Mothers Always Know Best

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*For the purposes of this post and your imagination, this is my mother

Most people see me as a paragon of calmness; a level-headed, laid back Zen Master. Except that last week, I had a freak out. Okay, so it wasn’t exactly a freak out of Danny Bonaduce proportions, but compared to how I normally compose myself, I might as well have covered myself in green paint and beat my chest with Black Hawks.

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In a certain light, we’re virtually indistinguishable

It all started when I was waiting in the car for my boyfriend, who was off doing boyfriend things (code for “I can’t remember what he was doing”) and I decided to peruse my Facebook newsfeed. As I scrolled through the mundane ‘1 like=1 prayer’ melodrama, I noticed that one of my friends had gotten engaged. ‘Huh,’ I thought, ‘good for her’ as I dutifully clicked the ‘like’ button.

I continued scrolling. ‘Huh’, I mumbled again, albeit this time in a more high-pitched tone, ‘Katie is engaged too. Oh, and Emma. And Marie just had a baby.’ I sunk back in my seat. I tried very hard to feel happy for these girls I had once attended school with. They’re nice girls and they deserve to be happy. So why was I feeling like someone had punched me square in the uterus?

As my boyfriend nonchalantly sat back into the car, he noticed I was staring into space (at this stage, I was possibly imagining an older version of myself knitting clothing for my sixty cats).

‘What’s up?’ he asked me, possibly expecting me to refer to the fact that he had earlier hidden my Abba Gold collection.
I didn’t want to say anything. Besides the fact that I didn’t exactly know what was indeed wrong with me, I’m not the passive-aggressive, manipulative, reverse psychology type (you know the ones, they’re all over your Facebook) and I really didn’t want Jack thinking that this was all a clever ruse to provoke him into action.

What could I say? ‘Oh all my friends are engaged and having babies and we’re sat here eating drive-thru and debating whether we’ll watch Iron Man or Spider Man when we go home.’

All he would infer from anything I could possible say is that I was pressuring him to propose to me. And that’s not what I want. Don’t say women aren’t complex creatures…wait, who actually says that, ever?

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I’m sayin’ nothin’

We’ve been together for eleven years now. We’re in our mid to late twenties. Marriage just seems like the next step.

Except we can’t afford it. Readers, I’m being so honest with you that you might as well be cradling my head in your lap and singing lullabies to me. We know that we want to marry each other eventually, and we will, but right now, it would seem like a gigantic expense that we couldn’t justify. And marriage seems so grownup and real, sometimes I just don’t feel mature enough for it. I’d be a ‘Mrs’ for the love of Jezabel.

So I have to admit, the marriage thing wasn’t what was bugging me. Nor was the fact that my friends could now probably run a small crèche between them. No. It was the fact that their lives were taking shape; that they had a sense of direction, of purpose. (The following should be accompanied by cheesy dramatic music and narration by Cameron Diaz) I started to feel like I was in a maze and I had no idea which way I was supposed to go.

To my horror, I noticed tears running down my face. Actual real, giant, salty tears. ‘Oh Jesus,’ I muttered, as I used the end of my sleeve to aggressively dab them away. I’m the sort of person who really hates to cry, so when I inevitably end up sobbing I mutter things to myself like ‘Oh stop it, you big baby!’ which actually makes me sob more because I’m being mean to myself. And myself is quite sensitive.

‘Love, what is wrong?’ my boyfriend asked again, this time showing genuine concern. I can imagine a montage of all his misdemeanours playing though his head: toilet seat left up, clothes balled up on bedroom floor, pizza box in living room, expensive conditioner used as body wash, again…

‘I don’t know really. I just… Sometimes I see other the lives of everyone else taking shape at our age and we’re just kinda stuck in this never ending cycle of debt and takeaways. I feel aimless sometimes, I suppose. I know I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a conventional person, but I have to admit Jack, sometimes the conventional looks pretty comfortable.’

