I spend a lot of time reading articles written by parents who list specific desires for their children’s futures, and I listen to a lot of my friends who have children describe, with a lot of specificity, what they’d like their child’s life to be: what kind of schools, where they might like them to grow up, and how they might turn out in the end. It’s usually pretty straightforward: financial stability, emotional health, safe drinking water, for them to be feminists, or to go to Harvard. And much of the time, it’s a reflection of whatever that parent values — or lacks. If you grew up with an alcoholic parent, you desperately want for your child to not have one of those to deal with (or become one). If you didn’t go to a great college, well, maybe you’ll want desperately for your kid to claw into the Ivy League. This makes sense; it’s a rational response to your own upbringing.
Yet I struggle to figure out what I want for my daughter. I can’t think in the goal-oriented way that most other parents do about their offspring; I never get much beyond “I hope she’s not a murderer” or “I just want her to be healthy.” I don’t know how I’d like her to turn out: a weird misfit, like her parents, a completely normal, socially generous person, a musical prodigy? No idea. It’s not because I don’t care — I’m just a person who struggles with decisions, which is as true for what have for dinner as it for “do I want children?” I didn’t know I wanted a baked potato for dinner, until I did. I didn’t know if I ever wanted to be married, until I did. And I didn’t know if I wanted a baby, until I did.
This is an okay way to go about living. It allows a lot of ruminating, followed by snap decisions: “I’ll have the potato.” “Okay, let’s get married.” “I want to have a baby.” A potato, a life, a baby. I’ve come to believe that not finishing things — my dinner, the dishes, an article I’m writing, a book I’m reading, a decision I know I should be making — is a way to avoid the weird feeling I feel inside when something is done, finished, over. The absence of a to-do list in my life feels bad, but a completed one feels worse: What next?
I’ve learned to make lists of precisely what I want at the grocery store in order to avoid the terrible sinking of my body and mind into the aisles, unsure of what kind of yogurt to buy or what type of green I’m in the mood for. I plan meals in advance and have a general list of staples I never leave a store without: fruit, almond milk, whole milk Fage yogurt, whole wheat or rye bread, and avocados. We frequent the same establishments over and over, and for my part I know that it’s at least sometimes because I don’t want to have to make a decision — going to a new place requires a decisive action, an abrasion against the usual. No thanks. I can’t be bothered because I can’t make up my fucking mind.
This has become a problem as I’ve slowly come into possession of a family: a dog, a husband, a child. Pre-family Laura didn’t have to worry about what anyone else thought about her strolling back and forth across the living room floor, picking her cuticles as she tried to decide what book to read, only to retreat to an arm chair with three or four. Only once I got an audience did I realize how exasperating I truly am. My husband, thankfully, doesn’t suffer from indecisiveness on any level; he can make上海千花坊社区 x社区 life-changing decisions in moments because he knows what he wants all the time. He not only balances me out, but he has made me more aware of my own deficiencies.
Having a child changed the speed at which we (I) live. Though I’ve always worked best under the pressure of a deadline, a due date, a forcible force forcing me to finish the thing already, motherhood brought with it that sense of urgency to EVERYTHING. There are never enough hours in the day, and there are hundreds of little decisions in parenting, from the relatively unimportant — “what are the best diapers?” (Huggies Slip ons!) — to the truly momentous — “who is the best pediatrician?” (Dr. Kasia, Greenpoint Tribeca Pediatrics). I have learned to chug through decisions like they’re water: Pick a wallpaper, choose a baby name, find the source of the leak, get it done. Finish this edit, then call the guy about the well, don’t put it off! You’re running low on time, Laura, and that is going to be true forever: accept that you’ll never read all of the books you want to, you’ll die before that happens, so read the ones you must read, and read them now.
This isn’t my natural state of being, obviously. It isn’t always fun: in addition to struggling to adjust to the pace of motherhood, and all of the changes that come with it, I’ve also been forced to truly change my behavior in lots of little daily ways. This sense of saying “here’s what I want” as an imposition on me, the person, has been reduced by circumstance: I’m so busy that most of the time, I’m simply not bothered by the fact that I’m MAKING UP MY MIND every second. I’ve evolved. When left to myself, sure, I’ll avoid making the last edits on my column for as long as I can, or deciding what I’m going to have for lunch. But I’ve also actually learned to waste less time by simply doing the things I need to do, making all the little decisions I need to make as I mow through my day. It is freeing, and it frees my mind up to just be alive. I can decide, even if I don’t really want to. And I don’t, believe me.
What do I want for my daughter? I want her to be able to decide what she wants, for herself. And hopefully she won’t put it off for as long as I did.