This post is by K.
Sitting in the driveway in my car, early autumn, W in the passenger seat, engine off:
Me: “I think [having kids] is going to be a super interesting project. Like, probably the most interesting project I ever take on.”
W: “Uh, K…you can’t call kids a ‘project.’ It’s weird.”
Me: “But it is going to be a cool project. I mean, really. Because, you know…I’m not necessarily excited about having a kid. I mean, about actually HAVING a kid. That part sounds kind of horrible. I’m interested in, like, how we would raise a kid together and being openly queer parents and how to raise a kid through a feminist lens without being ridiculous and supporting you in being a primary parent as a dad in a mommy-centric world. So it will be an interesting project–a really interesting project.”
W: “OK. I get that, but if you say it that way to other people, you’d better be prepared. They’re going to look at you funny if you talk about kids like a ‘project’.”
Me: “Yeah, I know. People are going to want me to say, ‘OMG, I can’t wait to be pregnant!’ or, ‘I’ve always dreamed of having a baby!’ or, ‘I’ve always wanted to be a mommy!’ But none of that is true for me. I’m not going to lie.”
W: “Well, you don’t have to lie. Just…try not to be weird.”
When we first made this decision, W wasn’t sure how to react. He tiptoed around me for a couple weeks until I finally asked him why he was being strange. He said he was waiting for me to back out; that he couldn’t believe I would ever, ever be OK with this; that it was more than he imagined was possible; and that he didn’t want to get hurt when I changed my mind back.
As W says frequently, he “knew what [he] was getting into” when we started almost a decade ago, as did I. We were great friends, but poorly fitted in terms of long-term relationship potential.
W likes to stay put. I thrive on change.
W wanted a family one day. I saw myself as childree.
W wanted marriage. I think marriage is a flawed patriarchal institution.
W wanted to live in a quiet area. I wanted to live in a big city.
W is primarily fulfilled by family relationships. I’m primarily fulfilled by activist/career ambition.
As you can imagine, we’ve changed a lot in 9 years. We’ve also stayed the same a lot. And we’ve both made compromises to help this relationship thrive. It’s been worth it. So worth it. At some point, I realized that W had made a LOT of compromises for me. He accepted that I didn’t want kids and never pressured me. He moved for my job and lives in the city because I want to. He knows that I often put my work and causes before anything else, too frequently including him. I once scheduled a workshop on his birthday by accident. I traveled for work on both of our anniversaries this past year (legal Canada/dating and wedding). W doesn’t get too upset. He knows who I am and he (hopefully?) loves me for it.
I’ve made compromises, too, but always for the right reasons, and I don’t regret any of them. I’ve applied to jobs in NYC and D.C. and I was head-hunted once for a D.C. job–that was one step away from my dream job, but it wasn’t exactly the right fit or the right time for W and me to move. I stayed in our college town while W finished his degree, even though I had aspirations to move to take an entry level feminist job in a city. In 2011, we got queer married, something I never thought I would do or want.
W has become more and more of a homebody over the past few years. We’re married and last year, we bought a nice, 2-story house in our medium-size city. Life is pretty stable, which is usually something W craves. So I wasn’t sure why W still seemed restless. Once in a while he’d be visibly sad, but wouldn’t talk about it. We talk about everything else. I was hurt that he couldn’t share this sadness with me. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
In college, we were both student leaders, activist leaders, really busy people. I continue to have a frenzied lifestyle. W’s interest in doing that kind of stuff had petered out, so I thought maybe that was what was missing–committees, activism, leadership opportunities, volunteerism. Something to be passionate about. But W was passionate about something and he was trying to stifle it out of respect for me.
As one friend mused, “It must feel like you finally cracked the code.” I suddenly realized that I was living the future-life I had imagined for myself–director at an activist nonprofit, professional community organizer, relatively well-known in my field, house full of furbabies, etc. At 30, I was pretty much where I’d hoped I’d be back when we were in college. At 31, W was happy with his life and with me, but he wasn’t where he’d hoped to be. W had imagined his grown-up self with a baby, a human kid, a family life extending beyond me and the furkids.
So, I decided. I decided to support his goals and dreams, as a partner does, as he has done for me. It may sound like I’m having kids for the wrong reason, that it’s a compromise I will come to regret, but that’s not it at all. In fact, I think this is exactly the right reason to have kids. It’s a really intentional decision for really rational reasons in the context of my relationship with W, and because we have the class privilege (and don’t have the body parts to have pregnancy risk in our relationship), it is 100% planned. For better or worse, this is also why it’s a multi-year plan.
I learned quite a while ago that intentionally creating weirdness to make yourself cool is generally…a jerk move. And potentially elitist. When I weird people out, I want it to be for the rights reasons. I can be frank on this blog because I control the conversation. I can be frank with my close friends, because they know me. In fact, my closest friends were totally weirded out when I told them, because they know me and understand the magnitude of this decision. I appreciated their weirdness. It was validating. Because this is so weird for me. But with people who I am not close to, distant co-workers and strangers and acquaintances, I don’t see a need to make people feel uncomfortable in order to make myself feel more comfortable. I’ll still push back if they say something uncool to me, but I won’t go in assuming everyone won’t understand me–wah, wah, wah. I don’t need to be a special snowflake.
So I had to think hard and literally make a list of what I was excited about, to figure out what to say. Here’s what I came to. It’s W. W is the reason why this is exciting. We are going on this adventure together and it will be one of many adventures we’ve had and will have together. I know W will support me when the “mommy stuff” makes me want to scream. I know we are both going to be awesome parents and that W will love being the primary parent. I know I can talk to W without filters about this “interesting project” and that I will still have lots of room in my life for my activist and career goals because W knows how important that is to me. W is the X-factor, the W-factor. It is my love for him and our commitment to caring for each other that makes this the right decision. And makes our home perfect for a little human boobaloo.
So I finally came up with something that would be honest and not weird at all. I’ve tested it out and it’s working perfectly. I still get the requisite unsolicited advice and the questions that make me a little uncomfortable, but I feel like I’m being true to myself.
My official, “We’re going to have a baby,” speech:
“W and I are planning to have a kid in a year or so and I’m super excited to have a kid with W. I think we’re going to have a lot of fun.”