I could see Jack’s eyebrows rising and falling, which I know means he as confused as Kim Kardashian in an art gallery.

‘Sooo, I didn’t do anything?’ he asked gingerly. I leaned over and kissed him.

‘No,’ I smiled through my tears ‘you didn’t.’

Great, I noted wryly to myself, now he thinks you’re on your period.

As we continued our journey home silently, Jack dispensed some pretty good advice.

‘You should talk to your mother. I think it would help.’

At the time, I wasn’t sure. At my age, Mam had a house that she fully owned, a child and she was married. I don’t even own a subscription to my local video store. But as I mulled over whether I should ask my mother for advice that night in bed, I resolved to ring her the next morning. I told myself that she’s a pretty good listener and if anything, she would comfort me.

So I called her and told her that I was doing good but that lately I’d felt a little down. As I’ve already mentioned, I’m known for being the one in my family who normally dispenses the advice rather than receives it, so my mother was a tad surprised. I also felt slightly guilty that this didn’t exactly appear as a ‘real’ problem. There are people out there in debt, suffering from depression or ill, and I’m just some middle class white chick with first world problems. Still though, I knew she wouldn’t want me feeling so aimless and underwhelmed with my life.

‘I don’t know how this has really happened’, I began (although I did know, and I silently narrowed my eyes at an invisible Mark Zukerberg) ‘but lately I’ve just been feeling like I’ve, I don’t know…like I’ve wasted my twenties. Like my life hasn’t really even begun yet. I mean, I love Jack and I’m so happy with him, but I feel like a home for us, and children and all that, is so far out of reach. And everyone else seems to be settling down. And when you were my age, you were married, with a house and a kid and you had everything. I just feel like I’m missing out on all that.’

There was a long silence at the other end of the phone. Great, I thought, I have literally bored her to death.

I heard her take a sigh. She began: ‘firstly, when I married your father it was 1980. In Catholic Ireland. I had a job but I felt I had to leave it. Times were very different. I was expected to get married. There was no such thing as living with someone first, and women were expected to have children.
You don’t have those expectations anymore. You get to keep your job, which you love. You don’t have to have children by a certain age to keep your parents happy. And you’re angry because these societal expectations are gone? What is that?!’
She was half laughing, half incredulous.

She continued:
‘You are so lucky. You’re not tied to a property. You’re not expected to play the part of dutiful housewife. Don’t get me wrong, I love the three of you (my siblings and I, I’m guessing) more than anything, but my god how I would have loved some more time. I would have loved to eat pizza on the floor (how does she know?) and come home at eight o’ clock in the morning after a house party, but I couldn’t. I had responsibilities. And I was so young.
And, my dear, you are forgetting the most important fact of all: if my life was so perfect, why did our marriage break down? Hmm?’

She was right. My father and her had separated a few years ago. Was she saying that it was because they married too young? Was it because she didn’t get to experience enough of life in her twenties?

‘Look’, she interrupted my reverie ‘I was happy. I was. I had three beautiful children. And you can have that too. Except you can also go and live some of your life first. Who says marriage and kids qualifies you as an adult, hah? Ok, so yes, you still wear Minnie Mouse onesies, but you’re a grownup with or without marriage and babies. And you’re doing a pretty good job at this adult malarkey. You have a career, a stable relationship with a great man and you seem happy, most of the time. What more could you want? The grass seems perfectly green where you are.’

‘Oh Jesus.’

‘WHAT?’

‘Im crying again,’ I mumbled. And I was. The warmth of her words surrounded me like a blanket. As I say there, ensconced in her rationality, I knew she was right. She’s my mother; she’s always right.

I need to be thankful that I live in a society and in a time where I’m free to do as I like (within reason of course, yes I’m talking to you: the guy removing his clothes and planning to run naked through Walmart). I also realised that I just need to calm the eff down. I’m twenty-six. I still sleep with a nightlight on after watching horror movies. I don’t think I should be thinking about babies juuuust yet. Of course, it’s a personal thing, but I have to admit, I’m pretty content with life at the moment. There’s plenty of time for marriage and children. I don’t need to waste these years by inventing societal pressures.

