We of the Never Never.
A few years ago, shortly after my Dad had died, my Mum moved to Melbourne to be closer to family. One day, we were on our way to the city to meet some friends. As we walked up to the tram stop near to where she was staying at the time, out of the blue, and apropos of no conversation we’d ever had, she offered to help me out financially to have a baby.
I was…speechless. And she was tearful as the words tumbled out. She had always thought i’d be such a great mother, she said, and she didn’t want me to miss out on that. She had a little money put by from Dad’s estate and she wanted me to help me out in any way possible, if that’s what I wanted.
We stood in that street in Northcote, both of us welling up with tears, and all sorts of emotions we could barely find the words for, let alone express, seeped into the air around us.
I hardly knew how to respond without breaking down into gut-wrenching sobs…I felt like i’d been punched. The offer, and the need to explain why I wouldn’t – couldn’t – take it up, had come as such a shock, the whole world suddenly felt completely off-balance.
We walked on a bit in silence, Mum wiping the tears from her eyes, and me trying to compose myself enough to answer. And when finally I could speak, I haltingly thanked her from the bottom of my heart for this beautiful offer, but said that I just couldn’t accept. Because for me, what it boiled down to was that it was never just about having a baby.
It was about finding love.
I was never one of those women who know in their hearts that it is their destiny to be a mother, partner or not, and who take matters into their own hands once the alarm begins to sound on their biological clock. For me, having a baby, a family, was always a natural extension of being in a loving relationship with someone, and I just couldn’t conceive of doing it any other way.
Unfortunately for me, that never happened.
There are lots of reasons for this, and the whys and wherefores are perhaps a story for another day. But what it boiled down to was the vagaries of timing and fate on the one hand, and a deep sense of insecurity on the other. Even if by some miracle I had found the right person, I was so consumed by the sense that I was utterly unworthy of being loved, there was zero chance of it ever going anywhere.
I had known for a long time that I had lots of stuff to wade through before I could rise up to meet my fate, whatever that might be. But still. It was hard. Hard to watch friends, acquaintances, workmates, and family slip into the easy familiarity of love and relationships and kids and homes and domesticity…I just didn’t seem to vibrate on that level, though I badly wanted to. And in any case, it simply never came my way.
It should be said, though, that I was also utterly convinced that I was walking the path I was meant to, even as time slipped through my fingers. And as I alternately worked through my mountains of stuff over the years, or assiduously avoided it, at no point did I feel panic set in – that desperation to partner up and have kids before it was all too late. I didn’t want just anyone…I wanted the one. So I was content to wait, and at peace with whatever the Universe had in store for me. If I was ever meant to have kids, I reasoned that the right person would eventually cross my path in time for that to happen. And if not…well…i’d cross that bridge when it came to it.
So many questions began to pose themselves around that ‘if not’ after my Dad died, because by then, that bridge was right on my doorstep. Much of it centred around searching for a clear sense of purpose, and trying to figure out exactly what sort of legacy I was planning to leave, and how, when I had no-one to pass any of it onto. It’s a tricky question, and not just for me…I see that question, or versions of it, on the faces of everyone I meet who realises that I am a single, childless woman in her 40s.
Meeting new people, it was clear this information would leave them wondering how to figure me out, which box to put me in. As the years wore on and my status became more and more vague – neither young singleton nor married woman nor mother nor driven career person – I came to realise that in most gatherings – extended family or friends of friends especially – that I was not just an enigma, but a complete outsider.
None of the standard conversational gambits or fall-backs applied when talking to me, and I found that when people discovered I had neither partner nor kids, things would inevitably falter. I would cover the awkwardness with plenty of questions about their families, but increasingly I felt like an imposter, pretending I was part of something just to fit in, worried someone would find me out.
I don’t blame anyone for this, of course…so much of it is the result of what we’ve been conditioned to expect as a normal life trajectory, me included. But eventually, it just became easier to avoid these sorts of get-togethers…I just couldn’t take the confusion, the judgements, or the well-meaning comments (“It’s not too late!”) any longer.
