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When You Can Only Handle One Child–And That’s OK

8 Jan

IMG_1607The thing about a pain threshold is, you don’t know what yours is until you arrive there. I always suspected I had a high pain tolerance, but I’d never broken an arm or had stitches or surgery, so it was just a theory. Then I went into labor, and I resisted an epidural until 24 hours after my water broke. After that I thought, OK, so maybe threshold for pain is kind of high.

If you asked me if I want another child, I’d tell you, no, never. No, I never want to be pregnant again, never want to give birth again.

But what I wouldn’t tell you is this: Almost two years later, thinking back to those newborn days makes me shudder. Our little house in Denver a warm cave, me isolated in it, scared and figuring out how to take care of an infant, my family a thousand miles away, waking up every morning wondering how we’d make it through the day.

I wouldn’t tell you about the long days when my daughter was a bright and active six-month-old, so sweet and lovable, and I was utterly bored and yet overstimulated by her needs, by the sheer physicality of the existence into which I’d been thrust, so different from my former life that was dominated by my thoughts, my time spent in my imagination or in front of a book or computer screen.

It’s not pleasant to admit that even now, though I’m much happier working full-time, I’m barely hanging on most days, adjusting to the new normal of shuttling the toddler to daycare, commuting to work, squeezing in errands on shortened lunch breaks and falling into bed at night feeling as though I ran a marathon. And even though my favorite part of the day is picking her up from school and hearing her shout, “Mama!”, the two hours I spend with her before bedtime sometimes seem like too much.

Of course I’m completely in love with my daughter, with her dark denim blue eyes and perfect creamy skin, her mischievous smile and offbeat dance moves. I can’t imagine life without her, would lie down on train tracks for her, if it came down to it. But for every moment of deep joy and pure bliss her presence brings, there’s a moment of sheer frustration, gritted teeth, bone-deep weariness, or longing for escape.

How do you know you’re done having children? it’s a favorite subject on the mom blogs and Facebook groups I frequent. “We felt like someone was missing,” is a common sentiment. It’s a sense of imbalance that makes me wonder whether we are truly done. Two parents, one child; things are always teetering too far in one direction or another. The worst friend groups growing up were the triads; two always splitting off and one left out. Who’s to say a family of three would be any different? My daughter needs an ally, someone with whom she can rebel against us, question us, commiserate about our neuroses.

But how could I do it all again–the uncomfortable pregnancy, the brutal birth and recovery, the dark newborn days? Further, how could I multiply this life we’ve created by two? Another little body needing clothing and sustenance, needing my arms to carry it, a little heart needing every ounce of love and strength and patience my soul can muster, and then some.

I went to acupuncture for the first time, hoping to finally sort out the hormonal roller coaster I’ve been strapped in since giving birth. “You’re depleted,” said the acupuncturist. “We need to work on building you back up.” If we had another child, I would be emptied once more. I survived it once, barely. There are no guarantees if I tried again.

In one of those “should I have another baby?” conversations, one person said, “Sometimes life chooses for you.” It’s a truth that leaves a lump in the throat, a tough pill to swallow. A blend of nature and nurture created my introverted personality that’s unable to bear a lifestyle so many women seem to cheerfully master—maybe it’s these same fates that will dictate my family size. Maybe our family will end up bumping along clumsily, like a wagon with a missing wheel. But that’s better than trying to take on more than I can bear, causing everything to come crashing down around us.

I wanted to be a person who didn’t need drugs to give birth, but I couldn’t do it. Even after 36 hours of labor and 3 hours of pushing, I ended up with a c-section, just like my mom and my sisters. My doctor said it’s possible our pelvis shape prevents us from having successful vaginal births. It’s just the way we’re made.

Sometimes you’re stronger than you know. Sometimes you can bear more pain and carry more weight than you ever thought possible. And sometimes no matter how much you hope or wish otherwise, the way you’re made determines how much you can take, and life chooses for you.

And sometimes, maybe all you can carry is one.


