by Kim Walker
There are too many positive female role models in my life.
Our own bloggess Trish, is one. She spends her days spreading “love and light” in a way that is so compelling, that instead of holding back barf, I legitimately believe she means it. My mom has been through hell and back and come out kicking on the other side, with a hilarious snarky commentary to boot. My mother-in-law went from dodging race riots in Michigan to churning out four incredibly perfect children. Three of those children also happen to be women actively engaged in role-model-ery by working demanding jobs, raising gorgeous children, baking perfect cupcakes and getting up at 4:30 in the morning to work out.
Oh and did I mention all these women are all very, very skinny?
I hate them all.
That’s not true. I love them. A lot. But I hate that I am not them.
Last weekend I went camping with the aforementioned sisters-in-law and their five amazing children, who are all under the age of six. Let’s try that one more time with feeling: Five children, under the age of six. Out of their normal routine. In tents. With boundless energy. With no soft ground. Right next to a lake they all seemed determined to hurl their lungs directly into. A combination so potent that it reduced this childless woman to a twitching, ovary-shrivelled, panicked lump.
It was not the children that brought on the panic. I expected shenanigans from that lot. It was the spectacular mothers that sent me into a tailspin. They never sat down, rarely slept, and kept up a steady flow of cooking, cleaning and drowning prevention. Worst yet, approximately 100% of the mothers' beers were knocked over. And none of them complained. Not even a little.
Meanwhile, I lost a flip flop about halfway through the trip and it was the end of my universe. Here are some of the very grown-up things I said to my husband over the course of the Great Flip Flop Hunt: “But I don’t WANT to wear my other shoes”, “If we don’t find it NOW it will be lost FOREVER”, and “Why do terrible things always happen to meeeeeee”.
When I looked from sisters-in-law, to myself, and back again, I had the creeping realization that one of these things is not like the other. I was forced to review my assumptions about pregnancy and child rearing:
Step 1. Create the miracle of life. Enjoy newfound freedom of eating whatever you want and laying around. Begin saying things like, “Baby needs...” and “Baby wants...” to disguise own demands.
Step 2. Give birth and be bathed in reciprocated love on a deep and meaningful level. Stare longingly into eyes of joy.
Step 3. Get skinny through magic of breast feeding, feed child organic mum-mums, enroll child in competitive pre-school, kick back, relax and enjoy motherhood
Sounds completely reasonable, right? The reality will probably be something more like this:
Step 1. Get knocked up. Feel like shit. Worry about getting fat. Still have to do stuff. Cankles. Get orca fat. No booze to numb pain.
Step 2. Push out kid. Ruin vagina. Kid loud. Kid hard. Resent kid. Scowl at kid. Call kid ‘asshole’.
Step 3. Hire nanny.
Watching these amazing women in action, I questioned my own ability to actually do it: to raise a child and not fuck it up with my own selfishness. And no amount of mulling this over is making me feel any better. My eggs are quickly rotting and I’m going to have to make a decision soon here.
When I was around 17 or 18, I was asked if I wanted to have kids. Without blinking or thinking I answered “Yes, as many as I can”. The certainty of my answer shocked even me. I thought to myself, “Really?” and the follow up was immediate, “Yes, really”.
Trish calls it her spirit voice, Jill calls it her small self, therapists call it your inner voice. Oprah probably calls it “THE SECRET!” or something. I very rarely hear this voice. I almost never
feel that something is ‘right’. In 29 years, I can count on one hand the times I’ve heard that tiny, confident, assured voice. And each of those times, it has counseled me to do something drastic. And every one of those times, it has been right.
As a chronically indecisive person I have clung to these few decisive instances. Brief moments where my head bobbed out of the water long enough to glimpse the shore. Those moments have given me the confidence to act on ideas that I knew deep down were right, even when following through felt scary or wrong.
I may not be a positive female role model myself, but how lucky am I to have so many to lean on and learn from. My brain may be chock full of fears, but how lucky am I to have heard, however quiet and brief, that voice reminding me of what I really want.
I *have* to listen to that tiny voice from so many years ago. Because it’s never been wrong. And because, although I may not know how to be a good parent, I do know that I will counsel my future daughter to always trust her own inner voice. So I had better start practicing what I plan to preach.
Otherwise that nanny’s going to cost a fortune.