My friend and I often talk about navigating what I call “career puberty” – an awkward transition phase characterized by a state of flux between roles for which you are over-qualified, and roles for which you are under-qualified. It’s a real thing. And it’s hard work to make the leap into the upper-echelon jobs – even those that you know you can totally rock – because doing so tends to be a lot of effort in proving to others what you already know about your potential.
I’ve long since overcome the career puberty stage of my life but lately, I’m finding myself in a very different state of flux.
We’ll call it “Momhood Puberty:” I’m caught in a limbo state between friends who have kids, and friends who do not have kids.
At 37, I’m having a hard time relating to either group. All of my college friends have kids pushing pre-teen status, so I “lost” them long ago to a world I’d give anything to be a part of… and to fun, new mom-friends who can relate to their everyday realities of motherhood better than I can even on my best days of empathizing. Every day, Facebook shows me more and more of my friends who are getting their pass into this special club, while I am left standing at the door wishing I could walk through.
The other side of the coin reminds me of all the people in my life who are still childless. I feel somewhat disconnected from them too. They are in a very different life stage: their Insta stories are full of late nights out dancing or hitting up concerts and shows, hysterical commentary on the world of online dating, and adventures in craft beer, charcuterie and girls’ nights. Compare this to my (delightful but admittedly pathetic) feed: my dog, homemade food, adult a cappella and cozy nights in with my husband (for the record, I wouldn’t trade this life for 27-year-old Carolyn’s life).
But I feel as if I don’t belong to either camp. And I feel as though I’ve squandered friendships to life circumstances beyond my control. Like a true puberty-stricken teenager, I feel quite alone (exception: Michael) and like I blatantly do not belong, yet desperately want to.
It all brings to the surface a tremendous emotional tension that is the refrain for my life’s current soundtrack: happiness for my friends or family who have or are starting their families; at odds with the frustration, sadness and isolation I feel for my situation. And every baby announcement, every insensitive question about when I’m going to have kids, every avoided social situation – is salt right in the wound.
Social media has become the bane of my existence. I am surrounded by persistent reminders that I am no longer a young, single chick with endless social opportunities (trust me, not complaining on that front)… nor have I been blessed with momhood to post endless adorable pics and videos of my mini-me.
I’d like to pause for a moment and acknowledge that I sound like a whiny little bitch. Believe me, I KNOW how pathetic this all seems.
Which is why I’ve distanced myself socially as I have tried to process all of this. It’s neither easy nor fun trying to reconcile how you can react to news of a pregnancy with despair and selfishness. It feels impossible to get over your intense feelings of self-loathing and self-pity to commit to a consistent practice of multi-dimensional self-care to break through that door leading to the mom’s club. And it’s fucking hard to admit you are too much of a Debbie Downer to go to the Halloween party and see all of the friends you haven’t seen in a year.
But you know what’s hardest of all? Talking about it.
This topic is traditionally so private and taboo. I know that the moment I post this, I will feel a twinge of regret. I will wonder about who will actually read it, what they will think of me, how they might look at me with pity the next time they see me, and (God forbid) if they will try to acknowledge it and get me to “talk about my feelings.” Or, maybe some insensitive prick will roll their eyes and chalk me up to a drama queen. Who knows. I don’t really care.
These are my feelings. They are valid. And I have every right to air them.