When Becoming a Quitter Became Good for My Soul

15 Dec


You must know this about me: I’m not a quitter. If I start something, I finish it. Some people love starting things: projects, chapters in life, new tubes of toothpaste. I like finishing them (let’s not get into how often I feel paralyzed about starting something and so never do). When I was in college, I took a temperament analysis that ranked my level of self-discipline off the charts. I liked this about myself.

But, time, age, marriage, and motherhood have changed me. I’m no longer off-the-charts disciplined (maybe that’s a good thing!), and now, I guess I’m a quitter, too.

It all started at the end of October, when my husband, my roommate, and I decided–impulsively–to do Whole30 together. Whole30 means for 30 days you only eat whole foods, and you avoid sugar, grains, beans, peanuts, dairy, and alcohol. So, in other words, you’re eating a bunch of meat and vegetables for thirty days. It was awful. I almost immediately entered a crazed state where all I could think about was food! I was in a terrible mood. I didn’t see the weight loss, or any of the “non-scale victories” the program touts, like better sleep, more energy, better mood, better skin, etc. Two weeks in, I was still hungry all the time, and I was super stressed out constantly thinking about what I could eat and planning meals/shopping lists.

It was dumb. I thought about it and realized it was not a good program for me. I’m much better at moderating my intake of something rather than abstaining all together. Also, I’d had a pretty dysfunctional relationship with food for several years in my twenties and this just seemed to trigger that. And, as much as I hated to admit it, even though Zadie was 10 months old at the time, I still felt like I was getting used to all that’s involved in being a mom. Adding a strict diet program on top of that felt like so much pressure.

So I quit. I didn’t finish Whole30. I didn’t even finish Whole15. On the 13th day, I quit. And I kept eating within the program for a few days–I didn’t just go out and eat a pizza or something. I just needed that weight lifted off of me, and the feeling of freedom I had was amazing. I also felt proud, because I realized that I had honored my story, my temperament and my needs in this situation. Before I quit, I dreaded having to tell people I didn’t finish the program; I couldn’t do it, I was too weak. But the freedom that came from honoring myself in my decision extended to the freedom to tell people I had quit, without shame.

It felt so great, I’m thinking of quitting something else: stay at home motherhood. I’ve written about it here before, but I just don’t know if it’s for me. To be honest, I’ve been agonizing over this decision for a couple of months now. Partly because the only kind of motherhood I’ve experienced so far is the stay-at-home variety, and it’s hard to imagine what it would be like to mother Zadie if I weren’t with her all the time. But it partly feels like I’m giving up. Like I couldn’t handle something that lots of women handle beautifully every single day, with many more kids, or kids with special needs.

I wanted to give staying at home a try; I tried and it sometimes feels like I failed. I enjoy being with Zadie immensely, and have moments of heart-exploding joy and love with her every single day. But I also have many times throughout the day when I just don’t want to do it anymore. I don’t want to be a full-time caregiver. I don’t want to continue to lose other parts of myself in order to be the one who changes Zadie’s diaper and feeds her and reads to her all day. It’s difficult to not feel selfish, or weak, or to worry that I’ll regret my decision to go back to work.

But after my experience quitting Whole30, I’m curious: what if instead of giving in to guilt and social pressure, I take a good look at myself, my strengths and weaknesses, my skill set and my dreams, the needs of my family as a whole, and make the decision from there? And if that decision is to “quit” being a stay at home mother, what if it leads to the same feeling of freedom and release from pressure that I had when I quit Whole30?

So I guess sometimes it’s good to be a quitter. Maybe it’s more about knowing when to quit?


Letting Go of My Past Self: Thoughts on Motherhood

11 Apr

“After a while you could get used to anything.” This quote, from Albert Camus’ The Stranger, struck me as profound when I read it as a senior in high school. The main character says he believes he could live inside a dead tree trunk, with nothing to look at but “the sky flowing overhead,” and little by little he would have gotten used to it.

