You know what they say about assuming...

This morning when I logged in to twitter, someone had sent me a DM with the following question (edited to remove potentially identifying details and broaden the scope of my thoughts):

If I write a post about <insert life choice> and all the pressure as a <insert stage of life> to <re-insert life choice>, will <insert all those people at previous stated life stage pursuing previously stated choice> get mad at me?

Oy…what a question to start the day with. My first instinct? I was annoyed that this individual felt they had to ask. NOT annoyed that they asked, because I was happy to share my thoughts. What bothered me about the question was that they knew there was a possibility - okay, probability - that there would be negative (judgmental) reactions to their choices.

You see, we have this idea that life should go a certain “ideal” way. Here’s the general order in my experience:

  1. You’re born.
  2. You have a childhood.
  3. You go to university or college.
  4. You date.
  5. You start your career.
  6. You get married.
  7. You buy a house.
  8. You have kids.
  9. You have a career.
  10. You retire.
  11. You travel/downsize/become a snowbird (for Canadians).
  12. You die.

But darn it all if humans - who made these rules - don’t bother to follow them! (I know…shocking!)

Some people don’t get a degree, including me.
Some people don’t get legally married.
Some people don’t buy a house.
Some people don’t have kids.
Some people don’t establish a career.
Some people don’t retire.

Despite all these exceptions to “the rules”, people still push these narrow and highly unimaginitive expectations on the people in their lives at the stages when they get there, disregarding entirely any possible reasons that someone might not want to follow this path.

Every time a high school graduate crosses a stage to pick up a diploma, there is someone waiting on the other side to ask them where they’re going to go to school and what they’re going to study. 

Couples who date for more than six months or so fend off questions about when they’re going to get engaged. Then, they get engaged and you’d think people would be happy, but NO! That merely starts the round of wedding date inquiries.

The wedding should satisfy people, but it really doesn’t. How many weddings have you been to where the question of kids hasn’t come up? Not many, eh? Didn’t think so. Seriously? Give them AT LEAST a day before you start asking, people.

I think the time from high school graduation to probably late thirties/early forties have to be the most intense period of life changes and busybody interference and questioning. 

I know people mostly mean well, but I personally found it really difficult - emotionally - when I was asked when I was going to have children. This went on for years, because I’d already lost a baby and you don’t just share that information with everyone you meet. That decision was intensely personal for me and Matt; it wasn’t something that was anyone else’s business. After one particularly awkward conversation with someone who was barely an acquaintance, I vowed that I would not ask anyone else when or if they were going to have kids. If we are meant to have that discussion, it would come up naturally in a way that the other person is comfortable with.

Then I watched a co-worker get relentlessly nosey questions (practically interrogations) about when she was going to get married to her long-time boyfriend for over three years. She handled it with grace and dignity, but it got to the point that even I was uncomfortable when it happened. So, I extended my rule to other life stages as well.

Why?

Because I don’t want to make assumptions about choices that others are making. We’re all different. We all have different experiences and backgrounds that affect our choices. The road I take is right for me to the best of my knowledge. It isn’t necessarily right for anyone else and it’s better that I build a relationship with someone to talk about these things than unknowingly creating a potentially awkward situation for them or me. Ultimately, I’ve found that I develop more sustainable and deep relationships with people when I don’t dig too deep too soon.

Have you ever felt the pressure to make certain decisions about life choices from people around you? How did you handle it?

Decisions that lead to no choices

What can I say to my son on those days when he doesn’t want to leave home? How do I tell him that I have made decisions in my life - decisions long before he was even a thought in my mind - that mean I have no choice other than to leave him every day?

I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Going to work everyday didn’t bother me when I went back to work after 9 months on maternity leave. Sure, I missed him, but I enjoyed my work and the challenges it gave me and I still do.

But…lately I feel a constant pull in two opposing directions. Since the holidays, when Matt and I were both off for over a week, Brandon has changed. Getting out of the house is a monumental battle at least half the mornings in a good week and all of them in a bad week.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I leave him with a friend. She cares about him and treats him well. I don’t have to leave him with a stranger. When we walk out the door, he is fine. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to go to daycare - he just doesn’t want to leave home. He doesn’t want to leave mommy and daddy.

I hear all the time that women have choices in the world now. We’ve been liberated from our previous generation’s oppressive views. We can stay home with our children and do the work of raising them. Or we can work and “have it all”.

I hate that phrase for the lie that it is. 

I do not have it all. I don’t get to spend those hours with my son. I miss out on an enormous chunk of his life at an age that I will never get back. And I’m starting to feel overwhelming guilt for the choices I made before he was ever born that have led me to this juncture. Hindsight gives me clarity that at several points I could have done things differently. And though it’s possible that an alternate path would have led to the same result, I’m in a place where I can’t help but question my decisions.

