OK, so before I get into the meat of this week’s post, I should probably tell you what this is all about. On Mother’s Day, my best friend Becca posted an article on Facebook about a woman’s reaction to mothers being singled out on Mother’s Day for recognition from the congregation. What about the mothers who’ve lost their babies via miscarriage or stillbirth? What about mothers whose children ran away from home or no longer have contact with them? What about mothers whose children have died? Do they still count as mothers? Do they deserve to be recognized? That, however, wasn’t what really caught my attention. This is what did:
On my immediate right, my mother stood and on my immediate left, a dear friend stood. I, a woman in her late 30s, sat. I don’t know how others saw me, but I felt dehumanized, gutted as a woman. Real women stood, empty shells sat. I do not normally feel this way. I do not like feeling this way.
Real women stood, empty shells sat.
I was a bit confused, and sad for the author of the original letter. I hated that she felt as though you had to be a mother to a living, breathing baby boy or girl to be considered a “real woman”. I hated that, in her mind, the fact that she was childless made her an “empty shell”. I knew this woman, whom I’d never heard of prior to reading this letter, was hardly an empty shell of a woman regardless of whether she was a mom; surely she must have a career she loves, family, pets, hobbies….something that filled her “shell”. Becca and I got into a conversation about this and an idea was born. Becca and I, though obviously very different individuals, are in many ways very much the same. So in what ways do we think the other has it better? In what ways do we think each of us has it better than the other? And how exactly are we the same?
Is the grass truly always greener on the other side? In order to explore this idea, Becca wrote a letter to me, which you can read here. I have read it prior to writing this letter, but it shouldn’t be considered a reply; I didn’t go through her letter, line-by-line, offering an argument for every point she made. What I did do, however, was to read, to reflect, and to feel myself fill with warmth, love, and gratitude to God and to our husbands for guiding us to each other. I moved away from the letter with the reminder that Becca is my best friend for a reason.
I’ve spent the last several days thinking about how to go about writing this letter to you. Aside from all the thinking, I did some writing, but I didn’t feel that my original letter did any justice to my thoughts and feelings regarding our lives and our relationship…so I deleted the whole thing and started over. I’m so much happier with this version of my letter, and I hope you’ll find as much reflection in it as I have.
A few days ago, we started throwing around that lovely cliche, “the grass is greener on the other side.” But is it really? I guess it depends on what you want your grass to look like, what materials and tools you use to grow it, and how much time, effort, and love you put into growing it. I could argue — and successfully so — that my grass has quite a few patches of crabgrass in it, while yours is much more green and lush. You have freedom. You can do pretty much whatever you want, whenever you want. If you and your husband wanted to, you could pack a bag and fly to some exotic location, falling asleep on the beach or engaging in any number of very physical activities (from G-rated hiking to X-rated…well, you know.) You can enjoy quiet, romantic candlelit dinners without having to worry about a child running rampant through the restaurant or trying to knock over the lit candles. You can decide to run errands at 4:00 in the afternoon without throwing off your child’s carefully planned and managed schedule. You can spend the entire day working on your health and beauty blogs in peace, uninterrupted by the sounds of Matchbox cars being thrown across the room or the frustration brought on by the sudden silence that can only mean one thing: your child is definitely doing something they’re not supposed to be doing. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that a toddler who’s been quiet for more than a minute or two, and you know they’re awake, is a sure sign of trouble. (Yay for kids who empty entire containers of wipes all over their bedroom floors! Yay for kids who climb into the top drawers of your dresser, sit down and get comfortable, and proceed to apply your lipsticks to their cheeks and your mascaras to their hair!)
Not only is your life free of child-related concerns, you also don’t have nearly as much of a strain on your finances as Hubs and I do. I surrendered all of my credit cards and only use them with Hubs’ permission; the reason for this isn’t so much because he’s a penny-pincher or a cheap bastard. It’s because I have a history, and a habit, of spending too much money, especially now that we have Joshua. With the speed at which he’s growing, I feel like I’m constantly buying him new clothes and shoes. Recently, we stopped buying toys altogether, because frankly he really doesn’t need them. Between our living room, his bedroom, and the basement, he has enough toys to run a daycare. Being a classic toddler, he sees us trying to get rid of old toys he hasn’t touched in months and all of a sudden he’s interested in them again. (And by the way, it is absolutely true what they say about the intense pain that comes from stepping on Legos or Thomas trains or Matchbox cars in the dark. HOLY CRAP IT HURTS!!) Aside from that fun stuff, Joshua isn’t potty-trained yet, so we’re still buying diapers and wipes. Those things cost a small fortune, and between them and all the other things we need for our house — plus the costs of the renovations our house is about to undergo — there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of me being able to afford a professional-grade camera, or a new mattress, or a new wardrobe. And books? Thank God for NetGalley. Book blogging is that much easier for me to do because of NetGalley: not only are the books on the site ARCs (Advance Reader Copies), but they’re free. I can feed my habit without sinking us further into debt. That’s not to say I don’t buy books at all, though. I have purchased books after reading them via NetGalley, or because people recommended them to me, or just because they jumped out at me in the store and I really wanted to read them. Our financial situation also contributes to how we eat; while I’ve definitely made an effort to purchase whole foods and to eat cleaner, some of those healthier products do cost more…which means I’ve had to learn to do more with less.