This is about as deep as it gets for a 17-year-old, and to be honest, the line has stuck with me as a sort of mantra through different transitional times in my life. The discomfort of change can be paralyzing, depressing, crazy-making, or can just plain suck. But I’d remind myself that I could get used to anything. Working at a summer camp where I had to be ready to leave my dorm at the ungodly hour of 6 am every morning? Sure, it was tough at first, but I got used to it. Reading a required 1,200 pages a week as a grad student? Of course it was intimidating, but I got used to the workload and to spending Saturdays in the library. When I became a teacher, I thought I’d never get used to getting up every day in front of a bunch of kids, but I did.

And back in January, when I suddenly had a tiny baby to care for, and had to learn to handle her and wash her and change her, when I spent hours a day on the couch learning how to feed her, I knew that at some point in the not-so-distant future, I would get used to this, too.

It’s the less tangible parts of my new role as a mother that are harder to become familiar with.

It’s like when I got married and became a wife. It didn’t take long to become accustomed to the weight of my wedding ring on my finger, or for waking up next to my husband to feel normal. But it took so long to get used to my new identity as a wife, to get used to a totally different way of being in the world: married rather than single.

So it is with motherhood. I’m no longer staggering under the workload of caring for my baby. I change diapers all day without blinking an eye. I can strap Zadie into her car seat or wrap her up in a sling with ease. I settle down to nurse my baby a half dozen times a day and (usually) don’t think twice about it. I haven’t slept in since New Year’s. All of these things I’m somewhat used to.

What I can’t get used to, though, is the sheer weight of responsibility I carry now as Zadie’s mother. It is my job to protect her, nurture her, and sustain her with my own body. The diapers and the breastfeeding will stop one day, but the responsibility I have for my daughter will continue for years. While it’s an incredible privilege to be her mother, if I let myself think about it much I feel suffocated by the burden I carry for her health, her happiness.

Recently I had a bit of an existential crisis about it—I longed for the days when I was only responsible for myself. I wanted to hop into a time machine and go back to my early twenties, to my traveling days, to Israel and Australia and Norway and Ireland and the rest. I wanted to strip off the heavy cloak of motherhood and be free again. I felt a weight in my chest that felt remarkably like grief, and then I realized: it is grief. I’m mourning the loss of my old self. She started dying during my pregnancy and now she’s gone forever.

I read a little devotional yesterday that had these words to share:

Out of Christ’s death comes life, and so for us. If there’s something you need to pronounce “dead” or “deadly” in your life, pronounce it. If there’s something of your past life that’s simply on a ventilator, let it die. It’s the only way you will know life, know the resurrection life that Jesus promises.

That desire to hop into a time machine was a wish to bring the dead back to life. But the only way to experience life now is to accept the death of my old self and embrace the new one. On that first Easter Sunday thousands of years ago, women who were mourning Jesus’ death arrived at his grave to pay their respects, but instead angels and an empty tomb greeted them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead?” the angels asked.

Why do I look for life in my past? The only life I can experience is here, now, in the present. That’s where God is working, that’s where the Holy Spirit is hovering over the darkness in me. A few years ago I wrote an essay called “To Be Born Over and Over Again,” and I had no idea how true my words would become.

In Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, one character says, “To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to die one hundred deaths.” And this, truly, is what I am resistant toward. I am resistant toward those hundred, those thousand deaths that make up a true, growing life, keeping us from stagnation and decay. The death of dependence as I walked into adulthood and learned to pay my own bills and manage my own affairs. The death of childhood friendships as we diverged into different life phases—marriage, children, singleness—and could not keep our ties tight enough. The death of dreams, of relationships, of innocence, of longtime habits and sins, of ideals and ignorance. We all die these deaths.

And yet if we have lived long enough to be marked by death, we know by now the great mystery that death brings life; all births require a kind of death. To live is to die a hundred deaths, but you might as well say to live is to be born over and over again. It is the approach to that birth that we fear and resist and see as death. But the pain of letting go of my girlish dependence made way for the birth of the woman Joy. One day, this fear and pain of giving up my independence will make way for myself to be born again as a mother—just as the literal pain I endure will bring forth my own baby.