Ultimately, I feel like I’ve been failing my son these last few months. While I leave everyday to work in a job that I enjoy, I’m increasingly aware that I leave behind a little boy who seems to grieve when Mommy and Daddy say goodbye. It’s excrutiating.

I want to stay home with him - to give him the time he craves with me. But I can’t. I have to leave.

I have no choice.

A little venting and a lot of laughing at myself - because I need to

I can’t give specifics, but I found out something this morning that upset me quite a bit. I’m torn between whether to care at all or whether I should dig a little deeper to find out the story behind it. Another part of me wants to let it ride and see what happens, but I know I may never find out the whole story and it feels too passive. Which makes me wonder if I even need or want to know. Do I?

I probably need to answer that question and then decide what to do next.

*****

Monday of this week I arranged a strollercise date with three other ladies who are all Losing It In Ottawa. Our plan was to meet at the parking lot of the Experimental Farm at 10:00.

I was looking forward to this all week. I had Thursday and Friday off to spend with Brandon and this would give us a good activity outside the house for the morning. My only concern was whether he’d actually let me put him in his stroller. The last time I took him for a walk with it, he used it with very little fuss, so I was hoping for a replay.

I was ahead of schedule all morning until we took longer than I realized to get packed up and get out of the house. I turned on the car, saw the time and knew I was going to be late. I was also not 100% certain of where I was going. I’ve lived in Ottawa 10 years and this was my second trip to the Experimental Farm. The first one was in 2002, so it’s been a while. (No, we don’t get out a lot.) I knew generally where I was going, but when I got to the farm, the “parking lot” part of our meeting place had me stumped. I really should have asked which lot - then I wouldn’t have stopped at half a dozen before I arrived at the right one.

Fortunately, my fellow exercisers were still patiently waiting for me. I quickly assembled the Chariot, threw everything in and got Brandon out of his car seat. When I tried to put him in the Chariot, I faced full-on opposition. So, I decided to go with it. I’m not interested in forcing him into strollers when he’s not interested. So, he held my hand and we straggled along behind the other ladies and their compliant, okay-with-strollers children. (I’m trying really hard not to be jealous of them, but the green-eyed monster is alive and well. Why won’t my child just enjoy his stroller days?)

Less than about 2 minutes in, Brandon’s shoe fell off, so I had to stop and fix it. The ladies kept going, but waited for us further ahead on the path - presumably when they realized Brandon and I were missing. That was when I threw up my mental white flag and told them to go on without us. We were all there to exercise and somebody should get to benefit from the trip. I decided to enjoy the scenery and a leisurely walk with Brandon.

We occasionally bumped into the rest of our group here and there, but we lost them completely about 30 minutes in when Brandon became fascinated by a particular tree. Not long after we left said tree behind, Brandon decided the stroller looked really good and he climbed in on his own. Being a responsible mother, of course, I fastened the straps for safety.

He can’t stand being strapped into a stroller. I don’t know why, but he was getting pretty freaked and wouldn’t calm down, so I had to undo the straps, at which point I begged and pleaded with him to please not stand up while the stroller was moving. If he’d been attached to my bike, this wouldn’t have been an option, but we were just walking with the jogging kit so I didn’t see any harm in it. 

I took full advantage of my newly unencumbered state and started booking it to attempt to catch up to Amy, Lara and Sara. (HA!) I don’t know exactly how far I went, though it was a pretty decent distance. I finally accepted there was no chance to revive my attempt at social strollercising and I turned back to head to the car.

It didn’t take long for Brandon to decide he’d had enough of the stroller again. When he started to climb out, I was tempted to cry. What I didn’t know was that it was about to get worse. Within 5 more minutes, he wanted me to carry him. 

I tried reasoning with him. That almost never works with my 2-year-old.

I tried telling him I couldn’t carry him. In his mind, this is a lie because I carry him all the time (but not for a kilometer to get to our car)!

I tried talking him into getting back in the stroller. He looked at me with his big, tired, blue eyes and started crying when I suggested it.

So I picked him up and started walking. Carrying over 34lbs of a little boy (who is snuggling up and trying to fall asleep) while pushing a stroller down the street. All the way to my car. I was sure my arm was going to fall off, but thankfully it didn’t.

The good news is that I did benefit from the trip after all. I got aerobic exercise and some unexpected strengthening exercise in. (I’m just not sure how I’m going to input the leisurely walk carrying a 34lb child into my calorie counter. I’m just guessing, but I bet that isn’t an option.) The bad news is that strollercising is officially off the list of possible activities for the future.