Until then, I’m going to continue putting dresses on my male Westie because, well, I can.

And also, this is me:

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21 comments

  1. Dear Cupid or Cats (just to quickly mention, I do rather like you’re blog name – AWESOME)
    I really loved this post. Instead of reading it, odd as it sounds, I actually READ it. Slowly and carefully, and it was ever so interesting.
    Any reader here would be coo-coo not to see that you and Jack are just utterly fabulous, and as I read through your thoughts and saw how they escalated, I was all “Oh. OH. OH wow.” And I think it’s just wonderful how you told us all of your conversation with your mother, and how you’ve come to a positive conclusion at the end. It’s heart-warming, for a reader, you know!
    Really, really brilliant post.
    And very very interesting!
    Thanks, have a good day,
    Z

    1. Congrats, this is possibly the nicest comment I have ever received Z, I even showed it to Jack. It really means a lot.
      I love when I know someone has gone to the trouble of actually reading a post, which was no easy feat cause this was a loooong one haha! So truthfully, thank you for your very kind comment and for your time also. Hope you’re having a nice day :)

      1. No no! Thank you! I cannot WAIT to see your blog gain more and more recognition – and I’ll be reading every post along the way.
        And oh, you and Jack are an admirable couple, and when you said you were to decide whether to watch iron man or Spider-man, AWW that just sounded so CUTE. :) :) :)
        For a teen, I’m a pretty sappy one, I have to admit.
        I just…AH YOU GUYS SHOULD SO RULE THE WORLD!!!! :)

      2. That’s a really lovely comment again, I’m all gooey here haha, thanks so much!

        I’m laughing at the ‘rule the world comment’ because I’m just looking at Jack now. He’s eating a chicken wing while watching ‘Cops’ and is muttering something to himself with sauce on his face. Attractive :)

        Your own blog is going to do really well, and it should. I think your age makes it even better, you write better than most adults!

  2. Your mammy is brilliant. Aren’t mammies great in general? Rocks of sense. Mine went through a stage of wanting a grandchild and telling me I was “her only hope” but she stopped after I bought her a cat. Like yours, she married very young, had kids straight away and only got to go out and see the world that she had always wanted to see when she hit her forties. She gave me similar advice to your mam did when I had an extraordinarily similar moment to yours a couple of years ago.

    Except I didn’t hold my tongue like you did, I was holding my phone, open to my FB feed and blurted out, “They’re all getting married and having stupid babies.” That’s the cleaned up version. I wasn’t sure how I felt about any of it, I was very confused. Did I want to get married? No. Did I want to have sprogs? No. At least, not yet anyway. So, what was my problem?

    I related so much to your post, in fact, I still have those moments from time to time. The fact is, your mam is dead right. We don’t have to do any of these things anymore. If other people want to do it, that’s fine, their prerogative. My issues are usually with the “friends” who suddenly think they’re somehow superior to the rest of us because OMG how can you NOT want to get married and have babies, what’s wrong with you, you must be only pretending because all girls want a BIG HUGE EXPENSIVE AND STRESSFUL white wedding, and sure what else are we here on this Earth for?. They can go away, I hate those ones.

    Thing is, if you want to get married you can, when you feel like it, and it doesn’t have to break the bank. If I decide to do it I’ll hop on a plane to Vegas and we can get married by an Elvis and drink and gamble away that loan from the Credit Union.

    Anyway, sorry for the ridiculously long reply, but I loved every line of this post. And you should feel very proud of yourself. At twenty-six you’ve accomplished so much more than others have in a lifetime. And your life has taken a shape, your shape.