…But the birthing process, and the first terrified and joyful weeks, will be raw, because that is an essential quality of new life. And I must labor again when I agonize over my children’s taking flight from our nest, and I must be reborn as another woman, another Joy, and learn to give birth to other ideas, relationships, and dreams. Oh God, let me never resist the deaths and the births that make up my life.

And that’s still my prayer. That I won’t seek the living among the dead. That I won’t stagnate and refuse to die or to be born again. That I will be changed, marked, by the deaths and births in my life, and become a better self because of them.

4 Weeks In: Thoughts on Motherhood

1 Feb

DSC_0923 - Version 2Four weeks ago today, I met my daughter Zadie for the first time. Four weeks ago, I became a mother. Of course I’m tempted to say this has been the most difficult four weeks of my life…but that sounds melodramatic, and also, I can think of much more difficult seasons, when I was in emotional turmoil over something or other, and thankfully I’m not in emotional turmoil as I start growing into my new role as a mother.

Don’t get me wrong–about 90% of this transition time has completely sucked, and of course there’s all the hormones and emotions. In some ways, it’s like getting married again–the welcoming of someone into every space of your life, and having to get used to them there, no matter how much you wanted them in the first place. The getting to know a person, their preferences and peculiarities and the dance between their needs and yours. The uncovering of your immaturity and selfishness at every turn.

But on top of all that, taking care of a newborn is so much stinkin’ work. I told my sister the other day it feels like I’m at boot camp, just endless discomfort, work and sleep deprivation, and I keep having the feeling of wanting to go home. I’m the youngest child, hence not exactly the nurturing type. Breastfeeding tests my patience multiple times every day. I think sometimes the hardest thing is the shame I feel at not being nurturing enough, or patient enough, for not loving every second of taking care of my beautiful, healthy baby.

Every year on New Year’s Day Robert and I reflect on the previous year together, from best moments and worst moments to best and worst books and movies. And we look forward to the year ahead, often choosing a word that we want to define that year. Three days before Zadie was born, I chose my word for 2016: JOY. I knew that change and transition has always been incredibly hard for me, even when it’s good change, and I wanted to choose joy over stress or anxiety or self-pity as I entered this new season of motherhood. I wanted to delight in my baby and in staying home with her and in being here in Colorado. And yet, joy is very low on the list of emotions I’ve felt these past 4 weeks. Self-pity is actually pretty high on the list. Frustration, too. I’ve definitely had moments of heart-swelling love for Zadie, and lots of moments of heart-swelling love and gratitude for Robert, who has been an amazing partner in all of this, but it’s been hard for me to truly delight in this season. Was that too much to ask of myself, at least this early, considering the hormones, the sleep deprivation, the physical recovery from childbirth?

I keep thinking about this poem I’ve seen over the years:

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. 

–Rabindranath Tagore

I dreamt of this year being full of joy; the reality of motherhood is that it is a life of service. My prayer, then, for this year is that as I live out the actions of being a mother, I will find my service to be joy.


Never Say Never (At 9 Months Pregnant)

30 Dec

Yeah, that’s Juliette from Nashville, going into labor

There’s some things I expected to happen during my pregnancy that never happened (or at least, haven’t happened yet…we’ve still got a couple of weeks). Like, I haven’t had a stranger touch my belly or even ask to touch my belly. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had anyone, even close friends, touch my belly without asking. I’m very happy about this, don’t get me wrong. I just wonder if my face says, “Don’t even think about it”? Also, thankfully I have not had anyone say something to me in the manner of, “You look like you’re about to pop,” or, “Must be twins!” I don’t even know how I would respond to that…

But one thing people have done during this pregnancy, that is also pretty annoying, is ask about our plans for other children. Besides the one I’m focusing on carrying/nurturing right now. It’s like, let me see how this one goes, all right? But also, the truth? I have really hated being pregnant. Maybe there’s been a few sweet moments here and there of anticipation or wonder over the little life growing inside me. But mostly it’s been discomfort, pain, and an increasing horror over the (also increasing) size and shape of my body. I honestly cannot imagine going through this, willingly, ever again. I may have even said to Robert a handful (a dozen) times that I am never getting pregnant again. We don’t want an only child, so adoption it is! We’ve both always liked that idea anyway.

