Last week, while hanging out with one of my son’s little 4 year old buddies, I got to hear all about how her mommy and daddy were out looking for houses because they are waiting for a new baby and all of the things that that entails. As the kid is sitting there rambling on about the complications of choosing a house she would like and what color she was going to choose for her room, I had my first glimpse of my own itty-bitty midlife crisis. She’s talking about the different pinks, purples, and tie-dye designs that would make up her room, and I’m thinking, oh my god. I’m 35…that is what I’m supposed to be doing! I should be out house hunting with my smart, witty and sexy husband on a lovely spring day, debating the perks of a fixer-upper or a “move in ready” home, while daydreaming about where the baby’s crib would go and how I would orient my garden. That was my plan! Live a totally wild adventurous and fun-filled life in my 20s, fall in love and have 2 babies and buy a house/cool urban apartment before the age of 35! What the hell happened here?
-Totally wild and adventurous life √
-Fall in love √
-Have 2 babies and buy a house…mission thwarted! Go back to step 2 and, uncheck! Go back to step 1, and Repeat, only now you have a baby and are jobless and just moved back in with your mom and have no idea what to do with your life!
I know, everyone’s plan goes to hell. Plans, like rules, are made to be broken/screwed up/totally dismantled. That is someone’s life mission, I’m sure. But sometimes I look around and I think, “dude, they’ve got it. They did it.” I go to friends’ houses that look like Better Homes and Gardens magazines, with everything in its place and new and matching and shit. And I’m like, “wait, how did you guys find all this matching stuff at Goodwill?…oooooh, you actually bought a set!” My home has been cobbled together with furniture and plates and forks and knives that family members did not want anymore. Sheets that don’t fit right on mattresses, mugs that advertise auto sales, and weird floral vases that I would never have bought for myself.
Yes, I hate to say it, because it seems childish and shallow, but I envy those folks, the ones who seem like they’ve got their shit together. The ones who say things like, “I’m so lucky I married my best friend”. Who still have their wedding pictures on the wall. The ones who have a partner in crime to raise their children with, who is equal parts responsible for all of the beautiful and nasty things that come out of those kids mouths. And the vomit. And the diarrhea. I could go on and on.
I know it’s not all roses, and that sometimes it does feel easier to do it alone. I don’t have to argue over child-rearing techniques or over who is going to clean up the puke (I am, obviously, though my boyfriend has gotten better about taking on some of those tasks). But I do get those feelings of resentment, and envy, and on some days just straight up sadness. I look at other couples who are still raising their kids together and think, “wow, look at how they do that together”.
When I talked to my therapist about all this, she asked me, “Do you think there is anything those people, the ones you envy for their perfect houses and perfect relationships, say about you in the same light that you say those things about them? What could they look at you and see that is enviable?” In an effort to really focus on appreciating what I’ve got, here’s just a few of the things I’ve come up with:
-I don’t have a husband-wife team, but I’ve got a pretty serious extended family team, made up of parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, friends, a boyfriend and other single mothers, all of who have committed to helping me raise my boy in one way or another.
-I’ve got a dynamic and diverse community of people, that I don’t know I would have sought out if I had still been in the same relationship I was in in my 20’s. I shift easily between going out dancing with my single friends to having play dates with mommy friends to having revolutionary conversations with my activist friends. This community has also helped me realize that if I really want that second kiddo, I can make that happen, either on my own or with a partner.
-I’ve had the chance to redirect my path and change the things I did not like about the path I had been on.
-I’ve gotten the chance to slowly, carefully let love back in, despite the constant struggle of learning to make myself vulnerable again.
-I may have a totally messy and disorganized apartment full of hand me down furniture, but I’ve got some crazy stories to tell. Way, way more interesting than you can get in the Better Homes and Gardens catalog!