Where was the Nursery in My Dream House?

Dear friends,

I’m on the road this week, plus I have a migraine headache, so I am going to share one of the first posts I wrote here in 2007. Your comments are welcome. 

“Dream House,” the slender file was labeled. I remember 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.

7 thoughts on “Where was the Nursery in My Dream House?

  1. I'm quite the opposite. I never in a million years imagined me not having children. It was all I planned on since the day I was playing dolls with my little sister. Get my career going, be married and have a family. Got the career… Got married….. And then…. No kids. Still feels like a bad dream and that I'm pretty sure I will wake up from it, be 26 and getting pregnant.


  2. Hey Sue, sorry to hear of your migraine. We are on vacation and I've been nursing a headache that pain medicine is not helping. However in regards to your post, I wouldn't have planned a nursery at 16 or 26 or 36 because I don't think that way. Even though I love babies and want them, I see a nursery as a transitional type room that is only a nursery for short while. It's just another bedroom to me. I'm way too practical, I guess. oh, I'd decorate it with little animals and cutesy baby stuff, but again I'd not plan a nursery into a larger house design. Same with an office. It's a spare bedroom made into a functioning office. Less transitional than a nursery but still more of an afterthought. I hope your migraines have let up by now. I get them too, but mine are the visual kind where my vision is blocked and I can't see, with only a dull, penetrating, lingering headache.


  3. Thanks for your comment, Silver. I don't always get the visual effects, but when I do, although it's pretty scary, the headache isn't as bad. Anyway, you may be right about not planning a nursery, but I will tell you if somebody wanted to take my office away for any other purpose, including a nursery, I would go ballistic, which tells you a lot about me. Take care. Hope the headaches are rare and not too bad.


  4. I can relate to this. One of the reasons I was willing to accept a future without children was because I don't remember fantasizing much about having children when I was a little girl. Getting married – definitely. But when I played “house,” it was just my husband and me. No kids. Barbies? They went on dates with their Kens, but they didn't have babies. I didn't have many baby dolls, preferring to play with stuffed cartoon characters. Maybe for awhile I played with one baby doll I had…but it wasn't the center of my universe. I'd rather read or do workbooks. And I don't have any explanation for this. I was raised in a household with traditional gender roles, although neither of my parents ever said anything like, “When you grow up and have children…” so perhaps it just never occurred to me that that would be expected of me…and perhaps it really wasn't expected of me.


  5. Anon June 20, I hear you. My grownup dolls were all in show biz. No babies. I guess it starts early, and it probably does make it easier to accept a childless marriage if you weren't obsessed with babies as a child.


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