Today I’m lucky enough to have a guest post from Janet Bertolus, the voice behind the thoughtful and entertaining spiritual humor blog, The Observers Voice. When Janet approached me to write for Outmanned I wanted to make sure she would be a good fit for you, my readers, but in order to do that I needed to figure out what Outmanned is really about. I thought long and hard and finally came up with an answer: family.
For me, family is a crazy roller coaster of little kids, loud dogs, dirty diapers, and slumber parties. I write this blog to both escape and celebrate the chaos that is my life and the little monsters that I love more than words can express. But family can mean a lot of things to different people, so I asked Janet to write for me about her idea of family. I think you’re going to love her honesty and her humor as she tells you all about how she accidentally forgot to have kids.
Take it away, Janet…
When I was around thirty-three all my girlfriends, even my little sister, started having babies. I was no longer married, and couldn’t get myself arrested as far as dating was concerned. Being pretty sure that I needed sperm as one of the key ingredients to complete the baby making recipe, I came to this realization
Babies, for me, would have to wait.
Although I had lots of dolls as a kid and practically raised my sister who was six years younger and with whom I shared a room, you wouldn’t have pegged me as the nurturing, maternal type. Even so, for Christmas I received full play kitchens, doll clothes and strollers. Female/mothering propaganda was in full swing in the early 1960’s. Girls wore pink, played with dolls, learned to cook in Home Ed class, babysat, finished high school, got married and had babies.
Personally, I leaned more toward the Malibu Barbie lifesyle. The beach house, the convertible and the closet full of fabulous clothes and shoes. She could be a stewardess, or a nurse. They never had an infant or toddler in the franchise. Her arms were not designed to hold a baby. Nope, Barbie was destined for a different life, like dating guys with intimacy issues, fast cars, plastic hair and no man parts: guys named Ken.
Here are two early female role models who marked me:
One was a neighborhood girl who babysat me when I was small. She used to sit surrounded by books, deep in homework. That is, when she wasn’t brushing and braiding my hair at my command. I remember my parents talking about her getting into The University of Southern California and about a year later (I could be wrong. I was six and had very little sense of time) we saw her fiancé on TV as part of the Rose Bowl halftime show. I think he was the Drum Major; I remember him prancing around the field in his huge fur hat.
Apparently, it was a VERY big deal. My parents could not have been prouder had it been MY boyfriend on the field in the furry hat, waving the baton. She stopped babysitting when they graduated and got married. She then had her own daughter whose hair she could braid at her leisure.
The next babysitter I had was COMPLETELY different.
I think my parents were in a jam, so they resorted to using Sue, who lived next door. Sue was tan and skinny and looked as if a helicopter had styled her hair. No more brushing or braids for me.
In today’s world she’d be tatted up, with nose, eyebrow and tongue piercings. She was badass. Sue smoked, talked on the phone, wore white frosted Mary Quant lipstick, which she let me wear, and made out with her boyfriend on the front porch. She had graduated high school but didn’t go to college and played Beatles records incessantly (she taught me the words, phonetically, to Michelle My Belle). She drank my dad’s beer and swore in front of me, like I was her equal, slyly looking sideways at me to gauge my reaction. I didn’t flinch; hey, I was cool, man. I was like an eager puppy, always at her feet.
Even though it seemed she barely tolerated me……. I worshipped her.
One scheduled night she just didn’t show up. I never saw Sue Poole again. I asked my mom what happened and she said Sue had moved out, but I overheard the real story one day when my mom was gossiping with one of her friends (’cause this was some juicy shit). Sue had run away with her boyfriend and hitchhiked to New York to go to a rock concert. This concert had gone on for days and people were “smoking marijuana and having sex everywhere.”
Sue went to Woodstock! SUE WAS A HIPPIE! Sue was my hero.
It was those mixed messages on which I built my life.
I didn’t date very much, but I made great friends with a guy my senior year of high school. He was three years older than me, very kind and adoring with a good job in the record business. Just the kinda guy you SHOULD marry……so I did. I married him at 20 (which should be against the law, by the way) you should NOT be allowed to make lifetime decisions when you still wear a retainer and can’t buy beer.
We never got around to having kids.
