I was pure tomboy—always covered in mud and scratches. Always in trouble for my foul mouth and my pranks, some of which involved actual feces, which would have been fine had I been a boy, but I wasn’t. I had to blend in with the girls by playing by the pool rules.

Most of my girlfriends were champs; they understood, from an early age, what was expected from them. They had the French braid down cold by second grade. They didn’t have stains all over their clothes or shout fuck this during a timed-multiplication test. Boys liked them and would send them brief letters folded into paper airplanes. Boys liked to call me Snotty Sara (damn those Garbage Pail Kids) and dare me to climb dangerously tall trees.

When it came to being a good little girl, I was always an outsider. I was lucky that my mother, a strong feminist, was fine with this. She felt that Barbies were sexist plight against all females, and that baby dolls were suspect. She allowed these things, but she always put them in sociological perspective—trips to the toy store were like a women’s studies seminar.

Source: via Annette on Pinterest
Source: via Annette on Pinterest

Like any normal child, I rebelled. I took every opportunity to go over to friend’s houses and play with their dolls. Barbie was the pink, forbidden fruit and I was determined to piss my mother off. So I played, awkwardly, with them. I wasn’t quite sure what to do, and assumed that Barbie and Ken were supposed to jump in the pink convertible and either solve crimes or commit them.

Barbie doesn’t hold up banks, one of my friends said to me. I’d armed Barbie with a blue hairbrush—a machine gun almost as big as the criminal herself.

Well, then what does she do?

She kisses Ken and marries him and then she gets pregnant.

Oh.

This didn’t seem like something you could play at for very long. My bank-robbing scenario had investigations and car chases. My friend’s fantasy life involved ironing, grocery shopping, and cleaning the pink mansion with a miniature, plastic vacuum cleaner. I thought, perhaps, that it was just her. That she was just weird and, frankly, boring. But the more I played with other girls, the more I realized I was the weird one.

Almost all the girls I knew talked about marriage and children from a very early age.

It wasn’t that they had made up their minds, but more that their minds had been made up for them. Very few parents ask their infant daughters if they want a baby doll. They just give them one. The minute a girl child stops sucking a pacifier, she is shoving one into her doll’s mouth. We are shoved into caretaking long before we can take care of ourselves. Our baby dolls are hungry and their diapers need to be changed.

Then we get to Home Ec. class, where we are given a raw egg and told to care for it as if it were our own child. An egg, for Shiva’s sake. Subtle, very subtle.

The young me was forced to make a decision about motherhood, and she chose no. She was brave and defiant, and I’m proud as hell of her. When I told my Home Ec. teacher that my egg had cracked and begun to smell up my whole room, she asked me what would I have done if that were an actual baby.

I guess I’d have to go on the run, I said, so the cops couldn’t catch me. 

As an adult woman, I don’t have to create scenarios of escape from a life I don’t want to live. I live the life that I choose, and as long as I am compassionate, loving, and truthful, I consider it a success.

There is, though, a part of me that is still working out my decision to not have children. It’s a decision I thought I made for good all those years ago, but as I age a physical urgency forces me to confront it yet again. I’m having to re-examine if I made the decision out of fear that I’d end up like my parents, or my attachment to my idea of myself as an outsider.

The parents by the pool forced me to stop and consider; as I stood on the other side of the window, I felt that old pull to step inside the pink mansion and play.

Namaste.

 

 

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

(Source: lostalways.tumblr.com via Bonnie on Pinterest)

 

About Sara Lovelace

Sara Lovelace is a yogini, writer, filmmaker, and fearless fool. She received her MFA in Writing from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and her certification at the Satchidananda Ashram, VA. You can contact her at sara_@coco-cow.com.

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5 Responses to “Cracking the Egg.”

  1. Laura says:

    You will probably get a lot of crap and misunderstanding over this article. There is far too much dichotomy over parenting. Just wanted to say I thought it was great and I get it. (And I am pregnant in my late 30s after a youth of spontaneity and adventure, with a much wanted child, who is a girl, and I plan to use your mother's style of parenting. But by wanting to keep a sense of self by, say, wanting to work even if it is not financially worth it, I am already being told I am a bad mother. For example.)

  2. Whatis says:

    You sound some degree of angry and confused, and that's OK of course. But wake up today.
    Stay childless or not. But that attitude you have about family — those thoughts, those reactions, those associations (conscious and not) are just that – projections that are screaming, as well as indicators that you are not yet awake.
    You are in reaction and fear, you are not acknowledging this fully. I say this without judgment.
    Life is a gift, and it's short. Your ability to have children – the tremendous gift of being a woman – is an even shorter privilege.
    Wake up!

