A letter to myself before I had kids, when I was saying I didn’t want them

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Dear Mandy that I used to be,

Maybe you’re sitting there in a high school classroom, ruminating that they don’t have windows because kids would jump out of them like felons after solitary confinement (I still remember fantasizing about breaking out of those concrete boxes on sunny days). Maybe you’re stuck in that one bedroom apartment in college, surviving off after midnight cold pizza and the Dairy Queen dollar menu. Maybe you’re sitting in the condo, bare of all furniture but the lawn chairs and air mattress, miserable because the one car you share with your new husband means that during the day you’re stuck at home.

No matter what version of you is reading this letter they all have one thing in common. They’re all bound and determined not to be a mommy. Despite what people predict, despite the sidelong looks you get when you say this, just know that I still think it’s okay.

You’re not wrong in your fears. You’re afraid you’ll be horrible at it, that you just don’t have it in you to put someone else, someone fragile, that far ahead of yourself. You see yourself in many places; traveling, writing books, staring in awe at the wonders of the world, righting wrongs. You fear the introduction of a new, little person will kibosh all of those could bes. You’re not wrong.

It’s okay to stand on your soapbox and say, “I want more!” It’s okay. As long as you feel that, as long as your dragons to slay are still roaring, go get ’em girl. Let nothing hold you back.

Because when you do have kids, and honey you will, you’ll be able to look at them and say, “I was so ready for you.” I was ready to love you with every cell of my body, with every beat of my heart, with everything that once thought mommyhood wasn’t for me.

In order to get to that place, you’ve got things to do and places to go. Do them. See them. You’re going to question yourself. You’re going to feel lost on the path. It’s okay. You’ll make it. Take pictures. For a while it’ll just be you and that wonderful, patient, kind husband of yours and I encourage you to enjoy it as selfishly as you want. You’re building something that will last, something that a family has to rely on. The first time you see his face after he holds his little one, you’re going to fall in love with him all over again, so quickly it’s almost painful, so absolutely it washes everything else away. And that moment is only so intense because you waited for it, because you went through so many adventures together first. It’s okay to want the adventures.

You’re right about some things…getting pooped on is still gross, no matter whose it is. Overnight feedings, when you can barely hold your eyes open, suck. Feeling a feverish forehead, so tiny and burning hot, is as terrifying as you imagine it to be.

One myth though, one I know gives you nightmares, is that motherhood will stunt your growth. It won’t. You do the most growing you ever will after that baby joins your house. The hard edges you were once proud of; the anger, the impatience, the black and white thinking, those are smoothed by having someone who watches and learns from your actions. You still do the things you love. You still dance. You still work for justice. You still write. You still…are totally you. The mantel of motherhood doesn’t smother you, instead it frees you. You feel more yourself and prouder of your body than ever before. It did a miraculous, awesome thing. It nurtured the babies that fill you up with joy. It holds them before bedtime, sings them lullabies. It runs alongside them while they try out their bikes, hoists them up ladders at the park. It is strong and capable.

It’s okay to say, “I don’t want kids.” Right now, you don’t. You want other things. You ask yourself, “How can I teach someone something without having done it myself?” Go do it. Go stick your feet in the sand. Go write a book and feel the addictive exhilaration when it starts to sell. Go learn to be a better, more open minded person.

And someday when you feel that sudden urge to hold your own little one in your arms, know that’s okay too. You do alright at it. Those babies of yours, they’re really something. They’re strong and beautiful, smart and funny. You don’t define yourself by them, but they quickly and easily become your proudest achievement. They’re growing so quickly you spend more time wondering how can I slow it down than you ever did worrying about not being good at it.

Love,

Mandy, the mom

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