A few weeks ago I was on the phone with my mum. She was asking me how my thesis was coming along (not very well) and urging me to try to graduate asap so that I could get a proper job and start fulfilling my dreams. I was speechless for a while because I realised I hadn’t been dreaming about my future in a long time. I’ve just been struggling along and going in circles on the endless swamp that is my thesis, until it started to feel like it really would go on forever and there was nothing to expect after it was done. In the current economic situation, I don’t think graduating will guarantee me a “proper” job, so it felt best not to think about it too much.
When I didn’t say anything, mum prompted me, “Come on! You must have something that you dream about!” I had to think about it, but after a short pause I came up with some dreams that I have. I said, “Well… it would be nice to earn more money so we could travel more… and maybe move into a bigger apartment… or even own a house some day! And it would be nice if I could afford to take more of those bloody expensive yoga classes, and maybe take up ballet again…” The last two are pretty humble wishes but not all dreams have to be big, right?
I did think of one more thing. I have this long-standing but impossible dream of obtaining a pilot’s license and owning an airplane, and not some rickety Cessna either, but a bigger, two-engine aircraft. I love flying, especially the take-off, and being able to pilot a plane would be the ultimate dream come true.
However, it’s totally impossible because as much as I love to fly as a passenger, I have a fear of heights that might seriously compromise my ability to keep a cool head if getting the plane up in the air and bringing it back down was my responsibility. Also, I have no head for numbers and I tend to be careless and push the wrong buttons when excited or under stress. So piloting is really not for me.
But one can always dream!
I didn’t mention that particular dream to mum, though, because I thought she would never understand a dream like that. I only told her the more conventional ones; travelling, bigger apartment, more yoga and dance classes. But apparently that was not what she was after. She said, “Yes, yes, those are all nice things, but not what I was thinking about! I meant bigger things, real things!” I was nonplussed. “Like what?” I asked, and wondered if I should reveal the pilot’s license fantasy after all. To me, that’s as big as it gets… though not necessarily real… so I didn’t think it was what my mum was waiting to hear.
By now she was starting to sound exasperated and she almost snapped at me, “You really have no clue what I’m talking about, do you?!” I was relieved I hadn’t mentioned piloting because it sounded like she had an entirely different fish to fry, and the idea of me spending tens of thousands of euros on what would surely result in loss of life and limb would not have pleased her. But no, I really had no clue what she was talking about, as I was forced to admit, to much indignation on her part. Can you guess what she was talking about?
Babies. She was talking about babies. It really shouldn’t have come as a surprise because she brings up the topic often enough. But I thought we were talking about my dreams, and she had kind of floored me by asking about them. And well, babies just are not the kind of thing I dream about, so I was somewhat at sea with the whole conversation. Now, if she had asked me if I knew what she dreams about, I could have given her the right answer off the bat. She has made it abundantly clear.
I feel bad. Mum sounded so heartbroken when she realised how far babies are from my thoughts. I understand why she’s upset. I’m 31 and I’m not getting any younger, and neither is she. She’s already mourning for the grandchildren she will probably never have. But can’t she see? If I ever finish that thesis, I’m going to need a long, stress-free period in my life so I can do the things I want to do. I can’t live my life to fulfill someone else’s dreams, even if that someone is my own mother.
I would sympathise with her plight even more if she showed some understanding for mine, and refrain from saying things like, “How can you not dream about babies!? You’re a grown woman! Or are you really that immature??”
No, mum. Not wanting babies is not a sign of immaturity. Not. all. women. want. babies.
I’m mature enough to know how I want to live my life, and being a mother is not a part of it just now. And it’s just too bad, but the older I get, the more I dislike the idea of having children. I wish that wasn’t the case because it would almost be easier to just give mum what she wants. Besides, in ten years’ time I might come to regret not having babies. But those are not good enough reasons to give up everything I want and risk becoming a horrible, burnt-out, martyred mother.