    I'm 58 years old and childless, in large part due to a difficult family of origin whose circumstances, physical and mental handicaps and traumas 'trapped' me, along with some economic realities – until it was 'too late' to have children. I loved my Mother and though didn't want to repeat her marriage and life (in part a generational thing – I too am a feminist), would have loved to have children in the right (not perfect) circumstance. Life without children for me is very much sadder, less rich, less joyful. I can make it otherwise with my mind, too — but among other things children make you less self-involved.

    My advice to you is to use meditation, yoga and whatever — to WAKE UP to reality and the fact that we live with our choices. None is so great as to decide not to have children.

    I am 58, childless (for various reason – mostly difficult family of origin and

  3. Donnzpg says:

    Thank you, Sara, for your story of choosing to be childfree. Society long ago should have buried the stigma branded upon women who choose to not have children. Labels such as "unnatural" and "selfish" are still uttered by cruel, ingnorant, or brainwashed people. And the notion of a woman's "biological clock" must also be laid to rest as this implies that any urge to have children, even if it's from a sense of obligation, must be fulfilled. What does this say about us as a species if the collective view is that a woman is making a mistake if she chooses to not bear a child? And for those like "Whatis" who lecture that a woman's ability to give birth is a "gift," I assert that they are the ones who perpetuate acceptance of the most selfish decision anyone can make–to have a child–and to add another human being to the planet. It's time to consider women like Sara (and men too!) who choose to be childfree as selfless, throughtful people.

  4. Gai-Louise Holden says:

    Hi Sara. I sent this message to the email address you listed but it bounced, so here it is as a comment….

    Hi Sara,
    I'm a mum living in Sydney Australia and I just wanted to say that I just read your article and I loved it.

    I totally identify with your story and after living (what sounds like) a very similar life to you I decided to go through with having a child. My son is now 9 years old. When he was younger he had prams and toy cooking equpiment and toy cleaning equipment alongside his 'boys toys', and it's the "girl's stuff" he misses the most now.

    I wanted to let you know that the feeling of being the "odd one out" will probably not change if you have kids. The more mothers I have met the more I've realised that I must be the "weird one". Not because my son had "girl's toys" but because of my philosophy and politics in general.

    You are obviously a thinker too and that's rare in life. People who lead simplistic lives without any depth are challenged by thinkers. It's as if being faced with contradictions to their pre-fabricated socially-acceptable lives will topple them off their perch.

    Somedays I wish that I could have been one of them as there seems to be so much comfort in their ignorance. But the reality is that I am me and somewhere in me there is the gift that I bring by being me. That gift is what I am here for to pass onto my son for him to take into the next generation and hopefully make a difference in this troubled world.

    As well as taking him to the pool I teach him about the bad decisions that have been made regarding chemical usage, GMO seeds, war, food and water quality, etc. As well as taking him to the movies I teach him about sex and drugs. As well as reading to him at night I teach him that although it's important to believe in a higher creative energy in the cosmos, no-one has the right to force their religion on him.

    It's not a normal "family" scenario and most of the time I feel very lonely (I'm a single parent). But I believe in what I am doing. I wasn't going to have children because the world was so fucked up. Back then I couldn't justify bringing a child into a world that wasn't a healthy place to be. For me it was akin to child abuse. But someone said to me "What if your child is the one to make a difference?". That thought just wouldn't leave me.

    I guess it's called "hope". Hope that indeed my child (and others like him) are the ones who make a difference. The ones who reverse the damage we have handed them. The ones who care more about the environment and healthy bodies and minds than their bank accounts.

    I hope you do go ahead and have a child as we need more children with parents who think. It's important though to seek out like-minded people to raise your child around. My constant mission is to find "my herd/tribe" and I mostly feel like I am failing at that.

    Thanks for your article. Even after all these years it's still a ripe area for discussion and it's a shame that Feminist Studies has become so passe thesedays. Thanks for the opportunity to get my feelings out and hopefully it has been helpful for you.

    Best wishes and I look forward to reading more articles from you.

    Cheers,

    Gai

  5. Very well written essay about a very personal decision. Sometimes I think we like to make up our mind "yes or no" about possibilities in life just so we don't have to contemplate the possiblity anymore, because trying to decide just keeps us busy or something. There is really no need to make a decision right now. I think you should just let your life unfold and allow either possibility to happen. If you end up having a child (planned or not really planned) I am sure you will be embrace that outcome and be a great mother, and if it turns out you don't have a child I believe you will still have a great and beautiful life and be a great role model for children of your friends, etc. Also, I know many women who declare "yes I want to be a mother" and who are biologically not able to, and they spend much of their life grieving and feeling inadequate that they are not a mother. Who knows what will happen. Allow yourself to be happy for either outcome. PS it is much easier for me to post this comment than live by it! Best wishes!!!

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