Tattoos and Wine: A Midlife Parenting Crisis

Just before my 32nd birthday, I got my first tattoo. I have always liked tattoos on others, but could never think of something I wanted on my own body for the rest of my life. In college, I was briefly into piercings because I could always take them out, which I have. Now, I have a beautifully permanent print, in memory of a beautiful (albeit challenging) time.

Instead of stretch marks (I won the genetic lottery), I will forever have a newborn footprint, one from each of two children, on my foot. One could see them as a badge into the “mom club,” but I see them as much more. A reminder of how small my babies once were, how much they needed me, and how much we still need each other. An attempt to hold onto something, a piece of them, that will never change and never be lost. A memory of our time together while I have been fortunate enough to work from home, while caring for them. Hopefully they will also be a calming image on those trying tantrum-filled days, helping me to pause and remember they will not be this little forever. I know it sounds cliche. I thought my mom was crazy for crying when I got on the school bus for the first time or when she cried at every one of my performances. She always told me that when I was a mom I would understand. Well, dammit Mom, you were right.

My husband is 100% certain that we are done having kids. We have that ideal “every” parent wants–one of each–a girl and a boy. He comes from a family that believes in zero population growth and not having more children than one can afford to educate. While I also agree with most of this, it has been a difficult journey getting there. Coming from a family where I am the only child from my biological parents, I have always wanted a large family, all my own. A family where we all have the same last name, siblings look alike, and we have a simple-to-follow family tree. Don’t get me wrong, I am EXTREMELY grateful for my amazing stepparents and my two wonderful half-siblings. I just think we want what we did not have, but saw what everyone else did have growing up–the greener grass and all. I love studying family dynamics and how they influence subsequent families, which is probably why I changed my major in college to family social science.

Now that I am no longer a child, I can make those family formation decisions. However, I obviously cannot do it alone and my husband and I need to make those decisions together. Yes, marriage is about compromise, but also, at times, sacrifice. My husband actually had a vasectomy scheduled a few months after our second child was born. I had an emotional meltdown and asked him to cancel it a few days beforehand. I was nowhere close to ready to make such a permanent decision, especially when our baby was only five months old. What if something horrible happened and we lost one of our children? What if something happened to one of us and we wanted more children with another spouse? The what-ifs kept coming to me, thanks to my anxious, hormone-ridden, state of mind and sent me into overdrive. Finally, I just had to tell him I wasn’t ready to make that sacrifice yet, and I would need some time to think about it.

At first, it did not go well. Having to accept something you do not want to accept just plain sucks. Yes, it could be worse, it always can be. At least I had my two beautiful children (even after a miscarriage). I am lucky, fortunate and appreciative for all that I have, but having those incredible little beings make me feel so good, I want more. My babies give me the highest of highs, like a drug…a hormone-induced drug. But there comes a time when emotions need to have a chat with reason; head and heart need to find common ground. Do I want to be able to continue working part-time or not at all, so I can soak up as much time as possible with these babies? Do I want to be able to afford their activities and education, so each one can have the same opportunities our parents provided to us? Do I want to continue to be able to hold both babies on my lap at the same time without anyone feeling left out? The answer to all of these questions is, yes.

Sacrifice must turn into acceptance. My plan has come in stages. Stage one: a lot of wine. Stage two: sell all of the baby gear…and a lot of wine. Stage three: the tattoo…and a lot of wine. Stage four: not sure what that will be yet…Reflection? Writing? More wine?

I may not know what comes next, but I will forever have little footprints to remind me of what was and to enjoy what currently is.


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