Bakeries are busy on Mother’s Day. Dads and their kids come in looking for a cake or pie to take home to mother, or families out for brunch decide to stop in and get something extra for the main woman of the house. As people poured through the door at the bakery where I work, my colleagues and I greeted them with Happy Mother’s Day, and people returned the offering to me.
To me. As if I deserved it.
The next day, I stopped in a floral shop and the owner asked how my Mother’s Day was like I had been showered with homemade cards and breakfasts in bed. “Just fine,” I replied.
It was startling how many strangers assumed that I was a participant in Mother’s Day, that I was a mother and should be honored for raising a human. Did they wish me well out of habit, like how we say Happy Holidays to nearly everyone we encounter in December? Or, did it seem plausible, most likely accurate, that I, a married woman in my mid-30s, would have offspring? I wonder if my husband will receive the same kind of attention on Father’s Day, or if that connection between a man being married and at the right to having children is less easy to make.
Truthfully, this bothered me. Partly because one shouldn’t assume that a woman my age, married or not, has or even wants children, and they risk enflaming wounds of possible infertility. Also, mothers aren’t always women who give birth and women who give birth aren’t always mothers. But also because I do want children, and it feels like my husband are in am impossible place to have them right now. I know that there is really no great time to have children, but without a steady income and me being in school for the next two years, babies are far from ideal. And, as I’ve stated here before, my mental health is not in the best of places at the moment. However, that longing desire to have kids still lingers each day, and I feel sad knowing how impractical it would be for us and frustrated not knowing what to do with that want.
Being wished a Happy Mother’s Day was also heartbreaking because it was a clear indication of where society thinks I should be in life and what I should be doing. I am terrible at deciphering my own wants from that of what other people want for me, and so I put value in this summarization of my life. At 34, shouldn’t I already be a mother to at least one kid? And why I am not?
I feel this not just with kids, but also with my career. Currently, as a graduate student, most of my classmates are a decade younger than me, just starting out their lives beyond undergraduate school, where as most of my other friends are fairly established in their careers. And then there is me. I have some work experience, but not enough to land a big role somewhere (if I wanted), and I am pursing another career, which will likely come with a starting salary that is half of what I was making at the job I left for graduate school. On top of it, the little bit of writing I do do and submit is still getting rejections. Professionally, I am not doing anything worthwhile, or that’s how it feels at the moment.
Sometimes, usually on Sunday mornings when I work at the bakery and serve friends catching up over coffee, writers working on their latest drafts, and families popping in after church for a cinnamon role, I wonder how I got to this place. 34, childless, working at a bakery. Didn’t I work hard in school and my career? Wasn’t I a good person? Shouldn’t I have more of my life figured out?
Obviously, I do, and I have a lot more things going for me (newly married, working on my graduate degree, good friends and family, a fairly worn passport) that I chose not to include in the list above because it’s always easier to focus on what’s missing. There is also beauty in being in this place that may seem unconventional for a woman my age, like typing this out on a Tuesday morning from my couch. There is no hungry human demanding my attention or a slew of work emails waiting to be answered. This may not be where I anticipated being at 34, but quiet Tuesdays are a lovely perk.
The thing I keep forgetting is that life is fluid and everyone’s path is a bit different. My path has never been like others, and I am not sure why I expect it to be now. My big career and children will likely come, just at a time that makes sense for my journey. It’s hard to remember that when you see everyone with what you want (which I remember when most of my friends were getting married), but there is a lot I have now that I won’t always have. This is all part of my path, and I just have to have the faith that I am exactly where I should be.