So, a little while ago, I was thinking about expectations, and my mom's in particular, and decided it would be in her best interest if I told my mother NOW that I didn't think I wanted kids. Truthfully, I'm pretty indifferent to the kid issue, and I imagine I will probably end up wanting them at some point, BUT the truth wasn't the goal of this exercise. The goal was to start tempering my mother's expectations; I just wanted her to be prepared for the possibility that she may never have grandkids to spoil. I confess that I also thought it might be kind of fun to see her reaction. I'm a bad daughter, I know. I wasn't sure if her jaw would drop to the ground or if she would cry or if she'd try to convince me what a joy it is to be a parent (until the day your kids become sick and twisted and tell you that you may never be a grandmother just to see your reaction). So one day, I decided to just drop the bomb completely out of the blue. The conversation went something like this.
Mom: Do you want to come with me to the grocery store?
Me, casually: I don't think I want to have kids.
Mom, without missing a beat: Well that's okay. Some women are more into their careers.
Well that back-fired. Instead of shocking her, she completely shocked me. She shocked me into complete and utter silence. I couldn't believe she was so okay with the idea of me not having kids! Her! My mom! The woman who bought a stuffed animal for her first grandchild when her daughter was 18! And then I went, wait. What? Does she really think I don't want kids because I want to focus on my career?
But...but...I don't even like my present job. I certainly have no plans to make it my lifelong career. When I think about how I've conducted my life over the course of the last 10 years though, it does seem like every decision I've made has been in furtherance of some fuzzy dream of professional success. It is also true that when my high school classmates got married at 22, followed their husbands to wherever they (the husbands) found jobs and then started popping out babies, I absolutely judged them. These were smart girls, and I couldn't help but wonder what happened to all of their youthful ambitions of becoming somebody, apart from just somebody's wife. I distinctly remember one girl whose goal was to be the first female President of the United States. She was one of the ones who got married at 22 and has never lived further than 10 miles from where we grew up. Now, I know that when she tied the knot, it didn't mean she couldn't still become the first female President of the U.S. But in my mind, it did. Marriage meant failure, while getting far away from the town where we grew up meant success.
The thing is, I'm relatively happy with the straws I've drawn in life, but still, sometimes, in some ways, I envy their lives. I envy the fact that they have a family of their own that they can call their number one priority. When someone asks them what the most important thing in their life is, they can definitively say, "My baby and my husband."
And then I look at myself. I've never made having a family, or being in a relationship for that matter, a priority. Actually, I actively avoided it. I've always kind of thought, well, what's the point in getting emotionally invested in someone when we're just going to have to break up at the end of the high school/college/graduate school/summer? I feared that I would fall in love with someone and then have to rearrange my life around him and give up a dream job for a lesser one just so that we could be together. I didn't want love to hold me back from achieving whatever it was I thought I needed to achieve.
So if I haven't chosen to make love and a family my number one priority, does that make my career my number one priority by default? Are those the only options? I tried to think about what might appear at the top of other twenty-somethings' priority lists if not their family/relationship or career. Faith? Charitable works? Drinking? Blogging? Traveling? Coffee breaks? City league sports? Mere survival?
I guess the most important thing in my life right now is figuring out what the most important thing in my life is right now.