And so as I entered my 40s, childless and single, and I came to have that conversation on the street with my Mum that day, I could see I needed to start doing some serious work on reconciling myself to both my circumstances and my choices. I had thought I was so okay with everything, but that day left a tidal wave of unresolved emotion in its wake…and I realised these things needed attending to, and acknowledging, and finally packing away. Only then could I figure out what would come next for me in life.
There is a lot written about women who so heartbreakingly discover they can never have children for medical reasons, as well as about women who know with certainty that they don’t ever want them. But there is far less written about those of us whom fate and circumstance have left stranded at the crossroads…perhaps we are slightly too embarrassing, too pathetic to be worthy of consideration or sympathy…the architects of our own misfortune. After all, maybe if we weren’t so fussy we could have had a man and a baby and led a life of peaceful domesticity, instead of realising all too late that what we wanted has slipped away.
But the reality isn’t quite so simple, nor is the problem so easily solved. Sometimes the story is way more complicated, existing as we do in a complicated world.
The truth is we aren’t outliers, or child-haters, or objects of pity or scorn…we’re just women for whom life has not followed the script we imagined it would. And rather than dwelling on that, we’re getting on with writing a new one for ourselves. And we’re okay with that.
I’m okay with that.
And Mum…thank you. Even though I know it’s not what you had envisaged for me, I hope one day I can make you proud of whatever comes next x
Week in Review & Looking Ahead
I had a pretty productive week…i’ve been putting a lot of hard graft into the job search and I have a feeling that it’s going to go from zero to a million miles an hour next week, once the cogs of commerce start turning again. I’ve signed my first freelance contract on Upwork, and another looks to be beckoning. Even though it’s not great money right now, i’m focussing on building up my freelancing reputation for the minute, and getting some virtual world experience under my belt, so i’m happy with where i’m at right now. Blogging and writing has been on point, eBay has been firing, and i’ve cooked like a demon this week! So many posts backed up, which leads me to…
Next week i’ll be focussing on:
- Working through all the recipes i’ve got ready to post on here, and looking at scheduling some for the coming week so that once I start working again, i’ll have content ready to go even if i’m exhausted. Which i’m imagining I will be once the alarm clock starts waking me up again!
- Securing said job offer…i’m hoping I don’t end up torn between the possibility of a perfect long term part time job, which was my original goal (as it would enable me to still keep all my projects on the go while having a steady income stream coming in), and a short term, full time job…which frankly is probably going to happen faster. Either way, I need work, so…come at me, Universe.
- I put my text books on the dining table last week, with a view to start working on them, but…well, it’s a start. This week I have no excuses. Lectures start again at the end of February…and god help me, February is tomorrow. Help!
- Exerciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiise…it was a non-starter last week, apart from (pretty strenuous) yard work. But if this article is to be believed, I have about 15,000 steps to make up EVERY DAY if I ever want to achieve my goal of losing a few kilos…*SIGH*
- I’m going to make my Superfood Salad this week! I loooooove this salad so much, i’ll be having it for lunch pretty much every day – I can’t wait.
- eBay went gang-busters in the last few days…I guess everyone is over the post-Christmas penury and feels like they can spend again! Please, be my guest! And on that note, time to put more items up in the shop 🙂
In the Garden This Week
- The seedlings aren’t quite ready to go in the ground yet…but they’re close. I might be able to get some in by the end of the week…stay tuned.
- I got the lawns done this week…yay! However they seem to be growing again…boo!!! I think I have exactly 1.5 days grace when it all looks perfect and then BOOM, they’re back to looking like a bad haircut. But they can wait til next week, I think. I hope.
- The rhododendron house is half done…the stakes are in, I just have to staple the shadecloth to them. Definitely this week…it just didn’t seem so urgent with the lower temperatures we’ve been having. Fear not little rhodie, i’ve got your back.
- I’m watching my cucumbers…I got my very first one off the vine this week! There are a few more waiting to pop, so i’m looking forward to munching away on those.
- Finally, I need to figure out why my pumpkins always seem to set a lot of fruit, but then they go bad before they get very far. It’s quite disheartening, especially when I give them free rein to ride roughshod over everything in the hope i’ll have plenty of squash come the Autumn…I need to get to the bottom of whatever i’m doing wrong and fix it, pronto.