But the truth is, 9 months pregnant is not the time to being saying “never.” I’m still in the weeds, still climbing to the summit or trying to finish the marathon or whatever metaphor you want to use. The main thing is, I haven’t laid my eyes on the prize yet. I haven’t met my little baby or looked into her eyes or gotten to know her. I have a feeling that a year from now, my perspective on pregnancy will be greatly changed, because I will truly know what the pain and discomfort produced. One of my favorite bloggers, Emily Henderson, put it this way:

“I think your first pregnancy can be the least fun in a way because you don’t really know how amazing the reward is about to be. I really wanted a family and of course I knew that the pregnancy would lead to that, but it’s just so conceptual, so abstract before it actually happens. But for my second child I think I’m going to like being pregnant more because I hold the result of my first pregnancy in my arms every day, and I know now what I can look forward to at the end of those long nine months. You really don’t know the joy of being pregnant unless you can imagine the happiness of the result.”

Elsewhere, Emily compares pregnancy to a super long flight to some destination that everyone tells you is fabulous but you have yet to visit yourself. The first three months you’re in a cramped jump seat in the back of the plane, with turbulence, right next to the bathroom, and you’re uncomfortable and sick and wondering why you signed up for the trip in the first place. The second trimester they let you sit in economy class and you kind of forget you’re on a plane for a while, except everyone around you gets to drink and you don’t. Then the last month or so, they move you back to that cramped seat and take away any bodily comfort or pleasure and also deprive you of sleep and all you’re thinking is, this place I’m headed had better be as amazing as everyone says it is! And then the descent is super scary and everyone’s sure they’re going to die, but you don’t die, and you arrive at this wonderful destination, and it all seems so worth it.

So yeah. I really relate to that analogy, partly because I’ve done a fair bit of traveling and have even had those super uncomfortable, long-haul flights to places I’ve never been and wondered, “Why am I doing this again?” But every single time it’s been worth it. Every single time. Of course, the discomfort and sacrifice and length of pregnancy is worse and longer than any long-haul flight, but I imagine getting to know my little daughter will also be an incomparably better and sweeter adventure than any I’ve had anywhere on the globe.

So I guess what I’m saying is, stay tuned. After baby girl is here (well, probably several months after), I’ll be able to give my true and complete thoughts on pregnancy.

What do you think? Did you love being pregnant? Hate it? Fear it or desire it? Somewhere in between?


Does Parenthood Have to Be a Waking Nightmare?

6 Nov

Stressed-mum-579839When I was engaged, people were enthusiastic about my upcoming marriage. A lot of them said, by way of congratulations, “You’re going to love marriage!” and “Welcome to the marriage club!” It wasn’t until after we were married and hitting all the little bumps a couple hits in their first year that the truth came out from our friends: marriage is hard. It’s work. It’s a lot of compromise and dying to yourself. But, it’s worth it!

Pregnancy is so different. First, the amount of joy and support people have expressed is far beyond what it was when I became engaged. I mean, if you want to make your friends happy cry, let them see you pregnant and touch your belly. But, at the same time, being a pregnant woman means I’m a magnet for warnings, horror stories, and sarcastic advice like, “Get your sleep now!” I’m also recalling all of the horrific, poop-filled status updates and blog posts I’ve read in the past few years; they’ve all lain dormant and now are coming back to me in one giant, teeming mass of dread that basically boils down to one idea: having a baby is the worst thing ever.

