My mother constantly tells me not to get married or to have kids even though I know she wants grandchildren. I have a sneaky suspicion it’s because if she could do her life over again, she wouldn’t have done so. If I’m being honest, more like, she told me she wouldn’t have gotten married or had a child if she could do her life over again. That fact, of course, means I wouldn’t exist. Hearing this from her did not make me angry; it made me curious.
We were at lunch with some family members, my father included, and the conversation of passions came up – what we’re all passionate about or would’ve devoted our lives to if we had the chance. My mother said she didn’t have one, a passion that is. I think my jaw dropped. I always figured it was education since she worked for both the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and as a principal at my own elementary school. Didn’t have a passion? It didn’t make any sense.
I inquired further. “You’ve had all these jobs in a seemingly united field. What do you mean you don’t have a passion? Education isn’t your passion?” “No.” “So, you’ve just been working to work all these years?” “Yes.” “Well, what would you have done if you hadn’t been doing that?” “I would have traveled. My passion would have been travel.”
The good stuff. My mother would have traveled. I asked her why she didn’t. “I got married and had you. God had other plans.” I asked her if she regretted it. “I don’t regret you or your father. I just didn’t know what I wanted at the time. Your wishes and hopes change as you get older. You realize you would’ve done things differently after the fact.” So, did she regret me being born? No. Does she maybe wish I hadn’t been so she could’ve gallivanted all across the globe? Yes.
Still curious, I reflected back on a chance she had to go to Africa when I was younger. Problem was, the trip would’ve fallen on my birthday meaning she wouldn’t have been present for it. At seven or eight years old, my birthday was one of the few things that mattered to me so when she asked me if I would be okay with her going, I said no. So, she stayed home. At 24, I wish I knew then what I know now because I would have said yes. Yes, not simply because it would have been a great experience and what’s one birthday when she’s spent my whole life with me. But yes because I believe my mother loves me, but also know she could have done and been so much more. The idea that while I was her choice and dream too, got in the way of her other pursuits breaks my heart.Go now. Do it before you have a partner and kids and your choices get restricted. Click To Tweet
My whole life she has pushed me towards experiences. I was never without all the material things I needed and wanted, but it was much easier to convince her to buy me something that would expand my mind and worldview than it was a trip to the nail salon or new bag. My mother helped me fund some of my earliest trips abroad when my Dad, who has always been adverse to travel, especially by plane, would have rather I stayed at home. It was my mother who convinced him to let me go to Europe at 16 with the People to People program. It was my mother who helped me pay for my spring break experience in Panama with the Cornell Global Law Brigades during my freshmen year. It was my mother who never told me I couldn’t go somewhere or that a destination was too far. Thailand? “Have fun Gabby.” Ghana? “You’ll have a great time.” South Africa? “Send us where you’ll be staying and work hard.” Even as I currently prepare to move to Spain, my mother believed I would get a placement long before I did.
“Go now. Do it now before you have a husband and kids and your choices get restricted,” she says. The older I get, the more it makes sense. People want things from you. Long distance relationships usually only work for so long. To some degree, a certain kind of life requires putting down roots. Roots I know I’m not currently interested in, but want to be prepared for when my restless twenty-four-year-old nature gives over to yearning for stability.
The conversation soon shifted and I asked her if she still wants to go. “It’s not like you have a kid at home anymore. Where do you want to go?” “Everywhere. Everywhere is on my list.” “Then you should do that. It’s not like Daddy would care. He’d be fine if you left him at home alone,” I said. “I know. I will,” She answered back. I asked her one last question; “Am I living your dreams through all of my travels? And does that make you proud?” “Yes, immensely,” she replied.My Mother Constantly Tells Me Not to Get Married or Have Kids Click To Tweet
Black people are always talking about how we’re our ancestors wildest dreams. Well, all my grandparents are dead and two I never even knew; so I can’t confidently say what they dreamt of and if what my life looks like today has anything to do with those dreams. But I am the woman living the life my mother always intended for herself and the child she raised. The embodiment of a woman who knows what it is to live on the road.
I think for both of us, for now, that’s enough.