For Now, My Career is My Baby


I’m a 30 year old yoga teacher, and my career is my baby.

Sometimes I ask myself whether my wanting to have a career instead of a baby is a problem, like maybe that’s too selfish. The idea that it’s selfish to prefer my own personal development over motherhood has somehow been ingrained in me and many other women, but I truly don’t want children right now. I’m enjoying working on myself, and I have enough challenges without having to change diapers and wake up for 3 a.m. feedings.

For the first time in my life, I know I could handle being a mom. I know my husband and I could love and support a baby if we had one. I’m not opposed to being a mom one day, either. It’s just not at the top of my list right now. A lot of women seem to feel they have to make a firm decision and stick to it forever. Most women have at some point experienced a sincere change of heart on something, and been rewarded with derision and accusations of fickleness, one of many ways that misogyny thrives in our culture. But all I can say for sure is what’s true for me right now. I might want kids one day, but for now the answer is still no.

Plenty of my close friends have kids now, and while they seem to be happy, I don’t feel envious of them. If anything, I feel a little bit sad that the difference between moms and non-moms creates such a social gulf. I don’t feel left behind like they’re getting to experience some magical thing that’s unavailable to me. I’ve heard enough of their stories to believe that while parenthood is extremely fulfilling to many people, it’s no panacea. Nor do I think they’re missing out on something by being moms instead of pursuing careers.

It has taken me a long time to grasp that not wanting kids doesn’t make me selfish or weird. The popular characterization of childless women says if you don’t have a baby, it’s because you haven’t found the right person yet, you’re infertile, or you’re lesbian (and we just assume lesbians don’t have mothering instincts). If none of those things are true and you actually just don’t want babies, that’s when people start to look at you askance. Maybe you’re a cold person who can’t love and chooses a career to avoid the inevitable misery you would inflict on your young due to bad parenting instincts. Or maybe you’re just selfish and wanna spend your money on yourself instead of baby clothes. Or you’re just too young and stupid. People assume your priorities are screwed up or you didn’t get the memo about how to be a satisfied adult woman, in which it clearly states that now is about the time your ovaries are supposed to start aching. I actually had someone tell me I better get busy breeding before I turn 35 or else conceiving is going to be complicated. Apparently if you reach 40 and haven’t had a baby yet, adoption agencies become skeptical about whether you can even handle parenthood. Hooray for other people’s judgments!

In reality, I’m just really into what I’m doing right now. I’m married to my best friend. I teach yoga and write. I go out when I want to. I don’t change diapers. I travel when I can, sleep late, stay up late, and generally have a pretty good time of things. You can call that selfish if you like, but at least I know myself well enough not to have a baby when my priorities are simply elsewhere.

Based on the trends I’ve observed in my own life, I think that within 5 years I’ll switch from the “actively avoiding pregnancy” club to the “maybe we should plan a nursery in our next house” committee. But in the mean time, I’m pursuing my ambitions like a motherfucker (no pun intended), and I see nothing wrong with that.

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Writing is murder, but what’s blogging?

Yesterday, I was obsessing about my cat. I still am, but today, I’ll write about something different. After all, this is a writing blog, not a missing cat blog.

So, let’s talk about blogging and writing. And lets talk about the cat.

The pros of having a writing blog start simple. First, blogging is a natural extension of a habit I started in junior high — scribbling stream-of-consciousness prose in my notebooks as a way to tune out everything else happening around me. I disliked most of my classmates and teachers and felt generally awkward in all social situations, so I sat there and wrote. I observed people. I wrote down what they did and what I thought of it. I wrote things I could not say out loud. I played with language, with rhyme and rhythm. I tested out new words. My notebook was an ongoing experiment, as is the blog.

The blog is a slightly more mature version of the same experiment, or at least that’s what I hope for it. On the blog, I can have the same experiments, but I know that I’m putting them out there for people to read and (if they choose) respond to. Knowing you have an audience is a kind of filter on its own. I’ve written many things that will never see the light of day, and they only got written because I didn’t have my audience filter on. On the blog, I practice using the audience filter effectively. I think about how what I write will affect my audience. I think about whether they will want to read it at all. I get half way through a lot of blog posts and abandon them because they don’t pass the audience filter test: If I were reading this on someone else’s blog, would I be interested?

The cons of having a writing blog mostly revolve around revision. Writers have a saying that’s horrifying to non-writers: Kill your babies. That’s right. Writers are baby killers … in a way. Or at least the good ones are. (Actually, the saying is “kill your darlings,” but I find “babies” more effective … and deliciously crass.)

But the thing is, most writers do it because we love it. We can’t live without writing. It’s a compulsion. And we get attached to the things we write. The turns of phrase. The clever metaphors. The way we feel after we’ve finally put into words a concept we’ve been struggling with. These are our babies. But the thing is, just because you love something you’ve written doesn’t mean it’s good. Or relevant. Or interesting. Or even intelligible. Thus, sometimes, you have to kill your babies.

A blog is not the the best place for this kind of baby killing. After all, the immediacy is part of what makes the blog so great. You write what you’re thinking, hit “publish,” and instantly, your thoughts, your words and your babies have gone out to the world. And your babies might be very poorly behaved. Your thoughts might be poorly fleshed out. Your words might be poorly spelled. I always find myself correcting my spelling on a post several hours after it goes live. In other words, sometimes your babies turn into monsters and run rampant before you have a chance to erm… edit them. Shall we say edit? Yes, that’s a good word.

In most cases, blog posts and children both require some editing before being let loose on the world.

So lets talk about the cat now. I love the cat. She’s my baby. And I love my writing. I’m not one of those writers who are so fond of their own work that they brag about it everywhere, but I do have a bit of an illicit love affair with my own blog. I do compulsively read my old posts under the guise of learning from my mistakes when I am really just thinking of how much I love the words. And of course, the cat.

So, as I was writing my Monday Night Nonfiction last night, I was employing that old technique I picked up in middle school — coping with difficult emotions by trying to make them beautiful, by imposing patterns on them, and by surrounding myself with the words I love. I tried to use repetition as a way to reel the whole thing in. I find repetition to be so useful, the way it can impose its rythm on otherwise unweildy thoughts. But honestly, I have no idea if it worked. Because that post is still my baby. And so is that cat.

So is it a good thing or a bad thing to post the mostly unrevised, still-raw thoughts of any given Monday night for the world to read? Well, I don’t know. I think it’s just an exercise and one that I am willing to share with the world. What do you think?

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