I’m not crazy to think this. Our culture sends this message all the time, from sitcoms and commercials to our friends’ social media feeds (trust me, the tales of sleeplessness and potty training-gone-wrong have a lot more staying power than photos of their Halloween costumes). Please don’t get me started on the endless mommy-blog-rant-articles that show up in my Facebook feed almost every day because my mom friends have either liked or shared them.

Slate writer Ruth Graham wrote last year how this culture of “real talk” about parenting is confusing and alarming for the non-parents and expecting parents of the world. About those Scary Mommy/Rage Against the Minivan type of viral blog posts, Graham notes, “My Facebook feed goes wild for this stuff. ‘So true!’ my friends write over and over again, because apparently parents never get their houses clean, never have sex, never read books or have adult conversations, never shower, and never, ever have a moment to themselves. (Somehow they do find the time to blog.)”

And then I come across a study saying the birth of a couple’s first child made them unhappier than even losing their spouse or losing their job. Yikes. Or this one: “Stressed, Tired, Rushed: A Portrait of the Modern Family.” Or Jennifer Senior’s bestselling book, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood.

So as my pregnancy winds down (winds up?), I can’t help but feel incredibly ambivalent about the whole idea of having a baby. Mostly negative feelings, to be honest. I get to quit my job in a few weeks–yay!–but then I have to endure birthing a baby out of this body of mine, with all the pain and discomfort that brings, and then what do I have to look forward to? Apparently, more physical discomfort and horrors in the postpartum/breastfeeding phase, absolutely no sleep, and a hefty dose of “mom guilt” that other women swear is inescapable. And I’m supposed to be excited? Sure, once in a while I feel great anticipation over seeing our daughter’s face for the first time, watching her learn and grow into her own little person, but then these other voices come crashing in, talking about baby blues and postpartum depression, destroyed marriages and lost selfhood and living in “crisis mode” until the children are at least halfway through elementary school.

Since when did having and caring for a baby and/or children become a crisis, rather than the most natural thing human beings do?

Robert has noticed me sinking into a more and more negative state about our upcoming addition, and he suggested I just sit down and think about all the great things about having a baby and starting our family. He’s right. I need to dwell on the positive a bit more, and keep looking at my favorite positive mommy blogs (Love Taza and Cup of Jo, I’m looking at you!) that don’t do the “I haven’t showered in 3 weeks and my clothes are covered in spit up and I can’t remember the last time I had a thought to myself but this is the best job in the world!” dance. They focus on the positive, which is what I need to hear right now. (I should also probably rewatch all 6 seasons of Parenthood, right?) The real, poop-covered stuff is inevitable, and I’m completely aware of that. I’m not going to be blindsided by the fact that babies cry and spit up and don’t sleep for 8 hour stretches. But I hope I will be blindsided by some of the good things about motherhood, some of the tiny joys that people don’t share–maybe because they seem too insignificant? Or because they’d feel they’re bragging? Or because they feel too special, too vulnerable to share?

I love reading the motherhood interviews on Mother magazine, and this woman’s answer to the question, “What was the biggest surprise to you about having children?” really stood out to me:

“All the things that worried me about having kids before I had them were the wrong things. I worried, really worried, about things, like how I would not be able to have brunch or sleep in on Sunday mornings. I just couldn’t wrap my head around what my life was going to look like and that seemed terrifying. Of course, all those things are true—I never sleep in, I rarely have brunch, but what I didn’t know is how little I would care. I try to tread gently when I say this to friends who are deciding if they want kids or not, because I can sound like I’m into evangelizing, but my experience of having a baby was that it suddenly pulled back the curtain to an entire part of the world I couldn’t see before. I had no idea how big my heart could stretch, how vulnerable that would make me feel, and what an amazing experience it would be to learn to live in the world with all that vulnerability.”

When women share like this, it helps push back the dark dread that can crowd out any joy I feel at the prospect of bringing new life into the world. I want to try and follow Mary Oliver’s advice: “Keep some room in your heart for the unimaginable.” I can easily imagine all the trials and the hardships of new parenthood, but what I can’t imagine is the bond I’ll share with our daughter, or the beautiful little moments of caring for her and watching her grow. That doesn’t mean they won’t happen. I just need to keep making space in my little worried heart for them.

