Returning from a romantic weekend with my s/o, I’m tingling with happiness and love. Here is, for the most part, the man of my dreams – kind, gentle, caring, funny, and willing to put up with my shenanigans as well. We spend too much time staring into each other’s eyes and talking about our plans for the future together: getting married in 2014, trying to start a family soon after, and so on.
That’s where I hit a wall. The story I like to dream of still seems impossible. I’m pushing along as hard as possible, setting my mental health issues to the side, trying to save as much as possible without a so-called frugal lifestyle, and here I am, almost at 30, and feel so terribly far behind. I look at my friends (and I know it’s a bad idea to compare oneself to anyone) and they seem somehow more ahead and settled then I’ll be in the next few years. My Facebook newsfeed is filled with images of too-cute babies, some who aren’t even babies anymore, some who have siblings to boot, and all created by people who are my age or younger. The younger sisters and brothers of people in my class are getting married off, some who are 5, 6, 7 years younger than me, are already popping buns out of their ovens.
Here I am, nearing the big 3-0, with no clear direction in my life other than this fantasy of adulthood that doesn’t seem real at all. A very irrational part of me wants to wake up one day a mother. She no longer cares about a big fancy wedding – in fact, she’s been with her s/0 for nearly 7 years and with that practically feels married anyway. Vows are not necessary to prove love. Many marriages end before the seven year anniversary of a couple meeting in real life, what’s to say those marriages are any more real than the one that we haven’t signed documents or been stuck with needles to verify? I’ve always thought marriage was a silly concept. Either you love someone and you’ll stay with them or you won’t, but having a binding legal contract to tie you to another person doesn’t make sense (unless divorce were to be illegal. Otherwise, the only winners are the lawyers.)
What if I don’t get married – or Derek and I run off and elope this spring? What if I beg him not to get down on one knee and propose to me, and instead I request a very informal signing of the documents so we can proceed with our so called lives. I don’t need to have a kid tomorrow, but I wanted to have my first kid by 31 or 32, and given it takes nine months to make a kid after who knows how long of trying, I’m well behind. If we get married in fall of 2014, I’ll be almost 31 when we say our I Dos. I was hoping for a year or two of marriage where we live together and share our adult lives before rushing to procreate, but at 31 there won’t be that luxury, especially if we want more than one kid. Yes, it’s possible to wait until I’m 33 or 34 to have kid #1, and have #2 at 36 or 37, and maybe even a third at 38-40 should I still want to add to the family. But the better plan would be kid #1 at 30, wait a few years, until 33 or 34 to have #2, and then if #3 should make sense we’d be able to have a third when I’m 36 or 37.
Wait a minute, did I really just say I might want three kids? I have no idea how I’ll like being a mother or if I’d even be good at it. Once you have a kid, you can’t just return her/him to the store. But the older I get, the more I see what life is, the more I realize that the only thing I want is to be able to love, care and nurture. Perhaps I’m more of a typical woman than I would ever want to admit. I do not want to get to 40, be the world’s most successful business woman, and face the rest of my life without children. I don’t know how I’ll be able to balance both lives, but clearly people do it, and I’ll make it work somehow.
I say that to remind myself it’s possible, yet I’m sinking into a depression in this last year of my 20s with all the logic in the world flooding my attempted optimism. The whole $1.2M for a decent 3br, 2ba house with a tiny backyard is killing any hope I have of seeing the glass half full. Money can’t buy happiness, but it certainly can’t hurt. I wonder how much in salary I’d need to make to feel like I’ve really made it here. $100k is definitely not enough to comfortably have a family on. If Derek gets a job that pays $60k and I can keep my salary in the $100k range we’d be making $150k+ before taxes, but is that enough? What sort of joint salary is required to live an upper middle class lifestyle in an area where a basic house will cost $1M – $2M? Or, is it time to seriously consider moving back east, or somewhere that cost of living is cheaper – and if I do, will I even be able to maintain my current six-figure salary for the same level of work?
I’m terribly jealous of my friends who have married into money – not great riches – but who have married successful engineers who are likely earning $150k+ at their jobs, with bonuses and raises on top of that for each year of work. The two I’m thinking of both are in jobs that probably make $50k or less each year, and may not even work when they have their own kids, but they don’t need to because they were smart(?) about their romantic decisions. My guy has potential, but I’m not fooling myself into thinking that I’m going to be able to step down on the career front in order to ever experience the life I’ve dreamt of at even the basic levels. And maybe that’s a good thing – I don’t want to be like my mother, who went from a NY fashion designer to a stay-at-home-mom, and never looked back. I need a life that forces me to work, to grow as a person, to challenge myself, to create and never give up.
But I can’t help getting trapped in this feeling of hopelessness. I can allow myself to feel successful in the bubble of my single hood, but the second I start thinking about having a family, all sense of contentment jumps off a cliff into a shimmering shallow pool of the sharpest rocks that slice at that impossible reality.