    1. Ah V, what a lovely comment. Really, I’m like a marshmallow here!

      Haha, I was very tempted to have a reaction like yours. Like when a girl I know got engaged after being with her boyfriend for three months, it took all my inner strength to refrain from commenting something like: “After three months? Are you kidding me? I’ve had pizzas in my freezer for longer!” And, like you, it’s not because I wanted to be in her position, but I just felt like I should be doing something…grownup. Which would be a really silly reason to get married when you think about it.

      I don’t know how many people have said to me things like “when do you think he’ll propose?” or “why do you think he hasn’t put a ring on you yet?” Yes, I really do get those comments, as I’m sure you do. I mentally punch those people very hard.

      You’re right though, I wouldn’t mind a cheap and stress free wedding. In fact, I’d prefer it. If it was up to me, I’d go to dublin city hall and have the afters in a pub, but himself is a bit of a diva. He also has himself convinced that I do actually want a big occasion, even though I definitely do not.

      But anyways, thanks for the lovely comment! I’m so glad I decided to start possibly the laziest blog there ever was because I’ve met such nice people, like yourself :)

      We’re definitely a very different generation to the one that went before us!

      1. Ah yes the engaged after three months brigade. Usually met by a “Whaaaat!?” from myself, and followed swiftly by a “Pfff, it’ll never last”. I’m such a grumpy old lady.

        I can’t believe people have the neck to ask you those kinds of questions. What is wrong with them, seriously, it’s not acceptable to be so freakin’ nosy! Wtf. As I get ever closer to the big 3-0, I’ve been getting a lot of “don’t leave it too late” and “the biological clock is ticking” comments, which drive me up the wall. Leave me alone. I’m happy with my cats.

        I just got back from one of those big occasions last weekend, and I can’t tell you how stressed out the bride and groom looked for the entire day and night. I’m with you, city hall and pub afters sounds perfect.

        I’m glad you started your blog too, it’s hilarious.

      2. Luckily for me, my sister took one for the team and had two kids so she’s taken the baby pressure off me but I still get it from time to time. My family aren’t bothered, and two of my best friends won’t even commit to pets, not to mind kids so it’s no so bad. I also have *cough seven pets cough* (there’s never an easy way to admit that without sounding crazy) so I think I’m good for a while.

        Ugh, we’re at that age where all our friends are getting married so it’s weddings galore. I just can’t do them, they’re sooo long and expensive and no offence to anyone, but also boring.

        Thanks! I’m just glad anyone is actually reading my crap. You’re doing amazingly well, you must be delighted. You put so much work in too, so you deserve to do well.

      3. Our pets are like our children though! Kind of. I mean, they’re a more than acceptable substitute for many of us. And you have SEVEN of them! :o

        You’re right, I couldn’t agree more, weddings are boring. My favourite wedding I’ve ever been to was my uncle’s a couple of years ago. Quickie registry, then to the pub where we had a curry and a few ice cold pints. All the rest of them, while some of them were beautiful and whatnot, had exceptionally boring parts.

        And you’re most welcome! Your posts are highly entertaining and I find myself relating to pretty much everything you write. Would you mind if I included this post in my Sunday round-up? It’s quite a personal one so I’ll understand if you do!

      4. It’s a lot of pets, it was all kinda accidental (like, oops, I have seven pets) but I love them.

        That wedding sounds great, exactly what I’d want. I’ve just never been about fuss and frills, the simpler the better.

        Aw, thanks and of course I wouldn’t mind at all, in fact I’d be delighted! Thank you!

  3. Speaking as a dad. Your mum is wonderful. And the points and conversations in your writing – while having me roar with laughter – carry wisdom and pathos.

    No matter what “children” think we think. All we parents want is for you guys to be happy, safe and healthy. No matter what we say. No matter when we say it. No matter how many times we say it should be done our way. No matter how many times we disagree.

    But I think your mum (and dad) are right to be pretty damn proud of you.

    1. This is a lovely comment, thank you!

      When I was a teenager, I basically rebelled against everything my parents told me but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen how invaluable their advice has become. There is no one I would prefer to turn to in a crisis.

      Thanks for reading and again thanks for the comment :)

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