When I was single, I loved living alone. I wasn’t one of those people who jumped at every noise outside the window or complained of being lonely. I relished my independence. I decorated with all the flowers I could stand. I watched a movie and ate half a gallon of Blue Bell ice cream without a shred of guilt. I peed with the door open. Ah, the single life.
When my then-boyfriend and now-husband moved in with me, I mourned the loss of my freedom and unbridled personal expression. And I don’t have to tell any of you who have cohabitated that the first few months were rough—“What do you mean you don’t like this painting?” “Um, what exactly is this in the bathroom sink?”
But I soon learned the joys of living with someone I loved were well worth the effort. I had my best friend around every day. We developed more inside jokes than a CIA open mic night. And we started creating a family through a bond of intimacy that stretched far beyond the bedroom.
After we were married and decided to have children, the old loss-of-freedom fear returned. Actually, I’ll be honest. I was pretty sure I was too selfish to be a mom.
My solo movie nights were still treats, but now I also luxuriated in long dinner dates with my husband. If we wanted to spend an entire Saturday doing nothing but watching TV or wandering around the museum, we could. We traveled to places like the Bahamas, Mexico, and France. We had couple freedom—a slight variation on single-gal freedom, but freedom nonetheless.
Every friend with kids told me the same thing: Enjoy it while you can because when you have kids, you won’t be able to travel/go to the movies/get your nails done/shop/wear white/pee by yourself.
Haha! I laughed at their warnings behind their backs. I mean, get a sitter, people! What do you mean you can’t travel? Take the kid with you! Geez.
I am now the mother of a loving, talkative, and courageous two-year-old. And I have to say, my friends were mostly right. There are exceptions. We see movies—but rarely together. We travel—but rarely out of state. And I shop—but I do it quickly.
The good news is I found that selfishness wasn’t so much the problem. Meaning—that was the problem.
I’m a writer, so I always have a project that I’m passionate about. I find great meaning in my current manuscript or feature article. But I’d never give up movies or vacations or nail salons for an article.
I would, however, give up just about anything for my son.
That kind of deep meaning arrives with an equally profound amount of responsibility. That’s what I was afraid of—not so much the loss of my freedom, but the inadequacy to meet the challenges that accompany great meaning.
But one of the mysteries of life is that we don’t get the courage to face something new until we’re actually faced with the new thing itself. The challenge brings with it a key that unlocks reserves in ourselves we never knew existed.
We buy diapers instead of manicures. We wear white on days we have a sitter. And we travel to places that are kid-friendly because watching the joy on our children’s faces as they discover new worlds is a trip unlike any other.
I sometimes wonder what my single-gal self would have made of my life today. I’m pretty sure she would have winced. But as nice as her nails were, she didn’t know what I know and what Janis Joplin sang so well: Freedom is just another word for nothin’ left to lose.