Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

Feeling Directionless July 9, 2012

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice:   I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”

~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Being a goal-oriented kind of person, I have an illustration that includes this quote in my office. It reminds me that writing out goals, creating strategies, and checking off accomplishments doesn’t matter a hill of beans if I don’t have a clear vision of where I’m trying to go.

Despite this reminder, I often find myself overcome with a feeling of being directionless. Yes, I have things I want to accomplish, but I don’t really have a big picture vision of how I want my life to unfold. I don’t have a long-term view of what my life will look like in 5, 10, or 20 years, and beyond. It’s not that I’m looking to plan out my path to the last detail – I know that’s impossible – but I can barely see beyond the end of the year. It’s a strange feeling for someone who, 20 years ago, had her entire life mapped out. Or at least she thought she did.

The trouble is, that life had always included children, and even as I made twists and turns in career, relationships, and geographical location, the expectation of someday becoming a mother was always a constant. Once it became a possibility, it also became the focus of my life.

Now that motherhood is no longer a realistic prospect, my vision of how my life will unfold is missing a big and important piece of the puzzle, and I’m finding it hard to see the future clearly. I have career goals and travel goals, but the vision of who I will be in the future is blurry.

Maybe learning firsthand that plans don’t always work out as we’d imagined has softened my need to make them. It’s also possible that I never really had a vision for my life, but instead adopted the cultural expectation of motherhood and called it my own. Regardless, now it’s gone, I feel like an early explorer who can see my world only as far as the horizon, with no idea of what might lie beyond.

 

Great Expectations October 21, 2011

As young women (or men) we set our expectations and created a vision of how our lives would turn out.

My life was going to include college, a fantastically successful career traveling the world as an engineering consultant, and eventually a life with Mr. Right, in a large English country house with a circular driveway, and four children (including twins.) Sounds like a pretty good life, doesn’t it?

Well, I made it to college, then graduate school, and launched my engineering career, and that’s about as far as my expectations took me. I fell in love with Mr. Romance (who really wasn’t Mr. Right), fell out of love with engineering, and never even got a sniff of anything resembling my four children.

But…

I found my true vocation and now do work that I love. I picked my way through the minefield of potential spouses until I found, not simply Mr. Right, but Mr. Fabulous. These two areas of my life didn’t meet my expectations; they exceeded them.

When I look back at my expectations I realize that I probably wouldn’t have been happy in that life. I’ll never know for sure, but because I made some mistakes and some poor choices, and because things didn’t go as planned, I’ve had opportunities I would never have had, and I have a life that is, overall, better than it might have been.

So often we set expectations for ourselves and when they don’t work out we lament our misfortune or beat ourselves up for not achieving what we set out to do. But I’m coming to believe that life isn’t supposed to go as planned. And sometimes out of those disappointments comes an unexpected and pleasant surprise.

This may all sound a little Pollyanna to those of you who are trying to make some sense of the hand you’ve been dealt, but I really do believe that each of us will someday be able to look back and say, “Wow, this great thing that I have now could never have happened if I’d had kids.” Yes, it’s Pollyanna, but for now, I’m hanging my hat on it.