I cried today. For someone who does not yet exist.
I’ve been going through the usual symptoms of a quarter-life crisis that plagues my generation this day and age. In trying to figure it out, I’m coming to some vaguely unsettling conclusions, like the fact that I may not want to follow the traditional (and by traditional I mean shockingly recent) path that’s been set out for me and other women my age.
Go to college. Graduate. Get a job. Advance in your career. Date around. Travel the world. Reach your thirties, find a nice man and settle down.
It’s what I always thought I would do – heck, it’s what everyone else was doing around me, what everyone else was telling me to do.
And yet, I can’t help but feel like I want my life to look a little bit different.
Get engaged. Go home. Get married. Get pregnant. Move to Seattle. Have a baby. Have a second baby. Freelance while they grow up and spend my free time enjoying my hobbies.
(For the record, I consider going to school a hobby. A very expensive and prestigious hobby.)
That’s the life that I think I want. But I’m not sure, because it’s not the life that everyone else around me is going for.
Sure, I know some people who are married, pregnant or raising children. But I never thought that’s the life I would have for myself right now.
At least, I never thought I could have it. But to be perfectly honest, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something I’d wanted for a long time.
Wanting to be married, wanting to have a happy relationship has been an obvious goal of mine for a long time. And it’s even taken me this long to feel the conviction I need to be pressuring TM about getting me a ring (when he’s been pressuring me for months! haha).
But as far as children goes, I’ve never been consciously aware of how much I want them.
A cute little picture of a baby popped up on my Kindle as an advertisement. A little black baby girl, with short curly hair, chubby soft skin, pink little lips and wide brown eyes so deep I could stare in them forever.
And she wasn’t even mine.
But I felt this yearning in my chest that made me snap a pic of her and send it to TM, saying, “What if our child looked like this…”
Long story short (boy do I love saying that) we ended up talking about babies for a bit over the next hour, until it was time for TM to give himself a haircut. We were laughing about how he messed up a bit, and how I wished I was there to help him out. And I said how nice it would be if me cutting his hair was like our Saturday morning routine sometime in the future. And then I mentioned how sweet it would look, with me cutting TM’s hair, TM cutting baby D’s hair, and little S making breakfast (because she is not touching my hair! ;p).
And then I started to cry.
I got really upset and was so shocked when the tears actually came. But I was so flooded with happiness in that moment, imagining the kind of future we could have, and then realizing that it didn’t exist yet, that those precious little human beings weren’t even here, and I don’t know why I was so overcome with sadness that actual sobs escaped my throat, but they did, and I cried.
I told TM at that moment, “If this doesn’t tell me what I need to be doing with my life, then I don’t know what else will.”
But this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Sure, it’s the first time I’ve cried, and it may have been the first time I’ve felt so strongly about wanting a child in my life, but it’s not the first time I’ve fawned over cute babies. Let’s find out just a few:
- The summer before my freshman year of college I volunteered with my sisters at a local YMCA. It was just for a few days a week during their summer camp. The kids where anywhere from 5 to 8 years old. I still remember setting up their plates for lunch time (it was always pizza – terribly unhealthy, but if they didn’t eat it the parents would get worried that they weren’t being fed properly), taking them out to the pool and swimming with them, walking them in and out of the building, helping them get changed after recess. I especially remember we had “The Lizard Man” come over and the kids got to touch snakes. And I remember reading them books during storytime. I also remember crying after I left because the two older women who were actually in charge seemed so mean to me. They yelled at the kids, and seemed to have very little patience for them. I felt like they were mistreating them, but they could have just been exhausted from looking after dozens of kids for hours every day. But if you don’t have the patience for it, why would you choose that job? Regardless, I remember coming home one day and just crying my eyes out for the poor things, because I wanted to help them but didn’t know how.
- I studied abroad in Nagoya the spring semester of my junior year. Before I left Japan I’d decided that I was going to be a writer. I applied for lots of media and content marketing jobs that summer, and was thrilled to find out that I got an internship with Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine. I interviewed with them over Skype in the wee hours of the morning, and I got the job! I got to play with children during the summer photo shoots, setting up their play space and keeping them occupied while the mothers took their photos. It was really fun 🙂 I worked there the whole summer, unpaid, and I was really proud of myself for achieving that. Unfortunately, I’m not sure I managed to convince other people of that. My mother, in fact, tried to get my to quit the internship halfway through the summer, in order to spend more time at my second internship, which was paying me. To her, the paid internship (which gave me money) was much more valuable than the unpaid internship (which was something I actually wanted to do). I can’t help but think that it was because it was “just a magazine about babies” so she didn’t see it as really important, but I don’t know.
- The following year I was looking for jobs again, and I started applying to preschools and kindergartens after some of my other ones fell through. More specifically I was sent a job ad for a Japanese preschool in Japan; in addition, my research on foreign language acquisition led me towards Montessori schools, so I started looking into those as well. In fact, I got pretty far in the interview process for a Montessori preschool/kindergarten in Detroit that paid at least $20,000 a year. I was so sure I was going to get this job; it was for a Japanese teacher, and I knew Japanese, and I think the company was thrilled about that. I had had several interviews, and the recruiting head was keeping me up-to-date on their process. I had sat down with TM and had him look over my budget, and we’d determined that I could take care of all my monthly expenses on the salary I would get with them. But my family discouraged me from doing it. And I’m ashamed to say that I listened to them. They said Detroit was a bad area, that I didn’t have the patience to be a teacher, that I would be living below the poverty line (which I’m actually doing here now, while I’m in Japan, but it’s Japan so obviously being poor in Japan is better than making a modest living in Detroit…?). They thought that as a Duke graduate I should be coming out making $60k at the gate. But no teacher is going to make that salary. And they didn’t value the fact that I wanted to work with children, so I was discouraged. And I dropped out of the application.
- After deciding I wanted to come to Japan, I still applied to work in elementary and middle schools. I ended up getting a job that sent me to two middle schools and one elementary school each week, and I loved my children there. Other aspects of the job maybe not so much, but for the most part the students were wonderful, and the lower the grade the tinier and cuter and more enthusiastic they got! I understand now why the job ads require people with big personalities who aren’t willing to make fools of themselves. The sillier you are, the happier the kids are, and there’s just not escaping that fact.
This last point is why I’ve decided to apply to some kindergarten part-time jobs here in Japan for the remainder of the while that I’ll be here.
First of all, I haven’t really been around kids lately, and I’m kind of scared. Would they even like me? How will I know how to look after them? I want to get used to be around them again, because I have a lot of nurturing emotions that need to go somewhere.
And second, because I want to have my own kids someday, but that day could be sooner than later. And I think it might be a good idea to spend some time with them now, to be sure that I’ll be ready to handle at least some of the responsibility that comes with them. I know that other people’s kids aren’t nearly the same as your kids, but I want to go into my decisions with as much information as possible, and I think reminding myself of just how precious (and rambunctious!) they can be would be a good first step.
Either way, I think it’s a great solution for my ticking biological clock issue I’ve got going on right now.
It’s definitely not going to stop it, but hopefully it’ll slow things down at least some 🙂