When I was in high school and also undergrad, I’d always pictured myself as a grown up, in my mid-twenties perpetually, living in New York City with a tiny apartment and a social crowd of a few close and trustworthy friends and a separate, diverse group of friendly acquaintances that I’d discover along the way. I’d always be wearing high heels and lipstick, oh and I’d go to the gym everyday. I’d have a cool job, where I was important and made enough money to do what I wanted, to be independent. No true vision of what cool job or enough money actually meant. Being independent would get me there. This was my vision for myself, I guess it was my dream.
With the exception of having a few close friends and a separate, diverse group of friendly acquaintances, my life could not be further from the story above. A few days ago, I turned 30. This isn’t so much about getting old as it is about “independence” and “success” and how I’ve defined those words in the past and how I define them today. I think I was raised to be independent and successful – those goals were instilled in me and repeated often. Ironically, I’m not sure who drove those points home or if I was somehow more susceptible than my female peers to the message delivered by teachers and mentors along the way, but I got the message.
It wasn’t until I became a mother 18 months ago that I actually prefer the beauty that complete dependence and interdependence offers and success as I believed it to be is vastly different than the way I now define that term. When you live 27+ years as I did, seeking to attain independence and success as defined in a paying job, it is utterly confusing to realize your true feelings about things you thought you knew are actually very different than the way you have been living. It’s almost as if I was brainwashed to think a certain way, and now I’m seeing more clearly. Let me explain.
Why’d I use the word brainwashed? Simple, it’s the only way to describe how I feel. I’d like to clarify that I am not attempting to blame anyone at all for my feeling that way. We are all entitled to our opinions and ideas and ideals.
I feel that my former definitions of independence and success were a sum of my experience growing up in the time period and geographical location I did. Our “do” and “constant” culture that I feel exists in the area that I live in presently doesn’t sit right with me, it makes me nervous and anxious. I know it doesn’t make everyone feel this way. Mainly because I recognize that we are all so different, also because I ask people and they’ve told me so.
Back to independence. I’ve felt the value that is placed on being independent as I grew up. I’ve read the tips and tricks on making our children “independent” so early in life and the idea just didn’t sit right with me. When I was reading parenting books that told me to “leave the baby alone and at 2 weeks they should self-soothe…put the baby to sleep and don’t let them fall asleep in your arms, they need to know how to sleep on their own,” I felt so confused. I did these things, well, not really, but every time I didn’t do them, I thought that I was doing something wrong, but it just didn’t make sense to me! I didn’t want my baby to self-soothe, I was there to do it and how could you expect a 4 day old to self-soothe? Or really, even a 1 year old? They are completely and utterly created dependent creatures for a reason, because you are there to take care of them.
Soon after the confusion of all this, I discovered Attachment Parenting. I really like how this link describes it. It makes sense to me. http://ahimsamama.com/2013/01/my-personal-war-on-attachment-parenting/ Call it what you want, it is a way to raise compassionate, empathetic children and a way to create a more peaceful home and ultimately, a more peaceful world. I think it’s a cool idea.
Soooo…I thought things were going to be one way (cool, successful, independent, city-living, corporate status, wealthy) and I was a bit dizzy when everything panned out just the way the universe wanted it to (attachment parenting, codependent, eco curious, thrifty, departure from the paid workforce, has a house and a yard and a dog). Often I feel confused with the student debt and the no job thing, but I want to be home with my baby when he’s sick and I want to make up the songs and do the artwork, not hear about it and pick up the crafts at the end of the day. Not yet at least.
If my explanation makes no sense, I’m sorry, it’s the best I could do. Sometimes I really just talk and talk and talk and I know exactly what I am talking about but no one else does and it used to be frustrating but I’m learning to realize, it’s ok. I don’t get mad when people don’t get me, or think that I’m doing a bad job articulating, how could anyone know what I’m talking about if their experiences have been so different than mine? I just appreciate the listeners more.