That being said, my grass isn’t all dead. There are patches of crabgrass here and there, but much of it is thick and emerald. The number-one cause of my greenest grass is the holy grail of PCOS and infertility sufferers everywhere: Joshua Noah. Somehow — by the grace of God, sheer luck, a fluke, who knows — Hubs and I managed to conceive the baby boy that, to this day, we still call our little miracle. We don’t know how he happened. Given the way my body had been working in the months leading to his conception, he shouldn’t have happened. But he did, and I will be forever grateful for his little life. He is the Earth around which Hubs’ and my moons orbit. Though I find myself yelling at him with more frequency than I’d like (such is the way of the terrible two, I guess), he also brings immeasurable joy to my life. I don’t know where I’d be without him. I told you on Mother’s Day that having him cost me part of my individual identity, and I stand by that. That holds true for every parent on Earth. When you have a baby, you don’t get “me” time anymore. In many cases, you barely get dates or intimacy with your spouse. Before Joshua was conceived, Hubs and I used to go out to dinner, or to the movies, or to the beach, all the time. I used to sit and read whenever I wanted to; I could take a nap at two in the afternoon if I felt like it; I would settle in at my desk and write poetry or stories for hours at a time. I can’t do those things anymore, at least not in as carefree a manner. I definitely can’t even consider napping unless someone else is watching Joshua, and even then Joshua himself won’t let me sleep. But that’s okay. I don’t get to do whatever I want during the day anymore, so instead I squeeze in a bit of “me” time after Joshua’s gone to bed at night. That’s when I read. It’s when I blog. It’s when I relax and watch TV. It’s when Hubs and I have quiet-yet-uninterrupted conversations, cuddle, have sex. We lost our youthful, pre-baby identities, but we’ve both managed to recreate new ones post-baby and to carve out some kind of time for ourselves and for each other.
What else makes my grass green? I’m a stay-at-home parent, which many moms don’t have the luxury of being. Of course, I had to fight Hubs hard for that, but I wasn’t going down without a bloodbath of a fight and I’m so happy I won. Daycare — especially if I chose to work elsewhere — would put an even deeper strain on our finances, and Joshua would probably be sick much more often. Being a stay-at-home parent affords me the ability to spend my days playing with and teaching Joshua, taking him on trips and out to run errands, preparing him for life and for school. It provides me with the opportunity to cook a hot, healthy meal for my family on a daily basis. It allows me to handle my housework during the weekdays, instead of having to take care of all of it at night or on the weekends. It offers me a level of freedom on the weekends, when Hubs is home and we can spend some time as a family.
Aside from Joshua and being a stay-at-home mom, the main thing that keeps my grass green is my blog, and for that I owe a million thanks to you. You were the one who hooked me on blogging in the first place, all the way back in 2010; I saw Beauty Gala and while I knew I could never write about hair, nails, and makeup, I wanted to do what you did. I wanted to emulate you, but to change what you were doing to fit who I was. That was where my first blog stemmed from, and then after a while I was working too much to focus on reading and reviewing…and then we had that really stupid falling-out. That may have been the dumbest fight I’ve ever engaged in, and I’m sure you’d say the same, but it turned out to be great for us. We were basically able to use that fight as a way to hit the reset button on our friendship and start over with each other. I feel closer to you now than ever, even though we live so many miles apart. It was that closeness, and the still-intact admiration for your hard work on your blog, that brought me back to the blogosphere. You supported me from the beginning and you still do now, just as I’ve supported you for as long as I’ve known you. You’ve become my sounding board and my mentor. I probably wouldn’t be blogging without you…so thank you, so much, for being my greatest supporter.
Just like that, I’ve connected my green grass to my relationship with you. Not only has blogging made my grass greener, but it has also become part of who we are as friends. It’s one of the ways in which we’re the same. I may not be as far along as you are — because you’ve been at it, consistently, for much longer than I have — but we’re both very serious about it. I hope to make a career out of my blog as you’ve done with yours. As I’ve somehow managed to have a child, I know you hope to successfully conceive, carry, and deliver one as well. That’s a road I think it would be wonderful to travel together, and to bring our husbands along on, too. That’s another thing you and I have in common: we’re both in strong marriages. Sure, both of the guys have their, shall we say, “quirks”…but they’re our hubbies and we love them. I’d rather imagine a crazy life with my husband than a quiet but lonely one without him, and I’m sure you feel the same way. We also feel the same way about our dogs, and judging by our last visit our furbabies clearly like each other. I think the one thing that ties us together most of all, though, is PCOS. You’ve had your diagnosis for years, and you were there to support me when I got mine. You’ve been there to answer every question with more patience than I deserve, and you’ve led me onto the path of better health. We’re coping with PCOS together; I’m not sure how many sets of best friends can say they match on that deep a level. We’re fighting this disease together, which brings us closer together.
We’re fighting a disease together. We’re growing our blogs, and careers, together. We’re loving our families and our lives together. We do everything together. I’m strong; you’re strong. You’re smart; I’m smart. We may be different, but we’re the same.
And I don’t believe for a second that either of us is an empty shell of a woman. Hell, no.
Becca, you are the realest woman I know…and our grass looks exactly the same to me.
I love you!
You can read Katie’s post for this week here.