Sometimes when I’m around other women my own age, I feel like such a child. They have jobs and careers and goals and paychecks. They seem to know what they’re doing in life, where they want to go, what they want from the world. I feel like a giant immature idiot, drifting along without a clue or any achievements to my name.
I mean, I have achievements, but far too many of them feel not so much like achievements as things I’ve done that look good on a resume and make other people excited. The only ones that felt like achievements to me were my college diplomas. Even then, it (weirdly) felt like other people were making a bigger deal out of it than me — like I needed to pretend to a level of excitement I didn’t really feel. Sometimes I think … I think the only thing that would make me feel “successful” is to write and publish a book.
I’m 34 now, and I should know that none of us have it together … but I feel like I’m groping in the dark, lost and looking for advice. I feel like I can’t do any of it quite right … like (as my dad loves to describe me) I keep marching to the beat of a different drum. The way I would say it is “out of step.” The other moms I know got their degrees and careers first, and had their marriages and kids (multiple!) second. I got married, had a baby, and then went to college.
The other women my age have jobs, or are in between jobs. Some have college degrees, some don’t. They earn paychecks and support their households. They have work histories that include publishing and teaching and banking and management and sales. They are professional women, with professional clothing and professional lives.
These women often don’t know or care about canning and sewing. When we talk politics or social movements, my knowledge comes from news reports, college lectures, and research — theirs so often seems to come from experience and observation. I feel frumpy and childish and awkward, out of step and out of sync when I talk to them. I feel as though they pity me.
But then there are the women my age who are consummate housewives. They homeschool and cook gourmet meals and plan birthday parties down to the last detail. They scrapbook and hold stamping parties and whip up healthy snacks in fun shapes, and they like to talk about reality t.v. and the latest drama on Real Housewives of whatever. When asked what they like to read, they say Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey.
With these women, I feel gawkish and nerdy and somehow … bad. A bad mom. A mom who doesn’t make home-made yoghurt, and who gladly passes the responsibility of his formal education off to others. I am too selfish to be a good mom, and I feel like they look down on me for my choice to have only one child, as well as my professional and educational aspirations.
My kid sister has traveled the world. She has been to foreign countries, lived on her own, gone white water rafting and rock climbing. She has learned a foreign language. She works for a non-profit to help change the world. I envy and admire her, and wonder what turns we took in life that took us on such disparate paths. I wouldn’t mind trading places with her for a day or so, as long as I could always go back home (or take John with me).
My older sister has 4 children that she homeschools. She is a devout mormon and a stay at home mom. She runs marathons and volunteers at her church. My feelings about her are more complicated … I admire her fortitude, and am in awe of the patience she has to possess. But I do not envy her. I would not ever want to swap places with her, even for a day, or an hour.
I love my husband. I love my son. I love our animals, and I love my town. I love the life I have, the family I have, the opportunities I have. But at the same time, I so often feel as though I never quite fit the expectations people have of me. I always feel a little out-of-step, a little awkward.
I think that when I hit adulthood, someone forgot to supply me with the How-To Manual.