The Truth About Kids and Dogs

Posted on November 2, 2010

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I have (very) part-time custody of a big, neurotic, snuggly brown dog. I also have a cold.

Both the dog and the cold are staying with me this week, disrupting my insular, mostly selfish life. I can’t pamper myself as I would like to, because I have deadlines at work and no backyard and the dog must be walked. I love the dog, and I want him to be happy, but I don’t want to walk him. I want to put on my pajamas right after work and curl up under a blanket with my laptop and read Twitter and watch the election results on MSNBC. I want the freedom to go out after work, even though I rarely do. I want to sleep in an extra fifteen minutes, and not walk around the block on the morning of the first cold day of the year.

I’m kind of a disaster. Living alone allows me to camouflage this to a great extent. You don’t know that I ate Tostitos for dinner last night because I am too lazy to wash six dishes for the fourth day in a row, or that I pulled my outfit piecemeal off of a giant mound of unfolded laundry that is permanently ensconced in my unused second bedroom.  And you won’t know unless I tell you, because this space and this life is mine-all-mine.  My own private Idaho, my refuge, my kingdom.

But about that second bedroom. When I decided to leave my sister, and our dog, and the house we owned together, I felt like I was deliberately opening a new chapter in my life, and that it was the chapter that would include children. I leased my two bedroom apartment–an unthinkable luxury for a single renter in the city–with that in mind.

I joke a lot–too much, probably–about my ovaries and their impending death. But behind those bitter jokes is the one certainty I have ever known: that I am meant to be a mother. Even as a 12-year-old, I doodled potential baby names in my notebooks as much as I did boys’ names. I’m a baby whisperer, able to summon deep wells of patience to soothe little crankies to sleep. While I want a life partner, and the kind of great love that poets write about, I have always believed that whether or not I ever found it, I would have a child. For years, actually, I believed that I’d have three or four, and preside over one of those exuberant homes where little pairs of boots line up by the door like stairsteps and Christmas morning is a joyful melee.

I decided that if I were still single at 35, I’d get pregnant on my own.  When 35 started to bear down on me, I decided I’d throw myself into dating wholeheartedly for a year and see if I couldn’t find someone to love first.  When that year was up, I decided that I would go back to school and finish my B.S., reasoning that if I don’t do it now I certainly won’t be able to do it after I have a kid.  Until then, my second bedroom sits empty, save for my wrinkling clothes.

The point is, I keep putting it off.  I keep making other things a priority, knowing perfectly well that the decision will be out of my hands at some point.  Besides being toward the end of the fertility bell curve already at 35, I have PCOS, so it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to get knocked up on my first try.

But beyond the logistical hurdles of time and ovulation, for the first time ever I’ve begun to doubt whether or not I’m really capable of handling a baby on my own.  I’ve been a lone wolf forever.  I like answering only to me.  I know I’m not going out after work this week, yet I am extremely resentful that having my dog here means I can’t change my mind.  I like my apartment being quiet.  I like being the best-read person I know.  I like sleeping.  I mean, I really, really like it.  I have a vision of myself, tired from work and nursing a cold, coming home alone to a cranky baby who won’t sleep, and not having anyone to call on and say It’s your turn, and it is not a pretty picture.   In this vision, I am not a happy person.

This is not a decision point.  I’ve bought myself two more years–or who knows, maybe I will fall in love with one of my professors and get pregnant at the perfect time so that I can graduate and give birth in the same month, and still drink at my epic graduation party.  Which will really be a surprise wedding!  Barring that happy fantasy, I just don’t know.

The truth about kids and dogs is that they need you, and you can’t choose not to meet those needs once you commit.  There’s no wiggle room, no vacation, no end in sight, really.  I worry that I’m too selfish for that now, that the parts of me that were once malleable have assumed an inflexible shape and would just break, were they asked to bend and bend without relief.  Then again, maybe some stretching is just what I need…(Can I torture this metaphor more by comparing my hypothetical out of wedlock future children to some kind of yoga for the soul?  No?  I thought it might be worth a try.)

(SPOILER ALERT: I found out in the course of writing this post that I got into school!!!  Look out Philly, because here I come.)

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Posted in: Angst, Living