On Kiddlets

***While I am packing up our house like a woman possessed, getting our family ready to move across the continent, several generous readers have volunteered to keep you musing. This first guest post is written by Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy. Jasmine in an Alaskan off-grid homesteader (ironically, I do not know her from Alaska but solely from this virtual space). She also writes at her own blog, Bunchberry Farms.***

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You may think I’m crazy when I say this, but its true.  I have been actively talking myself out of having children for a decade.  How old am I, you ask?  I’m twenty six.

Why have I been dissuading myself from ushering new souls into the world for so long?  Because I want them SO DAMN BAD.

I actually give my younger self a lot of kudos for being so responsible.  As a highschooler, while I personally wasn’t sexually active until late in highschool, I had pro-condom bumperstickers on the back of my truck and in my bedroom.  I talked my friends through the process of getting on birth control.  I was decided that if I should ever need to, I would get an abortion rather than become a teenage mom.  And all the while I desperately desired kids.  I would fight the undertow of the longing.  I would find myself insanely jealous of the young single struggling under-advantaged moms that I worked with at my minimum wage part time waitressing gigs.  And periodically I would have to sit down with myself and have a good long chat about what the reality of kids would mean, about how having an underage mom wouldn’t be doing them any favors, and about how I wanted to be able to choose them at a time their nurturance would be my primary endeavor.

I played gypsy for a year, and then I went to college.  And for five years I indulged in academia and theatre.  I knew I didn’t have the time or energy for kids.  I knew that the time would come for being a mom, that that time was not the (then) present.  But I longed.  Oh, how I longed.  And I dreamed.  Oh, how I dreamed.  The dream of the homestead and the dream of the motherhood came to rival each other in depth and intensity.  They became entwined to the point of identity.  My mantra-goal became “Get the land” because once I had the land, the homestead and the kids could and would come.  I plotted and planned and despaired and hoped and leveraged will power and luck and fate and love to get the homestead.  Meanwhile I would read the parenting magazines at the Laundromat, hide “Fit Pregnancy” (the prenatal yoga issues) and “Natural Parenting” magazines in the wait-station at the restaurant, read the latest “Mothering Magazine” and “Midwifery Today” every time I visited my mom.  I would hide in the magazine section at the grocery store and read “Good Housekeeping” and “Real Simple,” skimming past article with potential relevance to where I was at, and instead focusing on the ones that talked about homework and kids organizational strategies, about family dinner plans and how to pack a school lunch.  I rarely babysat because I was always in rehearsal or on stage or waitressing.  I was engaging in the act of living the life-stage I was in while desperately and nearly obsessively longing for and planning the future.  I have always been the queen of ten year plans.  I am not entirely sure it is the healthiest way to live, expending so much energy and thought and time on a future that you are at the same time ensuring is distant from where you are.

Sometime in college I met my Darlin’ Man.  And as soon as we met, certainly as soon as we became serious, I realized that there was no way I could or would ever get the abortion I had always planned on if we accidentally conceived.  This realization scared the shit out me.  I mean, I thrive on planning the future.  The reality of children was always, always something that I knew I would invite into my life when the time was right.  I wished for them NOW, but I knew this.  When I was maybe 3, maybe 4 years old my little sister was a baby.  I have this vivid memory of sitting in my kid-sized rocking chair (the one that is in the attic space at my mother’s house waiting for the next generation along with boxes and boxes of kids books and toys that I’ve been saving all of my life), in the middle of the afternoon, and singing lullabies to my doll.  For hours.  We had this tape of lullabies, English on one side, French on the other – Lullaby Bersuese – and I distinctly remember one specific afternoon repeating and re-listening to the French side at least two if not three times.  Singing along and rocking my doll straight through from afternoon to dusk.  I wanted to memorize it so that when I was a mom I could sing it to my kids without the tape.  Ever since then, I have known, bone deep, that motherhood was something that belonged in my life, that it was something I would choose for myself.  Accordingly, it became the end-goal of every 10 year plan I ever made.  It was there and real and desperately wanted, but was always placed a decade or so away.  Placed out there in the future with a plan in place to ensure it stayed there.  So when I met my Darlin’ Man and realized that if we conceived I would keep the baby, it scared the shit out of me.  It took the concept of motherhood out this plane of planned activity at the perfect time – a place I had put it, and kept it, so that I would not be prematurely tempted – and (re)created it as a  thing that could happen by chance, something that could happen to me and I would do nothing to stop it.  I mean, no kind of birth control is fail-proof right?  And if the idea is that you manifest in your life that which you focus on, kids are an immanent accidental possibility, right?  And that’s scary stuff.  But even while recognizing the absolute havoc that untimed and unplanned kids would have on my life, on our lives, even while rebelling against the mere concept of the active choice being taken away from me – in my deepest self of selves I rejoiced.  I rejoiced because suddenly, miraculously, my most deeply held desire was a possibility.  Because even a 1 in 10,000 chance is a possibility, right?  And if I hit that one in ten thousand jackpot, well,  I could hardly blame myself for accidentally becoming pregnant with my beloved’s child, right?   It wouldn’t be an ill-considered decision, but fate.