I’d love to hear your positive experiences of motherhood, too, or maybe your thoughts on why our culture has tipped so dangerously toward sharing the bad instead of sharing the good?

Keeping It Simple: On Downsizing and Stay-at-Home Parenthood

27 Oct

Julia & Joel from NBC’s Parenthood. A great example of successful stay-at-home parenthood, at least for a few seasons!

There’s a lot of standard questions people ask when you’re pregnant. The usual suspects, of course: When are you due? Boy or girl? Do you have a name yet? How are you feeling? But then, when there’s time to dig a little deeper, questions often turn to, “Will you go back to work after the baby?”

I’ve given this a lot of thought–I’m still giving it a lot of thought–and it’s one of those topics I don’t tire of discussing with my girlfriends. For now, it looks like I’ll be staying home with Baby, and trying to take on some freelance writing and editing on a part-time basis. I waffled for a long time (not because my company has any kind of maternity leave to speak of–they give TWO DAYS and that’s it…yes, feel free to rage with me!!); I was worried I’d get super bored at home, or resentful having to do all the   baby care and housework, which translated to me as grunt work. I was worried I’d lose my identity, my sense of purpose as a contributing member of society. But then I realized, I’ve never found my identity much in my job, but in my relationships. Same goes for purpose. I’ve had very few jobs I loved, OK, maybe one job I loved. Work for me has always just been a means to an end, a way of supporting myself and paying off massive student loans. Also, as I’ve grown older I’ve realized the “identity” question is kind of a false issue…I worried myself sick over losing my identity when I got married and became a wife; now I know that, sure, huge life transitions like that will change me, but I’m still me! I know motherhood will totally change me, but I’m not worried at all about losing my identity (maybe a perk of having a baby a little later in life?).

But the clincher for me in deciding NOT to work full-time with a baby (even if I had a great job that provided maternity leave and basic human dignity to its female employees–do I sound bitter?) was that a family life with two working parents sounded hectic and anxiety-producing to me. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to have a lot of plates spinning, a lot of irons in the fire. I don’t like rushing from one thing to another. In my mind, working full-time would mean rushing to get myself and baby ready in the morning, dropping off baby at daycare, rushing home from work to pick up baby, rushing to make dinner, then to do bathtime and bedtime with the baby. I can’t imagine a full five-day workweek of that kind of schedule! I know tons of moms do it, either because they want to or have to, and they make it work and some even love it!

But right now, I have a choice, and I choose a quieter, simpler life. I realized in our marriage so far, Robert and I have tried to be intentional about creating a simpler life: less stuff, less engagements, not being afraid to say “no” to things. Moving to Colorado was part of our quest for a simpler life, I think. And recently, we sold one of our cars to downsize, save money, hopefully cut down driving time/pollution, and just live more simply. We spent the first few years of our marriage with only one car, and that was in L.A., so I think we will be OK, but I also know that sometimes living simply means you don’t get everything you want. You don’t get to hop in the car and go somewhere any time you want. You don’t have the perfect kitchen tool for the recipe you’re about to try, or the perfect guest room for visiting friends. But enough studies (and life experience) have shown that less choices actually translates into less anxiety, more peace, and often more gratitude.

I’d love to hear your thoughts: do you like to simplify, or do you revel in abundance? (Gretchen Rubin says there are two categories of people–simplicity lovers and abundance lovers. The simplicity lovers say, “I want to feel empty,” while the abundance lovers say, “I want to feel full.”) Do you like downsizing? Are you a one-car family, and if so, what are your survival tips? (Mine is communication!) What do you think about staying at home to parent, or being a working parent? (Anne Marie Slaughter said in a recent interview that we should do away with the term “stay at home parent” because it assumes one is supposed to be in the workplace…) Let me know what you think!

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