“Dream House,” the slender file was labeled. I remembered it well, a 1968 home economics assignment filed away in a cabinet covered with bumper stickers for PBS, ecology groups, and local newspapers.
It was a great house, done up in bright red, green and yellow. I had an office, a darkroom, a craft room and a gallery, lots of bathrooms, a living room, kitchen, and bedroom, everything except a nursery. At 16, it never occurred to me to allot space for children. My home was a glorified office complex with living quarters attached.
The rest of the folder includes plans for a build-it-yourself desk and craft ideas for the kitchen and den. No nurseries or bunk beds.
Why didn’t I think about a place for children? I couldn’t have known that 35 years later I’d enter menopause without giving birth, that the equipment that caused me killer cramps every 28 days would never serve any purpose, that I would be married twice to men who wouldn’t or couldn’t have kids, that my only mothering experiences would be dog-mothering or step-mothering. I couldn’t possibly have known all that. I was not one of those teens who decide early that she doesn’t even want to have children. And, although I claim a bit of ESP, I don’t think that was involved here.
Perhaps I was just innocent. There’s no space for a husband in that house either. A late bloomer, I didn’t start dating until I was in college. By the time a man showed up at the door to take me on a date, my parents were so relieved they didn’t even consider imposing a curfew or giving him the third degree. But I daydreamed like every other teen of boys and men falling in love with me, wanting to marry me. Did I not realize that relationships with men usually led to children, or at least they did back in the ’60s? Love, marriage, baby carriage. I didn’t know much about sex, but I think I knew that much.
So why at 16 didn’t I leave space in my dream house for children? Why did I just seek work space?
I was a kid who “mothered” baby dolls, toddler dolls, Barbie dolls, stuffed animal dolls, enough dolls to cover my entire double bed. I gave them all names, carried them around with me, made them clothes, talked to them all the time, and grieved when they got torn or bent. I called myself their Mommy.
At the same time, I was in full wife and mother training. I learned how to cook and sew and clean. Mom had me washing, drying and ironing clothes by the hamper-full. By the time I was 10, I could copy her famous chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. By 15, I could prepare a full dinner. I could also knit, crochet, embroider and sew. Whatever other career I might pursue, my main life’s work would be the same as my mother’s: caring for a husband, home and children.
So why didn’t I put a nursery in my dream house?
Had I already decided that since I had had no dates at 16, nobody would ever ask me out, so I might as well plan life as a creative spinster? I don’t think so. As a 30-year-old divorcee whose life was all about work, I thought that, but not when I was in high school. I had crushes on several boys and at least one teacher, and I was berserk over Paul McCartney. But a nursery? Babies? I wasn’t thinking about that. Do most 16-year-olds think about babies in that window between playing with dolls and real-life pregnancy? Maybe that’s why so many teens get pregnant by accident. They don’t see it as something that might really happen to them.
I have always wanted a terrific office. Nurseries are pretty and soft and warm and smell of baby powder, but I have never seen myself belonging in one. I wanted to fit in; babies are God’s most amazing creation, but maybe I always knew he had another plan for me, a plan that required an office.
They say that the way you envision your life is the way it will turn out. If I had drawn a nursery into my dream house, would I be a mother and grandmother now? I’ll never know because it never occurred to me at 16.
Just as most of my classmates never thought about including an office in their dream houses. What for?
Perhaps this pencil diagram in an old folder in an old file cabinet contains the key to why I never became a mother. I could blame husband number one for not wanting them or husband number two for not wanting any more than the ones he already had. I could attribute my childless state to persistent use of birth control. But the truth, somehow, is that I always wanted an office, not a nursery. And that’s what I got.
As always, your comments are welcome.
Copyright 2007 Sue Fagalde Lick
2 thoughts on “Where’s the Nursery?”
Coming to your blog years after you started it but I am so happy to find it! I decided to start reading it from the very beginning and here is where I am. So a little background – I am 37 married to a 58 yr old man whom I adore. We've been married for 5 years and he has two kids from his first marriage (23 and 28). I get along great with them. When we met each other 6 years ago, we very quickly had a frank conversation about kids or no kids. I told him I was 'on the fence', he said he was 98% sure about not having any more (and he has a vasectomy). At that time, I was 'on the fence' because I hadn't had a relationship healthy enough to consider bringing a child into this world. I was afraid of disaster. So I decided to choose love and marry him. Then of course, marrying him and being a pseudo-mom to his children changed everything. Now, at 37 and in the throes of trying to find a way out of this childless sorrow, I am living in fear that his children may have children before I do, and trying to discover an acceptable grey area somewhere between the horrible black and white. Now I know that there was some part of me that held on to that 2% and said “Well, if he loves me enough, if I can MAKE him love me enough, if I ever want a child, of course he'll want to have one with me. So much for living in an everything-works-out-in-the-movies world.
So the reason I responded to this post in particular, is because I have been haunted by something similar to your 16-yr old plans. 3 months before I met my husband, I made a list called My Wish List and 10 Year Plan. On it I listed about 20 items having to do with a house, career, relationships, where I would live, spirituality etc…But nowhere on that list did I say something like – “I want three kids” I did mention something about 'when I have a family everyone will know how to sail…', but I HAVE a family, a huge family frankly. But no mention of babies or children at all. So I guess just like you, I've got almost everything that I wished for, and most importantly, what I forgot.
Thank you so much for sharing this. It's a tough situation, especially when you're married to an older man.