Pondering Motherhood at 44: Am I Insane?
Forever, I have been a child ... or at least felt like one. Though I function in the real world -- taxes, 401(k), jobs -- I basically do whatever I want. Committed to nothing and beholden to no one, I own no property, have no debt and have never needed a lawyer. Let me tell you, sisters, it's been divine. A friend once told me that I "pass for normal" while another claims I was born with "a golden horseshoe" up my ass. So why disrupt my quiet Queendom and tackle motherhood at 44? Am I crazy? Naive? Drunk from luxurious sleep?
After years and years of internal debate, quiet longing and acute observation, I recently arrived at a threshold: The time to plug my nose, cross my fingers and jump is NOW. Hell, the time was actually Yesterday but Today is all I've got.
Though I explored the spendy world of orchestrated conception and considered having the child of my gay cousin (I am adopted, btw), I begrudgingly faced the hard reality that it's just too late. The medical risks just kept staring me down and I've chickened out. If something didn't turn out right and it was tied to my age, well, I could never forgive myself.
And so, adoption it is. And having won the family lotto by being adopted by the fun-loving Clisby tribe at the age of 10 days, I love the idea of a karmic boomerang. The world is filled with all kinds of kids who need a loving home, a second chance, a place to thrive and be themselves. And hey, I've never met anyone blood-related to me so why start now?
Now, I am all too aware of my gaping hole of knowledge when it comes to parenting, and the longer I wait, the bigger that hole gets. The building blocks of my perspective consist primarily of actually being someone's child and observing other people raising theirs. It looks fun but tiresome, messy but spontaneous, joyful and stressful, expensive but enriching. It looks to me like Love.
"Poop. Poop is the biggest downside."
-- stay-at-home dad, Michael J. Madsen, discussing the negatives of parenting on NPR
Though my life has had its standard share of ups, downs and WTF?!'s, it is has been an existence primarily of great amusement and more often than not, pure joy. My family and I get along swimmingly, although they reside at five different perimeters of the nation, while I reside dead center in Colorado. Extensive travel, a fascinating career and a habit of living in beautiful places has left me feeling lucky, if not pampered, by the hand of fate. (The very same hand that delivered me to my family.)
Unfortunately, I have always been somewhat careless with my romantic relationships, never giving this part of my life the laser beam attention it deserves. (Fear of intimacy -- blahblahblah.) And so, I faced the prospect of raising a child alone, which looks to be a mix between Really Fucking Hard and Overwhelmingly Exhausting.
So many times, I came close to joining a wonderful support network called "Single Mothers By Choice." Every time, I'd stop myself with this thought: "But wait, raising a child alone isn't my choice at all. Oh no, I'd really, REALLY rather not." I can understand bravely dealing with that situation when it is thrust upon you, but actively and willfully creating it? Not for me.
"#35 - Honor your family in whatever way works. I give my mom foot rubs and pour her wine; I make dinner for my dad and kiss his bald head. Simple stuff but deeply appreciated."
-- me, giving a gift of Life Advice, via blog post, for a friend's daughter's Bat Mitzvah
And so, I put it off. In hindsight, I should have been more focused about locating a mate who wanted parenthood, but I was still too shy (terrified? insecure?) about expressing such desires, even to myself. Who did I think I was wanting my own family? Hadn't we already figured out that the "You can have it all!" slogan didn't always pan out? What if I suck at being a mom? What if I give them bad advice? Accidentally teach them to cuss?
Then again, I've never met a parent who was prepared for the journey. (Evidently, the Terrible Twos can emerge at any age, and everyone thinks they got off easy with a dream baby until that point. Is that about right?) And hey, there are books to read, right? Also, I understand that a small handful of mothers have taken to blogging so there might be one or two sites to check out ...
Then there's my extensive Girlfriend Network, the great majority of whom are awesome mothers. Each has their own unique style and tactics, many of which I plan on stealing.
There's Dre's legendary Threat of The Wooden Spoon, which worked magic on her two beautiful, polite kids, Gabe and Samantha, who are now official friends of mine too. There's my old college roommate, Laurianna, now a kick-ass firefighter in New Mexico. When her boys are given an electronic toy, a robot or whatever, she immediately removes the batteries before handing it over. They never know the difference and their imagination is more directly engaged. Plus, there' s no whining when the batteries go dead. Brilliant!
"Because I'm the mother. And when you're a mother, you can be mean."
-- Glenn Close as Sarah Cooper in "The Big Chill", in a phone conversation with her children
I especially love Sharon's trick. (She is raising her son, Elliott, alone while studying to be a nurse and kicking major ass at both. She conceived via sperm donor.) When they went to an amusement park, she worried what might happen if her boy were to run off and get lost. So, she stuck her business card in his pocket (her title: "Elliott's Mom") but feeling like she needed to do more, she lifted up his shirt and wrote her cell phone number across his chest with a Sharpie. Both hilarious AND effective.
Pondering parenthood, the question I ask myself is "Why?" I worried that I only wanted to please my family, to give my parents another grandchild, and that didn't seem right. So, I dug deeper and found multiple reasons. I want to be a mother because I know there is a better person inside me that I'm dying to meet -- one that is more patient, less selfish and more giving. I want to be a mother because my own mother was -- and is -- the epitome of a loving parent. (Dad too, for that matter.) If half of their parenting skills rubbed off on me, I'll be golden. Really.
"The thing is, I don't need to understand Burning Man. I only need to understand that it is important to you."
-- my mother, Iva Mae, in one of her Top Five Golden Moments of Motherhood
But mostly, I want to be a mother, because I know there's a kid out there who is just as deserving of a love-filled life as I was at 10 days old. Not yet able to impress the folks with the sparking personality I possess today, I was taken in on pure faith and love. When medical challenges kept me in doctor's offices and hospitals every year, that bond never wavered.
Even when I shoved a handful of fresh sawdust down the back of Dad's sweaty jeans on a dare from my brother, I was not banished from the family. (Although when I tossed my brother's favorite Hang Ten shirt out the motor home window while climbing California's Grapevine Highway, I'm sure there was a meeting about it.) The core of my parental desires comes from a place of intense gratitude.
And let's face it, the comedic fodder alone is worth the price of admission.
"Dear God, My brother told me about being born but it doesn't sound right. Marsha."
-- Children's Letters to God
Recently, I was given a phenomenal gift. My sweet and brave beau (father of two fabulous people, ages 18 & 21) and my longtime friend (a single mother of twin toddlers and mohawk-wearing musician) enthusiastically agreed to help me on this journey in a truly committed way. Not just with the parenthood thing but with the whole getting-off-the-grocery-store-grid concept as well. (The more I read about factory farms, ranches and dairies, the more urgent this becomes.)
Y'see, not only do I want a child, but I want a big-ass garden. And chickens. And goats. And a cistern. And solar panels. And compost. And maybe a few peasant skirts thrown in for good measure. I want that whole hippie enchilada …as long as there is wi-fi, of course.
Incredibly, these two amazing souls have willingly hopped aboard my crazy train, wide-eyed and ready for adventure. If that isn't a big neon bolt of Go! from the Universe, I'm not sure what is.
And so, we are all moving in together -- all five of us (toddlers too) -- to buy a property and get this party started. The weekly meetings for Second Chance Ranch have begun and the gritty details are being sorted. (Tips welcome!) I'm quite short on experience or clues, and I might as well be blindfolded, but I'm as ready as I'll ever be.
And so it is.
BlogHer Contributing Editor, Animal & Wildlife Concerns, Proprietor, ClizBiz