My husband and I are among the first in our group of friends to get married, let alone to have babies. Our oddness engenders an uninformed curiosity that expresses itself in the vaguest of questions. People with kids ask, “How’s she sleeping?” and “How is breastfeeding going?” Young urban hipsteresque kids we know from college chit-chat about Pitchfork and artisan beers before awkwardly asking, “So… how’s motherhood treating you?”
I’m not complaining. This kind of impossible question always comes up with life-defining milestones. After the 15th “How’s college?” or “what do you think of marriage?” you want to respond, “Terrible, and how are you?”, just for a change of pace but instead you smile and say, “It’s great, thanks for asking!”
To the motherhood question, I always say I had steeled myself for the worst and that I am very pleasantly surprised.
So I’ve been trying to figure out where my expectation of the worst came from. There are, of course, our friends who had an exceptionally bad sleeper and slept in one-hour shifts for an entire summer. For the most part, though, my News Feed is inundated with gushings about the cuteness of infants and careful documentation of every milestone in video, photograph and status form.
I think it has something to do with this:
There is in some parts of our culture, and by that I mean the hyper-educated, mostly-white, culturally-savvy, urban 20-something culture that my husband and I sort of fit into, this attitude that a woman’s life ends when she gets married and especially when kids come along. One becomes a pearl-necklaced automaton with a feather duster and a cookbook, as in Kimbra’s video, or is kidnapped by family and buried alive despite providing appropriately pineapple-studded hams for dinner, as in St Vincent’s. No wonder so many people wait until they’re much older to have kids – or, as many of my mother-friends of all ages are tempted to do, including myself, exaggerate their pursuits outside the home in order to prove they’re not one of those repressed Friedanesque housewives.