And I rejoiced because I knew that the choice of pregnancy and motherhood was really and truly finally within my grasp.  And that scared the shit out of me.  Because if it was something that I finally could choose for myself, why was I not?   If facing the reality of eminence of the mere possibility of kids brought me such joy and relief, why was I avoiding it?  What was I doing with myself?  If I was defining fulfillment as motherhood, and I was denying myself motherhood, then what sort of messed up mind game was I playing with myself?

So I did two things, I sat down with myself and gave myself the permission to savor this pre-kid life for what it is.  There are many things I love about it that I know I will nostalgically savour when my proverbial style is cramped by the minute to minute reality of littles. This life I’m living now is a step along the way but not merely a means to an end.  (Or so I tell myself when I’m not assuring myself that AS SOON as we get enough student loans paid off, I can then get pregnant.  If that’s not a means to an end, I don’t know what is.)    And I asked myself what motherhood really meant to me.  I found that while the essence of motherhood in my soul stands alone and can be applied to or fit within any life scenario I can imagine, my VISION of my future motherhood was pretty specific.  Once, in the early and turbulent portion of our relationship, my Darlin’Man asked me if I knew what my purpose in life was.  I don’t remember the words I chose – I think nurture was one.  But I remember being very careful of what words I used because I knew the answer as clear as day, and I knew that English lacked a single word for the amalgam of creation and nurturing and tending and supporting and healing and reverence that gardening and mothering and animal husbandry and making art and feeding people and giving them medicine and tending their wounds all have in common.  There is a common element, and it is profound and resides in my soul, but I don’t know that there is a word for it.  I thought about all of this and I realized that my vision of my own experience of motherhood was all entwined in my vision of homesteading.  Raising kids and goats and gardens was all one life action for me.  Which meant I better get the set up in place if I wanted to realize that vision.

So I shifted my future focus onto the homestead (and by this I mean I took all of that near-obsessive planning and applied it to small scale agriculture).  I got married.  My mom moved up here in anticipation of being grandma in the not too distant future.  Last summer we bought the homestead.  It needs a lot of work in creating it as a productive home scale agricultural venture.  It craves digging and building and fencing and lots of compost.  But every time I think about a fence line, or the placement of a coop, I think in terms of little hands on latches, little feet in the grass, buoyant laughter echoing, trees for solace of little hearts.  As I think about where the fruit trees and the barn ought to go in relation to a future barn, and maintaining the direct sun on the solar panels, I’m also thinking of swings and climbing trees.

I’m now on the two year plan for getting pregnant and every time I sit with myself and examine my prospective reality of motherhood, it still scares the shit out of me.  In a deep and challenging way, a way that has within it the distillation of the visions of bliss and golden glowing mama-ness.  A way that encapsulates the dreams and the bone deep blood deep voice that knows about children belonging in my life.  A way that is also aware (as aware as one can be without the experience) of the work and the drudgery and the self abnegation and the frustration.  The responsibility and the giving.

And if the prospective reality scares the shit out of me and I still want it with the intensity of a decade’s longing melting into tender humbleness; that must mean I’m getting closer and closer to actually being ready, right?  Are you ever ready?  Probably not.

And the closer my own motherhood draws, the more I find myself open to following the lead of this land, our (future) kids, this life we’re choosing.  The ten year plan has opened to allow me to glimpse possible vistas of twenty and fifty years down the road – it is less rigid and encompasses much more possibility for change.  Which means I might just make it though, right?

                              –Jasmine Johnson-Kennedy, Bunchberry Farms

10 thoughts on “On Kiddlets

  1. Wow, this is just how I have felt. I thought I was the only weird mama-stalker around here… Thanks for putting words to my conflicting emotions!

  2. I have also desperately wanted to be a mom since I can remember, but excruciatingly starting around age 15. Definitely also a mama-stalker, I even half became a mama by being a nanny to try to scare myself out of it. It didn’t work. I hung on until I was 23, but sometimes I wish I would have been more set up first, for my sake and for my kids’. I don’t think one can ever really be ready for kids, but it sounds like you are about as close as you can get, and that you have actually been nurturing your future kids for a while now. Lucky them!

  3. thanks Jasmine! i loved reading about your unique experience and perspective. what a fascinating tension-play. although i didn’t yearn for kids quite like that, i can certainly understand the push and pull of opposing desires regarding making babies! even though i was a very reasonable 30, and it was a (just decided) plan, i will admit to being completely FREAKED OUT when we got pregnant with our first. yup, i think most women never feel ready.
    great writing. way to put yourself out there!

  4. Thanks for the reflective post. While I’m not 100% sold on having children, I do fall prey to the 10 year plan, which can sometimes paralyze my actions (I’m learning in retrospect). It’s a push-pull between having drive and motivation to achieve goals and pursue interests versus letting it all unfold. I certainly appreciate your view of it all, and have fun with that new homestead!

