Sometimes I fantasize about what my life would be like without children.
There are times when motherhood becomes a bit overwhelming and I just need to take a mental break. It’s usually when I’m in the bathroom, because it’s the only place I can be alone during my three year old’s waking hours. She has no qualms about jumping on my back to wake me up at 7am on a Saturday morning, but she is quite content to let me “poop in peace” – it’s the little things that make our relationship work. But still, there are times when I just need to get away. And when I do, I go far away. Sometimes I’m swimming at the bottom of the ocean, black mermaid style, and there are other times when I’m just lounging around butt-nekkid on the black sands of Punaluu beach, with a book and my iPod (do people still use those to listen to music? I’m such a tech dinosaur).
For the most part though, I have carved out an entire alternate existence in my head. When the whining is especially grating, I go in the bathroom, turn off the lights, light a candle and escape to the small two-bedroom bungalow on the California coast that I share with my Afro-Peruvian girlfriend, Gabriela, who looks like Danai Gurira from Walking Dead. We have spinach-berry smoothies (and each other) for breakfast, spend our afternoons working – me on my next great Black sci-fi novel, and her on creating sustainable, energy efficient and holistic health-conscious low income housing. In the evenings we volunteer at the nursing home, have dinner with friends, then on the way home we get into a heated intellectual debate that makes us so horny we can hardly make it in the house before we start going at it. We travel, we indulge in life, and we sleep in (inarguably the best part of the fantasy). What we don’t do is have children. Ever.
When I first started fantasizing about this alternate life, I felt guilty. Of course I love my children; but was I emitting some type of negative energy? Some “I don’t want you” vibe that would repel them and forever damage our relationship, leaving them with astronomical therapist bills and me in some abandoned Karmic nursing home for horrible mothers, where I am left to fantasize about eating pudding without the skin and pretty nurses that give me sponge baths, instead of alley cats that lick my wrinkles free of built up Ben-Gay and Epsom salt? What kind of mother dreams of another life in which her children don’t exist?
As mothers, we are supposed to be always happily thinking about our children, not for one moment wondering what life would have been like, “if only.” We are to giddily throw ourselves into the sometimes thankless job of motherhood. And if you’re a single mom, like I am, you better be twice as diligent and smile twice as hard because after all, you asked for this life.
Well I say fuck that, and fuck the people who say that. Motherhood is dirty. It’s grimy, it can cause extreme levels of anxiety, worry, stress and if you’re not careful, insanity. You have to find ways to check yourself before you wreck yourself, and everyone around you.
I’m a single mom with a small support circle in a new city. My closest relative is 6 hours away, and my babysitter has a life (although she swears she doesn’t). It is rare that I get to take an actual physical break from parenting – work doesn’t count. I can’t just pick up and take a Maternal Mental Health Day whenever I want to. The good thing about my kid is that she’s a lot of fun to be around. She inherited her dad’s goofy sense of humor and my charm, so we laugh a lot. And she’s so mature that sometimes I forget she’s only three. But when she takes her moments to remind me, I have to take a moment to “poop in peace,” and escape to California where I find Gabriela sitting on our back porch, drafting blueprints and holding out a glass of red wine, just for me.