We felt like we had all the time in the world and motherhood just wasn’t calling me. We partied hard, spent a ton of money, lived recklessly, and smoked a lot of pot. Come on! It was the record business in LA in the late 70’s- early 80’s. We were yuppie hoodlums.
I divorced him seven years later when I realized I didn’t love him “that way”; so thank God. I did occasionally have SOME flashes of insight, even though at twenty seven, I still had a LOT of growing up to do.
After I left, I worked my ass off to get ahead, sometimes two jobs when I had to.
Once I got a job in Estate Jewelry, I thought I had it made: nice hours (I had to be there at the crack of eleven and stay until the ungodly hour of six) and great money. I wanted to learn the business, so I took night classes on diamonds and colored gemstones, and got up at 4am to work the flea markets on Sundays to learn how to buy and sell silver.
Here is where I catch up with the beginning of my story: I’m thirty three, everyone’s having kids, and all I do is work…..and sleep.
No dating, not even a glimmer of a man on the horizon. I’d had a couple of semi serious relationships since the divorce, but no one that was “father material.” My mother once gave me this sage advise: Be very careful who you pick to be the father of your children; you will be connected to him for the REST OF YOUR LIFE. Thanks mom, that’s fucking terrifying. But I really took it to heart.
Maybe too much.
Around thirty six I started to realize that the motherhood ship might have sailed………..without me.
That thought had never occurred to me before. I guess I just assumed my life would take me in the same direction as all my friends. The same direction as seemingly every woman in her early to mid thirties, in magazines, on TV, in movies, in books, in my city, in my state, in my country.
I was deep into my spiritual practice at that point so I pondered the big existential questions, like:
Why be a woman if you don’t experience the one thing our bodies are MADE for?
Why do I still have chin acne, I’m almost forty?
I remember going to one of the many kid parties held every weekend at Chuck E. Cheese, and as I left, I felt sick: from the shitty food and also from the realization that all these women were going home to a house full of life and love and kids and I was going home to……silence and an apartment that was as clean as when I left it that morning. I bet that if I’d yelled “Wanna trade lives?” five of the women would have handed me their children and run literally out of their shoes to make a dash to freedom. The grass always looks greener on the other side.
So, I started to entertain the thought of becoming a single parent. I had the great job, money in the bank, so what if I didn’t have the husband?
Over coffee, I asked one of my wise spiritual teachers, a women, what I should do.
“Why do you want to be a mama?” She asked with her deep voice and direct gaze.
“Um, well, um…. hmmmm ” (nervous laugh)
“I don’t know, I guess……….because I’m supposed to do it?…….everyone is doing it?”
“That’s a terrible reason. This is a huge undertaking, not something you do without careful consideration and deep contemplation. Even more so without the partnership of a father. It is a sacred thing to be a mama. It is the most important job you’ll ever have”
“Shit” (my forehead hits the table)
“You come back and talk to me about this when you can think of a better reason.”
Even though I had a pretty high opinion of myself at the time, I knew my limitations.
I never went back, because I never came up with one.
It just wasn’t my calling.
I think my unborn children thank God every day that I was given that advice. Motherhood is a sacred calling. It’s alchemy. It’s a miracle. It is not for the faint of heart, and it is not to be taken lightly.
Society may steer us in that direction, but the Universe knows better.
I am the crazy Auntie, and I have “adopted” one of my friend’s daughters as my own. We just clicked when she was eleven. She thought I was open minded, cool, and a little naughty…she was intrigued. Now she’s sixteen. We love each other madly, but I didn’t have to raise her, and she’s better for it.
Note to self: Go where life leads you, it may feel disappointing at the time, but it will all make sense when you’re fifty!
Janet has christened herself The Vessel of Divine Mischief and The Holy Trouble Maker. She has studied spirituality for going on forty (wow!) years. She has always loved the message, but not the serious manner in which it was delivered. So she decided to shake it up a bit with some self-depricating humor and even a little cursing; You might even find yourself laughing. She is in her fifties and living in LA with a French husband and two German dogs. When she’s not leading her Wednesday Women’s Group, writing, or eating chocolate, you might find her flying a kite. Check out her unique brand of spiritual humor on her blog The Observers Voice.