  5. How great that you have your homestead, even though it needs work. I hadn’t put as much thought into when to have kids other than I didn’t want to be an old mama, and that I hoped to have started my family by age 30. I found my man at age 20, married just after I turned 23, and was pregnant before I turned 25. Once we had bought our first (small) home, I started to feel the pull of motherhood, like my life was missing something. I gently put it out there to my husband, and I think he realised he couldn’t fight it, and we were pregnant within a few months. In between babies, we had to move 2 states away (in Australia), so that was a rough time in my life as we knew it wouldn’t be for long, as I didn’t want to have another baby while we were there. We moved back when we were expecting number 2, to a suburban house on a big block that needed some work. I worked so hard to get the garden productive before number 2 arrived, and since then (she’s now 3 years old), we’ve renovated our kitchen and bathroom ourselves (with my dad’s help), and made raised garden beds in our front yard to be rid of lawn, and be more productive. We’ve also added solar hot water, solar electricity, water tanks, and backyard chickens for eggs. It’s totally doable, but having a lot of this in place before we had kids would have been much easier. I think you’re on the right track, and having your mother nearby will be a big help to you. Good luck to you and your future family, and keep plugging away at creating your dream life!

  6. Great post. Thank you so much. My husband, who’s a bit younger than me, and I had been arguing about when to start a family for a couple of years. It was awful. I was desperate to start a family and was not getting any younger. He felt we needed a lot more financial security etc… He had good reasons.

    Then he said, ‘OK’ and I got pregnant our first try. I was so afraid he wouldn’t be ecstatic the way I was that I didn’t tell him for a week (and that meant nobody else either)! I just wanted to savour the feeling, to look at pregnancy magazines, to walk around and just rejoice in the fact somebody was growing inside me. When I told him, thank goodness, he did not hesitate in his joy either which was wonderful and a great relief.

    I didn’t go out for the first week after our son was born. He was born at home and I didn’t have to go anywhere. I just didn’t want the outside world to encroach on our joy – just the 3 of us (we had no family nearby). It was bliss. But I cried a lot, which my husband didn’t understand but it was tears of utter joy and relief that the baby was perfect. I have never had that intensity of happiness. Your first is always something special.

    And of course, as soon as we had our son, my husband thought all his worries were absolutely crazy! He knew that whatever sacrifices we had to make were totally worth it. Nothing else was better than this. And we’ve never looked back, 7 years and another child later. I can’t recommend motherhood enough! But now that I’m homeschooling them I feel I’ve finally found my purpose in life. Motherhood was one component, homeschooling the other (and homesteading will certainly be a part of it for you). I just can’t get enough of those kids, I can’t bear to give them away to anyone who won’t nurture and support and encourage them as much as I can. I hope you get pregnant soon. I hope you enjoy your pregnancy and birth (yes, I actually enjoyed my homebirths, as painful as they were!!) And I hope the homesteading all goes well. Good for you and good luck!

  7. BTW, I was a hardcore career woman when I met my husband (what a waste of time that was compared to being a mother!). After I got pregnant, my husband told me some of his doubts about parenthood were that I wouldn’t be able to cope and this would put a lot of pressure on him and we had no family to help out. He came from a big family so knew all about the pressure of kids, I had never held a baby before! But he hadn’t realized he’d had this particular doubt until we fostered an abandoned dog for a while with all sorts of problems.

    This made him recognise this doubt he’d had but said that he changed his mind about my suitability/readiness for motherhood when he saw how hard I tried to help that dog, the love I poured into her and how hard I tried to find solutions and how hard I tried to make them work (didn’t work out unfortunately, she ‘went’ for kids and had to be given up for adoption to several more no-kids families before we lost track of her). So, that’s interesting. It had never occurred to me he might be worried about that. So, don’t worry about wanting kids too much and showing yourself to be ready and knowledgeable!!

  8. I was totally opposite to you – no maternal longings until one day I decided that maybe it was time to have a baby. I was 31.

    Now I have two children and I’m so glad I did. My life was a bit one dimensional before they came along.

    Best wishes with the baby making :-D

  9. I know what you mean about the ten year plan potentially meaning a lot of living in the future, instead of savouring the present but – I think you will be so glad you put all this effort in now. Or perhaps what I should say is I wish I’d done it!

    I also always knew I wanted to have children, and was always the one at extended family gatherings to be found looking after the little kids and babies. But my vision wasn’t anywhere near as clear, and I suppose was complicated by different and various career ambitions (mine and his). So that although our babies were very planned (the first one arriving right on schedule, shortly after I turned 30), I still wish we’d put more time and energy into ‘building our (urban) homestead’ beforehand.

    All that being said, I think savouring the present the and joys of being able to read a newspaper without interruption, sleep in occasionally, hell, just sleep – all definitely worth doing! And can you ever be ready? You probably can, you can just never really be prepared for the reality – not for the joys or the drudgery.

    Now you’ve made me completely re-think my guest post (due this friday), which is too bad since I’ve half written it already! Oh well, save that one for later… :)

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