“Do you not want to be anything?” my daughter inquired as we were walking – no, me half walking half running; her half running, half flying – up the last hill to the school. “Or you just want to be a mum?”
Interesting positioning of the career vs stay-at-home debate where whatever the criticism, the one I thought I was not going to be subject to was ‘being just a mum’, having started working when she was six weeks old and done little else since. She seems to think motherhood as my full-time occupation, and that work is purely instrumental, not an identity. (Why would anyone think so?)
“I’m not just a mum, I’m a…” I hesitated at ‘management consultant’. Let’s not mock my daughter’s intelligence. “I work.” (How am I ever going to credibly convince anyone whose hands my career is in of the importance of my job, when I can’t say so and look a six-year old in the eye).
“Yes. But I mean, don’t you want to become something? Like a ballet teacher?”
“I’d like to be a writer. Write books.”
“Who would you send them to?”
“Hmmm… an editor, maybe?”
“Or me? If they’re like children’s books and interesting.”
“Yes. What would you want to be?”
Nearly at the top. “Sh-t. I forgot my lunch in the fridge!”
“Do they have food at work?”
“They do, but I end up spending a lot of money if I don’t bring my own.”
“You just have to work harder then. It’s important that you eat, mama.”
I dropped her off, found the walk easier downhill, crammed into the tube, and cried. Tubes are a good place for this. In the closed, restricted space in a quest to preserve some dignity and personal space people are trying to be mentally as distant from each other as they are physically close, so it doesn’t matter what you are thinking and whether that is followed by a stream of tears, ticks or whatever as long as it doesn’t release odour.
I realised what I had written in my diary the night before was a paradox. I said I didn’t mind ‘change’ but I couldn’t handle this uncertainty. But it is impossible to take uncertainty out of change, because by definition we can only be certain about things that are in the past, and we can have a feeling of certainty if we have enough confidence that the past, or most elements of it, have a strong likelihood of being repeated, which is not exactly how you might describe ‘change’. Saying that change is ok, but uncertainty is not is a bit like saying that you like the beach but not getting sand in your crack.
“We are vehemently faithful to our own view of the world, our story. We want to know what new story we’re stepping into before we exit the old one. We don’t want an exit if we don’t know exactly where it is going to take us, even – or perhaps especially – in an emergency”
Stephen Grosz, ‘The Examined Life’