She shouldn’t be mine

July 13, 2010

We’ll be paying off the new car for five years.

We don’t own a house.

I am still paying off credit card and student loan debts from graduate school.

N is still working on finishing his dissertation.

Teddy was unplanned, and while he was very much wanted, I spent most of the early days in my pregnancy with him wondering if we could possibly pull it off – parenthood, that level of responsibility for another human being, trying to save for college while trying to save enough for the down payment on a house.  I worried and worried about whether or not it was the right time.  This, of course, would haunt me later.

I grew up firm in the knowledge that responsible adulthood looked something like car, marriage, house, kids, in that order, and even while I changed my views on this in college, and even more so in graduate school, my conscious beliefs are still fighting with the old, entrenched ideas of what and who I should be.

And they aren’t just my ideas.  I’ve heard others talk about how it’s irresponsible to have children when you can’t afford them, about how people on welfare should just stop procreating already, about how you should feel ashamed of yourself if you don’t give your kids the best, starting with a nursery that may be the best-decorated room in the house and the stroller that costs more than my first car did (it was a clunker, but still).  I remember comments in my own family when an aunt and uncle had children before they’d attained home ownership.  I remember my mother asking me, when we first knew of Teddy’s CDH, how we could afford treatment.

I try to fend off the guilt and the shame and convince myself that giving Dot the best of everything means far more than giving her designer clothes and fancy toys, but at the same time I wish her college fund was a little bigger.  I also wish I was more together.  It’s fine to tell myself that I should be able to feel how I feel, but I don’t want how I feel to interfere with Dot’s well-being, ever.  I don’t want to alienate her friends’ (or potential friends’) moms, for example.  I still don’t know how I will tell Dot about her brother in a way that won’t scare her.

On very bad days, I wonder if maybe I didn’t get to keep Teddy because I wasn’t ready, wasn’t responsible enough or stable enough or good enough.  And on those bad days, it seems unsurprising that I couldn’t keep him, no matter how much my heart wails, but I really was ready.  I was so, so ready.  I WAS. On those very bad days I look at Dot and think, she shouldn’t be mine.

Thinking this makes my heart clench itself up in my chest and sends me looking over my shoulder for bad omens.

If life had gone according to plan, I would have waited until we owned our own home, until N and I were both tenured and established, and we would have become parents somewhere between vacationing in Iceland and finishing planting the rose garden in our front yard.  As it happened, I’m turning 36 in a couple of weeks and waiting for the house and the rose garden (never mind Iceland or even a dishwasher) just didn’t seem like viable options.  To quote one of the many songs that makes me cry, “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

And here Dot is, and we’re sinking our rainy day/fledgling house down-payment into her daycare, and there’s a dent in our new car already, and we’re debating whether or not it would strain our relationship with our landlord to ask if he could please finish dry-walling our basement, and as August approaches I realize I am still full of holes and aches and skittishness.  While I don’t think any of this makes me a bad parent, I do wonder if perhaps it was unfair to Dot to bring her into what seems to be a messy and chaotic chapter of my life.

I’m beyond grateful that she’s here and amazing and ours, but there are times when it all feels like a glorious mistake and I fear that someone will notice and show up to remedy it.



  1. She is here and amazing and yours. And you are here and amazing and hers. Your love is what matters. The house and cars will come and go. Wishing you grace and peace, friend.

  2. ((hugs)) I am sorry you are experiencing these thoughts and feelings. Know that our children choose us, and sometimes to bring us great lessons, whether we were ready or not.
    Much love to you, sweet mama- you are wonderful even if you were not ready.

  3. I can’t say it better than momswithgrace, houses and cars will come and go. Designer clothes and fancy toys are all very well and they are, undoubtedly, nice to have but I don’t think Dot would like them half as much as she likes you and N.

  4. Oh I can so absolutley relate to this. Been stewing over a money-related post myself.
    We do have our own home. It is tiny. Shoe-box like. Even still, we bit off a bit more than we can chew. Didn’t seem like it at the time, but now on only one income, we are really struggling. I never went back to work after Hope and this is now costing us dearly. I guess I was a bit of a brat with my grief. I was just so distraught (not to mention bitterly unhappy in the job I had while I was pregnant with her) that I never went back, then I had to resign when preg with Angus as they could not give me any more leave. I was getting some maternity leave payments then income insurance protection payments to keep us afloat, but now with Angus here, they have all dried up and we are really, really doing it tough.
    I too think it was probably a stupid decision to have him and an even worse decision not to work while pregnant with him just to get back on our feet a bit financially. Common sense says I should find work again now, but I really don’t want to leave him. And it is debatable whether we’d be any better off, once you factor in expensive childcare costs. I do a bit of freelance work here and there, but that is hard with him at home.
    I do the same thing – wonder if she was snatched from me because I wasn’t ready. But on the same hand, we weren’t ready for Angus either, yet I got to keep him. You can’t really make sense of these things.
    We just have to keep doing the best we can for our kids. They might not grow up with all things new and shiny and all the mod-cons, but they will be loved, that’s a sure thing. I’m certain it wasn’t the wrong decision to bring Dot in to your life, despite how messy and chaotic it looked. Know that my life looked just the same.
    Waiting with you for August once again.

  5. Ah, hopefully you can let the fear pass through. Love will fill you I’m certain. Just breathe and love. Peace.

  6. Raising my hand to say: me too. I have a lot of debt, a combination of university, maternity leave and buying a house in my favourite part of the city. Only the other day I actually had to get out of bed to stop myself lying awake worrying.

    Aren’t we all born in to chaos of one form or another? You are a wonderful woman, Erica. Your kind of thoughtful parenting is a gift few children are given.


  7. Well said afteriris.

    Raising my hand along with others here. Though I sometimes feel like if we had all had waited for the “right” time none of us would be parents.

  8. nope, not a mistake. just life after grad school. we’re in the same boat. Can’t wait til dh is done with his training (phd postdoc and now fellowship). Then I am hoping we can catch up.

    I had just had a bad day worrying about money – I couldn’t sleep. But, I know it will work out. In the meantime, we are giving Bea the best – of us – our time! And I know you are doing the same for Dot – way better than toys.

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